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Capture These Indians for the Lord

Indians, Methodists, and Oklahomans, 1844-1939

Tash Smith

Publication Year: 2014

In 1844, on the heels of the final wave of the forced removal of thousands of Indians from the southern United States to what is now Oklahoma, the Southern Methodist Church created a separate organization known as the Indian Mission Conference to oversee its missionary efforts among the Native communities of Indian Territory. Initially, the Church conducted missions as part of the era’s push toward assimilation. But what the primarily white missionaries quickly encountered was a population who exerted more autonomy than they expected and who used Christianity to protect their culture, both of which frustrated those eager to bring Indian Territory into what they felt was mainstream American society.

In Capture These Indians for the Lord, Tash Smith traces the trajectory of the Southern Methodist Church in Oklahoma when it was at the frontlines of the relentless push toward western expansion. Although many Native people accepted the missionaries’ religious practices, Smith shows how individuals found ways to reconcile the Methodist force with their traditional cultural practices. When the white population of Indian Territory increased and Native sovereignty came under siege during the allotment era of the 1890s, white communities marginalized Indians within the Church and exploited elements of mission work for their own benefit.

Later, with white indifference toward Indian missions peaking in the early twentieth century, Smith explains that as the remnants of the Methodist power weakened, Indian membership regained control and used the Church to regenerate their culture. Throughout, Smith explores the complex relationships between white and Indian community members and how these phenomena shaped Methodist churches in the twentieth century.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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Title page, Copyright

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p. v

List of Illustrations

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p. vi

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pp. vii-2

This project evolved from my graduate school experience at the University of Oklahoma. In particular, I would like to thank my adviser, Warren Metcalf, along with Albert Hurtado, Robert Griswold, Gus Palmer, Fay Yarbrough, and Elyssa Faison (even after what she made me read in seminar...

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pp. 3-18

On the surface, Oooalah Pyle’s letter in November 1907 to the Christian Advocate was like many that the newspaper routinely published. As the national organ for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the Nashville, Tennessee–based newspaper was often used by Southern Methodist...

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1. The Mission Begins: Origins of the Indian Mission Conference, 1844–1865

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pp. 19-46

For years, the Methodist Episcopal Church conducted Indian missions as a distinct part of mainstream white organizations. Operating with an assimilationist mindset shared by many early missionaries, Methodists believed that converting Wyandottes in Ohio, Cherokees in Georgia, or Choctaws...

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2. Rebuilding the Mission: Efforts among the Five Tribes, 1866–1889

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pp. 47-74

In the Civil War’s aftermath, the IMC focused on its short-term problems, oblivious to the long-term changes the war had brought to Indian Territory. Beyond the physical destruction exacted on the land and its people, the sectional strife exacerbated troubles within Indian nations, which played...

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3. Expanding the Mission: The Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Agency after 1887

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pp. 75-104

In the late 1880s, the national church’s missionary impulse pushed the IMC into a new field, even as forces within the conference debated Indian missions altogether. For years, the IMC had focused on the Five Tribes and expended little energy to reach out to new Indian tribes, save...

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4. The Mission Changes: From the Land Run to Statehood, 1889–1907

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pp. 105-132

The days before April 22, 1889, were busy for Lieutenant Samuel Adair and his troops from the 5th Cavalry. Thousands of migrants had arrived at Purcell, Indian Territory, a town located in the Chickasaw Nation on the south side of the Canadian River, in anticipation of the land run due to...

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5. Marginalizing the Mission: Indian Work after Statehood, 1907–1918

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pp. 133-153

When the Indian Mission Conference formally became the Oklahoma Annual Conference in 1906, the organization underwent more than just a name change. White churches in what would soon become the state of Oklahoma officially laid claim to legitimacy, placing themselves alongside...

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6. The Mission Reborn: The New Indian Mission, 1918–1940

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pp. 154-186

In the period between the new Indian Mission’s creation in 1918 and the merger of the northern and southern branches of Methodism in 1939, Indian members reversed the erosion of autonomy they had experienced in previous years. They became presiding elders overseeing circuits dominated...

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pp. 187-194

J. J. Methvin did not spend his final years basking in accolades or riches from a lifetime spent in the mission field. Never one with great means or opportunities, the economic turmoil of the Great Depression left him dependent on others and, at times, living hand to mouth. One observer...


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pp. 195-228


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pp. 229-240


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pp. 241-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780816598618
E-ISBN-10: 0816598614
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530885
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530882

Page Count: 255
Illustrations: 7 photos, 3 illustrations
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 888316163
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Capture These Indians for the Lord

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Indian Territory -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- Oklahoma -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- Religion.
  • Indians of North America -- Missions -- Indian Territory.
  • Methodist Episcopal Church, South -- History.
  • Methodist Episcopal Church. Indian Mission Conference.
  • Indians of North America -- Cultural assimilation -- Indian Territory.
  • Indian Territory -- Race relations.
  • Indians, Treatment of.
  • Whites -- Relations with Indians.
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