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.

No comments :