Conflicted ABCFM Mission to the Dakotas, 1835-1862
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press
Title Page, Copyright
In Old Rail Fence Corners, a compilation of Minnesota settlers’ remembrances, Mrs. John Brown tells a story about an encounter between Samuel Pond, an American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) missionary, and a Dakota man. Brown writes, “Mr. Pond once met a Shakopee Indian on the trail and neither would turn out for the other...
Chapter 1. "Waging War…against the Powers of Darkness": An Idealized Vision of Missionary Work, 1830-35
In 1880, Stephen Riggs published an inspirational version of his life as a missionary to the Dakota entitled Mary and I: Forty Years with the Sioux. According to Riggs, his book was intended to motivate “those interested in the uplifting of the Red Men.” In his introduction to Mary and I, the Reverend S. C. Bartlett echoed the same thesis, noting that Riggs’s book would...
Chapter 2. "We are not without heartfelt trials in this heathen land": Conflicts within the Mission Community, 1835-39
In 1837, when Stephen and Mary Riggs left for what they called the “far West” to proselytize to the Dakota, they realized from their studies of evangelical literature that they would face privation and self-sacrifice. They admitted, however, that they had “very little appreciation of what its difficulties might...
Chapter 3. "We could not make them see with our eyes": Early Conflicts with the Dakotas, 1835-40
During the first five years of their work, the Dakota missionaries quickly learned that the Board’s widely publicized strategy for converting Indians to Christianity did not translate well to the reality of life in the field. Rufus Anderson, one of the most influential secretaries of the Board (1832−66), developed a strategy for converting the world to Christianity; under his plan, ...
Chapter 4. "Leagued together to drive all the missionaries out of their country": Increasing Opposition nad Conflict, 1840-50
The 1840s was a time of increasing opposition and conflict for the men and women of the Dakota mission. The Treaty of 1837, which ceded Dakota territory east of the Mississippi to the U.S. government, was extremely unpopular among the Dakotas, and they directed most of their anger over the treaty at the ABCFM missionaries. Ironically, at the same time Dakota protests...
Chapter 5. "I cannot feel satisfied with the result of my labors for these heathen": Missionaries, Dakotas, and the Treaties of 1851, 1850-54
In 1854, Samuel Pond sent a resignation letter to Selah Treat, the new corresponding secretary of the ABCFM—one that he never would have envisioned writing in 1834. After much thought and prayer, Pond resigned from the Dakota mission, concluding that his efforts to convert the Dakotas had...
Chapter 6. "We have opposition from Indians and from white men": Conflicts Intensify: 1854-61
By 1854, Stephen Riggs and Thomas Williamson were the only missionaries remaining from the original ABCFM Dakota mission. Despite their professed optimism following the resignations of their brethren, they continued to face conflict at their new stations on the upper reserve. The missionaries’ challenges increasingly involved not only the Dakota but also white...
Chapter 7. "The Dark Hour": The ABCFM Missionaries and the Dakota War of 1862
The Dakota people, Minnesota settlers, government agents and officials, and the ABCFM missionaries all saw the Dakota War of 1862 from very different perspectives. Because of these divergent opinions, the missionaries’ writings do not tell the entire history of the war, but they do provide unique insight into how one group of evangelical missionaries interpreted the...
Epilogue. "But oh, how changed the times": The Immediate Aftermath of the Dakota War of 1862
In November 1862, approximately 2,100 Dakota men, women, and children were transferred to prison camps at Fort Snelling and Mankato. Dakotas who had not been tried—mainly women, children, and the elderly—were sent to Fort Snelling, whereas the condemned men were imprisoned in a hastily constructed Mankato jail. Angry settlers attacked the captives, ...
Publication Year: 2014
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