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Salvation and the Savage

Salvation and the Savage: An Analysis of Protestant Missions and American Indian Response, 1787--1862

Copyright Date: 1965
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Salvation and the Savage
    Book Description:

    The great, pre-Civil War attempt of Protestant missionaries to Christianize Native Americans is found by Robert F. Berkofer, Jr. to be a significant point of contact with enduring lessons for American thought. The irony displayed by this relationship, he says, did not really lie in the disparity between Anglo-Saxon ideals and the actual treatment of first peoples but in the failure of all, including the missions, to see that both sides had ultimately behaved according to their cultural values.

    Using the records of missions to sixteen tribes in various regions of the United States, Berkofer has carefully followed the hopeful efforts of sixty-five years. The ultimate outcome, when the Civil War brought most of the missions to an end, was only a nominal conversion of Native Americans, despite the unflagging optimism of missionaries struggling against cultural barriers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6210-2
    Subjects: Religion, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    Books upon any phase of American Indian history usually contain, explicitly or implicitly, a denunciation of American policy and express sympathy for the maltreated aborigine whose culture, if not life, was destroyed. Modern scholars find a delicious irony in the disparity between classic American ideals and the actual treatment of the first Americans. Yet in terms of recent cultural theory, an even greater irony is the failure of these writers to see that earlier Americans acted as they did for the same reason that the Indians reacted as they did. Both groups behaved according to their own cultural systems. Any...

  5. Chapter One THE GRAND OBJECT
    (pp. 1-15)

    EVEN the briefest outline of Protestant missionary activity during the years 1787-1862 reveals enormous changes in numbers of workers, scope of operation, and fields of labor. At the end of the American Revolution, only a dozen missionaries survived to carry the Gospel to the perishing aborigines. These earlier workers had been inspired by the Great Awakening, but the large-scale operations of the nineteenth century flowed from that wave of pietism, called the Second Great Awakening, which began in the 1790s and was responsible for so much of the organized benevolence, particularly Congregationalist and Presbyterian, throughout the next century. After the...

    (pp. 16-43)

    A PRIMARY aim of American education in the nineteenth century was the conscious development of personal character through moral training. The inculcation of the virtues assumed to be based on the Christian religion constituted such instruction. Since missionaries were active participants in their culture with a particular emphasis on this phase, their approach to Indian education was dominated by this training. Their adherence to their culture also determined their use of contemporary pedagogical methods and curricula no matter how poorly suited to their immediate goals—let alone to the entire transmutation of Indian life. Their blind acceptance of their own...

  7. Chapter Three TEMPLES IN THE FOREST
    (pp. 44-69)

    THE propagation of the Gospel was the professed goal of all missionary societies, and the creation of self-sustaining native churches was the abiding hope of all missionaries. Although each denomination in theory furthered the same Church and preached the same Gospel, each considered its presentation the superior view and hoped its meetinghouse would be the abode of the Indian convert. To the people of the period, considerable differences existed between denominations and their work. Yet in observing their efforts in the Indian tribes, little variety is seen because of the uniform extrareligious assumptions previously discussed. For this reason, this chapter...

    (pp. 70-88)

    THE Protestant ethic enjoined work as a positive application of the doctrine of the calling. The fulfillment of each individual’s worldly duties was the highest moral activity of that individual. Therefore idleness was a sin and industry was good. In the eyes of the missionaries, savage life was particularly sinful in this aspect: fighting was wrong and hunting was a mere pastime. Man must toil by the sweat of his brow to lead the godly life.¹

    Of all the occupations available in eighteenth and nineteenth century American society, the missionaries chose agriculture as the ideal employment for their charges, for...

  9. Chapter Five OTHER WHITES
    (pp. 89-106)

    SINCE the main method of introducing civilization to the Indians was by example, the whites near the mission stations had an important effect on the success of mission programs in the eyes of the religious societies and their workers. Indian missionaries quickly classified their white neighbors. If they thought their neighbors provided a good model and aided their plans, then they were good people. On the other hand, if they considered them opposed to the mission and immoral, then they were agents of Satan out to halt the divine progress of the Gospel and moral civilization. The missionaries applied this...

    (pp. 107-124)

    AS the missionaries did not separate Christianity from civilization and thus presented an inextricable combination to the savages, so most Indians did not unravel the two when the blackcoat arrived in their tribe. For this reason most Indians reacted to Christian civilization as a whole. Each culture opposed the other as a totality. From an awareness of the basic cleavage between the two cultures in a given contact situation, the Indians posited a theory of cultural dualism to parry missionaries’ arguments for conversion. They maintained that the Great Spirit had ordained two separate ways of life for the two races,...

    (pp. 125-151)

    CONVERSION for the Christian Indians meant not only the transformation of their values and their life ways but also the desire to impose the same ideals and behavior upon their benighted neighbors. Inevitably such attempts to reform their fellow tribesmen lead to intratribal conflict over religion. Religious differences in turn focused attention upon governmental control and even form, for government by definition, even in American Indian tribes, gives those in power legitimate coercion over others within the society. The converted Indians desired possession of their tribal government to protect themselves and to expand civilization through the allotment of annuities for...

    (pp. 152-160)

    THE “white fields,” according to the religious magazines of the period, beckoned the Lord’s workers to reap the bountiful harvest of converts. Nineteenth-century faithful were certain Christ’s second coming was imminent, and in preparation for this glorious event, the Lord commanded the rapid mass conversion of heathen all over the world—for nothing less would satisfy the Lord or his optimistic nineteenth-century agents. Yet this optimism was not borne out by the statistics reported from the field. After thousands of dollars and hundreds of missionaries, the managers and patrons of the missionary societies had to account their eight decades of...

    (pp. 161-180)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 181-186)