President Gates Opens last Session

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Sixth session,
Friday night, October 18.

After the singing of a hymn by Mr. Frank Wright the last session of the conference was called to order at 8 o’clock.

President Gates. In the words and the music of the beautiful Christian song to which we have just listened, fraught as they are with tender feeling, there is nothing incongruous with the practical aims and the careful discussions of our conference. On the contrary, we can not see our work in its true light unless we look upon our efforts for the less favored races in the heavenly light of that uplifting hope which has traversed the world since the “Light of the World” was lifted up on Calvary. It is only in the light of His teaching that the brotherhood of men and the blessed fellowship of unselfish service have begun to be revealed to the nations have taken captive the heart and life of His chosen servants, the world’s truest benefactors in all the ages.

In one of those moments of unexpected and delightful interchange of thought about the highest and best objects, which, coming suddenly to us in flashes of social intercourse here, are a chief charm of these conferences, a friend who has done loving work of investigation in the history of Christian missionary effort was speaking with me today of the glorious impressiveness of the great fact that there had been no dark ages and no dark century in the history of the Church of Christ, no period in which the true missionary spirit had not lightened the gloom. There is an unbroken succession^ truly apostolic, of Christian hearts mightily moved by the love of Christ to seek and to save. From the time when the light of the Son of Righteousness, flashing into the life of Paul, blinded him to all other sights save the compelling love of Christ, and filling his heart with flaming zeal to make known the truth, sent him on his fiery missionary journeys through Asia Minor and to Greece and Italy, down through the centuries to our own day there has been a succession of true missionary apostles men sent with uplifting tidings of love from the King of kings. And among the figures which have been commanding in their influence over these conferences we miss this year one who was perhaps the most striking personality connected with Christian work for the Indians our beloved and useful colleague upon the Board of Indian Commissioners, and in England the best known of the American house of bishops, the Right Rev. Henry B. Whipple, D. D., bishop of Minnesota. Who can read the account of his early journeys through the wilderness of the Northwest, when, with the Herculean strength, the irrepressible vigor of his early manhood, his sinewy stride wearied even the native guides who took him through winter snows and summer heats, by toilsome trail, or in birchen canoe, with frequent portage from streamlet to little lake, among the tributaries of the Mississippi who can read the record of his early and of his later life, of his courageous, outspoken championship of the rights of the Indians, to whom he so tenderly preached the gospel of peace, without feeling that the missionary spirit of the apostles has survived to our own time, in our American apostles, to these “people of the wandering eye and the restless foot?” The circle of our friends in this conference has grown to be so large that we can not take the time to speak at our public sessions of all those whom we miss, with whom we have had fellowship here, who have been called from the lower to the higher service from year to year. But the early, the prolonged, and the signally effective service rendered by Bishop Whipple to the cause we have at heart makes it eminently fitting that we should pause at the beginning of this session to give expression to our tribute of love and affection while we remember this man of God. General Whittlesey, for many years the friend and associate of Bishop Whipple in his efforts for the Indians at Washington, has been asked to prepare a minute for our record, which he will now present.

Gen. E. Whittlesey was invited to read the minutes, which had been prepared in memory of Bishop Whipple. It was as follows:

The Mohonk conference records its profound grief and its sense of irreparable loss in the death of Right Rev. Henry B. Whipple, bishop of Minnesota. He was often with us, and his presence was always a benediction. His forty years missionary labors for the Indians, his quick grasp of their wretched condition, his sagacious, practical work for their relief, fitted him to speak with authority upon Indian affairs, and such was his courage that no opposition or threat of violence could thwart or daunt him. He was one of the heroes of our age, and in his breadth of mind and grasp of principles he was also a statesman of no mean ability. He gained a thorough knowledge of the Indian condition and needs, and he had the wisdom to forecast some of the most important measures of reform which have since been adopted. He opposed, like Monroe, treating with Indians as sovereign nations. He condemned appointment of agents as a reward for political services. Before the Mohonk conference discussed land in severalty he demanded for the Indian an individual right to the soil. His memorial in 1862 and his report in 1866 are said to have led to the organization of the Board of Indian Commissioners, as a member of which he rendered much valuable service. His unselfish, enthusiastic devotion to his neglected “red brothers,” as he fondly called them, who had learned to trust him as the man who “talked straight” and never deceived, and his whole career of toil for the outcast give us new proof that the life of service is the noblest life. May others be inspired to follow the example of this noble man of God!

To the bereaved widow the Mohonk Conference proffers most hearty greetings and sympathy.

General Whittlesey. We all feel a much deeper reverence and love for the good Bishop than could be expressed by a brief minute like this. I am not worthy to pronounce a eulogy upon Bishop Whipple; I can hardly trust myself to speak of him at all. Among the most precious recollections that I cherish is that he honored me by calling me his friend, and that he spoke kindly and even flatteringly of the help I had given him in his work for the Indians. Ah, how little it seems in comparison with his great achievements! He always treated me with the most kindly and affectionate regard. How often in this place and in Washington he has told me the marvelous story of his journeying through winter storms and summer floods over the vast territory which constituted his diocese among the Indians for whom he labored, stories which, when repeated in this country and in England, aroused the deepest interest in his work. We have certainly great reason to bless God for raising up such men, so great, so good. We are grateful to God for endowing him with such wisdom and with such a Christ-like spirit. But he has gone from us. He has seen the beloved Lord in his beauty. He has heard the welcome, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He has received the crown, the unfading crown of righteousness, which was laid up for him on high. But though we see him no more here, his influence will abide, for his works do and will follow.

The President. Like Bishop Phillips Brooks, Bishop Whipple was too large for one denomination. The whole country loved him. And yet there is an appropriateness in the fact that one who has himself so long rendered distinguished service to that branch of Christ’s church with which Bishop Whipple was so long connected should add a tribute to his memory, President Smith, of Trinity College, Hartford, oConn.

President Smith. When the president of the Mohonk Conference asked me if I would second the minute that was to be offered tonight in memory of Bishop Whipple, I accepted the honor with gladness. At the same time I was fully aware of the difficulty of seconding this minute with such a seconding as should be worthy of the minute itself.

Bishop Whipple was among the great and noble men of the nineteenth century. Perhaps among all the illustrious philanthropists who have arisen since the days of Wilberforce none will rank higher than he. And yet this man did not become a consecrated bishop, an apostle to the Indians, whose praise and glory are in all the churches, without passing through those experiences which show what stuff a man is made of, and by which he is developed into his higher usefulness.

When Bishop Whipple was appointed to the bishopric of Minnesota, the northwest region of the United States was being flooded with a great rush of immigrants from what was then the West, as well as from the East and from over the sea. These people did not go there for their health altogether, and they found themselves face to face with the Indians, who up to that time had been practically undisturbed. Although missionaries had been among them, and some missions had been established, the Indian was practically the sole occupant of the territory. When the flood of white people came in there was an inevitable conflict. We know what happens when a body of white men impinges upon a body of Indians; the Indians go down. So it was in this case, although they were unusually numerous; for they had been crowded back from the East, and enticed from the West by the provision of rations by the Government. Then they found themselves face to face with a flood of white men who were crowding them to the wall. By superior cunning, by violence, and one means or another, the whites proceeded to deprive the Indians of what they believed to be their rights.

When Bishop Whipple went to Minnesota he found these white people, to whom he had been sent to minister, and of whom he was to create his church. But he also found the Indians, who were being deprived of the soil on which they lived, and of their rights under the treaties. The question came up, what was he to do? Should he take the part of his own race in the interest of those who had sent him there; or ought he to take the larger view, and stand up for humanity and human rights in the interest of the red man? If he were to build up his church, should it be by falling in with the interests of the white people or by building on the eternal principles of truth and honor and righteousness to all men, although for the moment it seemed impracticable to include the red man in his scheme?

Now, the man felt that if one was called to be a bishop in the church of God he was called for no mean purpose, but rather that, seeing clearly, and acting boldly, and intending purely, he might confer lasting benefits upon mankind. So he took the side of the Indian, and threw all his personal influence, and the weight and dignity of his high office, in the scale in behalf of the poor red man, whom all were interested in thrusting out of the land.

The effect upon the people, as it was told me at that time for at that time I was coming upon the scene of action and expected to go to Minnesota, and so far had the scheme progressed that my tickets were purchased to St. Paul the effect upon the people was such that Bishop Whipple presently found arrayed against him the Indian agent (one of the old kind, who received a salary of $1,500 a year and laid up $40,000), the Indian contractors, the teachers, the people who expected political office on the organization of the State, or at some future time, and the whole body of people who coveted the Indian lands. Those who were otherwise minded felt that he could not stem the tide, and they sat still and gave him no help. Those who were disposed to favor him regarded him as a sentimental enthusiast, and some said he was “a crank.” The people living there said it was to be a white man’s country, not an Indian’s country; that the white man was strong, and the Indians were dying; that he must lay the foundations of his church with the strong white man and not with the feeble Indian.

Suddenly there came upon us what the older generation here will remember the frightful news of the Indian massacre in Minnesota in 1862. None of us can fail to understand that men whose kindred brothers, sons, wife, children had been mercilessly slaughtered by those Indians in greater numbers than had ever before been known in the history of Indian wars, and with atrocities that can not be described, must have felt that there was nothing to be done with the Indian but to sweep him from the face of the earth. Men snarled at the Bishop when he said that there were Indians and Indians; when he said: “You know the causes of this uprising, and you know that there are Indians who stood by the treaties and refused to slaughter any whites. Will you destroy the just with the unjust?” And so he went up and down among those people, facing them in their houses, talking to them in the streets, expostulating, pleading, going into the legislative chambers and making long journeys, to stem the tide of vengeance that threatened to sweep away the entire body of Indians, innocent and guilty alike. He went to Washington on his errand of salvation, and there I saw him for the first time. The streets and avenues of the city were seething with the mass of virtue and vice, sin and unselfishness, bravery and cowardice, everything good and everything bad which gathered there in those war days, and which filled the lobbies of the hotels and departments, when the man went there on his mission of mercy. He saw the Commissioner of Indian Affairs or the man who represented him the Secretary of the Interior, the President, the members of Congress, Senators, all of whom were busy with the affairs of the civil war, and tried to get a hearing for his protégés. He went to the churches also. I remember the first time I saw him. He preached in the Church of the Epiphany, and instead of going into the pulpit, he went to the desk, and said: “I want to talk to these people instead of preaching to them. I want to tell them the story of the wrongs of the Indians, and see what they will think when they hear it. “I remember some of the incidents he cited, and the pathetic telling of them. I recall one where he told how the poor creatures, driven from home and starving, went out on the highways and picked out of the dirt left by the horses the half digested grains, gathering them one by one in their hands to take them home to the squaws and papooses to save their lives. There were some ladies present who found it “as good as a play.” They nodded to each other and smiled. The bishop saw it and stopped; and then he told those people that he had not come there to tell a tale to awaken their jaded emotions or thrill their souls; nor did he wish their applause or their flowers, as if he were an actress. He wanted to tell them a story of human wrong that would bring God’s judgment upon field and forest, upon lake and river, upon city and country, all over this favored land, unless God’s justice was established, and his people were delivered from wrong. The effect was felt all through that audience. All talked of it when they went away, and after a long struggle in social and official circles he succeeded in getting a treaty for the Chippewa, who had refused the solicitation of the Dakotas, securing to them their lands, their homes, and such provision as was necessary at that time of need. Thereafter he was a power to be reckoned with in Indian affairs.

And so he went on, gathering strength and becoming known throughout the country. About 1869 or 1870 his health failed and he went abroad. He was at Mentone when the admiral of the American squadron came to Villafranca, and hearing that the Bishop was there sent to him an official invitation to come and visit the flagship of the American squadron as the guest of the representative of the United States in those waters. The Bishop was too ill to go, but he sat up in his chair and wrote a four or six-page letter a long and piteous plea to those naval officers in behalf of the red men, with whom his heart was full, although he was 5,000 miles from them. For he always carried them in his heart, and was always pleading their cause at home and abroad.

I have but three minutes left me, and must omit much that I would like to say. In 1897 there was a gathering in London, at the time of the Queen’s Jubilee, of Anglican bishops from all parts of the world, and the Queen invited the Apostle to the Indians to a garden party. After the others had made their obeisance to the Queen, they were scattered about the grounds. Two of the bishops were walking up and down talking together, when the personal attendant of the Queen came up behind them, and taking them each by the collar thrust them apart with the words, ” Way for the Lord Bishop of Minnesota, whose presence the Queen desires!” It was a tribute paid to the Bishop of Minnesota by the Queen of that great Empire the greatest Empire that ever existed upon earth, and she the most powerful sovereign in the world that she should have given that garden party in honor of the Bishop of Minnesota, the Apostle to the Indians, who had touched her womanly, Christian heart by the labors of forty years in their behalf. I think she voiced the sentiment of the whole world, and in honoring him she honored herself. But he has received a higher honor still, the highest that can be paid to mortal man, for now the King of Kings has sent for him.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Even so, saith the spirit, for they rest from their labors and their works do follow them.”

I second the resolution to adopt the minute.

The minute was then unanimously adopted.

Mr. Joseph J. Janney, Baltimore. Those of us who attended the Mohonk conference four years ago will doubtless recall two interesting personages, Rev. Walter C. Roe and his wife, who were with us at that time. We will remember, also, with what pathos, earnestness, and womanly eloquence Mrs. Roe presented an appeal for assistance in the erection of what she was pleased to call “a lodge” for the benefit of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians under their mission. Through the leadership of Mr. Smiley, and under the stimulus given the movement by his own liberality, considerably more than $1,500 the sum asked for was raised and the lodge was built. In gratitude for the help received here Mrs. Roe named it “Mohonk Lodge.” Well, Mohonk Lodge has been a great success. It has enabled these Cheyenne Indians in Oklahoma not only to pursue their industries, but has provided a channel by which their products can find a profitable market.

I refer to this today for two reasons: One, to thank you, in the name of Mrs. Roe, for the help and inspiration she has received from the members of this conference; and to say, entirely on my own responsibility, that although Mohonk Lodge is a success it is not beyond the need of help from outside sources, and to suggest to those who have money to spare that Mohonk Lodge is a very excellent place to put it.

Another object I have in view in referring to this subject now is to identify to you the writer of the letter I hold in my hand. It is written by the same lady, Mrs. Mary W. Roe, and I wish to read from it one or two sentences:

“Mr. Roe and I spent August in the Rockies, and are very much refreshed and are happy over our work. Its main troubles now are the many deaths from consumption and the coming of the saloon into every part of our Indian country. A letter from a missionary’s wife in Anadarko the other day told us that they had twenty saloons in Anadarko, and that the streets were full of reeling men, women, and children, several Indian boys from the Riverside School having been carried home drunk. 1 lay these facts before you feeling sure that if it is in your power to render us any assistance you will be sure to do it.”

When I am confronted with such a statement as that, authentic beyond question; and when I know, as I do know, much more in the same line; and when I go to Buffalo, and visit the Exposition, and spend a half hour in the Indian village, and see the Indian lowered to the level of a dime museum freak, I am led to believe that the present peril to the Indian is not altogether in the ration question or the reservation question, or even in the educational question, but it may be largely in the fact that he is being paraded over the country, clothed in blanket and bears claws and paint, and exhibited for the entertainment of the idle and the ignorant; and that he is becoming increasingly the victim of the avarice of the rum seller.

I cannot help regretting that our platform makers failed to note the importance of this matter, and I feel that I am somewhat to blame or not having pressed it; yet, after all, perhaps platforms are not the most effective means for accomplishing certain results. May it not be that it is the individual duty of each and every member of this conference to use all our influence to bring about a more rigid enforcement of the United States prohibitory law, and thus throttle the mercenary wretches who are making money by degrading and ruining the Indian?

President Gates. No one can look over the reports that come from the field without realizing the terrible evils of liquor selling among the Indians.



MLA Source Citation:

Board Of Indian Commissioners. Thirty-Third Annual Report Of The Board Of Indian Commissioners. Government Printing Office. 1901. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 27 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/president-gates-opens-last-session.htm - Last updated on Aug 9th, 2013


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