August 30: Samson Occom

The Presbyterian Pastor was an American Indian
by Rev. David T Myers

His name was Samson Occom. He was an American Indian, a member of the Mohegan nation, and a direct descendant of Uncas, the notable Mohegan chief. In 1743 at the age of sixteen, and some say twenty, he heard evangelists in the Great Awakening in the American Colonies, and was saved. Immediately, he began to witness to his fellow native Americans with the life changing message of the gospel. He became a teacher, preacher, and judge to the Long Island New York Pequot tribe of Indians. So successful was he in evangelizing these native Americans, that on this day August 30, 1759, the Presbytery of Suffolk on Long Island ordained him to the gospel ministry, though he had no theological training.

Samson began his education training under a Congregational minister by the name of Eleazar Wheelock. Convinced that under special oversight by himself, converted Indians like Samson Occom could be trained to evangelize their own race. So he opened up his school to them, but very few American Indians responded. Further, many of his fellow Americans Christians were in opposition to the idea.

Wheelock transferred the educational opportunity to New Hampshire, hoping to draw in more supporters. But that idea backfired, so the Congregational minister appealed to the mother country of England for their support. In 1765, he sent Samson Occom, and an American minister by the name of Daniel Whitaker, to the mother country. They, and especially Samson Occom, took England by storm! Preaching some 400 sermons, and collecting some twelve thousand pounds of offerings, Rev. Occom more than fulfilled the purpose of the trip.

Unhappily, despite the promise to use the funds raised for the training of native Americans, Rev. Wheelock diverted the monies to educate “English” or “white” youths, beginning what is now Dartmouth College. A quick look at that present New England School website, however, shows that the spirit of Samson Occom has not been forgotten in its desire to train native Americans.

Samson Occom could have abandoned Christianity for this “double-cross,” but he continued on to reach his fellow native Americans with the gospel. Christian Indian towns in New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin began under his leadership and example. He would go to be with the Lord on July 14, 1792.

Words to Live By:
We can be thankful that the Presbyterian Church in America has under the auspices of Mission to North America (MNA) a Native American/First Nation Ministry outreach under the leadership of Ruling Elder Jeb Bland. Its website can be found here at Yes, we need to reach the world for Christ and support Bible-believing missionaries to those far-off shores. But let our subscribers remember that in Acts 1:8, “Jerusalem,” “Judea,” and “Samaria” (in other words, “home” was mentioned before “the world” in witnessing for Christ.) Let us not forget native Americans in the Great Commission mandate. What are you doing, or your church, to reach your “native Americans” for the Lord Jesus, and His church?


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