Writing Indians: Literacy, Christianity, and Native Community in Early America
University of Massachusetts Press
By Hilary E. Wyss
January 1, 2000
With an approach that weaves together literature, religious studies, and ethno-history, Wyss grounds her work in the analysis of a rarely read body of "autobiographical" writings by Christian Indians, including letters, journal entries, and religious confessions. She then juxtaposes these documents to the writings of better known Native Americans like Samson Occom as well as to the published works of Anglo-Americans, such as Mary Rowlandson's famous captivity narrative and Eleazor Wheelock's accounts of his charity schools.
In their search for ostensibly "authentic" Native voices, scholars have tended to overlook the writings of Christian Indians. Yet, Wyss argues, these texts reveal the emergence of a dynamic Native American identity through Christianity. More specifically, they show how the active appropriation of New England Protestantism contributed to the formation of a particular Indian identity that resisted colonialism by using its language against itself.