William Apess life and biography

William Apess picture, image, poster

William Apess biography

Date of birth : 1798-01-31
Date of death : 1839-04-10
Birthplace : Colrain, Massachusetts
Nationality : Native American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2011-05-17
Credited as : Author, A Son of the Forest,

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William Apess was a Native American writer, preacher and politician of the Pequot tribe.

In 1821, Apess married Mary Wood, and the couple went on to have three children. During this period he became ever more convinced of a vocation to preach, and in 1829 he was ordained as a Methodist minister. In the same year he published A Son of the Forest: The Experience of William Apess, A Native of the Forest, Comprising a Notice of the Pequod Tribe of Indians, Written by Himself, his autobiography. Written at least partly in reaction to advocates of Indian Removal, including President-to-be Andrew Jackson, this autobiography was the first wholly Native-authored book to be published. It uses the format of the spiritual confession to ironically comment on white prejudices about Natives.

As was the Methodist practice of the day, Apess and his family became itinerants, preaching in meetings all over New England to mixed congregations that would have included Native, Euro-American and African-American worshippers. In 1833, following a visit to the town of Mashpee, the largest Native town in Massachusetts, Apess became convinced that the State was acting illegally in denying the Mashpees self-government. This led to the so-called Mashpee Revolt - in reality a peaceful protest by Natives led by Apess, which was met with threats of military force by the State Governor Levi Lincoln, Jr.

During the period 1831-1836, Apess published several sermons, and became known as a powerful speaker. However, dogged by alcoholism and with an increasing sense of injustice at white treatment of Natives, he gradually lost the respect in which he had been held, with even Mashpee groups distancing themselves from him. After preaching and then publishing an excoriating eulogy for King Philip in 1836, Apess fell into obscurity.

At the age of 41, William Apess died on April 10, 1839 at 31 Washington Street in New York City.

Author of books:

A Son of the Forest (1829, memoir)
The Experiences of Five Christian Indians of the Pequot Tribe (1833, nonfiction)
Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts, Relative to the Marhspee Tribe (1835)
Eulogy on King Philip (1836)
On Our Own Ground (1992, ed. by Barry O'Connell)
A Son of the Forest and Other Writings (1997, ed. by Barry O'Connell)

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