Overview of the Book
First published in 1727 under the title Indian Converts, or Some account of the lives and dying speeches of a considerable number of the Christianized Indians of Martha's Vineyard, in New-England, Experience Mayhew's history of the Wampanoag Indians on Martha's Vineyard provides a rare look at the lives and culture of four generations of Native Americans in colonial America. Dividing his treatment into four sections—Indian Ministers, Good Men, Religious Women, and Pious Children—Mayhew details the books that different age groups were reading, provides insights into early New England pedagogy and childrearing practices, and describes each individual in terms of genealogy, religious practice, way of life, and place of residence. In addition to drawing on his own first-hand knowledge of the community and transcriptions of oral testimony he and others collected, Mayhew inserts translations of Wampanoag texts that have since been lost.
Although the book has been out of print since the early nineteenth century, scholars have long recognized its importance for understanding the history of New England's Native communities. In an extensive introduction to this new scholarly edition, Laura Arnold Leibman places Indian Converts in a broader cultural context and explores its significance. She shows how Mayhew’s biographies illuminate the theological upheavals that rocked early eighteenth-century New England on the eve of the Great Awakening, shifts that altered not only the character of Puritanism but also the landscape of Wampanoag religious and cultural life.
Order a copy of Indian Converts from University of Massachusetts Press. Select biographies of the Hannit family from Indian Converts can be found in Early Native Literacies in New England: A Documentary and Critical Anthology.
Purchase of the Indian Converts book is optional, and is not required to access this non-commercial website. This website is freely available to the public as an educational, not-for-profit tool for teaching and learning.
How to Use the Website
This website contains study guides with information about life on Martha's Vineyard for both Wampanoags and white settlers as well as an accompanying online archive with over 600 images and documents that further contextualize Mayhew’s work. This archive can be browsed or searched. In the study guides you will also find tips for how to analyze on the artifacts, gravestones, and maps found archive as well as suggestions for students’ investigations of the text. Educators will find sample assignments and syllabi.
The research and production of this website was made possible by generous funding from the Keck Foundation, the Booth Ferris Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Ruby Grant from Reed College, and the President's Office (Colin Diver) of Reed College. Production and design of the website and archive was overseen by Joanna Burgess (Reed College Library) and Jason Parker (Reed College, CIS). Software used to create the website and archive include Dreamweaver and CONTENTdm. Content created by Laura Leibman, Kent Coupé, Catherine Hinchliff, Chris Moses, Alice Beckett, Andrew Nusbaum, and Sabrina Gogol. Materials are still being added to this site, so please let us know if there is anything that it would be useful to have added to the archive. If you find any errors or want to report a problem, please email Laura Leibman.