Monday, November 23, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: Keeping the Faith

Conclusion of the Death of the Tribal Church Series
A series of posts about the church history of the Stockbridge Mohicans

I. Introduction
II. Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 - 1844
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"
IV. Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?
V. Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?
VI. The ABCFM Pulls out of Stockbridge
VII. The Citizen Party Makes a Request
VII. Jeremiah Slingerland Keeps on Preaching

Today's post: Keeping the Faith

This 1878 map shows the Stockbridge Reservation shrunk to 1/4 its original size. Contrary to what some say, the shrinking of this reservation cannot entirely be blamed on the Congressman/Lumber Barron Philetus Sawyer. The Indian party leaders who made closed-room deals with Sawyer (Jeremiah Slingerland as much as anybody) are also responsible.

Reverend Slingerland's death appears to have devastated his Presbyterian congregation. The three Presbyterian ministers sent to serve the tribe between 1884 and 1907 stayed for an average of only about a year. But even before Slingerland's death, the era of a unified tribal church for the Stockbridge Mohicans had already passed. Led by Stephen Gardner, some of Slingerland's political opponents (citizen party families) already had a preference for Roman Catholicism. While their neighbors, the Menominees had a long association with the Catholics, many of the Stockbridges would insist on remaining Protestant. Among them were leaders like William C. Davids and Ed Sprague who sought out Lutheran ministers in the area in 1892, giving rise not only to Immanuel Mohican Lutheran Church, but also to a Lutheran boarding school. Nevertheless, for better or for worse, there was no going back to having one church for all of the Stockbridge Mohicans.

One hundred and twenty-five years after Jeremiah Slingerland's death, there is still a Presbyterian church on the reservation. While Presbyterianism has survived, Christianity as a whole has done better. Now over one hundred and sixty years after the ABCFM withdrew its support of the Stockbridge Mohicans' mission, my estimate is that church attendance on the reservation is comparable to national averages.


This is the last of a series of seven posts.



Some serious issues have been covered in this series of posts.
One is the issue of white mission societies being unwilling to promote or encourage independence from Indian churches.

I made it a point to stick to the facts:
But in this case much of what we know is "He said, she said" material. Many of the facts we have are rather subjective statements, the perceptions of Cutting Marsh and Jeremiah Slingerland. I don't think either was dishonest. What Marsh saw as a "riot," Slingerland saw as an event where "excitement prevailed" but there was "no fighting, save one."

Race, religion, culture, politics, personal ownership and thrift... these are just some of the controversial issues that this series of posts has touched on. Your comments are appreciated.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: Jeremiah Slingerland Keeps on Preaching

Death of the Tribal Church Series
A series of posts about the church history of the Stockbridge Mohicans
I. Introduction
II. Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 - 1844
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"
IV. Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?
V. Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?
VI. The ABCFM Pulls out of Stockbridge
VII. The Citizen Party Makes a Request

VIII. Today's post:
Jeremiah Slingerland Keeps on Preaching

The Winnebago Presbytery today covers this area (northeast Wisconsin and adjoining counties). Meetings that had an impact on the church history of the Stockbridge Mohicans were held at Neenah and Weyauwega. Also highlighted in purple is the location of the Stockbridge's Shawano County reservation.

The tribe had kept the faith without missionaries before and they would again in Shawano County. Informal worship services were held at the Slingerlands' home until Methodists came into the area and organized the first church on the new reservation in 1863 or 1864. Ironically, Jeremiah Slingerland, an unordained Indian preacher, essentially served as a missionary to whites in the frontier town of Shawano for four years. As of the summer of 1859 he was preaching either on the reservation or in Shawano every Sunday (letter from Slingerland to Electa Candy, 7/21/1859, John C. Adams Papers). The first white minister didn't arrive in Shawano until 1863 (booklet celebrating the 125th anniversary of the First Presbyterian Church in Shawano, page 1).

The Stockbridge Mohicans had a long history of Calvinist Christianity. All their missionaries right up to Cutting Marsh and Jeremiah Slingerland had been either Presbyterians or Congregationalists (and during these times there weren't major doctrinal differences between the two denominations). In his heart, Slingerland never was a Methodist, but because Methodists cooperated with Calvinists, he became licensed as a preacher of the Methodist Episcoal Church.

Then on January 31st, 1866, Slingerland traveled to the annual meeting of the Presbytery of Winnebago in Neenah. After being examined in "Experimental Religion, ancient languages, church history, and natural sciences," he was finally ordained a Presbyterian minister - more than twenty years after he graduated from the seminary (minutes of the Presbytery of Winnebago).

On August 28th, 1867, at a presbytery meeting in Weyauwega, Reverend Slingerland proposed that a Presbyterian church be organized for the Stockbridge Mohicans. The new Presbyterian church was given $200 in financial aid from the Presbyterian "Board of Domestic Missions" (minutes of the Presbytery of Winnebago). However, due to the continued partisan tribal politics and the lack of farmable land on the reservation, this new congregation was considerably smaller than previous congregations had been.

When Reverend Slingerland died unexpectedly of pneumonia in 1884, the Presbytery of Winnebago eulogized him as

an intelligent , able, and devoted minister of Christ. The faithful servant of his tribe... watchful and efficient in their behalf.. [who] identified himself with their poverty and their wrongs, he has stood among them as a true shepherd leading them in the way of life (minutes of the Presbytery of Winnebago, 7/9/1884).

The series will continue.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: the Citizen Party Makes a Request

Death of the Tribal Church Series
A series of blogposts about the Stockbridge Mohicans and their relationship with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
I. Introduction
II. Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 - 1844
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"
IV. Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?
V. Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?
VI. The ABCFM Pulls out of Stockbridge

VII: Today's post:
The Citizen Party Makes a Request

This modern-day Lenape elder is doing a switch dance. This isn't necessarily the same kind of dancing that the Munsees that came to the new Shawano County reservation were doing at that time.

A new treaty made in 1856 was intended to bring together the Indian Party, the citizen Party, and other Indians, including Munsees, on some land purchased for them from the Menominees in what is now Shawano County, Wisconsin. Since the new reservation was purchased entirely with Indian party funds, much of the Indian party refused to move to the new reservation. However, Jeremiah and Sarah Slingerland made the move in February of 1857, while other Indian party leaders were still protesting (letter from Sarah Slingerland to J.N. Davidson, 9/19/1890, quoted in Davidson, page 55).

The citizen party was in power on the Shawano County reservation and within three weeks of Slingerland's arrival they sent a letter to the ABCFM in which they claimed their political troubles had finally been settled. They proceeded to ask that another missionary be sent.

The Munsee Indians still remain in darkness and ignorance - they worship the great Spirit by dancing. Our people here have had no regular teacher [of the gospel] for some time... and as their former missionaries have heretofore been sent by good white people of the east, they are led to look again that way, and...respectfully inquire [whether they will] again be favored by a minister or not (quoted from a 3/3/1857 letter from the Stockbridge Indians to the ABCFM, ABCFM Papers).

The letter itself, of course, tells us that the citizen party leaders wanted a minister. But some parts of the quote above, as well as the timing of the letter, suggests that the citizen party leaders didn't want Slingerland, a leader of the Indian party, to be their minister.

The ABCFM did not send a new missionary.

Additional sources used:
*John C. Adams Papers (State Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin)
*Schafer's Domesday Book
*Oberly's A Nation of Statesmen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: The ABCFM Pulls out of Stockbridge

The ABCFM Papers are kept here at Harvard University's Houghton Library. The Papers are available in microfilm via interlibrary loan. Refer to the ABCFM Papers finding aid for a list of reels of microfilm covering missions to many nations.

The Death of the Tribal Church Series:
I. Introduction
II. Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 - 1844
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"
IV. Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?
V. Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?

Today's post:
The ABCFM Pulls out of Stockbridge

Situated in Boston, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions didn't have the luxury of closely overseeing its missionaries in the field. In making decisions, it seems they had to rely heavily on the views of their missionaries. Several months before he left the Stockbridge Mohicans, Reverend Cutting Marsh was already advising the ABCFM about what he felt should be done after his departure. During Marsh's lame duck period the ABCFM also took the opportunity to have Marsh reconsider some of his recommendations.

Asked by the ABCFM "Ought [Jeremiah Slingerland] not be encouraged to go on preaching and keep the church together?" Marsh replied that he felt Slingerland should not be ordained for a number of reasons, one being that he continued to lack confidence in Slingerland's work and another being that Slingerland had been investigated by the Green Bay Indian Agent for asking to be paid for teaching "two schools at the same time" (letter from Marsh to Greene, 9/21/1848, ABCFM Papers).

Marsh was also asked about the mission property. He made it clear that his position had not changed since 1845 when he wrote that the ABCFM was "under no obligation whatever to the tribe for any of [the mission] property excepting fifteen acres of the soil" (letter from Marsh to Greene, 7/28/1845, ABCFM Papers).

And so the ABCFM decided to withdraw from the Stockbridge mission. Cutting Marsh and his family moved out of the mission house but Jeremiah Slingerland didn't move in. Nor was he ordained.

A modern satellite photo of Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago. The village of Stockbridge is on the east shore.

The treaty made on November 24th, 1848 promised the Indian party a number of payments for lost lands as well as money to start over and a new seventy-two section reservation (a section is equal to 640 acres, or one square mile). However, exactly where the Indian party would move was not specified. The Indian party never did come to an agreement with the federal government over where they would go. As years went by, many members of both the citizen party and the Indian party remained at Stockbridge on Lake Winnebago.

Jeremiah Slingerland continued his work as a schoolteacher - paid by government funds - and on the side he preached, farmed, and attended to Indian party politics. In 1853 he married a white woman named Sarah who was also a teacher. Town records show that white ministers O.P. Clinton and J.P. Jones as well as Slingerland were paid to preach between 1850 and 1857.

This series will continue.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lion Miles Weighs in on the Language Issue

Lion Gardiner (pictured right) was a commander in the Pequot War. One of his descendants, Lion Miles, has been researching the history, culture, and language of Mohican Indians for at least the last seventeen years.

In response to recent contributions of Shawn Stevens and Jeremy Mohawk, Lion Miles of Stockbridge, Massachusetts contributed an article to the current (November 15, 2009) issue of Mohican News. Most importantly, Miles announced that his Mohican dictionary is "nearly finished and I have sent a draft to the Arvid Miller Library, hoping that it will be examined by the Language and Culture board." He reported using written material from the following Indians: Hendrick Aupaumut, John Metoxen, John Konkapot, Jr., and the Moravian convert known as Tschoop, or Johannes. Miles also used material from the following whites: John Sergeant (which one he does not say), and Jonathan Edwards, representing the Stockbridges as well as the following whites who represent other Mohicans, perhaps all but the last one are Moravians: John Ettwein, John Jacob Schmick, Benjamin Smith Barton, John Heckewelder, and Thomas Jefferson.

Miles made it clear that in his opinion reviving the Mohican language would be a good thing, or at least "a worthy goal." Miles points out that the Munsees and the Mohicans really didn't live together until 1835 so common ancestors don't go back far enough for those who consider themselves Mohicans to be satisfied to call Munsee their own language.

Munsee words found themselves into Mohican later and many of them were quite different. For example, the word "anushiik" is Munsee for "thank you," but the Mohican word was "onewe." "Eagle" was "migisso" in Mohican but "wapalonna" in Munsee.
In Lion Miles' opinion, there is not enough evidence out there to re-create the Mohican language exactly but "there is material to come reasonably close."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?

Death of The Tribal Church Series
A Series of Blogposts about the Stockbridge Mohicans and their relationship to the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM)
I. Introduction
II. Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 - 1844
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"
IV. Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?

Today's post:
Was Jeremiah Slingerland a Big Spender?

Although Jeremiah Slingerland was a Stockbridge Mohican, Cutting Marsh described him as the kind of man who might wear the same kind of clothes as the Englishmen in this drawing.

One of Cutting Marsh's biggest charges against Jeremiah Slingerland regarded his handling of money. Marsh felt that "if an Indian has money he will lay it out for anything he may fancy he needs....[and] I find Mr. S an Indian still in this respect"(letter from Marsh to Greene, 11/18/1847, ABCFM Papers). Slingerland had asked the ABCFM for money more than once and he had explained that he needed it to buy clothes. When asked about the matter Marsh opined

His complaint about clothes would appear strange to one who should have seen...his wardrobe, the genteel manner in which he dressed daily and on the Sabbath and especially the pile of clothes he would furnish Monday morning for the wash. Mrs. M[arsh] repeatedly remarked whilst he lived with us [that] she would rather do the washing and ironing of two common men than Mr. S[lingerland] (quoted from Marsh's letter to Greene of 11/11/1847, ABCFM Papers).

Given the opportunity to defend himself, Slingerland wrote,

Respecting my economical habits, I suppose I have not shown them to that degree I might have done. But Sir, I ask who does? Who is not conscious of greater indulgences than what he ought to have allowed upon himself? (quoted from Slingerland's letter to Greene of 2/9/1848, ABCFM Papers).

Although we know that racism prevented Native ministers of earlier generations from making a decent living, there is really no way for us to determine whether or not Slingerland received enough pay for his work or whether or not he was disciplined enough to budget it properly. From our modern perspective it is nobody's business how one spends one's own money, but Marsh believed that the repairs on the mission property that Slingerland would make "would amount to five times as much as they would under a white man's direction." Furthermore, Marsh predicted that the mission property, if turned over to Slingerland, would be mortgaged within five years in order to pay debts. Marsh went into further detail explaining why he felt this way, bout, once again, it is impossible for us to know with any certainty how fair or unfair his opinion of Slingerland's spending habits were (letter from Marsh to Greene, apparently undated, ABCFM Papers).

But when it came to budgeting, it wasn't just Slingerland that Marsh complained about to the ABCFM, it was the tribe as a whole:

I have long felt and others have said the same that the Stockbridges ought to do something themselves towards [financially] supporting he gospel. when they want to send a delegation to Washington[,] which has been often since I resided amongst them[,] they will always find a way to get the means. When they want to employ a lawyer[,] which they often do[,] they will raise enough money to pay him. And it has appeared to me that the gospel ought to be considered as being worth something as well as the services of lawyers (quoted from Marsh's letter to Greene of 10/18/1847, ABCFM Papers).

Marsh acknowledged that the Indians were poor. but he noted that the neighboring Brothertown Indians provided some of the financial support for their missionary (letter from Marsh to Greene, 4/12/1848, ABCFM Papers).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?

The Death of the Tribal Church Series:
I. Introduction
II. Summary of Tribal Church History 1734 - 1844
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"

Today's post:
Was Jeremiah Slingerland "a Man of too much Consequence"?

After the act of 1843 was passed, frontier businessman Daniel Whitney and other whites eagerly bought up pieces of what had been the Stockbridge Reservation from Indians who had "acquired the rights of citizenship."

The Stockbridge Mohicans' bitter inter-tribal politics alienated Cutting Marsh and Jeremiah Slingerland from each other. The partisanship went back at least as far as 1843 when the tribe's citizen party succeeded in getting the United States Congress to declare all Stockbridges citizens of the United States. This essentially dissolved the tribal government and turned the reservation into private allottments. While leaders of the Indian party worked to nullify the act of 1843, members of both parties went ahead and proceeded to sell land. In 1846 the Indian party - of which Jeremiah Slingerland became a member - succeeded in getting the act of 1843 overturned. Something about the act of 1846 (which overturned the act of 1843) disturbed Cutting Marsh.

Although the Indian Party sold land and gave warantee deeds unconditionally [under the] act of 1843[,] still in the act of 1846 they got a clause inserted declaring all land sales under the former act null and void. They now suppose that all the lands they have sold have come back without compensation to the purchasers of any kind; and the leading man in the party I understand is determined they shouldn't be paid anything in return... I am very much tried upon the subject. And Mr. S[lingerland,] speaking of the subject[,] called them in my presence 'the supposed claims of white men' (letter from Marsh to Treat, 6/21/1847, ABCFM Papers).

In addition to the fallout from Slingerland's political activities, Marsh had other concerns. According to Marsh's brand of Christianity, pride was a great sin and he didn't like the praise and attention that he believed was lavished upon Slingerland for being a well-educated Indian. Marsh complained to the ABCFM that "Good people of the East have flattered [Slingerland]" with the result that Slingerland had "become a man of too much consequence" (letter from Marsh to Greene 9/13/1847, ABCFM Papers). On the same day that Marsh wrote those words, the tribal government - members of Slingerland's Indian Party - wrote their own letter to the ABCFM, asking that Slingerland be appointed in Marsh's place. The tribal leaders were careful to praise both men, but in noting that Slingerland was "now thirty-one years old," they may have hoped to cast doubt on Marsh's claims that Slingerland needed more experience before he could exhibit good judgement (letter from tribal leaders to the ABCFM, 9/13/1847).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: A "Riot" with "no Fighting"

The Death of the Tribal Church Series:
I. Introduction
II: Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 - 1844

Today's post:
III. A "Riot" with "no Fighting"

Today's community of Stockbridge, Wisconsin is still a rural village of about 600 people. By 1845 some combination of the Stockbridge Mohicans' conflicts and struggles and Cutting Marsh's own stern stubbornness had greatly compromised his effectiveness as the missionary. However, a member of the tribe was studying to become a minister and Marsh mentioned him in a letter to the ABCFM. "Jeremiah Slingerland[,] now in the Theological Seminary in Bangor [Maine] will leave there this fall and he intends to visit his people. I have thought that it would be best to have him take my place here." Marsh added "perhaps he would do more good than a white man"(Letter from Marsh to David Greene, 7/28/1845, ABCFM Papers).

By the time Marsh wrote that letter, Jeremiah Slingerland had already served the ABCFM in mission work with the Penobscots at Old Town, Maine. Slingerland did return to the Wisconsin Territory in the fall of 1845. He moved in with Rev. Marsh and his family and began working as a schoolteacher and assistant minister. Marsh's first reports of Slingerland's labors to the ABCFM, were positive. Marsh observed that Slingerland "appears to take great interest in the welfare of his people, takes hold and labors harmoniously"(letter from Marsh to Greene, 2/17/1846, ABCFM Papers). However, by the summer of 1846, Slingerland had become involved in tribal politics and, in so doing, he alienated some members of the church and also Rev. Marsh (Marsh to Greene of 8/11/1846, ABCFM Papers). From that point on, Marsh was convinced that Slingerland didn't have good enough judgement to take over his post (see especially Marsh's letter to Greene of 4/1/1847, ABCFM Papers).

The first significant political activity Slingerland was involved in was described as a "riot" by Marsh. but in his own report to the ABCFM, Slingerland asserted that there had been "no fighting... save one." Nevertheless, Slingerland admitted that "excitement prevailed" and explained that his party, after seeking legal counsel, decided it was appropriate to use physical force to prevent a white tax collector from seizing their property. After describing his version of the event in question, Slingerland asked the ABCFM for a different assignment, noting that the "labor here is just enough to employ one." He felt members of the church preferred him to Marsh but his own preference was "I should wish Mr. Marsh remain and have me go some where" (letter from Slingerland to Greene, 4/6/1847). However, the ABCFM did not act and both men stayed put. Relations between them deteriorated to the point where Slingerland moved out of the Marsh household and the two men avoided each other. Slingerland continued his mission work but stopped reporting what he was doing to Marsh (letter from Slingerland to Greene, 2/9/1847). As a result, Marsh couldn't possibly have appreciated the work Slingerland was doing from that point on.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: Summary of Tribal Church History, 1734 to 1844

Death of the Tribal Church:
The Stockbridge Mohicans and the ABCFM
I. Introduction
II. Today's post: Summary of Tribal Church History 1734-1844

As this crude map shows, what is now the state of Wisconsin was part of the Michigan Territory in 1830, the year that Cutting Marsh began his ministry to the Stockbridge Mohicans.

During Cutting Marsh's time as the missionary to the Stockbridge Indians, when people out east spoke of "Green Bay," they weren't referring to the modern city of Green Bay, but, rather, much of what we would now call eastern Wisconsin. The Stockbridges' first settlement was known as Statesburg and it was located within today's city of Kaukauna.

By the 1730's the once-mighty Mohican Indian nation was devastated by diseases, warfare, and other aspects of more than one-hundred years of white contact. Not only had their numbers decreased dramatically, but the Mohican hunting and gathering economy and their traditional religion were greatly weakened. In 1734 two Mohican chiefs were approached by two clergymen who represented the New England Company, a philanthropic mission society based in London. A Christian mission was proposed by the two ministers. This proposal was later debated in a local council and ultimately at a council of the Mohican nation. It was decided that the new religion "should be preached in one certain village and let every man and woman hear it and accept it if they think best" (Hendrick Aupaumut, "Extract From an Indian History," in Massachusetts Historical Collections, pages 99-102). A missionary and a schoolteacher were successful enough to attract Mohicans and other Indians and the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts was incorporated in 1739.

Aspects of white contact continued to cause more suffering among the Stockbridge Mohicans in the decades after the mission town was established. Many of their best men died while fighting for the British (against the French) and for the young United States in the Revolutionary War (See Frazier's The Mohicans of Stockbridge for more about this period of time). There is not space here to describe all of the tribe's struggles and losses except to note that they were pushed west, to New York State by the 1780's, and by the mid-1820's most of them had settled along the Fox River in what is now Kaukauna, Wisconsin.

Despite their hard times over the years, tribal leaders prided themselves on being "civilized" Christian Indians. However, they had left their missionary back in New Stockbridge, New York. They addressed the issue of being without a missionary in an undated draft of a letter they intended to send to a mission society.

We hold meetings for divine worship regularly every Sabbath, conferences on fridays, concerts for prayer every first monday in each month. The meetings are conducted by the members of the church by prayers and reading a chapter with the notes and observations in Scott's Bible.

And we would also inform you that here is an extensive country where the people are absolutely without any means whereby they might attain to the knowledge of a true God, a great field indeed where much improvement is wanting in all respects [the Ho-Chunk or Winnebago Indians and the Menominees] are all in a spiritual sense sitting in the regions [of the] shadow of death. May God in his allwise providence dispose the hearts of the heralds of the cross to come into this distant country to sound the glad tidings of the gospel not only to us but may it also reach our Menominee and Winnebago brethren who have no knowledge of our blessed redeemer (found in the John C. Adams Papers at the Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison).
While it is not clear exactly where that letter wound up, Rev. Jesse Miner who was serving the remnant of the tribe in New York State visited the Fox River settlement in 1827. A year later, Miner was instructed by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM) to move his ministry permanently. However, Miner died after serving the Stockbridge Mohicans on the Fox River for only several months.

Under the auspices of the ABCFM, Rev. Cutting Marsh began his ministry among the Stockbridge Mohicans in 1830. A few years later, Marsh moved along with the tribe to some good agricultural land on the east shore of Lake Winnebago. Their settlement there - as it was in Massachusetts - became known as "Stockbridge" in English and "Muhheconnuk" in their native language. While it appears that Marsh had something of a honeymoon period with the tribe, he was not as tolerant as some of his more successful predecessors had been. Marsh, of course, was also unfortunate to be serving the Stockbridges at a time when inter-tribal political tensions - largely resulting from federal Indian policy - were coming to a head.

This is part of a continuing series.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Death of the Tribal Church: Introduction

As the Stockbridge Mohican's white missionary gets ready to leave them, the tribe is divided politically. Although a promising young member of the tribe has graduated from an eastern seminary, his political involvement alienates him from the missionary and others. To what extent is a unified tribal church possible amongst a politically divided tribe? Will a white mission society support Indians without the presence of a white missionary? This is what the present series of posts is about.

In my research on the conflict between Cutting Marsh and Jeremiah Slingerland, I was fortunate, not only to have a chance to look at microfilmed ABCFM records and other primary materials, but I also benefited from reading Roger Nichols' (pictured) thesis, Cutting Marsh: Missionary to the Stockbridges. At least some of the conclusions I've come to were first made by Roger Nichols back in 1959. Although Nichols is now a well-known historian, few people are aware that he ever studied the Stockbridge Mohicans. I'm grateful to be able to present material here which he addressed decades ago.

The young state of Wisconsin created this flag to reflect an economic future that didn't necessarily include Indians.

Death of the Tribal Church:
The Stockbridge Mohicans and the ABCFM
(American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions)


The year is 1848. Over the past fifteen years, what had been the Stockbridge Reservation on the east shore of Lake Winnebago has gone form having no white people to having three whites for every Indian. The brand new state of Wisconsin plans to flex its muscles and have the Stockbridge Mohicans move west of the Mississippi River. in fact, for a number of years the federal government has already been trying to push the tribe west. Treaties and acts of Congress over the past ten years which were purported to be "for the relief of the Stockbridge Indians" have only brought about a complicated and confusing situation and fostered bitterly partisan tribal politics.

One hundred and seventy-seven Stockbridge Mohicans are now recognized as members of the Indian party. The federal government will negotiate a treaty with Indian party leaders which will compensate them for lands lost and provide them with a new reservation in what will become Minnesota. Meanwhile, members of the citizen party have taken allotments of land. They can stay in Wisconsin, but neither the federal government nor the leaders of the Indian party recognize them as part of the tribe politically.

Cutting Marsh, whose effectiveness as the missionary has been compromised by the political turmoil and - at least to some extent - by his own rigidity, decides that it is time for him and his family to leave Stockbridge, Wisconsin. His feelings for the tribe having soured, Rev. Marsh has been advising the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), to withdraw their support for the mission. What will happen to the Stockbridge Mohicans church?

This is the first of a continuing series of posts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lecture on the Lenape (Delaware) Indians

If you are in or near Albany, New York on Sunday, November 8th, you'll want to read John Warren's post about a lecture presented there by Dr. David Oestreicher. The presentation is called "The Lenape: Lower New York's First Inhabitants."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Language Issues: A Minority Viewpoint is Published in Mohican News

The pre-contact distribution of Algonquian languages according to

"Mohawk" is not only the name of an Iroquois-speaking Indian nation, it is also a fairly common last name among the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians (the tribe/nation usually referred to here as the Stockbridge Mohicans). A letter to the editor in the November 1, 2009 issue of Mohican News by Jeremy Mohawk is the subject of this post.

As you may know, today's Stockbridge Indians have been working on the Mohican language. Some of them like to assert that the Mohican language is not dead. Others speak of "reviving" the Mohican language. In fact, a revival of Mohican seems to me to be the best that can be hoped for. Meetings have gone on recently in which interested Stockbridges have guessed at pronunciations of Mohican words that were written by or under the supervision of the tribe's missionaries and they have also borrowed words and pronunciations from other groups of Indians. Proper grammar for the Mohican language is also a work in progress.

On the other hand, as Jeremy Mohawk writes, there is no need to revive the Munsee Delaware/Lenape language, since it never ceased being spoken at Moraviantown, Ontario, Canada.

The Munsee dialect of Lenape has been brought to our reservation and a lot of people are using it. The Language and Culture Board has adopted it as a language for our people. We have been using this language for our feasts, prayers at the feast, titles of our feasts and in our homes.

Mohawk added that the Munsee dialect of Lenape is the language that is taught at the Stockbridge Mohicans' language camps and the teachers are authentic Munsee speakers from Moraviantown in Canada. Learning from people who actually speak the language really is the best (or possibly only) way to ensure that you'll learn the correct pronunciations of a language.

As Jeremy Mohawk sees it, members of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians have common ancestors, some spoke Mohican, and others spoke Munsee [Delaware] Lenape. For that reason wouldn't the whole tribe be better off to learn a language that is still living than to work hard on the Mohican language but never know if you're speaking it correctly?