John Eliot Preaching to the Indians

By Henry Oliver Walker, 1903

Oil on canvas, 175 x 162 in.

Unveiled April 8, 1903.

John Eliot (b. Hertfordshire, England, 1604 – d. Boston, 1690) immigrated to Boston in 1631 and was pastor of the Puritan Church in Roxbury for nearly sixty years. One of the first missionaries to the Indians, Eliot began preaching the Gospel to local Native Americans at Nonantum in 1646. Although his first sermons were in English, he soon mastered Algonquin for his preaching; the first Bible printed in North America in 1661–63 was his translation into the Indian language. In 1651 Eliot petitioned the General Court for a tract of land in Natick on which to settle an Indian community. He eventually assisted in organizing fourteen Christian-Indian communities, and trained several converts to continue his works in the hope of Christianizing all New England tribes.

Walker clearly followed the impressionistic style of Simmons' Return of the Colors for this mural. The palette is lighter and the figures less cumbersome than in The Pilgrims on the Mayflower, with its somber color and clumsy jumble of figures.

mural of John Eliot Preaching to the Indians