Printable Version

The Missionary Impulse
Digital History ID 674

Author:   Henry Benjamin Whipple
Date:1860

Annotation: In a letter to President James Buchanan, Whipple, the first Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, calls on the government to embrace a paternalistic scheme to uplift the Chippewas, Sioux, and Winnebagoes.


Document: The only hope for the Indian is civilization and Christianization. They understand this, and I believe would welcome any plan which will save them from destruction.

The curse of the Indian country is the firewater which flows through its borders. Although every treaty pledges to them protection against its sale and use, and the government desires to fulfill this pledge, thus far all efforts have proved ineffectual.

The difficulties in the way are these: First, the policy of our government has been to treat the red man as an equal. Treaties are then made. The annuities are paid in gross sums annually; from the Indian's lack of providence and the influence of traders, a few weeks later every trace of the payment is gone. Secondly, the reservations are scattered and have a widely extended border of ceded lands. As the government has no control over the citizens of the state, traffic is carried on openly on the border. Third, the Indian agents have no police to enforce the laws of Congress, and cannot rely upon the officers elected by a border population to suppress a traffic in which friends are interested. Fourth, the army, being under the direction of a separate department, has no definite authority to act for the protection of the Indians. Fifth, if arrests are made, the cases must be tried before some local state officer, and often the guilty escape. Sixth, as there is no distinction made by the government between the chief of temperate habits and the one of intemperate, the tribe loses one of the most powerful influences for good--that of pure official example.

With much hesitation I would suggest to those who have Indian affairs in charge....

First, whether, in future, treaties cannot be made so that the government shall occupy a paternal character, treating the Indians as their wards....

Fourth, whether the department has the power to strike from the roll of chiefs, the name of any man of intemperate habits, and thus make a pure, moral character the ground of government favor.

Fifth, whether the department has authority to issue a medal on one side of which should be a pledge to abstain from intoxicating drinks for one year....

Seventh, whether some plan cannot be devised to create in the Indians an interest in securing themselves homes where they can live by the cultivation of the soil.

Eighth, whether practical Christian teachers cannot be secured to teach the Indians the peaceful pursuits of agriculture and the arts of civilization.

Source: Henry Benjamin Whipple, Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate (New York: 1899), 50-53.

Copyright 2016 Digital History