The Results of General Grant’s Indian Policy
as Shown by the Work of the Society of Friends
Among the Indians
July 26, 1885 — Meeting to Consider the Indian Missionary Work, Chicago IL
At the first yearly meeting held at Richmond, Indiana, 10th month, 1821, the subject of the duty which Friends owed to the Indians was considered, having been introduced by a communication from Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends asking its co-operation in the work. The subject was referred to a special committee, which reported as follows: “having met, after a time of deliberation and a free interchange of sentiment, we unitedly agree to report that the subject, under the present aspect of things is too interesting to be suffered to fall to the ground. We therefore propose that a committee of men and women Friends be appointed to co-operate with Friends of Ohio and Baltimore Yearly Meetings in carrying the plan into effect which has been proposed by Ohio Yearly Meeting, but that our committee thus appointed have no power to make requisitions of a pecuniary nature on the members of this Yearly Meeting.” By these minutes it appears that Ohio and Baltimore Yearly Meeting had been previously engaged in some work for the Indians among the Shawnees at Wapakoneta, and that Indiana Yearly Meeting, thus early in its infancy commenced a work in which it has labored untiringly for sixty-four years. Its efforts may not always have been the most wisely directed but nevertheless faithfully and earnestly performed has been the labor.
The civilization of the Indians seems to have been the prime object. To effect this, schools were established by Friends sent out to live with them, a farm was secured and great efforts put forth to give them a common school education, and teach them how to cultivate the soil.
For many years the results were small. The Shawnee Nation occupied their attention for fifty years with varying success. A Friends’ Meeting was held, a family f Friends residing on the farm and caring for the children and looking after their education as best they could until 1870, when we learned from the report to Indiana Yearly Meeting the whole affair had dwindled down so low that the government sold their lands and dispossessed them. Their efforts up to this time seem to have been almost futile.
About this period, General Grant, the greatest military leader in our country, was elected President of the United States. The vexed question, What shall be done with the Indians? met him on the threshold of his administration. It was he who “conceived the thought of a course of National conduct toward the Indian race, marked by peace, honor, justice, and Christian kindness.”
To carry into execution his great plan of subduing and controlling those wild men by benevolence and justice instead of the sword, he summoned the religious element of America to his aid. Friends, who had always bene in the front ranks in their earnest efforts and sympathy for the Indians ever since the time of William Pe’s treaty with them, responded to the call. The orthodox Friends on the continent of America are divided into ten bodies, or “Yearly Meetings,” united together by correspondence. Each of these bodies, or “Yearly Meetings,” appointed committees which resulted in the union of all, and the formation of the “Associated Executive Committee of Friends on Indian Affairs.”
According to the original plan of the President, Friends nominated the agents, who, as they were approved by the government, were appointed to the different stations. Thirty thousand Indians were assigned this body of Associated Friends, consisting of the following tribes and parts of tribes, viz.: Kowas, Camanches, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Senecas, Kaws, Osages, Wyandottes, Ottawas, Pottawatomies, Shawnees, Quapaws, Sacs and Fox, Iowas, Modocs, Tonkawas, Mexican Kickapoos, and some of the Cherokees. To look after the interests of those tribes and parts of tribes included in the assignments, to civilize them, and seek to make them, not only good citizens, producers instead of absorbing, self-supporters instead of paupers on the government, but Christian men and women, imbibing the benign influence of the Gospel and showing forth the spirit of a Christ life among their neighboring tribes as well as among the low class of whites who were continually annoying them, and also to show to the world the possibilities of the Indian becoming a law-abiding citizen, was the mission assigned to Friends. Agents were nominated known to be in sympathy.
Schools were established among the different tribes, missionaries sent out, not only to teach them in school education, but to go from tent to tent, and from tribe to tribe and tell them of the glad tidings of salvation through Christ Jesus; to hold public meetings among them, and in every way possible to open their minds to the fact that Christ came to save the Indian as well as the white man. Others directed their efforts to teaching them manual labor — to plow, to sow, to plant, to reap, and to gather into their garners the fruit of their toil. This was difficult to effect, as the men has always looked upon labor as degrading to men, and fit only for women and children. But by the example of those noble men who hesitated not with their own hands to work, and thus dignify labor in the eyes of those for whom they were toiling, much has been achieved. This was an important point to be gained, for the work of reformation with any class of people can not be effected without industry. To supplant the love of the chase with a love of systematic labor and a pride in the result, was the Herculean task which has been accomplished with marvelous results.
While one class of missionaries were thus engaged others were seeking to expand the mind and enlighten the understanding. Children were gathered into schools and taught, revealing a fact hitherto disbelieved, their remarkable susceptibility to receive instruction. Eager to learn, men and women came forward to take their places as scholas. The work of education has progressed, increasing in interest. There are now six governmental boarding-schools, one industrial training-school, besides a number of day schools under the care and direction of said “Associated Committee” . Two young women and one young man (natives) are now employed as teachers. The Osages and Kaws have established an order requiring all children from seven to fourteen years of age to be kept in school eight months in the year, or forfeit their share of tribal annuities. Sven hundred pupils have attended these schools the past year, and one hundred of them have professed faith in Christ. A pretty good showing.
The third brand of their work among the tribes was the spiritual. Men and women were found who, counting not their lives dear, eft their homes and friends, and under the auspices of the association commenced the greatest and most important part of the service — the revelation of the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Indians, with their original belief in the “Good Spirit,” Indians, with their original belief in the “good Spirit,” were willing to listen to the Gospel, and gradually the Spirit’s work began to e manifested in their ranks. Children were sent to the Sabbath schools; the stolid indifference of the chief men of the tribe gave way to strong convictions; strong men bowed before the Lord in intense wrestling for His pardon; proud chiefs, humbled before the Lord, rejoiced in pardoning love; weary, heavy-laden toiling women laid their burdens down at the feet of a complete Savior; young men, proud in the strength of their young manhood, yielded themselves to the cleansing power of the blood of Christ; little children heard and received and entered into joy; young women joined the ranks of the children of God. An abundant harvest appeared.
The plowing of the native soil by the gospel plow, the faithful sowing of the seed of the kingdom, mingled with tears, and a hold life has been blessed by the Great Husbandman. The songs of the war dance have given place to the songs of Zion, the scalping-knife to the sword of the Spirit. Their gospel quivers filled with arrows of divine love, are being sent forth as messengers of blessings. Hundreds of the Indians have been converted to God, laid aside the panoply of war, and clothed with Christ’s righteousness have girded on the weapons of his warfare, and are now engaged in active battle against sin.
Churches have been organized in different parts of the territory, officered and conducted by Indian men and women. Several ministers of the gospel have been called of God and set apart by the church to preach the gospel. Marriages are solemnized in the churches, according to the order of Friends. Bible schools are held where old and young congregate to hear the words of life and to learn of God’s law. House-to-house visitation, performed by native men and women who themselves have been saved. Temperance societies have been organized, and among some of the nations are found their most earnest and able advocates. What has wrought this great change among those wild men of the forest?
A union of three forces — industry, education, and religion — have combined under God’s blessing, and have caused that great desert in God’s creation to become a fruitful field. The blanket has been exchanged for the civilized dress, the chase has given way to settled homes, and now may be seen broad acres of well-tilled soil, good farm-houses, pretty well kept, the family all sitting at table, ad the woman in the place of honor as the acknowledged mother of the house, and the father ministering before the Lord in their family devotions, and the children under family regulation and discipline, affording a wonderful illustration of the power of the gospel of peace.
The most remarkable and successful work is that wrought among the Modocs, a strong, bloodthirsty tribe, full of deceit and cunning, fortified in the strong fastness of the Rocky Mountains. They resisted the United States Government successfully, while many of our soldiers and officers lost their lives in trying to subdue them, but without avail, until forced to surrender by failure. They were assigned to Friends, and placed under the immediate care of two of the most successful of their missionaries, Asa and Emeline Tuttle. On first removal man of them died, but soon under the loving ministrations of that devoted couple they began to yield to God, and the work of grace continued until nearly every member of the tribe has been converted to God. Having become convinced of the peaceable nature of Christ’s kingdom as accepted and believed in by Friends, they made public profession of their faith by joining that body, and have become strong advocates of peace and exemplify it in their daily lives, a striking illustration of which may be given in an incident which occurred a short time since. One of their young men was killed by a low, unprincipled while man on the border. It was a most provoking murder, without cause. The young men began to paint and prepared for revenge, when “Steamboat Frank,” a Friend and a minister of the gospel of great power, hearing of their purpose, sent for them and said: “Brethren, we are soldiers of the cross and therefore can not fight; leave it to God who will avenge.” The effect was magical. They dispersed to their own homes, taking no further steps to revenge their brother’s blood.
To all of the above tribes and parts of tribes have the labors of Friends been extended and the gospel has been preached, and the education and industrial influence exerted to a greater or less extent. There are now fifty-four Friends as missionaries engaged in carrying on this work. And this has been accomplished as the great result of that grand scheme which emanated from the noble mind and heart of General Grant, to whom our country owes so much, and whom all nations are now honoring; who, in the midst of his triumphs at the height of honor and position, with all nations loud in his praise, found time to turn aside from that glory and stoop to lift up the most downgraded of his subjects, and throw around them the hallowed influences of the gospel of Christ, whereby they might have the opportunity of being lifted up to equal dignity and honor God, “and joint heirs of Christ.”
It is not ours to speak of the heroism of General Grant on the field of battle, nor of his success as a military general, nor even his magnanimous conduct toward the conquered, but to hold up prominently before the world as the crowning act of his great life and the one to which Christians and philanthropists will alike point with gratitude and pride, this grand conception of the correct and successful solution of the Indian question. During President Hayes’ administration the power to dominate agents was withdrawn and politicians took their place, many of them inimical and but few in sympathy with the work. This has greatly hampered the efforts, notwithstanding, the work is progressing with increased success. And the grandchildren of General Grant will live to see the Indians endowed wit the inalienable right of full citizenship as the result of their noble ancestor’s grand scheme.
Source: Rhoda M. Coffin, Her Reminiscences, Addresses, Papers, and Ancestry, ed. Mary Coffn Johnson (New York: The Grafton Press) 1910, pp. 239-247.