- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - The author of a 238-year-old manuscript has been identified as a minister from the Mohegan Tribe, a finding by Yale University researchers that tribal members say provides insight into one of the most revered figures in their history.

The document dated Dec. 24, 1776, gives the account of deathbed utterances from a young woman who had returned to Mohegan after some time away.

The Day of New London (http://bit.ly/1GXfNUE) reports that editors with the Yale Indian Papers Project concluded that the manuscript was written by Samson Occom, one of the first American Indians to be ordained as a Christian minister. Occom is a central figure in the Mohegans’ cultural history as an ardent missionary who promoted Christianity throughout New England and upstate New York.

“It’s a great discovery, a treasure,” said Faith Davison, a retired Mohegan archivist who serves on the Yale project’s board of advisers. “It’s a piece of Occom we didn’t know existed.”

The researchers could not determine the name of the dying woman. In Occom’s account, she refers to her father, believed to be Robert Ashbow, and “Uncle Sam,” who researchers believe to be Samuel Ashbow Sr., an Occom mentor. Samuel Ashbow Jr., who would be the woman’s cousin, was the first Native American killed in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

In the manuscript Occom appears to be trying to assure the woman’s relatives that she died “a true Christian.”

The research on the unsigned journal began when the Leffingwell House Museum in Norwich alerted the Yale researchers to Mohegan artifacts at the museum. The identification, based on Occom’s handwriting, was made by Yale project editors Paul Grant-Costa and Tobias Glaza.

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