The untold history of praying towns presented in Natick

Elizabeth Solomon of the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag and Kristen Wyman of the Natick Nipmuc People appeared at the Morse Institute Library in Natick, MA, on May 30, 2019 for a conversation about the development of praying towns in 17th-century New England and how missionary work influenced national Indian policy and continues to perpetuate a myth of Indian extinction today. Elizabeth Solomon contrasted the colonial world-view of “living on” the land that they own and control with Native cultures who see themselves as “living with” the land which they must take care of. She then described the colonial attitude that women are seen as subservient to men, who they see as in charge, whereas indigenous people see women as equal partners and holders of the land.Kristen Wyman talked about how Native people would travel widely by canoe on the many rivers in Massachusetts and practice diplomacy among different tribes. “Women were landholders and caretakers of the plants” but were also in positions of authority and decision-making power, she stated. She concluded by sharing her criticism of the methods which Rev. John Eliotused to convert Native children to Christianity and her belief that the people moved to the praying towns primarily as a strategy for protection and survival.

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