An examination of America’s Indian policies, and the age-old struggle between two competing motivations: greed and the Gospel.
Throughout history, those who were motivated by greed:
- took land from Indians
- sold people into slavery
- voted for candidates promising entitlements but who also advocated immorality and disregard for human life
Individuals motivated by greed include:
- some British East India Company merchants who grew opium in India and imported it into China
- some who hung signs in shops: “Help Wanted – No Irish Need Apply”
- organizers engaging in “race-baiting” – intentionally inciting racial tensions for political gain
- politicians who create or capitalize on national crisis as an excuse for the government to usurp rights away from the people and set up a totalitarian dictatorships
Scripture states in 1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”
On the other hand, throughout history there have been individuals motivated by the Gospel, such as those who:
- dug wells in native villages
- opened orphanages and medical clinics
- founded hospitals, inoculated children
- taught farming techniques
- provided literacy programs
- donated money, food and clothes to help the poor
- took in homeless
- visited those in prison
- provided disaster relief and emergency aid
- fought to abolish slavery, forced marriages, and sex-trafficking
Though there were Spanish conquistadors motivated by greed for gold and glory, they were followed by Spanish missionaries, like Bartolomé de Las Casas, motivated by the Gospel to minister and care for native peoples.
Others motivated by the Gospel to help the less fortunate included:
- Scottish Missionary to the Congo David Livingstone, who worked to end the Muslim slave trade in Africa
- Scottish Missionary to Nigeria Mary Slessor, who promoted women’s rights and the ending twin killing
- Adoniram Judson, missionary to Burma, who created a Burmese-English Dictionary
- Baptist Missionary Lottie Moon, who helped famine victims in China
- Missionary to India William Carey, who helped end the practice of “sati” – the burning widows on their husband’s ashes
- George Muller, who founded orphanages in the slums of England
- Gladys Aylward, missionary to China who helped end the binding of little girls’ feet
- Hudson Taylor, who was a missionary and physician to the poor in China
- Irish missionary Amy Carmichael, who worked with orphans in India
- Olympic athlete Eric Liddell, who was a missionary and teacher among the extreme poor in war torn areas of North China
- Jake DeShazer, who was a prisoner-of-war turned missionary to war-torn Japan
- Nate Saint and Jim Elliot, who were missionary martyrs to Ecuador’s Auca Indians
- Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who said: “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
Scripture states in James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (NASB)
Those motivated by the Gospel spread uniquely Judeo-Christian ideals like:
- women and children first
- charity and philanthropy
- tolerance, equality, honesty, marital fidelity
- civil rights
- racial healing
The competing motivations of greed and the Gospel can be observed most prominently when more advanced civilizations have clashed with less advanced civilizations.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond (1997), explained how the first humans were hunter-gatherers, foraging and scavenging for their daily food, pursuing wild animals and collecting wild plants.
As time progressed, some advanced from hunter-gather to domesticating crops and animals, these being the first occupations: “tiller of the ground” and “keeper of flocks.” As methods of food storage developed, these peoples advanced from spending all day hunting and gathering to now developing other occupations, inventions, writing skills, bureaucracies, and eventually armies, with which they displaced less advanced hunter-gathers.
Mesopotamia had the largest share of domesticable crops and animals, along with favorable climate conditions:
- Cereals: Wheat, Barley, Rye, Oats
- Pulses: Lentil, Pea, Chickpea, Bean
- Other: Almonds, Olives
- Flax: a source of linseed oil and fiber for clothes, ropes, rugs, bedding, curtains, sails
- Animals: such as donkey, horse, camel, pig, chicken, cattle and oxen
Mesopotamia’s had a head start in advancing civilization, which spread into Europe, the East and North Africa. Asia had mainly rice. Africa had large animals but, other than camels and elephants, their wild dispositions rendered them untamable, i.e., water buffalo, rhino, giraffe, zebra, and gazelle – who could run 60 miles an hour. In Australia, varieties were scarce.
The America had a small selection of domesticable crops, mainly: beans, squash, potatoes, and later maize-corn. These were limited by climate and terrain from spreading north or south across equatorial central America. America’s buffalo, llama, and alpaca, were difficult to domesticate, and dogs could only pull sleds.
The people of the America’s survived because there was a plentiful abundance of food which could be hunted and gathered. The Europeans who immigrated to the New World were the inheritors of 5,000 years of civilization advances, whereas the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas were still hunting and gathering, living in the bronze age, without even the invention of a usable wheel.
As a result there was a civilization clash. The American Indians were caught in the clash, as well as the struggle between greed and the Gospel.
For example, many Indians were persuaded to side with the French against the British during the French and Indian War. When the French lost, the Indians lost land.
Many Indians were persuaded to side with the British during the Revolutionary War as Britain limited colonial westward expansion in 1763. When the British lost, Indians lost more land. (Treaty of Greenville, 1795)
Many Indians were persuaded to side with the British during the War of 1812. When the British lost, Indians lost more land. (Treaty of Fort Jackson, 1814)
When gold was discovered in Georgia, greedy settlers rushed in. A Democrat controlled Congress hurriedly passed a big government solution – the Indian Removal Act of 1830, signed by a Democrat president. Jackson, for his part, thought removal was the only “wise and humane” way to prevent the Indians from “utter annihilation” by encroaching settlers. The federal government then moved thousands Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee to Oklahoma. Four thousand died on the Trail of Tears. (Treaty of Fort Armstrong, 1832; Treaty of Echota, 1835)
Desperate Indians sometimes raided along the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma borders, as did pro-slavery Missouri “bushwackers” and anti-slavery Kansas “jayhawkers.”
Some Indians sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. When the South lost, Indians lost more land.
Eventually the Democrat policy towards Indians of removal was gradually replaced with the Republican policy of reservations. To pressure nomadic tribes into settling on reservations, as well as to make way for railroads, millions of buffalo were unfortunately killed off. Once Indians were on reservations, oil and minerals were found there and greedy politicians soon took land from the Indians, such as in the Teapot Dome Scandal.
On the other hand, America’s history is also filled with missionaries motivated by the Gospel who wanted to better the condition of Indians, such as:
- John Elliott
- Pierre Marquette
- David Brainerd
- Francis Makemie
- John Stewart
- Dr. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman
- Fr. Pierre-Jean DeSmet
- Fr. François Blanchet
- Fr. Modeste Demers
- Brothers Jason and Daniel Lee
- Henry and Eliza Spalding
- William Gray
- Elkanah and Mary Walker
- David Leslie (founder of Salem, Oregon)
- Hiram Bingham
On April 26, 1802, President Jefferson extended a 1787 act of Congress in which special lands were designated: “For the sole use of Christian Indians and the Moravian Brethren missionaries for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity.”
After the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson asked Congress to ratify a treaty with the Kaskaskia Tribe, negotiated by William Henry Harrison – the future ninth president.
The Kaskaskia Treaty, Dec. 3, 1803, stated: “And whereas the greater part of the said tribe have been baptized and received into the Catholic Church, to which they are much attached, the United States will give annually, for seven years, one hundred dollars toward the support of a priest of that religion, who will engage to perform for said tribe the duties of his office, and also to instruct as many of their children as possible, in the rudiments of literature, and the United States will further give the sum of three hundred dollars, to assist the said tribe in the erection of a church.”
In 1806 and 1807, two similar treaties were made with the Wyandotte and Cherokee tribes.
Jefferson compiled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French and English” first in 1804, then again in 1816, with the intention of it being a book of ethics to help Christianize and civilize the Indians, reasoning that if they were given the entire Bible, they may emulate Old Testament stories of warfare.
Jefferson wrote on the cover page: “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth – extracted from the account of his life and doctrines as given by Matthew, Mark, Luke & John – being an abridgement of the New Testament for the use of the Indians unembarrassed with matters of fact or faith beyond the level of their comprehensions.”
President Andrew Jackson stated in his third annual message, Dec. 6, 1831: “The removal of the Indians beyond … jurisdiction of the states does not place them beyond the reach of philanthropic aid and Christian instruction.”
President Jackson stated in a message to Congress, Jan. 20, 1830: “According to the terms of an agreement between the United States and the United Society of Christian Indians the latter have a claim to an annuity of $400, commencing from the 1st of October, 1826, for which an appropriation by law for this amount … will be proper.”
President Jackson commented in his second annual message, Dec. 6, 1830: “The Indians … gradually, under the protection of the government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.”
In the 1850’s, the territory of the Five Civilized Tribes in the eastern Oklahoma had missions, schools and academies:
- Presbyterians’ Dwight Mission (Cherokee, 1820, 1828)
- Chuala Female Academy (Choctaw, 1842)
- Tullahassee Manual Labor Boarding School (Cherokee, 1848)
- Congregational-American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions’s Wheelock Academy (Choctaw, 1832)
- Methodist Episcopal Church’s Quapaw Mission (1843)
- Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females (1852)
President Lincoln stated in his third annual message, Dec. 3, 1863: “It is hoped that the treaties will result in … permanent friendly relations with such of these tribes. … Duty to these wards of the government demand our anxious and constant attention to their material well-being, to their progress in the arts of civilization, and, above all, to that moral training which under the blessing of Divine Providence will confer upon them the elevated and sanctifying influences, hopes and consolations, of the Christian faith.”
In 1869, the Board of Indian Commissioners noted in its annual report: “The religion of our blessed Savior is … the most effective agent for the civilization of any people.”
Grant’s “Quaker Policy” removed entrepreneurs from being Indian agents and replaced them with missionaries, stating in his first annual message, Dec. 6, 1869: “I have attempted a new policy toward these wards of the nation. … The Society of Friends is well known as having succeeded in living in peace with the Indians in the early settlement of Pennsylvania. … They are known for their opposition to all strife, violence, and war, and are generally noted for their strict integrity and fair dealings. These considerations induced me to give the management of a few reservations of Indians to them. … The result has proven most satisfactory.”
President Grant stated in his second annual message, Dec. 5, 1870: “Reform in … Indian affairs has received the special attention. … The experiment of making it a missionary work was tried with a few agencies given to the denomination of Friends, and has been found to work most advantageously. … Indian agencies being civil offices, I determined to give all the agencies to such religious denominations as had heretofore established missionaries among the Indians, and perhaps to some other denominations … to Christianize and civilize the Indians, and to train him in the arts of peace.”
President Grant stated to Congress, Jan. 1, 1871: “Civilized Indians of the country should be encouraged in establishing for themselves forms of Territorial government compatible with the Constitution. … This is the first indication of the aborigines desiring to adopt our form of government, and it is highly desirable that they become self-sustaining, self-relying, Christianized, and civilized.”
President Grant stated in his third annual message, Dec. 4, 1871: “The policy pursued toward the Indians has resulted favorably. … Through the exertions of the various societies of Christians … many tribes of Indians have been induced to settle upon reservations, to cultivate the soil, to perform productive labor of various kinds, and to partially accept civilization. … I recommend liberal appropriations to carry out the Indian peace policy, not only because it is humane, Christian-like, and economical, but because it is right.”
Oklahoma had missions run by Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Mennonites, Quakers, Moravians, Nazarene, Catholic and others. Mennonites had a mission among the Comanches at Post Oak Mission and at Colony. Catholics had missions in the Potawatomi Nation at Sacred Heart Abbey, at Anadarko on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation, and in north central Oklahoma among the Osage, Ponca, and Otoe.
In 1884, one of the first missionaries to the Yupik Indians in Alaska was John Henry Killbuck, great-grandson of Lenape Chief Gelelemend, who in 1778 made the first Indian Treaty with the United States and later was converted to Christianity by German Moravian missionaries.
President Cleveland issued the proclamation respecting Church property in Alaska, Nov. 14, 1896: “Whereas … the Russian Empire ceded to the US the Territory of Alaska … the churches which have been built in the ceded territory … shall remain the property of such members of the Greek Oriental Church. … The Cathedral Church of St. Michael. … The Church of the Resurrection … called the Kalochian Church, situated near the battery number at the palisade separating the city from the Indian village. …. Three timber houses … for lodging of priests. Four lots of ground belonging to the parsonages.”
In the 1871 Indian Appropriations Act, Indians officially made legal wards of the state, an idea first introduced in the 1831 case of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. This meant that U.S. government no longer needed to make treaties with tribal leaders, and through federal government assistance, tended to create a crippling dependency.
In 1924, Republican President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizen Act granting citizenship to Native Americans born in the United States. In 1927, President Coolidge was “adopted” into the Sioux tribe at Fort Yates in North Dakota.
As a boy, Herbert Hoover had spent several months living on the Osage Indian Reservation in Oklahoma Territory. After Hoover became a multi-millionaire in the mining industry, he organized the feeding of Europe after World War I. Republican President Hoover chose as his Vice President Charles Curtis, the nation’s first Native American vice president, from the Kaw tribe in Kansas. Hoover reorganized and provided increased funding to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The next President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had John Collier serve as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1933-45. The son of a successful Atlanta businessman, John Collier pressured Congress to pass the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. This preserved Indian identity by restoring native lands, improving reservation medical services, and promoting development of business opportunities for Indians.
Some notable individuals of American Indian ancestry:
- Will Rogers: 1879-1935, cowboy, actor, humorist, and newspaper columnist, of Cherokee descent.
- Jim Thorpe: 1887-1953, Olympic athlete, of Sac and Fox descent.
- Oral Roberts: 1918-2009, evangelist who reached millions, broadcast television pioneer, founder of Oral Roberts University, of Cherokee and Choctaw descent.
- Navajo Code Talkers: Chester Nez, Willson Price, William McCabe, Teddy Draper, Sr., Carl Gorman, Peter MacDonald, Kee Etsicitty, Samuel Tom Holiday, Joe Vandever, Keith Little, John Kinsel, Samuel Tso, together with over 400 Navajo sent vital communications during World War II that the Japanese were unable to decode, allowing for the success of major Marine assaults.
- Chuck Norris: b.1940, actor, martial artist, film producer, of Cherokee descent.
- John Bennett Herrington: b.1958, first American Indian Astronaut, launched into space with NASA on November 23, 2002, of Chickasaw descent.
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