Reverend Samson Occum: Forging a Bridge Across Cultures

Authored by Nicole Shaw

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Mr. Buell’s sermon at the ordination of Mr. Occum. Acquired by Stony Brook University Special Collections from the Swann Auction Galleries in 2008.

Samson Occum was a well-respected minister in the late 18th century who worked tirelessly towards peace in his community. Believed to be the descendant of a Mohegan chief,1 he was credited as one of the first ordained Christian Indian ministers.2 Ordained in 1759, Occum spent the majority of his life working as a missionary among Indians. Regardless of receiving a stipend for his work, he spent a great deal of his life in poverty and endured much suffering at the hands of the English, while facing many betrayals and false promises. Despite these hardships, Occum continued his work to spread the Christian faith among his people. Known to preach in Montauk (Eastern Long Island), Occum blended Native American communities with Christianized Europeans and helped Native Americans assimilate to western culture. He also organized the creation of “Brothertown,” a settlement solely for Christian Indians.3 Although as a young man the only book he owned was the Bible, Occum became the first Native American to publish in English.4 To this day, Mr. Occum is honored with a wealth of recognition, particularly at Dartmouth College, which he helped raise funds to initiate. Continue reading