In “A Short Narrative of My Life,” Samson Occom writes from two perspectives: as a minister and as a member of a minority group in the larger culture. Do those perspectives come into conflict...

In “A Short Narrative of My Life,” Samson Occom writes from two perspectives: as a minister and as a member of a minority group in the larger culture. Do those perspectives come into conflict in his narrative? Where and how?

Asked on by chhbmints

1 Answer | Add Yours

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In “A Short Narrative of My Life,” Samson Occom writes from two perspectives: as a minister and as a member of a minority group in the larger culture. Do those perspectives come into conflict in his narrative? Where and how?

Samson Occom was a member of the Mohegan tribe in New London, Connecticut, and was connected to tribal royalty through his mother. She is also the first one in his family to convert to Christianity when the white ministers came to convert the heathens to Christ in what became known as the Great Awakening.

At sixteen he hears the call to Christ for the first time. He says:

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. 

This decision changes the course of Occam’s life, and everything he does in his life from this point on connects his calling as a minister of the gospel to his work within his culture.

His first experience as a Christian Indian is an amazingly positive one. After teaching himself to read, he is accepted into Doctor Whitlock’s church school at the age of 19 and has a wonderful experience except for his health. After that, Occom becomes a full-time missionary first to his people and then to the Montauk Indians in Long Island, New York. He is a good teacher for the natives and does his best both to teach basic skills and the tenets of Christ.

Unfortunately, he is not free to work full time as a minister because he also needs to make a living. He is forced to make a hard living off the land, which he does; however, having to work so hard just to care for his wife and (eventually) ten children is time- and energy-consuming; it also does not leave him as much time as he would like to be about God’s business.

Perhaps that would not have seemed so bad to Occom if he felt that all those who were considered to me missionaries for Christ were treated equally. Instead, he feels as if he were being treated worse because he was not white, and the facts (as he tells them) agree with him. He has to ask and practically beg to get a little help, but eventually he gets fifteen pounds from two different sources and is very thankful; a third request is denied and accuses him of living too extravagantly, which is certainly not true. He says he cannot understand how much less these men want him to live on, yet he would be willing to forgive them “their ignorance” and wishes they would come live his life for a month so they would understand.

[B]ut I am now fully convinced, that it was not Ignorance, For I believe it can be proved to the world that these Same Gentlemen gave a young Missionary a Single man, one Hundred Pounds for one year, and fifty Pounds for an Interpreter, and thirty Pounds for an Introducer; so it Cost them one Hundred & Eighty Pounds in one Single Year, and they Sent too where there was no Need of a Missionary.

This is a clear example of prejudice against him simply because of his culture and the perception of him as a lesser citizen—a horrible hypocrisy displayed by supposed men of God.

Occom ends his narrative by saying that he is confident he was treated thus because he is “a poor Indian,” even though that is what God made him.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question