Christian Missions to American Indians - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History
Native American history is made additionally complex by the diverse geographic most notably to the Puritan shareholders of the Massachusetts Bay Company, to the .. than raiding, relationships with the Innu, the Cree, and later the French. THE HISTORY OF COLONIAL NORTH AMERICA centers primarily in the French and Indian War. Relations with colonies, the Puritans in Massachusetts. Subject: Native American History, Religious History to the Indians, this article provides a better understanding of the relationship between these . By working with one group at a time, French Catholic missions created fewer cross-tribal From the Puritan era onward, Protestant missionaries believed stoutly that Indians.
They turned these ideas into a plan for mission work, which would quickly engulf the world with Christianity. To their great credit, over the course of the 19th century, they slowly changed their plans as their understanding of culture, race, and belief became better informed, transformed by their frustration with the slow pace of conversion. They would send sponsored missionaries into a region. The missionary would then begin to learn the local language, translate the Bible, and begin acting as an example of Christian life.
Through Bible study and a school, the missionary would teach the Indians English and the important parts of the Bible. They believed this process would lead to converts, the brightest of whom would act as an apprentice ministers.
With that person established as head of the mission, the British, Canadian, or American missionary would move on to the next group to set up a mission. The congregation left behind at the first mission would tithe, buy church publications, and provide funds to support future missions to their heathen brethren.
In India, China, and various African countries, the Protestant missions provided access to the colonial power structure through education, English language training, and contacts, thus attracting willing potential converts. Additionally, countries with urban centers and ostracized communities also delivered willing populations to the Protestant mission system. These factors did not exist in North America. The Indian populations were not urban, did not produce pariah groups, and often already possessed economic ties to the colonial structure, sometimes through previous contact with Catholic missionaries.
Those that did not have a relationship with the colonial structure had rejected the opportunity in favor of remaining independent. Western Indian groups within North America remained mobile and could simply move to avoid the missionaries.
One of the great weaknesses of most Protestant missionary societies in North America lay in their inability to provide an inroad into colonial power structures.
They did not follow the same pattern as Protestant missions in Africa and China, where converts often moved from the mission into the colonial bureaucracy. By the midth century, Protestant missionary societies discovered that the missions produced few converts, often in the single digits.
This fact hampered the missionary efforts both psychologically and fiscally. Without converts to take over the missions, the missionary societies needed to keep recruiting white missionaries.
Without converts to tithe and add to the coffers of the churches, the missions, both Protestant and Catholic, became expensive. The financial crisis led both Protestant and Catholic missionary societies into arrangements with the Canadian and U. They asked for treaties to solidify their hold on land and money for schools and churches. Both governments responded positively but with strings attached. They wanted to see results: The missionaries failed on these fronts. Both sought to work with the government to stabilize fiscal support for their missions.
And they established residential schools in the hope of converting and assimilating the next generation of Indians. Like other mission initiatives before them, these schools had benefits and losses for the Indians. Click to view larger Figure 3. Though others had tried schools for Indians in the 17th and 18th centuries, Colonel Richard Henry Pratt pioneered them again in the 19th century. Under his initiative, the U. Both Catholic and Protestant missionaries ran schools.
Some of the schools had abusive policies and teachers, which led to hard feelings between missionary groups and Indians for generations to come. Over the first half of the 19th century, missionary societies moved from acting independently to relying on the U. It solidified under President Ulysses S. This policy sought to fix the corruption in Indian policy and Indian agencies by removing political appointees from the positions and placing missionary societies, both Protestant and Catholic, in charge of it.
While it was well intentioned, as Grant believed that the altruistic missionaries would put Indians and peace first, it failed utterly. Missionary societies fought over who would control which agencies, how much money they should be granted, and who would control the schools.
Additionally, missionaries discovered that the U. Indians were not given a choice of which missionary group would control their agency or reservation, nor were they given a voice in the policy. By the s, political appointments and the civil service took over the reservations. By the last quarter of the 19th century, Protestant missionary societies reduced their workforce in North America. As the conversion rate remained relatively low compared with the rest of the world, the missionary societies focused their personnel and finances elsewhere.
Missions closed, or sponsoring societies turned them over to their respective governments. Slowly, the various Protestant groups withdrew from their mission work with Indians, though not completely. Despite this withdrawal, well into the 20th century Protestant groups continued to consider native churches as mission churches, limiting their self-governance and input into denominational organizations.
Similar Functions Catholic and Protestant missions differed significantly in their theology, their staffing, their history, and their structures. The two traditions, however, shared much in the effects that their missions had on the Indian populations.
Missions to the Indians of North America created two types of effects: Often the missions produced unintended, long-lasting consequences that shaped future choices and interactions for the Indian groups. Both Catholic and Protestant missionaries approached mission work in the same way. They came to preach the Gospel and teach Indians about civilization.
Individual missionaries saw themselves as models of Christian behavior and standards and hoped to influence the Indians by their actions. Catholic orders expected their missionaries to resist temptation with Indian women. Protestant groups sent wives with their missionaries to model the Christian family for the Indian groups.
Missionary societies promoted missionaries as the exemplars of a Christian lifestyle. They entered Indian villages with the belief that their daily actions would help teach and lead Indians to Christ. Be it sexual tensions for the Catholic priests or the fact that seminomadic groups continued to travel on the Sabbath for the Protestants, individual missionaries fought to create what they considered a Christian environment on the frontier of conversion.
Click to view larger Figure 4. Additionally, both Catholic and Protestant missionaries believed that the Indian groups with whom they worked had adopted unchristian and uncivilized practices from the heathenish whites around them. Both Catholic and Protestant missionaries created schools and towns where they could isolate converts and potential converts from the evils of native life and heathenish whites. This practice extended well into the 19th century and developed into the reserve and reservation systems we know today.
Catholic and Protestant missionaries believed that isolating converts would make the process easier and protect them, but they were rarely able to isolate all of the Indians. Only those willing to convert or those who needed the mission for protection or food entered the missions.
Mission communities always represented a mixed society: Ironically, these communities, whether missions in the Southwest or praying villages in the Northeast, often became targets for white anger and violence. To support their missions, both sets of missionaries relied mainly on Euro-Americans for financial support, despite hopes that the Indians would take over the cost of their own conversion. Though the Catholics had more success getting Indians to contribute to the church, those contributions never made up enough of the budget to fully fund the missions.
During the Spanish period, Indians helped run the missions, working in the fields and other industries to support the missions. In the 19th century, Protestants expected Indians to use their money from trade to tithe to the mission and buy supplies, like Bibles.
This deficit led both Catholic and Protestant missionaries to turn to their respective governments, Spanish, French, English, and American, to help underwrite the costs of missions. Sometimes this support came in an overt form: At other times, it was more subtle: In all cases, it blurred the line between church and state. Furthermore, throughout the 19th century, the relationship between the U.
In the early 19th century, the U. By the s, the U. With the birth of the Peace Policy under President Grant, missionaries took a prominent role in government efforts to civilize the Indians and therefore terminate their land rights. In some cases, missionaries joined the government as advisers.
In other cases, they acted as lobbyists. Those who began to work for the government often did so after years of mission work and the realization that most politicians did not represent the needs and desires of the Indian groups.
In rare and extreme cases, they sought to change policy by simply ignoring it. In the end, though, Catholic and Protestant missionary societies and individual missionaries attempted to influence government policy.
Outside of serving in specific government roles, such as Indian agents or treaty negotiators, Catholic and Protestant missionaries became respected ethnographers, linguists, and early anthropologists. They studied Indian societies intensely to better understand how to dismantle them. As with all outside observers, they filtered their interpretation of individual Indian cultures through the lens of their own experiences, the job with which their missionary societies tasked them, and the success of their mission.
Often their experiences and beliefs shaped this information, which, when filtered through various government processes, created flawed policies. The final result, though, became a legacy of dictionaries, ethnographies, and cultural studies, some deeply flawed and others of which have become the means by which current Indian populations revitalize their culture. All missionaries began with the assumption that civilization equaled Christianity and vice versus and that not being a Christian equaled not being civilized and living in a disorganized and savage state.
This assumption that civilization and Christianity were one and the same led missionaries to evaluate and rank Indian cultures ethnographically based on their conversion to Christianity and white societal values. Those groups, like the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, who appeared to embrace Christianity and civilized practices received praise from the missionary groups.
Those who did not, like the Apache and Comanche, became fodder for missionary writers who argued that not all could be saved as a race. These different experiences shaped racial ideas, where missionaries, for example, viewed the Cherokee as a stronger race than the Comanche.
Our eyes are opened so that we see clearly. Our ears are unstopped so that we have been able to distinctly hear the words which you have spoken. For all these favors we thank the Great Spirit and him only.
This council fire was kindled by you. It was at your request that we came together at this time. We have listened with attention to what you have said. You have requested us to speak our minds freely. This gives us great joy, for we now consider that we stand upright before you, and can speak what we think.
All have heard your voice and all speak to you as one man. Our minds are agreed. You say that you want an answer to your talk before you leave this place. It is right that you should have one, as you are a great distance from home, and we do not wish to detain you. But we will first look back a little, and tell you what our fathers have told us, and what we have heard from the white people.
Listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island [North America was commonly understood to be an island. The Great Spirit had made it for the use of Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He made the bear and the deer, and their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country, and had taught us how to take them.
He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread. All this he had done for his red children because he loved them. If we had any disputes about hunting grounds, they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an evil day came upon us. Your forefathers crossed the great waters and landed on this island.
Their numbers were small. They found friends and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country for fear of wicked men, and had come here to enjoy their religion.
They asked for a small seat. We took pity on them, granted their request and they sat down amongst us. We gave them corn and meat. They gave us poison [liquor] in return. The white people had now found our country.
Tidings were carried back and more came amongst us. Yet we did not fear them. We took them to be friends. They called us brothers.
We believed them and gave them a large seat. At length their numbers had greatly increased. They wanted more land. They wanted our country. Our eyes were opened, and our minds became uneasy.
Indians were hired to fight against Indians, and many of our people were destroyed. They also brought strong liquors among us. It was strong and powerful and has slain thousands.
Our seats were once large, and yours were very small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but you are not satisfied. You want to force your religion upon us. You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind; and if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right, and we are lost.
How do you know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as for you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us; and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know what to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?
You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book? We do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers and has been handed down, father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we received, to love each other, and to be united.
We never quarrel about religion. The Great Spirit has made us all. But he has made a great difference between his white and red children. He has given us a different complexion and different customs. To you he has given the arts; to these he has not opened our eyes. We know these things to be true. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may not we conclude that he has given us a different religion, according to our understanding?
The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for his children. We do not wish to destroy your religion, or to take it from you.
We only want to enjoy our own. You say you have not come to get our land or our money, but to enlighten our minds. I will now tell you that I have been at your meetings and saw you collecting money from the meeting. I cannot tell what this money was intended for, but suppose it was for your minister; and if we should conform to your way of thinking, perhaps you may want some from us.
American History: A New World Clash of Cultures
We are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while, and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good and makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again what you have said. You have now heard our answer to your talk, and this is all we have to say at present.
As we are going to part, we will come and take you by the hand, and hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey, and return you safe to your friends.
He tells of their flight across Montana toward Canada, of their eventual defeat and captivity, and of their forced removal to Kansas, far away from their homeland in the mountains. He died in without regaining his land in Oregon. My friends, I have been asked to show you my heart. I am glad to have a chance to do so. I want the white people to understand my people.
Some of you think an Indian is like a wild animal. This is a great mistake. I will tell you all about our people, and then you can judge whether an Indian is a man or not.
I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more. I will tell you in my way how the Indian sees things. The white man has more words to tell you how they look to him, but it does not require many words to speak the truth. What I have to say will come from my heart, and I will speak with a straight tongue.
My father was chief before me. When a young man, he was called Joseph by Mr. He died a few years ago.Politics and native relations in the New England colonies - AP US History - Khan Academy
There was no stain on his hands of the blood of a white man. He left a good name on the earth. He advised me well for my people. Our fathers gave us many laws, which they had learned from their fathers.
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These laws were good. They told us to treat all men as they treated us; that we should never be the first to break a bargain; that it was a disgrace to tell a lie; that we should speak the truth; that it was a shame for one man to take from another his wife, or his property without paying for it.
This I believe, and all my people believe the same. We did not know there were other people besides the Indian until about one hundred winters ago, when some men with white faces came to our country. They brought many things with them to trade for furs and skins. They brought tobacco, which was new to us. They brought guns with flint stones on them, which frightened our women and children.
Although very few of our people wear them now, we are still called by the same name… The first white men of your people who came to our country were named Lewis and Clarke.
They also brought many things that our people had never seen. They talked straight, and our people gave them a great feast, as a proof that their hearts were friendly. These men were very kind. They made presents to our chiefs and our people made presents to them. We had a great many horses, of which we gave them what they needed, and they gave us guns and tobacco in return.
All the Nez Perces made friends with Lewis and Clarke, and agreed to let them pass through their country, and never to make war on white men. This promise the Nez Perces have never broken. No white man can accuse them of bad faith, and speak with a straight tongue. It has always been the pride of the Nez Perces that they were the friends of the white men. When my father was a young man there came to our country a white man Rev. Spaulding who talked spirit law.
He won the affections of our people because he spoke good things to them. At first he did not say anything about white men wanting to settle on our lands. Nothing was said about that until about twenty winters ago, when a number of white people came into our country and built houses and made farms. At first our people made no complaint. They thought there was room enough for all to live in peace, and they were learning many things from the white men that seemed to be good.
But we soon found that the white men were growing rich very fast, and were greedy to possess everything the Indian had. My father was the first to see through the schemes of the white men, and he warned his tribe to be careful about trading with them. He had suspicion of men who seemed so anxious to make money. He had sharper eyes than the rest of our people. Next there came a white officer Governor Stevenswho invited all the Nez Perces to a treaty council.