The book A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue is an aid to learning the Hebrew language, bettering one's ability to speak, read, and write. As the first book he owned, A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue was especially significant to the Mohegan Samson Occom. Occom purchased the book on a trip to Boston in hopes that the book would aid him in his study of Hebrew. The actual text bears little significance to Occom and his life, yet it relates to Occom by revealing one of his academic interests; his handwritten notes within the book provide insight into his true character and belief system. Some of the main themes that are consistently portrayed throughout Occom's book and his personal notes are the concepts of self-recognition, ownership, and property. Additionally, the ideas and thoughts of philosophers such as Hegel and John Locke are reflected in his work.
[...] Occom wanted to pursue his English studies but needed a teacher, so Occom's mother asked a reverend by the name of Eleazar Wheelock if he could teach Occom (Brooks 14). Wheelock created a school called the Moor's Indian Charity School at Lebanon to teach Native Americans English in the hopes that someday they could spread Christianity to other Native Americans (Brooks 16). Eleazar Wheelock's school is comparable to the boarding school system that came about within the next two centuries. [...]
[...] By the binding of the book and writing his name numerous times in the text itself, Samson Occom is attempting to show that the book was his property. Occom's recognition of the ideas of ownership and property can be seen as an indicator of his transformation from a Mohegan to a Christian. The notion of property was a very Western idea that dated back to John Locke. According to Locke's notion of property, the act of Occom binding the book was in a sense Occom's way of making the book officially his property, labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly (Locke 19). [...]
[...] One of the most important things to notice in this book is how Occom writes his name in five different languages: Mohegan, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and English (Carini). Occom's ability to write his name in this diverse array of languages is significant in that it is evidence of the wide spectrum covered in Occom's education. Occom writes his name numerous times throughout the book, but it is most significant when he writes “Samson Occom Indian of Moyauhegonnuck” (Occom). This is important because he identifies himself as an “Indian of Moyauhegonnuck” (Occom) and not as a preacher or a teacher. [...]
[...] It shows a complete disregard of the Mohegans' culture and beliefs to intrude on their land and try to change their beliefs, so this fear of “white supervision” is quite justified when putting things in perspective. By having separate churches, the Mohegans would be able to practice religion in their own ways. This notion of gaining sovereignty through ownership is paralleled by Occom's ability to express himself freely in A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue. During this period of time, white domination of Native Americans was the norm. [...]
[...] From the way Occom addresses himself in his letters to people like Eleazar Wheelock, it is apparent that Occom assumes the role of the slave. For instance, in letters to Reverend Wheelock he refers to himself as “your most unworthy Servant” (Blodgett 108) and your “very Humble Servant” (Blodgett 112). Not only does Occom declare himself as Wheelock's but he also critiques his own Mohegan heritage by addressing himself as Wheelock's “Good for Nothing Indian Servant” (Blodgett 73). However, one must recognize Wheelock's need for Occom in order to be recognized as the master. [...]
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