Tag Archives: Native Americans

The John Dunbar Papers: Writings from the Western Frontier (1834-1836)

On May 5, 1834, Rev. John Dunbar set out with two other men for a missionary exploration of the unknown region beyond the Rocky Mountains, on behalf of the First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca, NY.  The mission was to be called "The Oregon Mission."  Eighteen days later, however, when the men arrived in St. Louis, they discovered that the party of traders with whom they had planned to travel had already left six weeks prior.  Without the traders, Dunbar and his party had no way of proceeding, since they did not know how to travel the terrain or how to sustain themselves on the way.  They were forced to abandon the undertaking. Dunbar traveled to Liberty, Missouri and then on to Bellevue, Nebraska, where he tried to connect with the natives, learn their language, and find passage to the far regions of the west. 

At various points in his journal, Dunbar writes rather contemptuously about the traders, not only for their unwillingness to aid the missionaries or share the information they have about the territories, but for their overall lack of propriety and for selling whiskey to the natives.  He writes,

At this time no missionaries…had penetrated the Indian country farther than [Bellevue, Nebraska].  The traders and others who have heretofore traversed this immense region have almost without an exception kept the knowledge they have acquired of the country and its inhabitants to themselves, or communicated it only to their fellow traders…Those engaged in trade in this country may deem it to be for their interest to keep the world in ignorance of the geography and inhabitants of this extensive portion of our continent.  Certainly the conduct of many white men who live in, and of others who occasionally visit this county needs only to be known to be condemned in any decent society.  Their deeds are deeds of darkness, and cannot bear the light of civilization. 

Once during the time of our delay I made arrangements to accompany a wretched half-starved party of Otoes, who had come down to the Cantonment to beg provisions…when I went to their camp in the early part of the day on which they had assured me they would set out on their return, they informed me they had determined to pay their friends the Konzas a visit and it would be several weeks before they would reach their place of residence on the Platte.  The true reason however of their not wishing my company was that they were desirous to take home with them a quantity of whiskey, and they were fearful they might get into trouble about it should I be in the company.  The next day I saw some of them coming up from the settlements in the border of the state having with them 6 or 8 horses laden with the water of death to the Indian.  Some white man with a devil’s heart had for a little paltry gain furnished these creatures, already sufficiently wretched, with that which is speedily working their destruction.

In spite of Dunbar’s concern for the well-being of the natives, he uses the word “wretched” six times to describe them within the nine handwritten pages of his journal.  Later that year in October of 1834, Rev. Dunbar eventually finds a way to travel beyond Bellevue to live with the Grand Pawnee tribe, hosted by the second chief of the Pawnee nation.  After two years and four hunting tours, traveling nearly 3000 miles with the Pawnee, one can sense in his writing a deep ambivalence about them:

All of us who have lived with them are constrained to say they are a kindhearted, liberal people. But they are heathen, dark-minded heathen.

Describing the scene during one of his hunting tours, he writes:

When they have traveled all day, and just at night come to the camping ground a scene usually ensues that beggars description.  The horses are fretful and uneasy, the children, cold and hungry, the women, vexed and weary, the men ill-natured and impervious.  The dogs yelp and howl, the horses whinny, the mules and asses bray, the children cry, the boys halloo, the women scold, the men chide and threaten, no one hears and everything goes wrong.  Tongue and ears at such a time are of but little use. 

One of Dunbar’s greatest concerns is the station and treatment of women among the Pawnees, who seem to him to be like slaves, doing all of the work for little or no reward.  In the polygamous marriage traditions of the Pawnee, “the eldest sister is the principle wife, and commands the younger, who seem to be little more than domestic slaves.…How little to be desired is the condition of the youngest sisters in a Pawnee family and particularly of the youngest.”  Dunbar cannot seem to reconcile this state of affairs with his own conception of women as members of a delicate and inferior class.

In the afternoon of the third day, we rode into the village and came to the old chiefs lodge.  He dismounted and walked directly into his dwelling.  Forthwith his daughter, a young woman of 22 made her appearance to unsaddle our horses and bring in our luggage.  The young woman unsaddled and unbridled her father’s horse, then attempted to do the same to mine.  But my horse seemed to have a more just sense of propriety in this respect than prevails among the Pawnees.  She did not succeed and I willingly removed the saddle and bridle myself.

It frequently occurs, when they are travelling, that a horse gets frightened, jumps about, breaks away from its leader, kicks till it has divested itself of everything that was put on it, and then runs off at full speed.  The unfortunate wife must now follow her horse till she can catch it, bring it back, gather up her scattered utensils, replace them on her horse, then follow the train.  All the recompense she receives for her trouble is a severe chiding from her lazy husband, who may have been a witness to the whole transaction without having offered at all to assist his inferior half. 

The men say their appropriate employments are hunting (taking the buffalo), and war.  Consequently, everything else that is to be done is the appropriate business of the women.  The women are very laborious, but most abject slaves.  One educated in our privileged land can scarcely form a conception of the ignorance, wretchedness and degraded servitude of the Pawnee females.  We cannot contemplate the condition of these wretched creatures without being led to feel deeply that for all that is better in the condition of females in Christian lands, they are indebted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The female, no matter who she is, that makes light of the Christian religion, trifles with that which makes her to differ from the most abject slave and degraded heathen.

Gustavus Elmer Emanuel Lindquist Papers, 1897–1955

G.E.E. Lindquist with American Indian Man. Credit to MRL10: Lindquist Papers, in
The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, N. Y

The Burke Library is happy to announce the processing and availability of the GEE Lindquist Papers, 1897-1955, part of MRL10: North America!

Please see the finding aid HERE.

Gustavus Elmer Emanuel Lindquist was a prominent figure in twentieth-century Protestant missions among Native Americans and an active member of Home Missions Council of the Federal Council of Churches. A full biography on the life of Lindquist can be seen on the Finding Aid.

The collection was originally organized in its original order as organized by the Missionary Research Library. In October 2012 the collection was entirely reprocessed and the organization was overhauled by Brigette C. Kamsler as part of the Luce Foundation grant. The collection is organized in two parts: boxes 1-34 consist of paper documents and writings and boxes 35-66 are the photographic materials. The contents of Boxes 35-66 are digitized and available on line at http://lindquist.cul.columbia.edu/.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of correspondence, reports, government publications, committee minutes, papers, surveys, conference materials, articles, newspaper and journal clippings, articles or manuscripts by Lindquist, postcards, booklets, questionnaires, pamphlets, maps, photographs, and lantern slides. Dates are provided when they are known.

Series 1 contains original and carbon copy correspondence dating from 1917-1953. These letters are both to and from Lindquist, and include letters from other individuals. Lindquist annotated the letters that were of particular interest, including:

Letter from M. K. Sniffer to Lindquist, April 25, 1920.

Credit to MRL 10: Lindquist Papers, series 1, box 1, folder 3, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Organizations represented include but are not limited to schools, such as the Fort Mojave Indian School, the Charles H. Cook Christian Training School, an interdenominational Christian training center for Indians, and the Pawnee Indian Boarding School; the National War Work Council of the YMCA, the Interchurch World Movement, The American Indian Defense Association, The Federation of Protestant Activities, and the Roe Indian Institute; churches, both national such as the Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian and Congregational churches, and local entities including the Chemawa Campus Church.

Lindquist also corresponded with a number of well-known individuals, such as Hubert Work, secretary of the interior and Stephen E. Keeler, bishop of Minnesota.

Another person of note is from Henry Roe Cloud. His letters are comprehensive and contain information on his trips. For example a letter from May 19, 1919 details a trip he made on behalf of the YMCA to Chicolo, where he addressed the students. He was dismayed to see the “distinct lack of interest in the YMCA.”

Letter from Henry Roe Cloud to Lindquist, May 13, 1919.
Credit to MRL 10: Lindquist Papers, series 1, box 1, folder 2, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Series 2 pertains to Lindquist’s personal writings and publications from 1912-1954. The material is organized alphabetically by the title of the article and come from published magazines as well as manuscript or typescript, some of which was noted as not for publication. Also incorporated with some articles are the draft versions by Lindquist, including his corrections, and the final published version.

Series 3 consists of 8 boxes of records pertaining to specific Native American tribes and reservations that Lindquist worked with and studied, including the Navajo, Hopi, and Apache, from 1900-1954. Lindquist also kept separate files on the drug peyote; this section has been left in series 3 as Lindquist intended because of its intrinsic value to the culture of many tribes. The large amount of material is organized geographically by state, and includes other countries such as Canada, Mexico and South America.

Series 4, Missions from 1897-1955, contains mission-specific and religious material, as well as records from organizations that were involved with missions to the Native Americans. The Home Missions Council (HMC) material contains Annual Reports, Survey of Home Mission Agencies and other administrative records including conferences, meetings, and seminars. The Joint Committee for Indian Work was a combination of HMC and Council of Women for Home Missions (CWHM). The series also contains detailed Indian survey information, including that from the Interchurch World Movement, of which Lindquist was director.

Deaconess Bedell and Seminole Indians Outside the Glade Cross Mission Headquarters, 1912-1953.
Credit to MRL 10: Lindquist Papers, series 8A, box 38, item 723, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Education, 1915-1953, fills Series 5, and pertains mainly to Native American schools. The series also offers information on non-religious schools, and the Home Missions Literature Program.

Series 6 spanning 1912-1953 contains government affairs and includes information on general topics as well as specific departments within the government. Conferences, committees, proposed legislation, Indian migration and freedom of religion are some of the topics covered. Other items of note contain records relating to “wardship,” the Wheeler-Howard Act, and a handwritten notebook kept by Lindquist detailing Native Americans serving during World War One and World War Two. Specific departmental information in the series is from the Department of the Interior, the Office of Indian Affairs, the Board of Indian Commissioners, and finally the National Fellowship of Indian workers.

The section on National Fellowship of Indian Workers details information on the organization, which was formed to promote the interest of missionaries and all those engaged in the education and civilization of Native Americans.

National Fellowship of Indian Workers, Group of Conference Attendees in front of a Brick Building, 1942-1951.
Credit to MRL 10: Lindquist Papers, series 8A, box OS, item 1833, The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

The final series in the first section of the Lindquist material contain source files. Series 7 spans 1912-1953 and offers general materials outside of missions, tribes and government/educational affairs, and appears to be files that Lindquist kept for information on specific topics. Topics include Indians and health, athletics, ethnology and home life.

Series 8 is restricted due to the fragile nature of the material. However the large selection of original photographs, negatives, and postcards collected and taken by Lindquist during his work is available through this wonderful website http://lindquist.cul.columbia.edu/. A wide range of states and locations are depicted, including in the United States as well as Mexico and Canada. Photographs include individual portraits, landscapes, group images, buildings such as churches, private residences and schools, agricultural and industrial scenes, leisure activities and other events and living conditions experienced by a variety of Native communities. The maps are currently unavailable at this time while they undergo conservation treatment.

Please come by soon to conduct research with the Lindquist Papers!