John Wompas (Nipmuc) dropped out of Harvard and swindled people. He was no sachem and had no birthright or other right to sell the land he sold: hence the swindle. He did not con the king of England; if anything, Charles II conned him with empty promises of support and protection. But while Swindler Sachem does not quite live up to its title, it nonetheless delivers an impressively researched and vividly written story of seventeenth-century New England and England, told from the point of view of a praying Indian who had little use for prayer. The book reveals little about Native communities. Wompas and his wife, Ann Prask (Mohican), spent little time with other Native people. Instead, Jenny Hale Pulsipher’s account illuminates the possibilities, and perils, that greeted Christianized Indians living amid English colonial society.

Making the most of a sparse documentary...

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