AS MANY Protestant missionaries toiled on the frontiers of western North America, producing translations, dictionaries, and religious tracts, their sponsoring missionary societies began to reevaluate the importance of missions to the Indians. Just as many early missionaries were overcoming the surprise of their first contact experiences, they encountered a new shock. Beginning in the 1850s, missionary societies started to see the missionaries' work with the Indians as too unproductive and expensive. This apparent change of heart inevitably placed pressure on missionaries, and their perceptions and presentations of the Indians changed as they searched for new audiences for their publications and new sources of financial support.
THE RISING COSTS OF CONVERSION
In the 1830s, missionary societies envisioned a simple model for conversion. 1 Missionaries would set up a mission, convert the local Indians, replace themselves with newly converted missionaries, and then move on to another group. This process would continually create new markets for missionary publications, and an ever-expanding base of tithing converts to support mission work. Thus, the Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist missionary societies could achieve their goal of spreading the word of God to heathens around the world.
For most of the nineteenth century, North American missionary societies advocated this model of self-sufficient missions because of the relative success they had achieved with this model in India, China, and eventually Africa. These experiences and the reports of early travel writers to the North American West encouraged the missionary organizations to conclude by the 1850s that non-