Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes toward American Indians, 1837-1893

Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes toward American Indians, 1837-1893

Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes toward American Indians, 1837-1893

Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes toward American Indians, 1837-1893

Synopsis

Based upon correspondence of missionaries in the field, this book offers valuable insight into understanding Protestant attitudes in the 19th century as evangelicals took the Indian "from

Excerpt

In their assault upon area after area of Indian life, and in their rejection of any syncretism or any adaptation of the Christian civilization to Indian cultural norms, the missionaries of the bfm showed remarkable consistency. Not every Presbyterian commented on every Indian cultural trait, but, with the exception of John Edwards, all shared the same intense and sweeping ethnocentrism.

Nevertheless, there were suggestions of possible inconsistency, ambiguity, or disagreement among the men and women of the BFM—or even in the mind of the same missionary—on aspects of Indian culture. Indeed, a clashing double image underlay, and helps explain, the intensity of the missionary rejection of Indian culture.

Here and there in the sea of missionary denunciation of Indian ways, an appreciative remark or passage surfaces. in 1881, for example, the bfm Foreign Missionary accepted the testimony of a number of writers on the achievements of the so-called six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: Senecas, Mohawks, Cayugas, Oneidas, Onandagas, and Tuscaroras. the confederacy "held all other tribes in subjugation, from the St. Lawrence to the Mexican Gulf, and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi." Had the Iroquois possessed the advantages of the ancient Greeks and Romans, a writer claimed, there was no reason to believe that these Indians would have been inferior to them. Indeed, the Iroquois appeared "to have been equal to any efforts within the reach of man." They had obviously developed an impressive social and political sophistication: "In their harmony, the unity of their operations, the energy of their character, the vastness, vigor, and success of their enterprises and the strength and sublimity of their eloquence, they can fairly be compared to the Greeks." Another writer compared them to Romans, not only "in their martial spirit and rage for conquest, but in their treatment of the conquered." Here he did not dwell, as might have been expected, on their torture complex, but on a positive trait. "Like the Romans they not only adopted individuals, but incorporated . . .

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