Linford FisherThe Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America

Oxford University Press, 2012

by Andrew Epstein on January 22, 2013

Linford Fisher

[Cross-posted from New Books in Native American Studies] Just east of the Norwich-New London Turnpike in Uncasville, Connecticut, stands the Mohegan Congregational Church. By most accounts, it’s little different than the thousands of white-steepled structures dotting the New England landscape: the same high-backed wooden chairs, high ceilings, images of lordly white men. To the careful observer, there is one notable distinction. Just above a traditional cross near the front entrance hangs a single, perfect eagle feather.

The juxtaposition might be startling for some. But as Brown historian Linford D. Fisher beautifully illuminates in The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America (Oxford University Press, 2012), Native cultures in New England – and, indeed, most everywhere – are highly incorporative, blending elements of Christian religious practice with their own.

This was never more the case than during the eighteenth century evangelical revival known to scholars as the First Great Awakening. A significant turning point in American spiritual life, Native peoples of New England are often left out of the narrative. When they’re included, it’s as passive targets of conversion. Fisher tells a dramatically different story.

(Many thanks to New Books in American Studies host Benjamin Smith for composing our new intro music!)

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