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praying Indians

praying Indians, name for Native North Americans who accepted Christianity. Although many different groups are called by this name, e.g., the Roman Catholic Iroquois of St. Regis, it was more commonly applied to those Native Americans of E Massachusetts who were organized into villages by the Puritan missionary John Eliot. In 1674 there were seven principal praying towns—Hassanamesit, Magunkaquog, Nashobah, Natick, Okommakamesit, Punkapog, and Wamesit. Natick, founded in 1651, was the oldest. In King Philip's War (1675) the praying Indians were practically destroyed by the other Native Americans, who viewed them as traitors, and by the English, who thought they were secret allies of King Philip. From a population of 1,100 in 1674, they were reduced to 300 by 1680.

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