This book brings together the writings of Joseph Johnson, a Mohegan Indian preacher, schoolteacher, and leader of the movement to relocate eastern Christian Indians to "Brotherton" in upper New York state. Johnson's diaries, written between 1771 and 1773, document daily life in the Indian Christian communities of Mohegan and Farmington, Connecticut, with a remarkable richness and intimacy. His letters - to his teacher, Eleazar Wheelock, and other white benefactors, as well as to his fellow Native Americans - reveal both an uncommon talent for diplomacy and a powerful vision of Indian solidarity. Commentary by Laura J. Murray illuminates the meaning of Johnson's writings in their historical context. One essay traces the cultural changes and political conflicts at Mohegan in the generations before Johnson's; other essays illuminate the rhetorical challenges Johnson faced as a literate Indian in the eighteenth century.
"A fascinating document and tantalizing portrait of an individual who played a small part in [that] history and [that] genocide through religion. . . . Laura J. Murray has accomplished a brilliant task in searching out these various 'writings' in chronological order."
These transcriptions of diaries, letters, and sermons of Johnson, a Mohegan (Mohican) teacher and visionary leader, break stereotypes. With prominent ancestors and literate parents, Johnson lived in a community that valued both Mohegan and European cultures. His writing style, learned under the tutelage of Eleazer Wheelock, founder of Dartmouth College, is indistinguishable from that of other writers (Indian or white) trained in prerevolutionary missionary schools, but attention to editor/author Murray's interpretation reveals issues and facts about Mohegan life, including plans for "Brotherton," a Christian Indian town, realized only after the Revolution and Johnson's death. Murray (English, Queen's Univ., Kingston, Ontario) emphasizes the individual writer, following such examples as James Axtell's The Invasion Within (1985). Johnson's humility is striking, as is his commitment to his people. This book makes another Indian "voice" more accessible and gives helpful instruction in the genres and forms of early American writing. Recommended for all Native American collections and for academic libraries.Margaret W. Norton, IHM High Sch. Lib., Westchester, Ill.