Noble, Wretched, & Redeemable: Protestant Missionaries to the Indians in Canada and the United States, 1820-1900

By C. L. Higham | Go to book overview
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INTRODUCTION

Noble, Wretched, and Redeemable compares how nineteenth-century Protestant missionaries viewed the native inhabitants in western Canada and the United States. By tracing the changing images of these indigenous groups, it examines how three kinds of institutions -- the missionary societies, national governments, and various secular scholarly institutions -- influenced the process of image formation. 1 Within this context, the chapters demonstrate that despite important institutional differences in the two countries, and contrary to the perceptions of both past missionaries and current scholars, Protestant missionary attitudes toward Indians were similar in Canada and the United States during the nineteenth century. To demonstrate the similarity of these attitudes, the book investigates how the missionary societies, the Canadian and U.S. governments, and various secular scholarly institutions placed financial and political pressures on individual Protestant missionaries that shaped how these missionaries portrayed the Indians to these institutions, as well as to the literate, white Christian public.

For purposes of comparison, this book approaches image creation in three ways. First, it outlines general histories of the Canadian and American western frontiers and the government policies that regulated them. These histories reveal how different Canada and the United States were throughout the nineteenth century. Second, it explains how the shift of financial support from the missionary societies, the various governments, and the secular research institutions, created pressures for missionaries and encouraged new alliances between them. Finally, this book examines how Protestant missionaries on the western frontiers discussed and described the Indians in their writings and lectures and how these portrayals changed in relationship to changing institutional pressures and changes on the Canadian and American frontiers. Despite expectations of many scholars to the contrary, Protestant missionary writings display attitudes toward

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