English and Native Students in the 17th Century

A Westerly View of the Colleges in Cambridge New England, Joseph Chadwick/Paul Revere engraving, 1767. Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

English settler and Native students arrived at Harvard from a variety of backgrounds; their goals for attending the College differed. Some Native students hoped to create relationships between their tribe and local settlers, while others wished to learn English to help protect tribal land rights. Some Native students attended Harvard before the Indian College was built, and many others have attended since its demolition in 1693. Here, we remember two members of the Harvard Class of 1669:  John Wampus (Nipmuc) and Daniel Gookin (English). Historical documents emphasize Gookin’s piety while underscoring Wampus’s economic, personal, and social struggles.

John Wampus "a towardly lad and apt witt for a scholler" was already grown and married before coming to Harvard in 1665. After just one year, he left to become a mariner. In September of 1666, Wampus returned to Boston and bought a house on Tremont Street next door to the son of John Leverett who became governor in 1672. Prior to 1671, the Nipmucs had trusted Wampus because he was literate and fluent in both Nipmuc and English, to draw upon both English and Indian legal systems to preserve their territory. John Wampus, however, eventually undermined his people by selling off a large parcel of Nipmuc land to English purchasers, although under tribal law he had no right to sell it because he was not a sachem.

Daniel Gookin also came to Harvard in 1665. After graduating in 1669, he stayed at the College as a resident tutor and librarian before becoming a minister in Sherborn, Massachusetts in 1681. The Sherborn meetinghouse was only three miles from the Natick meetinghouse, near the praying town established by John Eliot. Gookin preached at both Sherborn and Natick for 34 years. At Natick, he held monthly sermons, addressing the settlers first in English, then preaching to Native American people through an interpreter. Notably, Gookin was also present at the meeting where Nipmuc leaders gathered to denounce Wampus and his land sale.