In a 1674 census, 4,000 “Praying Indians” were in 14 self-ruling villages with houses, streets, bridges and their own ministers. “Praying Indian” villages were located throughout Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard and Rhode Island. John Eliot wrote: “The Word of God is the perfect System of Laws to guide all moral actions of man.”
In “A Brief Narrative,” July 20, 1670, Eliot wrote: “These Indians being of kin to our Massachusett Indians … received amongst them the light and love of the Truth. … On a day of Fasting and Prayer, Elders were ordained. … The Teacher of the Praying Indians of Nantucket, with a Brother … who made good Confessions of Jesus Christ … did make report that there be about ninety families who pray unto God in that island, so effectual is the Light of the Gospel.”
Sadly, after the deaths of Pilgrim leader William Bradford and Wampanoag Indian chief Massasoit, tensions arose. In 1675, Massasoit’s son, known as chief or “King” Philip, was upset over encroachment on Indian lands. The new Plymouth Colony Governor, Josiah Winslow, did nothing to quell his concerns.
Indian warriors attacked more than half of New England’s 90 towns. 800 settlers died, 1,200 homes burned, 8,000 cattle lost, and the entire English population of 52,000 in Massachusetts and Rhode Island was threatened to be driven back to the coast. Unfortunately, John Eliot’s Christian “Praying Indians” were caught in the middle, not being trusted by King Philip’s warriors nor by panicking colonists. As a results, many tragically died.
A remnant of the Christian Wampanoag continued, with “Blind” Joe Amos bringing the Baptist faith to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in the 1830′s. Mwalim Peters, a researcher of Mashpee Wampanoag history, stated that Rev. Amos “knew the entire King James Bible by heart and could recite it in both English and Wampanoag.” Peters noted that Rev. Amos: “… preached under the shade of a large oak tree every Sunday throughout the seasons.”
He was joined by Rev. William Apes, an itinerant Pequot minister adopted by the Mashpee tribe.
The Mashpee Baptist Church is currently led by Rev. Curtis W. Frye, Jr., a great-great-great-grandson of Rev. Blind Joe Amos, who stated: “Blind Joe was one of the preachers who brought the gospel to the Wampanoag people. … I try to follow in his footsteps. … We are still here and we are still doing what Blind Joe did, and that’s preach the word of God.”