The 7th Annual Mohonk Conference

The seventh annual gathering of this Conference, Oct. 2-5, was the largest ever assembled. Among those present for the first time were Ex-President Hayes, Gen. O.O. Howard, Gen. John Eaton, Prof. Wayland and Dr. Wayland. The newspaper press, religious and secular, was very fully represented; Abbott, Buckley, Dunning, Gilbert, Ward and Wayland are perhaps best known. The venerable Judge Strong well represented the law, while the absence of Senator Dawes was sincerely regretted.

A marked feature of the Conference was the presence of Gen. Morgan, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. For weeks prior to the meeting of the Conference, rumors had gone abroad that he intended to abolish the “contract schools” —that is, schools of the missionary societies which the Government by a “contract” agrees to assist. Articles had appeared in the newspapers remonstrating against this course, and it was believed that this topic would be one of most practical interest in the Conference. The Commissioner early in the meetings read a paper outlining his plan for the establishment of Government schools for all Indian children—the attendance to be compulsory. The omission of all mention of the “contract schools” in this paper confirmed the impression to which rumor had given currency. An animated discussion followed the reading of his paper, in which the Commissioner freely participated. It appeared that he had been misunderstood—at least in so far as any immediate curtailment of the “contract schools” is concerned, and he impressed the Conference warmly in his favor as a Christian man with broad views, impartial and progressive. He will meet, we feel sure, with the cordial support of all the societies engaged in Indian educational work.

The final action of the Conference was embodied in a platform substantially repeating the utterances of last year, urging national education for all Indian children and approving the continuance of “contract schools.” Other planks of the platform related to lands in severalty, to the legal rights of the Indians, etc.—all of which were unanimously approved, and thus [pg 303] once more this remarkable Conference followed its predecessors in free and frank debate, consummated by entire harmony in the result.

The varied and unique scenery of Lake Mohonk was shown at its best by three days of bright and bracing weather. The welcome of Mr. and Mrs. Smiley to their increased number of guests, who taxed to the utmost limits the accommodations of the large establishment, was as cordial and genial as ever. The hearty and enthusiastic vote of thanks, the only compensation permitted, was a far less reward than the gratification of their own benevolent feelings in doing good; and that gratification is probably to be enhanced by the calling together of another Conference in the early summer in behalf of a still larger class of our needy fellow-citizens than the Indians.

The Indians

There are 260,000 Indians in this country. Compared with our great fields in the South, this is small. But there is an emphasis on this work which is not made by figures. Those who were native to this land have been made foreigners. Those who were the first to receive missionary work here, and who responded as readily as any heathen people ever did, are still largely pagans. While one Christian has been telling the Indians the story of the gospel, another calling himself a Christian has been shooting them. They have not yet had a full chance to learn what Christianity is. From place to place they have been pushed so that they have not had time to build their altars to the true God. We have wronged them and we owe them more than we shall pay. We shall meet our obligations but in part, when we do all we can to save them.

We have in our Indian work eighteen schools and six churches, one new church having been added this year. In these, 68 missionaries have been doing noble service for the Indian and for the country. Shall the Indian problem forever perplex and shame both the country and the Church? Will not the churches enable us to send all the workers and do all the work needed to be done, and thus hasten the day when it can be joyfully proclaimed that the Indians are evangelized—no longer pagans and foreigners, but our fellow Christians and our fellow citizens?

Statistics Of Indian Work
Church Members401
Missionaries and Teachers68
Theological Students24
Normal Students11
Grammar Grades32
Intermediate Grades120
Total Pupils658
Sunday-school Scholars1,332

December 1889

Report On Indian Work

By Rev. Addison F. Foster, D.D., Chairman
The committee on the work of the American Missionary Association among the Indians respectfully report that they gratefully recognize the good hand of God in the work already done.

Since the American Missionary Association took the work, the expenditures have increased from $11,000 to $52,000, the out-stations for direct evangelistic effort from seven to twenty-one, and the churches from two to six. This last year, the Association has established three new out-stations: the Moody station among the Mandans, fifty miles north of Fort Berthold; the Moody Station No. 2 among the Gros Ventre, twenty-five miles north of Fort Berthold; the Sankey Station among the Dakotas at Cherry Creek. It has just put up a mission house, with a room for church worship, at Rosebud Agency. It has organized a new church at Bazille Creek, some distance out from Santee; a branch church at Cherry Creek, on the Sioux Reservation, and is just forming a church at Standing Rock, for which a building is now completed.

This record is certainly gratifying and shows that the Association appreciates the emergency, and is striving to meet it, so far as the means put in its hands allow. But your committee feel also that never before was there so great an opportunity as now brought before the Christians of this land, and especially our own denomination, for work among the Indians.

The relations of the Government and of the churches in Indian work are now unusually harmonious and kindly. The present Administration is thoroughly in sympathy with missionary operations, and will do nothing to impair their efficiency. We believe it to be sincerely actuated by a desire to promote the best welfare of the Indians, and ready to cooperate with all good people in efforts in this direction. It aims to educate every Indian child. We desire to see this done, and believe that when the Government assumes, as it should, the primary education of all Indians of school age, we shall be called on to turn our efforts to a much larger work for direct evangelization.

Our opportunity is enlarging further by the breaking down of the old pagan prejudices of the Indians. The testimony of all the workers on the field is to this effect. The Indians are desirous of living as white men. They are rapidly losing their distinctive Indian ideas and are imbibing the notions of their white neighbors. This is seen in their burials, which now are not uniformly, as of old, on scaffolds, but are more and more interments. It is shown in their feeling and behavior when death comes into their households. They no longer fill their houses with hideous outcries, but instead seek the missionaries to inquire about the life in the other world.

A further opportunity is to be noted in the fact that the Dakota Indians have specially fallen into our care. Our chief missions are located among them, at Santee, Rosebud, Oahe, Standing Rock, and outlying stations. But the Dakota Indians number 40,000 in all, or about one-sixth of all the Indians in the country. We have mastered the Dakota language; and a Bible, hymn-book, dictionary and other books are printed in that tongue. We have, then, special ability to carry on mission work among them, and are bound to utilize it to the full. The time is ripe for immediate action. It must be taken without delay if taken at all. The opening up to white settlement of a large strip of land though the center of the great Sioux reservations is to bring the Indian into contact with the influence of white men as never before. It is impossible that that influence shall be altogether good. The contact of the Indian with the frontiersmen of our own people has resulted most deplorably in the past, and we cannot hope for much better results now. Rum and licentiousness are sure to work untold harm to the Indian unless they are met by the gospel. This opening up of Indian territory to white settlement lays, therefore, a most imperative and immediate obligation on Christian people to protect the Indian from ruin by giving them the gospel.

We are satisfied that nothing but the gospel will suffice. Education alone can not save, and may simply give new strength to evil habits and influences. It must be a Christian education; schools should be simply preliminary and altogether subsidiary to the most energetic and wise presentation of the gospel. The uniform policy of the American Missionary Association in all departments of its work has been in this direction, and we gladly recognize the fact that its Indian work has steadily progressed with the idea of evangelizing the Indian.

We know very well that the Association is laboring for 8,000,000 Negroes and for 2,000,000 Mountain White people and for 125,000 Chinese, as well as 262,000 Indians. We know that the proportion of the Indians is comparatively small. At the same time we urge that this disproportion is to a large degree counterbalanced by the special opportunities we have considered. The Indian problem is before us for immediate settlement. It admits of no delay. Care for these few Indians now, Christianize them now, as we may, and the Indian becomes as the white man, and our missionary efforts will then be released for other fields.

In this special emergency we feel strongly the necessity laid on the Association for an enlargement of its administrative force. Since the death of our lamented brother, Secretary Powell, the force at the New York office of the Association has been short-handed. We hope that the earnest efforts which are being made by the Executive Committee to find a suitable person to become another Secretary of the Association may be at once successful. An emergency is upon us, and we say this with the conviction that the demands of the Indian work are now so imperative as to require a large portion of the time and thought of such a Secretary. It is a necessity that such a Secretary should frequently visit the field and be in constant communication with the workers.

Address of Rev. Thomas L. Riggs

It was said of Dr. Williamson by an old Indian that he had an Indian heart. I, too, have an Indian heart, and I can lay claim to that possession as but few can. It would take but a very little while to go from here into the very midst of our present Indian field. It took my father and Dr. Williamson, when they first entered the field, some six months to reach it. I could start to-morrow morning, and taking the cars in this city, and reaching Pierre by the following night, could be farther off by Saturday, farther from the border of the mission field, than my father and Dr. Williamson could after they had traveled six months.

I would like to invite you to go with me on a tour of inspection of the mission field itself. I would take my two ponies and drive out to the Cheyenne River, and take you to one of our out-stations, and show you something of the influences at work in the field to-day. As we went up the valley, we would see the Indian village located there, and in the midst, on a rising piece of ground, the mission station. Over some of the houses we would see a red flag flying. That is a prayer, a votive offering; there are sick in that house, and that is a prayer to the gods that healing may come, and that death may be kept from them. Over on the right we would see the dance-house—a great octagonal house with an open roof, in which the Indians gather night after night to dance to the monotonous beating of the drum. That is a very common sound out in the Indian villages, bringing to us always that thought of slavery to evil. As we go up to the station itself, we would see something more of the work than you have as yet been able to see. If it be on the Sabbath, as we go in we would see a young man there, with his audience before him, not a very large audience—old men, old women, boys and girls—gathered on the rough benches, and very much as they are in their own homes. Some of the old women have their hair down over their faces, the boys with dirty hands, old men with their dirty blankets, and yet they are gathered around there to hear the word of life. The preacher, as he stands before them, tells them of God’s wonderful love, and takes as his text that most wonderful verse in the Bible, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.”

Then, as you look at the man who is preaching there, you would hardly recognize in him one who thirteen years ago was a savage, a painted Indian. As I look at him it seems a most wonderful thing that such a change has taken place. I knew him as a savage; a splendid fellow he was, and he is now a more splendid man than ever he was a savage; and he is teaching the gospel of Christ to his own people. I have been out there seventeen years, and if there were not another result to show for those seventeen years of work than the lifting up of this Clarence Ward, and making of him a man in Christ Jesus, I should be abundantly satisfied.

There is another influence of which I would speak, the influence of the home. Here in our happy homes we know but very little of what that means to the Indian. An Indian has no home, in our sense of the word. Some years ago I went with a party of Indians 175 miles west of the Missouri River in the middle of winter. We climbed a mountain and looked away to the east. We could see, I should think, 150 miles, and the Indian as he sat there on the edge of a rock, covered his head up in a blanket and cried. Said he: “This is my country, and we have had to leave it.” That was his idea of home—such a barren stretch as that, the snow glistening in the sunlight. The Dakota Indian lives in a region, not in a place. The Christian home coming into the midst of a village carries there an ideal of which the Indian knows nothing, and he is taught by the power of example day after day. The Christian woman in that home keeps her house clean, keeps her children clean, and stands there as a persistent example of the power of the gospel of soap, just as the man himself there who has become a Christian no longer steals horses. A party going out into an enemy’s country would go as often for the sake of bringing back stolen horses, as they would for scalps. The man who has become a Christian is recognized at once as shut out from that privilege.

Reference has been made to the opening up of the reservation, and the crisis is now upon us in connection with our Indian work. We have eleven million acres of land there just west of the Missouri River to be thrown open for settlement. Do you know what that means? Were any of you down at Oklahoma this last season? It means the rush of a swarm of people, good, bad and indifferent—chiefly bad and indifferent—and these settlers will crowd themselves in as a wedge between the two divisions of the Indian reservation, and we shall have Indians both to the north and to the south. They will be exposed to influences from which they have been kept as yet; influences which will tend to uplift in the outcome, as well as to degrade. I thank God for it. I thank God that he is bringing the white man into the midst of the Indian country. It may seem that this is a heroic remedy. So it is, but it is time for heroic remedies. We need to meet the question as it comes to us to-day. There is a ranch man out on Bad River, who tells me that there is no such thing as an Indian question. “Why,” said I, “what are you talking about?” “There is no such thing,” said he. I asked him how he explained it. “The simple thing to do is just to treat them as men, and that will be all there is to it. That will settle it, and there will be no such thing as an Indian question.” Treat them as men and make Christians of them, and we will settle the whole thing.


Various. The American Missionary, Vol. 43, No. 8, August, 1889.

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