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The Native American communities in Marthas Vineyard have had longevity both as Christian communities and in retaining their cultural identities There is much literature that talks about the insulation of the area Most of the geographic isolation especially the Aquinnah at the far edge of the island Some argue that the islands were insulated from disease and protected from war This would have placed the Wampanoag communities of Marthas Vineyard in a place of strength instead of weakness when the missionaries arrived Even if the Wampanoag of the island were weakened by disease they still came from a position of strength with the missionaries At least during early contact and the first part of colonialism the Wampanoag came with intact social religious and political structure desiring to know more about English ways and Christianity Only with this strength of culture could Christianity be successful I use the terms Puritan and Wampanoag broadly This is with the understanding that it was sometimes difficult to determine when writers use the word Puritan to refer to Puritans exclusively or Puritans inclusive of the Pilgrims Separatist Puritans Similarly the term Wampanoag used when the particular smaller unit such as tribe or clan was unknown Some sources used the terms powwow and shaman interchangeably others made distinctions between the two based on the use of spiritual beings or tricksters I use both terms making noting any differentiation between the two based on context If sermons are any indication Puritan settlers in New England had deeply religious intentions for the Indians from the beginning Certainly some of this concern came from a stereotype of the poor Indian who needed help However dismissing their beliefs would be irresponsible We must approach the subject with criticism and an appreciation for the religious motivations Even if there were at least paternalistic elements those attempts were likely motivated
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