Perishing Heathens: Stories of Protestant Missionaries and Christian Indians in Antebellum America

Perishing Heathens: Stories of Protestant Missionaries and Christian Indians in Antebellum America

Perishing Heathens: Stories of Protestant Missionaries and Christian Indians in Antebellum America

Perishing Heathens: Stories of Protestant Missionaries and Christian Indians in Antebellum America

Synopsis

In Perishing Heathens Julius H. Rubin tells the stories of missionary men and women who between 1800 and 1830 responded to the call to save Native peoples through missions, especially the Osages in the Arkansas Territory, Cherokees in Tennessee and Georgia, and Ojibwe peoples in the Michigan Territory. Rubin also recounts the lives of Native converts, many of whom were from mixed-blood métis families and were attracted to the benefits of education, literacy, and conversion.

During the Second Great Awakening, Protestant denominations embraced a complex set of values, ideas, and institutions known as "the missionary spirit." These missionaries fervently believed they would build the kingdom of God in America by converting Native Americans in the Trans-Appalachian and Trans-Mississippi West. Perishing Heathens explores the theology and institutions that characterized the missionary spirit and the early missions such as the Union Mission to the Osages, and the Brainerd Mission to the Cherokees, and the Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees.

Through a magnificent array of primary sources, Perishing Heathens reconstructs the millennial ideals of fervent true believers as they confronted a host of impediments to success: endemic malaria and infectious illness, Native resistance to the gospel message, and intertribal warfare in the context of the removal of eastern tribes to the Indian frontier.

Excerpt

At the top of a hill in the southeast corner of Connecticut’s Old Durham Cemetery stands a solitary grave marker, set apart from those of whites, the original English settlers and their successors—proprietors, goodwives, children, and servants. It is also sequestered from an adjacent section of graves designated for African American servants and slaves. Located at the margins of this community of the dead, apart from those who enjoyed varying degrees of social standing, property, and privilege in life, the marker reads,

Ann
Cornelius
A Indian Girl
died Dec’ 9th
1776 Aged
19 Years.

Who was this “Indian girl”? What tribe and natal community did she hail from? How did she come to reside in Durham and with whom? What can we discover about her brief life and the meaning of her Christian Indian identity? How did she die? Who paid the considerable sum for her carved gravestone?

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