Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Panoplist, (October, 1818)

If you know the history of the Stockbridge Mohicans, you know that they had to make a number of moves. Very briefly, I will mention the plan to move from New York State to the White River of Indiana. Essentially, a promise made to the Stockbridges by Thomas Jefferson was not honored by those who came after him, including William Henry Harrison, the governor of Indiana Territory (and an "Indian fighter"). As a result, only one Stockbridge band stopped off at Indiana and only for a few years.

Anyway, John Metoxen was the chief or headman of the band that left New York and headed for Indiana in 1818. Of course, in those days, that part of the country was a wild frontier, but Metoxen's band was able to take a short break from their travels in a little town in Ohio. A clergyman met them there and described the experience in a letter to the editor of The Panoplist, (the October 1818 issue of the mission publication). Here's what he said:

They "arrived in September on their way to White River, Indiana, stopped over the Sabbath, asked to attend a meeting, [and] asked if the Lord's Supper would be administered and expressed great joy and inquired if they could be admitted. On questioning them it was found their Chief and others were regularly formed into a [Calvinist] church. Their credentials and appearance gave a satisfactory evidence of their piety. A number of them attended the public worship dressed in Indian habit and six came forward to the communion table. They conducted with the utmost propriety and solemnity and some were bathed in tears. When a Psalm was named they all took out their books and turned to it. It was the most interesting day ever in this place."

He continues, "On Monday I visited them and then conversed and prayed with them and never was more kindly and cordially received. I found that a large proportion of them had Bibles and could read. The Chief had a Scott's Family Bible. They also had other religious books."

Whenever I hear somebody say that Indians are "spiritual but not religious," or that they "just went through the motions" in order to receive handouts from missionaries, I think of a few documents, one being that letter in the Panoplist. Probably the best place to get a photocopy from The Panoplist would be through the Congregational Library in Boston, call them at (617) 523-0470.

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