After more than 200 years, Dartmouth College has returned the handwritten papers of 18th-century Mohegan scholar Samson Occom to the Mohegan Tribe.
Dartmouth officials gave back the historic papers in a repatriation ceremony April 27 in Connecticut.
Born in 1723, Occom was a Mohegan scholar and minister. In the 1760s, he was sent to Europe by his teacher, Eleazer Wheelock, to raise funds for what Occom believed would be a school for Native students in Connecticut.
But not long after his return, Occom learned that Wheelock had diverted the funds toward the founding of a school in New Hampshire meant for white settlers, which became Dartmouth College.
The Mohegans have advocated for more recognition of Occom’s role in raising the funds that led to the founding of Dartmouth.
As Dartmouth College president Philip Hanlon presented the materials to the Mohegans, he called the day both solemn and celebratory.
“I sincerely hope this gesture will be one more step in our reconciliation for the disappointment Occom experienced,” Hanlon said. “It has taken far too long for these papers to be returned to where they have always belonged. But they are here now, accompanied by the spirit of Samson Occom that lives with them.”
The collection includes letters, diaries, sermons and a page of indigenous herbal remedies. Occom wrote in five languages: English, Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Mohegan.
Dartmouth experts say the papers contain what is believed to be the earliest example of written Mohegan language.