Samson Occom Background
Samson Occom was a native American who grew up in the Mohegan area in Connecticut. He began to study Christianity at the age of 16 when he heard from English people about a minister preaching about God. He was the second Native American to ever publish his works in English and the first Native American to write an autobiography about themselves. This autobiography a short narrative of my life which strangely enough was just published in the 80s even though it was written during his lifetime in the 1700s explains his journey from being raised he then to Christianity and his life afterwards. He was an inspiration to a lot of writers in the centuries that followed because he created it’s sort of identity for a native American people in his works of literature. Samson Occom was distant from his family and had many hard ships because of his decision to pursue Christianity as a religion instead of his native American religion as a heathen.
Question: Can we consider Occom’s work subversive or radical? Explain why or why not. Keep in mind the world in which this writer lived.
I think that Occom’s “A Short Narrative of my Life” is subversive. “Subversion refers to a process by which the values and principles of a system in place are contradicted or reversed in an attempt to transform the established social order and its structures of power, authority, hierarchy, and social norms.”(Google). The reason his narrative is subversion is because he started out believing the Heathenism religion and then as he got old realized he believed in something else that went against everything he thought initially.
“I was Born a Heathen and Brought up In Heathenism, till I was between 16 & 17 years of age…for did all the Indians at Mohegan, they Chiefly Depended upon Hunting, Fishing, & Fowling for their Living and had no Connection with the English”(Occom).
“And when I was 17 years of age, I had, as I trust, a Discovery of the way of Salvation through Jesus Christ, and was enabl’d to put my trust in him alone for Life & Salvation. From this Time the Distress and Burden of my mind was removed, and I found Serenity and Pleasure of Soul, in Serving God.”(Occom).
These two quotes are from the first and second paragraph, we can see the difference, Heathens had no connection to the English, they believed in completely different things such as the Earth and natural things. Then he turns over to Christianity which is completely different and goes against all he was taught. He feels at home with this religion and found something to truly believe in.
Defining His Own Identity
This is a very moving and liberating thing to discover so early on. We know in today’s world that everybody can have their options of whoever they want to be in whatever they want to believe in however, back then that was not the case you did what everybody else did whether you liked it or not. So for Samson Occom to have gone against his religion and his family and friends in the life he grew up in and the only thing he knew to follow something totally out of his element is a sign of strength. In the later parts of his narrative he shows that he felt betrayed by people involved in his faith we learn how he was coerced by someone he trusted. Mr. Wheelock promised him protection from his own family for money which didn’t happen instead he received no protection. It is amazing that after his story and reading everything that he goes through he refers to himself as a poor Indian because of all the miss treatment from his new religion. This just goes to show that the grass is not always greener on the other side and also that it’s hard getting where are you want to go nothing comes easy and nothing good does come easy he’s helped so many people out by learning all that he has and changing his religion. He mentors people and has done so much for the native American community as an author but it was not all sunshine and rainbows to get to where he went. I felt like the end of this narrative was extremely moving and his attitude towards his identity was sad because I felt like he was lost and he still didn’t know where he wanted to go he didn’t feel like he fit in with his Native American culture and he didn’t feel like he fit in with the European culture. I think that a lot of people feel that way though especially in today’s world so many people feel like outsiders and they don’t No where they belong. For example the LGBTQ plus community today is a totally different world for them where people are excepting but 30 years ago it was not like that and they felt like outsiders and lost and didn’t know where they belong.
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
- What part of this narrative did you find the most moving?
- Do you agree that in the end Occom felt he didn’t belong anywhere? Why?
- Overall do you think you belong?
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