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Indians, American.

1. The primitive* religion of Am. Indians was diverse. Discovery of original Indian beliefs is complicated by the fact that Indians quickly annexed white men's ideas of religion, e.g., the “Great Spirit” concept may be more non-Indian than Indian in origin. The belief that all natural forces are either spirits or expressions of spirits was apparently basic in Indian religion. It showed itself, e.g., in forms of veneration of sun, moon, stars, sacred trees, animals, reptiles, and fire; in religious actions (dances) and sacrifices (e.g., of animals); in beliefs in magic attributes of certain things (orenda: pervasive energy: otkon [or otgon]: malevolent orenda), in a life beyond the grave (happy hunting ground), and in shamans (medicine men, who allegedly possessed ability to converse with invisible spirits). Indians constantly tried to lay hold of orenda and expel otkon.

2. The hist. of Christian missions in N. Am. began when Columbus held the cross before the natives. White men's subsequent mass invasion of Am. carried the Gospel with it.

3. Persuading Indians to accept the Gospel was made difficult, as B. de Las* Casas and others found, by inconsistent practice on the part of white professing Christians. The conversion of Pocahontas,* the search of the Nez Percé (Indians of cen. Idaho, Washington, and Oregon) for the white man's “Book of the Great Spirit,” early journeys of white men across the Rockies, the miss. hist. of Calif. and the SW under Sp. rule, heartbreaking journeys of missionaries to Indians as homes and families were broken up and tribes moved to strange lands show how some brought the Gospel to the Indians, others subjugated and deprived them of their natural heritage.

4. Brit. colonists stationed at Roanoke 1585–86 preached the Gospel to Indians, one of whom was bap. 1587. R. Williams* was an early Prot. miss. to Am. Indians. His work was reinforced and extended by J. Eliot,* E. Mayhew,* and others. An Indian ch. was formed 1660 at Natick, Mass.; 18th-c. Indian converts include S. Occom.*

5. Groups that pioneered in sponsoring missions to the Indians include Moravians, who worked in New Eng. and other areas (see also Moravian Church, 4), and the Soc. of Friends,* which began work 1796 in New York and expanded it to other areas. The ABCFM sent missionaries (T. S. Williamson,* S. R. Riggs,* and others) to the Dakota (in Minnesota and N and South Dakota). Cong. and Presb. missions were est. 1800–75 among many tribes, including Chippewa, Osage, Omaha, and Oto. See also Spangenberg, Augustus Gottlieb.

6. John Stewart (d. 1823; Meth.; freeborn mulatto; “Apostle to the Wyandottes”) began preaching ca. 1816 among Wyandot in Ohio; the work was later extended to Potawatomi, Shawnee, Kickapoo, and other tribes. Other early Meth. missionaries to Indians include J. Lee.*

7. Moravians, Congs., and Presbs. engaged in miss. work in Indian Territory (now in Oklahoma), esp. among the “Five Civilized Tribes” (Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole).

8. Bap. miss. I. McCoy* began work 1817 among Indians in the Wabash valley.

9. The early hist. of New Eng. states includes instances of miss. work by Episcopalians; they began work in the interior in the 1st part of the 19th century. Indians ministered to by Episcopalians include Iroquois in New York, Oneida (an Iroquois people who moved to Wisconsin 1822), Arapaho and Shoshoni of Wyoming, Chippewa of Minnesota, Sioux, and Dakota. Missionaries included E. Williams,* H. B. Whipple,* and W. H. Hare.*

10. In 1847 the Ev. Luth. Miss. Soc. of Dresden* began work among Chippewa in lower Mich.; other Luth. miss. areas included Wisconsin and Arizona See also Indians, Lutheran Missions to North American.

11. Mennonites (see Mennonite Churches) opened a miss. 1880 among Arapaho, later extended work to the Cheyenne.

12. Dutch Reft miss. work among Am. Indians began in New York in the 17th c. and expanded W beyond the Miss. R.

13. M. Whitman* and H. H. Spalding* journeyed as far as Walla Walla (Washington) and est. missions worked later also by Meths.

14. J. Serra* est. RC missions in Calif.

15. Aggression against Indian lands, subjugation of Indians by military force, and graft in administering Indian affairs have helped to make miss. work among Indians difficult.

16. More than 30 Prot. denominations are doing miss. work among ca. 525,000 Indians in the US, most of whom are W of the Miss. River. There probably are ca. 143,000 RCs and bet. 39,000 and 100,000 Prots. among US Indians.

17. RCs and Prots. do miss. work among Indians in Alaska and Can. Work in Can. once done by Presbs. and Meths. is now largely under control of the United Ch. of Can. (see Canada, C).

18. Indian miss. work is carried on through such mediums as miss. stations, miss. schools, Christian centers, hospitals, and est. chs. in reservation areas.

19. Efforts to help indians achieve self-determination in residence and vocation and become integral parts of urban soc. have been successful. Thousands annually migrate to metropolitan centers. Many urban chs. are including them in their outreach.

See also Central America, B, D; Mexico.

G. E. E. Lindquist, The Red Man in the United States (New York, 1923) and The Indian in American Life (New York, 1944); G. W. Hinman, The Amerian Indian and Christian Missions (New York, 1933) and Christian Activities Among American Indians (Boston, 1933); D. M. Cory, Within Two Worlds (New York, 1955); J. W. Clark, “Indians of North America, Missions to the,” The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. S. M. Jackson (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1953 reprint), V, 480–485; R. P. Beaver, Church, State, and the American Indians (St. Louis, 1966); W. J. Mann, Ein Aufgang im Abendlande: Mittheilungen aus der Geschichte der fröheren evangelischen Missionsversuche unter den Indianern Amerikas (Reading, Pennsylvania, 1883). RJS

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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