Native Americans have been victims of the creation of the United States. An entire civilization was almost wiped out during the three centuries that followed the landing of the Mayflower. But several measures had also been undertaken by some to protect Native American identity, out of missionary concern but also respect for a different culture. The Bible translated into Algonquin or the large conch shell that was used to call the Delaware Indians to prayer are examples of such concerns.
Algonquin Bible (23)
This work boasts the double distinction of being the first Bible ever printed in North America (1663) and of offering a translation in the language of the Massachusetts Native Americans. Its author John Eliot considered it more effective to address them in their language than to teach them English. But the number of signs needed to express a term was considerable: the simple word “lust” in Algonquin was Nummatchekodtantamoonganunnonash. The first print run was of 1000 copies.
Leaf from the John Eliot Bible (Algonquin), 1663,
on loan from the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia.
Effects of colonization on Native Americans (24)
An estimated nine million Native Americans lived in North America at the beginning of European colonization in the early 17th century. Two centuries later, there were only 250,000 of them still alive. The main causes of death were various diseases imported from Europe to which the Native Americans were not immune, as well as famines caused by the extermination of buffaloes, their main food resource. This engraving depicts widows from Florida imploring their King for his assistance.
Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses des Peuples idolâtres,
Jean-Frédéric Bernard & Bernard Picart,, Tome I, 1735, MIR, n° inv. 2008-007
Conch to call the Native Americans to prayer (25)
This large shell was used as a musical instrument by David Brainerd (1718-1747) to call the Delaware Native Americans to prayer during the first part of the 18th century. After several mystical crises, this young missionary devoted himself entirely to the evangelization of the Native Americans. This tormented figure, who died prematurely at the age of 29, became a role model of the first Revival after the publication by the famous Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards of his diary.
Conch, loan from the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia