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During the discovery and exploration of the New World, colonists came to claim the land that Native Americans lived on. This immediately caused conflict between the two extremely different people. Between the Native American creation stories, the Coyote trickster stories and John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity”, there have been a lot of similarities between these cultures and it is the differences between them that cause a misunderstanding that could have led to prejudice. “A Model of Christianity” was a sermon describing ideas and plans to keep the puritan faith strong within the society, the struggles that they might have in the New World and how they would overcome these struggles.
The sermon also spoke of how the entire world was watching them and how failing to fulfill their “god given duty” would cause harm to their prosperity and disgrace Christianity everywhere.
The sermon is considered a precursor to the concept of American exceptionalism but was not published during his time, “The notion of American exceptionalism has been used to hold the United States to higher standards than other countries; it has also been used to justify actions that might otherwise be viewed negatively, such as the appropriation of land from Native American tribes.
Supporters of American exceptionalism have used Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” passage to suggest that the United States—much like the original Massachusetts Bay colony-serves as a leading example for the rest of the world.” (Gale) The Native American creation stories are just a few of the large collection of available stories on how the world came to be.
The stories discuss the various version of how the world came to be, including The Sky Woman’s decent to the world and how the animals helped her to create our planet.
The first cultural difference to call into effect is John Winthrop being a Christian, and the other stories were all written by Native Americans. The differences here are astronomical. The Native Americans believe, just as Christians do, that a person looking like modern day man created the world. They also share similar beliefs in terms of how man was created. They all believe that God created man in his image and created Eve from Adam (or from dirt which is what Adam was created from). Christians do have a differing belief from Native American creation stories, though. There is a similar story in the bible about Noah’s Ark that is like a Native Creation story, “The Creation of the World”. In both stories, a great rainfall covers the earth killing most of the people and animals.
The story differs because “The Creation of the World” focuses more on how important animals are. Noah’s Ark story makes it seem as if God is very narcissistic and saving them as a favor to himself. The Iroquois people also show a great respect for animals as shown in the “Iroquois Creation Myth”. “Without the animals help the Sky Woman may have sunk to the bottom of the sea and earth may not have been created.” In relation to Noah’s Ark and “The Creation of the World”, both stories also speak of rainbows. The bible says that rainbows are God’s promise to the world that he will not cover it in water again. It says a similar sentence in the creation myth, “This rainbow is the sign that Earth will not be covered with water again. Whenever you have had rain, you will see the rainbow. It will mean that the rain has gone.” The similarities between these stories are astounding but it is the differences that cause misunderstandings between these cultures.
Four years after Boston’s founding, Winthrop explained the difficulties of establishing a settlement and the colonist’s mounting conflict with the Native Americans called the “Mounting Conflict with Native Americans.” In this letter, he also discusses the need to be self-sustaining and self-governing, “For our subsistence here, the means hitherto hath been the yearly access of newcomers, who have supplied all our wants, for Cattle, and the fruits of our la[b]ours, as board, pale, smiths work etc.: If this should fail, then we have other means which may supply us, as fish, viz: Cod, bass, and herring, for which no place in the world exceeds us, if we can compass salt at a reasonable rate: our grounds likewise are apt for hemp and flax and rape seeds, and all sorts of roots, pumpkins and other fruits, which for taste and wholesomeness far exceed those in England: our grapes also (wherewith the Country abounds) afford a good hard wine.
Our plows go on with good success, we are like to have 20 at work next year: our lands are attested for Rye and oats. Our winters are sharp and longer, I may reckon 4 months for storing of cattle, but we find no difference whether they are housed or go abroad: our summers are somewhat more fervent in heat than in England. Our civil Government is mixed: the freemen choose the magistrates every year…and at 4 courts in the year 3 out of each town (there being 8 in all) do assist the magistrates in making laws, imposing taxes, and disposing of lands: our Juries are chosen by the freemen of every town. Our Churches are governed by Pastors, Teachers ruling Elders and Deacons, yet the power lies in the whole Congregation and not in the Presbytery (not in a larger council of churches] further than for order and precedence.” (Ortiz) During the early 1600’s, there was an evident conflict between the colonists and Native Americans. This was caused by trade issues on top of the clear cultural differences.
Before the Pequot War, Winthrop was known to be civil and show diplomacy towards the Native Americans. He described a meeting with a local chief, “Chickatabot came with his schiefs) and squaws and presented the governor with a hogshead of Indian corn. After they had all dined and had each a small cup of sack and beer, and the men tobacco, he sent away all his men and women (though the governor would have stayed them in regard of the rain and thunder.) Himself and one squaw and one [chief] stayed all night; and being in English clothes, the governor set him at his own table, where he behaved himself as soberly … as an Englishman. The next day after dinner he returned home, the governor giving him cheese, and peas, and a mug, and other small things.” (Moore, pp. 246-247) The local Wampanoag Indians and the Englishmen of Plymouth were at first friends. Later, Winthrop was on the council that decided to send an expedition to raid the Native American villages at Block Island as part of the colonist’s first action in the Pequot war.
The primary cause of the Pequot War was the struggle to control trade between the Native Americans and colonists. As more people came and pushed inland into the Connecticut River Valley, Indians and whites had more conflicts. Specific events, such as the murders of English traders were the “culmination of decades of conflict between Native tribes in the region, further amplified by the arrival of the Dutch and English colonists” (Cave, pp.73). War broke out in 1637 between English settlers and Pequot tribe. The effects of the war were the annihilation of Pequot tribe and uneasy peace between Puritans and Indians for 40 years. The war sent a message to the Indians of the dangers of white men. After the Pequot War, many of the Native Americans were shipped to the West Indies as slaves and Winthrop kept 3 slaves, 2 females and one male. It is very evident that these two cultures are completely different and were bound to have misunderstanding and conflict eventually.
The Native Americans were uneducated while the colonists were. They spoke different languages. They had different beliefs spiritually. The contrast is clear between John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christianity” and the Native American creation stories not only because they have different views of how the world came to be, but because of their education levels and the fact that they did not speak the same language. They were bound to have conflict whether that was war or one group completely leaving the area habituated. The Pequot War ended the Pequot tribe and spread the survivors to other tribes or they became slaves. These cultures would not have been able to get along for very long and despite having differences, their creation stories are incredibly similar. They should have focused more on their similarities and not their differences.
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