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Analysis of Samson Occom through ‘A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue’

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Occom's notes written in A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue.
  3. The difficulties Occom faced in his life and their reflection in his book.
  4. Importance in the idea of claiming ownership of knowledge.
  5. The Mohegans and 'white supervision'.
    1. What bothered the Mohegans about 'white supervision'.
    2. White domination of Native Americans as a norm.
    3. Converting Native Americans as a critical part of the English civilizing mission.
  6. The relationship between Occom and Eleazar Wheelock.
  7. Occom's missionary work and teaching.
  8. Occom's derogatory and negative style of referring to himself.
  9. Conclusion.

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). [...]

[...] It can be assumed that Samson Occom was greatly influenced by some of the Mohegan-Pequot legends that he possibly grew up around. For example, the story of ?Chahnameed the Glutton? describes a man by the name of Chahnameed whom another man challenges to an eating contest (Peale 88). During the contest, Chanameed tricks his competitor by stuffing the soup into a bag hidden in his coat underneath his mouth (Peale 88). In the end, Chahnameed questions the other man's bravery and challenges him to copy his actions, so Chahnameed pretends to stab himself in the stomach by stabbing the hidden bag and the other man dies from imitating the act (Peale 88). [...]

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