Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Appenoose Declines Mission Opportunity

It may come as a surprise to many, but the Stockbridge Mohicans were such devout Christians that they initiated a mission trip to their fellow Algonkians, the Sauk and Fox (aka Sac and Fox) Indians.  At that time, 1834, the Sauk and Fox Indians were living in Iowa and along the western edge of northern Illinois.  Due to their lack of funds, the Stockbridge Mohicans asked the mission society that supported their church, the ABCFM (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) to help pay for the trip.  They also asked if a missionary could accompany them.  

Not surprisingly, the ABCFM liked the idea and they instructed the Stockbridges' missionary, Cutting Marsh, to make the trip.  The Stockbridges were living at Statesburg back then (present-day Kaukauna, Wisconsin), so the delegation took a birch-bark canoe up the Fox River, then portaged onto the Wisconsin River which they took down to the Mississippi.  From there they traveled by steamboat, horse and maybe again by canoe.

The record we have of the mission trip comes from Cutting Marsh's journals.  He unfortunately didn't have much to say about the four Stockbridge Mohicans that traveled with him.  Nevertheless, Marsh's descriptions make for a rather good read.

Even better - I think - is the summary of the trip written by Marsh's biographer, Roger Nichols.  Nichols' re-telling of Marsh's attempts to get the Sauk Chief Appenoose to bring Christianity and "civilization" to his people is worth quoting at length.

After a week, Appenoose agreed to confer with [Marsh] on August 7.  They had already talked informally about the possibility of establishing a school or mission, and the chief seemed interested.  His apparent cooperation caused Marsh to become very optimistic, but their planned meeting was never held.  That afternoon an Indian trader brought several kegs of whiskey to the village and in a few hours all was badlam.  The chief, as well as most of the tribe became drunk and Marsh lost this opportunity.  He retired early, complained bitterly about the lack of dependability among the Indians, and blamed the white men who brought whiskey to the village.....

The following morning Marsh and Appenoose conferred about the establishment of a school at the village.  They were unable to reach an agreement, partly because the chief was suffering from the effects of his drunken spree.....the Indians managed to treat Marsh with some courtesy and still, in effect, refuse his offer.
Nichols tells us that Marsh did some preaching and persuading over the next two days but made little headway and, feeling sorry for himself, he went into the woods to be alone.  Nichols continues:

While [Marsh] was gone the traders brought another canoe with whiskey, and the merriment began again.  Marsh was disgusted by the drunken revelry and savage yelling in the village, and remained away until late in the evening.  

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