AMERICAN HOME MISSIONS
AMONG THE INDIANS
By Henry C Vedder, 1927
The Numerous Varieties
To most citizens of the United States an Indian is simply an Indian, and there is a popular saying that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. Vice versa, to most Indians a white man is simply a white man, and the Indian prefers a dead white man. Race prejudice is exceeded only by race ignorance. There are probably greater differences among the Indians of North America than among the whites of Europe. The Bureau of Ethnology reports 58 distinct family groups, divided into 280 separate tribes, whose remnants are living on 161 "reservations." The Bureau estimates the Indian population within the present limits of the United States at the coming of the first white settlers as 846,000, but the census of 1920 reported 336,337. There is a general impression that they are a vanishing race, but the census figures, though somewhat ambiguous, on the whole fail to confirm this notion. In 1880, the number was returned at 322,534; in 1890 it had apparently fallen to 248,253; but in 1900 had risen to 270,544, and in 1910 to 304,950. These fluctuations may be due to different methods of enumeration, in part at least.
Distribution of the Indians
Indians are still living in nearly all the States of the Union, though in the Eastern parts they are few relatively to the white population, and many people never
come in contact with them or ever see a live Indian. They are distributed in the States as follows:New England 1,715But while there is this general distribution, there is also great disparity; for example, Delaware has but five surviving Indians, while Oklahoma has 119,000. Though many tribes are more or less closely allied in language, and maintained relations more or less friendly, there were a number of distinct stocks. Of these some of the principal were: (1) The Algonquins, to which belonged the Pequots, Delawares, Ottawas, and other tribes with which the white men first came in contact. King Philip, Pocahontas, Tecumseh, Black Hawk Indian names familiar to every schoolboy are representatives of this stock. (2) The Iroquois, comprising the five great "nations" of New York: Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Senecas, to which the Hurons were later added. The more or less legendary Hiawatha was of this stock, as was Joseph Brant. (3) The Muskhogean, including Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, found in the Southern colonies. (4) The Sioux of the Mississippi region and beyond: Crows, Winnebagoes, Omahas, Dakotas. Sitting Bull is perhaps the most famous of this stock.
Middle Atlantic 5,940
East North Central 15,695
West North Central 37,263
South Atlantic 13,673
East South Central 1,623
West South Central 60,618
Economic and Social Condition
The American Indians are becoming civilized with increasing rapidity. Five tribes in Oklahoma are now
regarded as entitled to be called "civilized": Cherokees, numbering 41,824; Choctaws, 26,828; Creeks, 18,774; Chickasaws, 10,966; Seminoles, 3,127. Yet much remains to be done, even for them. Only about 75,000 Indians can read and write, and not more than 100,000 can be said really to speak English, though most of the remainder know some English words and can manage to communicate with white people after a fashion. There are 64,943 Indian children in schools, and 20,746 not in school. An act of Congress, approved by President Coolidge in 1924, admitted Indians to citizenship, and two-thirds of them now enjoy this privilege. There are already some 50,000 voters among them, and there will be more all of which makes the continued progress of this part of our people a concern to us all.
Indians have already contributed to our civilization more than most of us realize, and will doubtless make further contributions. Many of their legends and folk-tales have become embedded in our literature: American composers have begun to utilize their melodies and rhythms in our music. Aside from the great variety of geographical names that we owe to them, Indians have contributed many familiar words to our language, most of which are in daily use among us : caucus, chipmunk, hickory, hominy, maize, menhaden, moccasin, moose, mugwump, opossum, papoose, pemmican, persimmon, potato, raccoon, sachem, skunk, succotash, terrapin, tobacco, toboggan, tomahawk.
Not only is the old tribal organization still maintained to a large extent, but some whole tribes are still mainly "blanket" Indians; that is, they continue in their uncivilized mode of life, according to their ancient customs. The estimated wealth of Indians amounts to $1,666,000,ooo. If an equal division were made, each adult Indian would have 250 acres of land and $2,261 in cash. Their
livestock is valued at $30,000,000 and their timber at $130,000,000. They have been truly described as "the richest nation and the poorest people on earth." The major part of them are still wards of the nation, and their property is held for them in trust, but allotment to individuals is proceeding as fast as it is safe. In some cases it has proved quite successful; the Nez Perces were allotted lands twenty-five years ago, and they still own 90 per cent, of the land. In all, 34,000,000 acres have been allotted, while 39,000,000 acres are still held in trust. How to protect the Indians from exploitation by the white people is still a great problem which the Federal Government is trying to solve. Much has been accomplished in their behalf by the Indian Rights Association, but every citizen can help through his Congressman and Senators by urging proper legislation.
Indians and the White Population
While there is still much race prejudice, on both sides, the old enmity is dying out. There never was inveterate race objection to intermarriage between Indians and whites; from the days of Pocohontas, such marriages have been occasional, not to say frequent, and illicit connections still more common. Though there is in some quarters feeling against "half-breeds," cases have been known in which Americans with Indian blood in their veins have risen to political and social distinction and have been proud of their Indian ancestry. The Randolphs of Virginia are an instance. It is quite probable, therefore, that the Indians will ultimately be absorbed into the population of the United States and cease to be a separate people - a forecast that is sustained by the fact that in the Eastern States there are now few of pure Indian descent, most of those classed as Indians being of mixed race, part white, part Negro.
The darkest page in American history is without doubt the behavior of the white race toward the Indian, ever since the settlement of the country began. The displacement of the Indian was inevitable; no race can hold a country against a more civilized race, and for the best interests of mankind it is undesirable that they should. The earth belongs, not to those who get possession of it first, but to those who will make the best use of it. But such inevitable displacement of backward peoples may be violent, brutal, full of injustice, or it may be peaceful and just. The white settlers of the region now the United States invariably chose the former. The Indian almost always kept faith; the white man has almost invariably broken faith, when he thought to gain by so doing. Sometimes such violations of faith have been most deliberate, committed by legislative authority and not by individual encroachments, whenever the greed of the whites demanded the red man's territory.
It is stated on good authority that no fewer than 370 treaties have been made with the Indians, most of which have been violated by force or fraud. Every time the Indians made a treaty they lost something; and virtually every pledge made to them by the white man's government sooner or later was violated. Helen Hunt's Century of Dishonor tells this disgraceful story more fully. The Canadian Government has pursued a much more honorable policy toward the Indians of the Dominion, with the consequence that few Indian " wars " have broken out across the border, and their Indian problem is virtually solved.
Nevertheless, it is a great tribute to the inherent nobility of the red man, that he has ignored, if he has not forgotten, his historic wrongs, and is rapidly taking his place among American citizens as an equal. Over 8,000 Indians served in our army during the late war, more than
one-third of them volunteers. They subscribed for more than $10,000,000 Liberty bonds. No part of our people gave service more freely or more efficiently, in proportion to numbers.
Early Indian Missions
Roger Williams was not only the founder of the first Baptist church in America, but the first missionary to the Indians. He purchased from the tribe of Narragansetts the land on which the city of Providence now stands, and continued to have friendly relations with that tribe and other Indians. He preached the gospel to them faithfully and won some converts; but he had neither colleagues nor successors in this work and no permanent impression was made. A more successful work was that of John Eliot. He began his labors in 1646, after two years' study of the native language. He won many converts, whom he established in separate settlements, and they became known as "praying Indians." By 1674 there are said to have been 3,699 of them. Eliot was largely supported by an English society, but his church at Roxbury, then a suburban village of Boston, gave him leave to spend much of his time in his missionary work. The "King Philip War" between the English settlements and the Indians partially broke up this mission and the decline of the tribes did the rest. It was Eliot's misfortune to spend his life in labors for a vanishing race. He translated the entire Bible into Algonquin, the New Testament having been printed as early as 1661. Eliot's Bible is now one of the rarest Americana, and a copy of it is a prize for any collector, but no living man can now read it.
Rev. Peter Folger, the grandfather of Benjamin Franklin, an ardent Baptist, labored among the Indians of Martha's Vineyard and left permanent impress of his
character and effort. An Indian Baptist church still survives at Gay's Head, which was organized in 1771. It is an interesting fact that the three surviving Indian churches in Massachusetts are all Baptist, the others being Pondville, Plymouth County, Mashpee, and Cape Cod. The first named has but three Indian members now, but the last has 55.
Somewhat later David Brainerd undertook a mission to the Delaware tribe, and established a station at the forks of the Delaware River, where the city of Easton is now located; later he opened another station near Newark, N. J. Here he had some success and baptized 78. What he might have achieved with a longer life we can only guess, but he died of tuberculosis in his thirtieth year. His mission has been called a failure, and judged merely by numerical results or permanence it might be so regarded; but his was a brilliant and inspiring example, like that of Henry Martyn, that ought not to be measured by mathematical tests.
Without doubt, the early missionary to the Indians who could show most visible results was David Zeisberger, a Moravian, educated at Herrnhut, who joined his parents in 1737 in Georgia, whither they had gone some years before. Later they came northward and took part in establishing the Moravian settlement at Bethlehem, Pa. Here young Zeisberger was converted and dedicated himself to missionary work among the Indians. He was arrested in the Mohawk Valley in 1745, while he was still learning the language of the Indians, before he had been able to do any preaching or teaching, and held in prison for some time as a suspected spy. The only ground for this suspicion was his refusal to take the oath of allegiance to the king of England, but this was merely
because he objected on conscientious grounds to all oaths. On March 12, 1749, the British Parliament formally recognized the Moravian Church and exempted its members and missionaries thenceforth from oaths and military duty.
Zeisberger was released and was ordained a Moravian minister in 1749. His labors thenceforth were indefatigable. On a journey to Onondaga, the headquarters of the League of the Iroquois, he was adopted into the tribe of Onondagas and the clan of the Turtle. In later years he extended his labors into what is now the State of Ohio and helped to lay out the town of Gnadenhutten (Tents of Grace). For a time he was stationed at Shamokin. He finally took up his abode at Onondaga and established a permanent church there. A village named Friedenshutten (Tents of Peace) was established on the Susquehanna, and there was a great revival and many conversions among the tribes. These labors were interrupted by the numerous "wars" between Indians and whites, and by the intolerance and brutality of some British commanders. A massacre at Gnadenhutten in 1782, in which all the Indians and some whites lost their lives, is a flagrant example. Zeisberger died in 1808, at the ripe age of 87, and there were then some 25,000 Christian Indians as the result of his work. At the time of the Burgoyne campaign, it was his influence mainly that kept the major part of the Iroquois tribes from joining in the projected movement, which included an attack on the West from the Indians as Burgoyne marched down from Canada to assail the Continental forces on the East. It was failure of the Indians to cooperate that made possible the defeat of Burgoyne by Gates and saved the colonies from a probably fatal disaster. In this indirect way, Indian missions were of great service to our country in its darkest hour.
Another very successful missionary to Indians was Rev. Isaac McCoy, a native of Pennsylvania (1784), whose family emigrated to Kentucky in 1790. He was converted in 1801 and in 1804 moved to Indiana, locating in Clarke County. He was ordained to the ministry in 1810, and in 1817 entered upon the great work of his life among the Indians. He established mission stations at Fort Wayne, Niles (Michigan), and other places that have since become important towns. He traveled on horseback and on foot hundreds of miles through what was then a trackless wilderness, suffering untold privations and dangers, that he might give the gospel to the tribes of the Middle West. He made several trips to Washington, to interest Congress in the Indians and procure justice for them. His evangelism was not without fruits; many were converted, many churches established. Several of his young men were trained for the ministry at the Hamilton Theological Seminary (now Colgate). He succeeded in getting several of the tribes settled on reservations. Among his other titles to remembrance is the fact that on October 9, 1825, he preached the first sermon at a little collection of log huts that afterwards became the great city of Chicago.
In addition to his other labors, McCoy found time to do considerable literary work of the highest value. In 1827 he issued a pamphlet on "The Practicability of Indian Reform, Embracing Their Colonization," in which he earnestly advocated the policy of giving the Indians land in severalty, which was afterward done in some cases. His missionary experience convinced him that the best prospect for the Indians was to segregate them somewhere in the undeveloped West where they could develop normally. As he said, the chief obstacles to missionary work were the traders, a large part of whose profits were
gained by selling whisky [sic] to the Indians. His views were more fully set forth in a History of Indian Baptist Missions, published in Utica, N. Y., in 1840. It was largely in consequence of his advocacy of this policy that Congress, in 1832 and 1834, organized the Indian Territory, and the larger part of the tribes were persuaded to remove thither. In 1890 this became Oklahoma and attained statehood in 1907. In 1842 the Indian Mission Association was formed and McCoy was made its first secretary. He died in 1846, in the midst of his labors, from exposure and undue exertion. His was a heroic life and death, and he deserves a place high among the apostles and martyrs.
Other Baptist Missions
Soon after the formation of the New York Baptist Missionary Society, in 1807, work was begun among the Indian tribes of that State. By 1809 a church had been established among the Tuscaroras, which is still flourishing under an Indian pastor, and is in many respects a model village church. Another mission was begun among the Oneidas that met with considerable success. The Tonawandas were also reached, and a church of that tribe still exists. Indian churches are still found in Red Hill and Cattaraugus, making four Indian churches now existent in New York. The State Convention has maintained missionaries continuously, usually Indian preachers, and the percentage of Christians among the remaining Indians of the State is probably greater than in the surrounding white population.
In 1818 the Board of the Triennial Convention sent Rev. Humphrey Posey to the Cherokees of North Carolina; others followed and the mission was maintained among them until their transfer to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in 1838. The thousands of Cherokee Batists
today are the direct result of these labors. The greater part of the Eastern and Southern Indians were gradually removed to the same region, and this made possible a concentration of work for the Indians, which was interrupted for a time by the Civil War, but resumed with new energy after 1865. The work was also unified by placing it entirely under the direction of the A B H M S [American Baptist Home Mission Society].
The W A B H M S [Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society] began work among the Choctaws and Chickasaws in 1878; they have done especially valuable service in supplying teachers for Indian schools, and in the maintenance of the orphanage. The women have also labored among the Kiowas, Cheyennes, Comanches, and Arapahoes. The mission among the Hopis owes its beginning to the Baptist Kiowas, who said they "wanted to be a light on a mountain," so the Indian name of that mission signifies "God's-Light-upon-the-Mountain." The white people have called it by the less meaningful title of the Sunlight Mission, and the W A B H M S has done much to extend and energize the operations in this field since 1901.
Work among the Navajos began in 1907, mainly in Arizona. The latest enterprise is a -mission to the Monos of central California, where the Baptist women began work in 1909, and the A B H M S sent a missionary in 1913. Less has been done for the Indians of Alaska, but the Baptist women have established an orphanage on Kodiak Island, in the Gulf of Alaska, that is caring for 34 children.
Under direction of the A B H M S there were in 1925 twenty-six men and women laboring among the Indians, with 30 Baptist churches in their care, having 1,400 members. There are also independent churches, especially in Oklahoma, with about 4,000 members. Besides the tribes already mentioned, missions are maintained among the Osages, the Sacs and Foxes, both in Oklahoma, and the
Piutes of Montana. Of late years the mission among the Crows has been notably fruitful. A marked religious interest prevailed among them in 1924 and 1925; the percentage of baptisms was about three times as large as the average in the field of the NBC. Six Baptist churches are now flourishing in this tribe, and the most influential men among the Crows have been converted and baptized. Of not all the tribes can so good a report as this be given, but all are responsive to the gospel; even the Apaches, whose name but a few years ago was a synonym for every kind of barbaric ferocity, are receiving the gospel with gladness. The Indian Baptist Association of Oklahoma is composed of thirteen churches, representing half a dozen different tribes. In 1925 they received 1,782 new members. These churches have Sunday schools, young people's societies, and other usual auxiliaries found in white Baptist churches; and an Indian was moderator of the last Association meeting.
Baptists were first, and have always been foremost, among Protestant bodies at least, in giving the gospel to the Indian. Those who are fond of the dollar measure for everything, may be interested to know that the Indian churches have shown their appreciation of such activity in their behalf by responding liberally with contributions, in proportion to their means. In the New World movement, $500 was allotted to the Tuscarora church in New York, and its members subscribed $4,084. Many Indian churches went over their allotments and a Hopi church subscribed double the amount requested. Up to 1921 Indians had given $180,000 for Bacone College and their Murrow Orphans' Home.
Southern Baptists at Work
The S B C is also maintaining a fine work among the Indians, under its Home Mission Board. There are 15
missionaries at work, 7 of them in Oklahoma, and in 1925 there were 438 baptisms reported. It was their intention to expend, as part of their five-year effort: $12,500 on work among the Cherokees, of Mississippi; $17,000 on the Cherokees remaining in North Carolina; $64,000 on the tribes in Oklahoma, and $4,000 on the Florida Seminoles. This at least measures the interest of Southern Baptists in Indian Missions, as well as their estimate of its importance and promise.
All of the missionaries are deserving of honorable mention, were there space to enumerate them; but two have been especially noteworthy. Rev. G. W. Hicks, an Indian by birth, was a graduate of the Indian University and the Rochester Theological Seminary. He received his appointment as missionary in 1887, and from that time on was abundant in labors among his people, establishing many churches and rendering a manifold service. Rev. Joseph Samuel Murrow was orginally an appointee of the SBC (1857) but after 1889 was in the service of the ABHMS. His work was most fruitful, especially among the Creeks, Seminoles, and Choctaws. He became affectionately known among all the tribes as "Father Murrow." He helped organize Bacone College, and may be said to have created the orphanage, now known by his name. He organized over 75 churches, baptized more than 2,000 converts, and assisted in ordaining 60 Indian preachers.
Other Missionary Labors
It gradually dawned upon the American people and their Government that it is cheaper to educate the Indian than to fight him, better to Christianize than to kill him. A new policy began with the administration of General Grant, though it has not always been consistently pursued. One great obstacle to a uniform policy is that the office
of Indian Commissioner has always been a political spoil; in seventy years there were thirty Commissioners. The inevitable result is that just as a Commissioner has learned his job and is prepared to give valuable service, he is put out of office and a greenhorn installed in his place. The conflicting rulings, the changing laws, the violated treaties, have discouraged the Indian, and the wonder is that he has made so much progress. Still, the new policy has been bearing increasing fruit with every decade.
The Government has on the whole been favorable to missions, and especially favorable to mission schools, subsidizing them to a considerable extent a policy that if not altogether defensible has seemed to justify itself by its results. There are now 26 denominations or societies doing work among the Indians that deserve to be called missionary. The result of their united efforts is that 597 stations are maintained, with 428 pastors and missionaries, and over $1,000,000 is invested in church buildings. These statistics do not include the schools. In all there are about 80,000 Protestant Indians, actual communicants and not merely "adherents," while Roman Catholics claim 65,000 in addition. Thus about 40 per cent, of the Indian population is as much Christian as any corresponding white people. Yet there are still 46,000, on 40 separate reservations, for whom practically nothing has been done.
The government maintains an excellent system of primary schools among the Indians, so that the most effective aid that can be given to their education is in secondary and higher schools. An academy was begun and maintained for a time in Scott County, Kentucky, as early as 1826. It was attended mostly by Choctaws. Quite a number of young Indians received collegiate and theological
training at Shurtleff and Colgate, and there was need of an institution in their own home. In 1879 Cherokee Academy was founded at Tahlequah; it was fortunate in having at its head from the beginning A. C. Bacone, who proved himself an eminent educator and organizer. Another school was opened at Atoka, for the Choctaws and Chickasaws, but in 1910 the two schools were consolidated, under the title at first of Bacone College, which has since been changed to Indian University. This institution now has a plant valued at $85,000 and an enrolment of about 275 students.
Another institution has a history probably unparalleled. The mission among the Ottawas proved so successful from 1823 to 1858, that practically the entire tribe became civilized, and seven-eighths of the male adults were members of Baptist churches. They became much interested in education. Rev. John Tecumseh Jones, an Ottawa by adoption, attended the first meeting of the Kansas Baptist Convention and urged the founding of an institution for the education of both Indians and whites. The Indians gave 20,000 acres of their land to establish it; an endowment was gradually raised; and Ottawa University is the result of that movement.
The discovery of oil in some parts of Oklahoma has greatly enriched many Indians, especially the Osage tribe. This, by the way, is an excellent example of what we sometimes call "poetic justice." Greedy white men, desiring the former lands of the Osages, procured their segregation on what were then supposed to be some of the most unpromising lands in the United States. They turned out to be one of the richest oil-fields. Each member of that tribe in 1921 received an average of $10,000 from royalties. More than $1,000,000 has been given by Indians in recent years for the maintenance of schools for their people, especially for the Murrow Orphanage
and Indian University. On part of this an annuity is paid during the life of the giver, Mr. Jackson Barnett, a full-blooded Creek, who gave in one lump $550,000. In 1924 the sum of $100,000 was received from Indians for equipment and buildings. These funds are administered by the A B H M S. Does it pay to Christianize such a people?
Among the educational work for Indians should certainly be reckoned what has been done to give them a Christian literature. Many of the Indian languages have been reduced to writing, and books have been published in Cherokee, Potawotamie, Creek, Choctaw, Iowa, and perhaps others. Among these books of course the Bible is chief, and has been issued in whole or in part for their benefit. Next come such books as the Pilgrim's Progress and a Harmony of the Gospels. Several periodicals are also regularly issued. Most of this, however, may be regarded as merely temporary; all Indians are rapidly learning to speak and read English, which in another generation will be their language as well as ours; and then all the treasures of our literature will be at their command.
A Vanishing Problem
Though the Indians are not a vanishing race, the Indian problem is vanishing. That problem is not merely to convert, but to educate and civilize. Our missions have from the first proclaimed a social gospel to the Indian, and have done much to teach industrialism and the arts of living. Less and less common in the days to come will be the reversion to type of the educated Indian. The American Indian has a high mentality; he will succeeed [sic] in almost anything he is given to do, providing he has training and opportunities equal to those of the white man. There are 49,962 Indians now engaged in farming, and 26,949 in native industries, for the most part as
successfully as whites in similar occupations. Many of them live in houses that would be a credit to any white community, with furnishings that indicate good taste and refinement. Of course there are still, and for some time there will be, "blanket" Indians, who stubbornly resist civilizing tendencies and try to maintain the ancient life and the ancient customs.
[From Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of Baptist Missions, chapter XXI, Judson Press, 1927, pp. 451-467. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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