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).

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