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The Praying Indians

Efforts to Christianize the native peoples of North America was an essential part of early Spanish and French colonial efforts. The English, however, had been slower to formalize efforts to spread the faith, but in 1646, the Massachusetts General Court passed a law designed to encourage such activities. Monetary support was provided by Parliament. One of the leaders in this effort was John Eliot, a Puritan missionary who devoted his energies to Christianize the tribes of Massachusetts. Natives who accepted the new faith were often referred to as the “Praying Indians.” By the mid-1670s, a number of Christian native settlements were established in a ring outside of Boston. Some of those communities would become the towns of Natick, Chelmsford, Stoughton, Grafton, Marlborough, and Littleton. In 1675, King Philip’s War broke out, pitting the New England tribes against the expanding white population. The “Praying Indians” were caught in the middle. They were despised by their fellow natives who regarded them as allies of the colonists. On the other hand, the English settlers also distrusted their brothers in the faith and failed to come to their defense. Hundreds of the Christianized natives died in the war, but a remnant survived in confinement on Deer Island in Boston harbor.

See also Indian Wars Time Table.