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The Santee Normal Training School and Indian Missions

Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Native American,Nebraska | No Comments

Running Antelope, an Indian chief, describing the condition of the Indians, said: “There was once a beautiful, clear lake of water, full of fish. The fish were happy and content, had plenty to eat, and nothing to trouble them. One day a man came and threw in a lump of mud, which frightened the fishes much and disturbed the water. Another day a man came again, and threw in some more mud, and even again and again, until the water became so thick that the fish could not see at all; they were so blinded and so frightened that they ran against one another, and they ran their noses out of the water into the mud, where many of them died. In fact, they are in a bad condition, indeed. Now, the pond is the Indian country, the fishes are the Indians, the false treaties and promises of the white men are the lumps of mud,” and, turning to the missionaries, he said: “I hope you have come to clear up the water.” A glance at the work of the A.M.A. among the Indians will show that the missionaries are clearing up the water.

We all have heard of the Santee Normal Training School for Indians, in Nebraska. There is much in the name itself, and yet it is impossible to have a clear idea of the work done there unless one has seen for himself.

The Santee School is the largest of all the Indian mission schools under the A.M.A., and faithfully has she performed the part of a leader. The number of Indians gathered and instructed each year is in the neighborhood of 175. Many tribes are represented, and the students come from all directions. They are thoroughly trained from the very foundation, not only in the ordinary branches of school work, but also in housekeeping—sewing, cooking, washing, etc.,—on the part of the girls (in which, too, the boys join largely), and in farming, carpentry, blacksmithing and shoemaking, on the part of the boys.

Not only is this solid practical knowledge given them, but care and time is devoted toward grace and politeness, and all the foundation rules of etiquette. And this is not a thankless work. Anyone forming an idea of Indians from those at Santee would tell you they are naturally a most polite people—a people upon whom grace sits easily. There is many a little story of Santee I would like to tell, that would show the spirit which pervades the school. Something you may have read of their impromptu prayer-meetings, and the desire of many to work and study, not merely for themselves, but for their people.

But great as is the credit due the Indians for their advancement here, little could be seen of gain were it not that the corps of teachers sent out by the A.M.A. have been chosen, not from the lame, the halt and the blind of this country, not from those who for support must resort to something, but from those young women who are willing to leave homes of comfort and refinement, in order that their lives may be worth something in the world—young women who are consecrated beyond what we can even imagine until we have seen the difficulties and annoyances which form so large a part of their lives. Not for support would these women have gone into A.M.A. work, but cheerfully and gladly do they live on the very smallest possible salaries, that more may be done for the Indian.

In describing Santee I have described all the schools, for the same plan is carried out everywhere—the plan of Christianization; for that must needs come before civilization can be hoped for.

The Indian is not civilized who, forsaking his heathen gods, has learned the ways of the white man without knowing his God; for invariably he learns the vices and the crimes; and is in reality more of a heathen than before.

Many are the villages of Indians in which the white man’s dance has been introduced and is enjoyed much more than the native dance; it is working much evil which is hard to uproot, for they say, “Is it not the white man’s way?—it must needs be all right.”

The work among the older people is of course more limited than that done in the schools. The age of study is with them past. The most intellectual work of which they are capable is learning to read the Bible; even this they cannot do in any other than the Dakota language. It is impossible to teach an old man English that will ever mean much to him. Our word “holy” could never mean what his own word “wakan” means; our word “God” could never take the place of his “Wakantanka.” His brain would be so disturbed in his effort to learn and to comprehend our difficult language, that when he had mastered the words, were it possible, the sweet truth and the comfort would be all gone from him. Any but a scholar must read the Bible in his own language.

Thousands of Indians are learning Bible truths and are getting a little light in the few years left them. They are learning a little of the way of life, and receive the message with gladness. Spotted Bear, a Christian Indian, said at the recent convention at Santee: “All we know we have learned out of the Dakota Bible. Teach our children English, but don’t take from them and us the means of reading our own Bible.”

James Garvey, another Indian, said: “Many can soon learn to read the Dakota Bible; then they have a standard of morals and of interpretation; for to get the real meaning of the English Bible, we go to the Dakota. To make the best citizens you must Christianize the people, and to make them Christians you must give them the Bible in their own tongue. All of us have become white people through the gospel.”

The little native churches of Dakota are most interesting illustrations of the work going on among the Indians. It would be impossible to find more attentive audiences. There is always an air of devotion, or of serious attention to all that pertains to the service, which we are not apt to find in our own churches. Men, women and children go; even the babies are always taken. There is a quiet freedom there which allows the Indian mothers to take the babies out and in again at any time, and the preacher is never disturbed. They sing as if they enjoyed singing—men and women together; and in fact the services are usually such as to give one a new zeal in holy things, even though we can understand few words.

Each Indian church has its missionary society, and its woman’s society, which is also missionary. These have been working and giving for mission work further out among the Indians, and this year have pledged themselves to give to foreign missions. During the last year they have raised $1,084, of which the women raised $500. The prayer-meeting is as much an institution with them as with us—in fact, they live as we live and work as we work.

Ehnamani, pastor of the Santee church—a fine old man, whose history in connection with the Minnesota massacre of ’62, and whose conversion and present work are well known—was once asked, “Do you ever have the least regret that the old life is gone—do you ever have any longing for the war and for the dance?” His face grew stern and hard as he answered, “Regret it! No, indeed! I cannot think of one good thing that I ever did in that life, and I cannot bear to remember it.” Few are there yet like Ehnamani, though many are fast overtaking him, and a grand number of Christian workers would you see could they be gathered before you!

Many are the Indian hearts given back to God their Creator. Many are the Indian homes consecrated to the Wakantanka. Many are the Indian lives devoted to His service. And yet there are facts—there are overwhelming facts, sad enough to break the great, throbbing Christian heart of this country—facts that should make us cover our heads with shame.

Out of 40,000 Sioux Indians, there are 35,000 still in heathenism. There are sixty-six tribes on the Western prairies for whom nothing is yet done. There are 40,000 Indians of school age; but when every school is packed to its utmost only 12,000 can be accommodated. This includes Government schools, Roman Catholic schools, and all; so that those under mission teachers would be far less a number than 12,000.

And this is where the Indian work stands today. How can the A.M.A. do its share in this great work, or how can the work already begun be carried on, unless money is turned liberally into its treasury?

Shall the cry for help, coming 1,500 miles across the country, strike against a hard wall of indifference and be thrown back to mock the red man and to bid him wait yet longer?

The Fourth Brother

I believe that if the Master were visibly present with us to-day, and we should ask, “Where shall we go first with the Gospel?” he would say, “Go to that fourth brother, the North American Indian;” and for the strongest reasons.

First, because he is in the greatest need. There are no people in want whose cry does not at once reach the heart of the American people. When Chicago was burned, when there was an earthquake in Charleston, when there was a famine in Ireland, public sympathy was immediately awakened, and all that was needed was sent. The only people who seem to be in need and do not receive help are the aborigines of our soil—the people whom we have dispossessed; whom we have crowded from their homes; whom we have shut into reservations until they are nothing but prisoners of war; whom we have placed under the control of a despot called an Indian agent, who is not controlled by law, who on that agency governs by his own will, with no courts to protect those who are wronged. These Indians are shut in on these reservations, kept from all civilizing and Christianizing influences, kept from trade and commerce. A trader is appointed over them, from whom they must buy everything they need, paying whatever he may ask, to whom they must sell everything that they would sell, taking what he may choose to give.

We have, it is true, a cumbrous system of machinery which is supposed to educate and civilize the Indian, called the Indian Bureau. Some men have studied it for years, and they fail yet to comprehend it. I believe it is incomprehensible. I believe it was never intended to be understood. Some men ask what it does. It does little, and largely shows how not to do; and any effort to Christianize and elevate the Indians, so long as the present system remains, will be a failure. Now, when our philanthropists are endeavoring to lift them up, when our legislators are taking favorable action, this Indian Bureau, through its Assistant Commissioner, issues an order which says that the English language must be the only language taught or spoken in the mission-schools. The only language the Indian knows is forbidden. Suppose we were to try to learn a foreign language in that way? Suppose a Frenchman should come to teach us French, and neither of us spoke a word of English—how rapid would our progress be?

Thirty barrels of whiskey and one thousand scalping knives were issued not many years ago as civilizing agencies by this department. An instance given us last night by our friend from across the water, shows that the English circumlocution office is a greyhound compared with our Indian office. I remember a similar story that Bright Eyes told in Boston some years ago.

She was then a teacher in an Indian school. She had little children in her school that came some seven, eight, or ten miles barefooted, and winter was coming on, and her heart sympathized with these poor children who came so far to be taught. They happened to have a good agent, and he said, “Send an order for shoes for these children;” and she sent an order, with a request that they send the shoes, as they were really needed, on account of the frost and snow. The order went to Washington, went through the regular routine, and the next spring, after winter had passed, a case of shoes came for these little Indian children. When it was opened, she found it full of brogans, that had been made for the Southern negro in the rice-fields; and every shoe in that case was so large that there was not an adult Indian on the reservation that could wear it. That is how the Indian Bureau provides for the little Indian children when there is a case of special necessity. (Laughter.)

I could mention numerous illustrations showing that it is impossible to do any work that is required immediately, through this Indian Bureau. If people are starving, you cannot get food for them until they die.

Now, what is the remedy? I believe that Christianity is the only remedy—the only solution of the Indian question. Where they have had good Christian agents—and they have had some—where they have missionaries, the Indian has made wonderful progress. I think we can point to a few civilized and Christianized communities among the Indians that can find no parallel among the whites of the country. There is less crime, less immorality, more faithfulness to the requirements of the Christian religion and better observance of the Sabbath, more sincerity and earnestness in the performance of every Christian duty, than we can find in the same number of whites anywhere. At Metlakatla, as told by Mr. Duncan, the Indians now form a community of twelve hundred people, who have their churches, their stores, their town-halls. They live in houses, like other people; they appear like civilized people; they carry on all the vocations of civilized life; and all this has been done by the work of one man. There is no liquor-drinking or liquor-selling there. A majority of this twelve hundred people are earnest, faithful, consistent Christians. They get no help from the Government. They have built up and support their churches. Where can you see anything among the whites that equals it?

Then there is another reason why we should go to them with the gospel of Christ. It is a good thing to engage in works of charity and benevolence, but before we do this we should pay our debts. We owe so much to the Indians of this country, that I think before we go anywhere else we should do something to atone for the years of wrong, for the centuries of injury, that they have suffered at our hands. We have taken their homes from them. We have driven them from reservation to reservation. We have taken their crops when almost ready to reap. We have removed them into climates where they have died by hundreds. We {10} have not listened to their cries. We have on various trumped-up charges frequently slaughtered these people, and treated them in the most cruel manner. There is no question that I know of that so holds a man, once interested, and so grows upon him, as this Indian question.

I was first interested in this subject about ten years ago in the city of Boston, where Bright Eyes, Mr. Tibbles, and old Standing Bear came to tell of the wrongs of the Ponca. They were to hold a public meeting. Wendell Phillips was to speak. I went to that meeting more with a desire to hear Phillips than from any interest in the Indian. At that time all I knew about him was what I had learned from the current literature and romance, and my idea was very far from correct. At that meeting a state of affairs was shown to exist that seemed astounding and impossible. A committee was appointed to investigate these statements. They found that the half had not been told. That committee started measures that rectified these wrongs done to the Ponca. It commenced suit under the Fourteenth Amendment to see whether the Indians were citizens. The Judges of the Supreme Court decided that the Indian was not a person under the law. Then it tried other channels; to get legislation that would help the Indian. Senator Dawes soon became interested in this question, and from that time to the present he has been interested; and how much the Indian owes to the legislation which has been started and carried forward by Senator Dawes, but very few people know; but it must be followed by other legislation before the Indian is safe.

In Boston, Mrs. H.H. Jackson listened to the statement of Bright Eyes in regard to the wrongs suffered by her people. She came to her and said, “It is not possible that these things can be true.” Bright Eyes showed her the official documents; she convinced her that it was true. From that hour that woman’s whole soul was in the work. She afterwards wrote “A Century of Dishonor,” and “Ramona,” which has preached for the Indians, and will continue to do so. She gave her life finally for the Indians, the sickness that caused her death being brought on while engaged in work for them. This work gets hold of a man, if he has any blood in his veins and sympathy in his heart, and makes him feel, if he would stand without condemnation before God in the last day, that he must do something to redeem his country from dishonor, and deliver this people from worse than slavery.

Suppose we do not do it. Suppose we allow the Government to care for them. The Dawes Bill gives them citizenship, but what does the Indian get? One hundred and sixty acres of land—and he as naked as a babe on that land. He has had no training in education and systematic work of any kind; he has no tools—and if he had he would not know how to use them. He is in the midst of white enemies, who want his land. He has turned his back upon all the traditions of his ancestors. He has turned his face toward the whites, and his friends of the past are now his enemies. He is in the midst of his reservation. His homestead is his own, yet no American citizen has a right there. If you and I go to teach him, we can be ordered off by the agent; and if we do not go he can put us in prison.

If we do not give protection and Christianity to them, there is no hope for these Indians. Their fate will be the same as Indians on the reservation in the State of New York, who have been for one hundred years in the midst of our best civilization, but are still lazy and shiftless, their reservation being permeated through and through with unmentionable vices. They have no interest in the civilization of the present. They are living in the past, dreaming over the glory of their ancestors. They cannot be reached through civilization without religion. To an Indian there is nothing secular. Everything pertains to his religion. When he goes on a hunt, if he has no success, it is because the gods are opposed to him; and if he is successful, the gods were in it. When we go to an Indian and seek to change him, we must first change his gods. We must Christianize him if we would civilize him. There is where many of our experiments have been wrong.

Is it not laid upon us, who know something of this work, to do this? I believe if we will not do it, that in the last great day, as we stand with the Indian before the judgment bar of God, our position will be worse than that of the Indian. It seems to me that I can hear what the Judge would say to him at that time. The Indian comes before God, a pagan from a Christian land; he comes having improved none of the powers that God gave him. The Lord might say to him: “Did I not give you as good opportunities and as good capacities as the white man in whose midst you were? This Christian nation is the foremost for missions. It has sent to all the lands of the earth, and yet here you come a pagan, not knowing God, uncivilized, a barbarian.” Might not this Indian say: “I was in prison. I was surrounded by a reservation around whose outside lines were the soldiers of the United States, and I would be shot if I went off this reservation. I had no business with which to support myself; I had no chance for trade or commerce; I had to buy of and sell to one man. What opportunity had I? When an occasional missionary came to me with the gospel of Christ, I looked upon this man as one of my enemies—a man from the nation that had robbed me of my opportunities; and, my Father, why should I listen to him, especially when he spoke in a strange language? Am I to blame that I come here empty? Am I to blame that I must go away?” I believe the Lord would turn to us and say, “Inasmuch as ye have not done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have not done it unto Me.” And, speaking for myself alone, I would rather at that last day be in the place of that darkened Indian—-savage, barbarian, pagan, as he is—than in the place of the Christian that knew of his need and would not help him.

The Dakota Missionary Society

Its annual meeting was held in connection with the Dakota Conference, at the Santee Agency and in the dining-room of the Normal and Training School. There were two hundred Indian sisters present, besides the white lady teachers. They represented six mission stations and twice as many churches, each church having a wide awake woman’s missionary society. After a hymn, the President, Mrs. Tasinasawin, led in prayer and read the first three verses of the 21st chapter of Luke, following it with a  few words about that widow’s mite, saying that it was not the amount given, but the spirit in which it was given. That was the important thing. The Indian women are able to give but little, but if they give willingly, as to the Lord, He will bless it. The minutes were then read, and a new president and secretary elected. Two candidates were put in nomination for each office. As the roll was called each woman arose and voted viva voice. Mrs. Brascaw was elected president, and Miss Mary C. Collins, secretary. I was delighted to see the cheery way in which these sisters-in-red did their voting. There were several sallies of laughter.

Then the delegates made each a report of the work done in their societies and how much money had been raised. One woman from the Brown Earth Colony said: “We are poor, but we are interested in the work and have done what we could. Mr. Williamson taught me to read, and when I was young he taught many others to read. Now I am nearly blind but still I have done what I could.”

Another said: When the pastor’s wife was well she had helped them very much and had taught them many things, but now she was sick and could not attend many of their meetings, but they worked on and did the best they could.

Another said: “The gospel was sent to us when we were in darkness, and now though we are few and scattered far apart, yet we are anxious to send the same gospel to those who have not yet heard of it, and to help those around us to love our Savior and to love each other, and we give gladly of the little that we have. It is not in our own strength that we do this, but it is in God who helps us.”

It was found that the women had raised this year over five hundred dollars. This goes into the treasury of the Dakota Society to help to sustain four native preachers, who are also teachers, out among the wild Indians. One of the services of the Sabbath, the great day of the feast, was to hear from those their own missionaries to the heathen. At that meeting I counted five hundred and thirty Christian Indians, who also partook of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. To help their treasury the women had a Fair for the sale of articles of handiwork. The most noted one was a quilt which had been made and sent in by Caroline To-tee-doo-ta-win (Scarlet House), of Brown Earth, now in her 97th year. She was one of the first three converts who were organized into a church in 1834, at Lac-qui-parle, Minn. Her husband had two wives, and she was the second. Finding upon conversion that polygamy was contrary to the ordinance of God she at once proposed to be put away. She had been a member of the Order of the Sacred Dance, but this she renounced, throwing away her “medicine sack,” which by the medicine men was regarded as a high crime. This subjected her to divers persecutions, which she bore patiently. There were times when all were forbidden to attend worship at the mission. Then she took joyfully to the spoiling of her goods, the cutting up of her blanket, she received the Sabbath as God’s day, and more than once remained behind her company when they traveled on that day, making it up on Monday. She learned from missionaries to spin and knit, and weave garments for herself and husband. At forty-five years of age she learned to read her Dakota Bible, and of her children she sent one to Ohio to learn the ways of Christian white people. She has adhered to the faith for these fifty-four years. With her quilt she sent the message that it was the last one she could make. It was bought by Miss N. Hunter, a teacher at the Yankton Agency, for four dollars, to be presented to Rev. Dr. Arthur Mitchell of the Presbyterian Board. It was this Miss Hunter who interpreted for me the addresses of the woman’s meeting. Surely the Apostle Paul would say of these, “Help those women who labored with me in the Gospel.” He who was so fond of naming the Christians who were “the first fruits of Achaia,” would be very loving to this aged disciple, the first fruits of Dakota.

What An Indian Thinks Of It

The writer of this letter is Loafer Redhorse, a son-in-law of the Titon Chief, Swift Bear, whose band have colonized as homesteaders along the Niobrara River near the mouth of Keya Paha River. Their colony is one hundred and thirty miles from Rosebud Agency, to which they belong. Their settlement we call Burrell Station in honor of Dea. Burrell, of Oberlin, Ohio, who gave the money to build the school-house and home for the teacher. Mr. Francis Frazier, son of Pastor Ehnamani of Santee, has now been their teacher two years.

Loafer Redhorse is anything but a loafer. He is one of the most industrious men. He is one who would naturally be first in war, as he says, and now also is first in following the plow, and learning the ways of the white man. Among other things it is interesting to know what he thinks of prohibiting the use of the Dakota language.

MY FRIENDS: Let me speak now. I am sad because of one thing which I will now speak of. Since our school-house (the Burrell station school) was built, I, with my children, have attended with a glad heart just as if it were my own. And now I hear that it is likely to be closed, and I will speak about that. And this is why I have something to say. The scholars who go out from the Brules to go to school, come back without knowing anything, for the reason that they don’t teach them anything except to work. That is the reason they don’t know anything, I think.

And I will tell how it was with us under Indian customs since the time I had understanding. Then the Indian tribes were happy. Into whatever country was good they roamed just as they pleased. At that time, although there were many Indians on all sides, there was a great country in between full of buffalo. It seemed to be the buffalo’s country. And the Indian people were made happy because of the buffalo. The people would move their camps and pitch their tents again and the buffalo would come right in among their tents with a great noise. Then it was that the people had great joy.

And there was another thing that the people rejoiced in greatly. I will speak of that also. That was in war. When they went to war and came near the enemies’ dwellings and saw the enemy there they would choose out about ten of the bravest young men and dispatch them to kill some of the enemy. Then they would draw near to the houses, and soon though there might be five whose hearts were not able for it, the others would go on and kill a man at his house. And the great joy that I spoke of was thus: of the five who had killed an enemy but only four of them could take the glory, but their names would be praised throughout the whole Indian nation; they would be glorified and considered as chiefs. But most of all, he who first killed the enemy he would be the chief. And then when they had returned home even the women would rejoice greatly. They would dance night and day, all of them. And as I, myself, was chief, I considered this the very greatest joy. Such were our customs.

But now from the place I now occupy, I look back and remember these things. And though the Indian people had all of these customs, I know not one of them that made the people prosper or brought life to them. I have not seen that brought life to the people. And thus from where I am now, I am always looking to the future. On this account I am looking forward. The Indians have been told the words of the Grandfather, (the President). And they tell us that by these words the people will prosper.

“Plant; by that you shall live,” the Grandfather told them. And now I know a little that the Grandfather spoke the truth. The Grandfather gives me food for six days, but even though I eat a very little each day, in three days I have eaten it all up. But now I have raised corn and though I abide here eating nothing else, by it I live. And also to go from my place to where the Grandfather gives me rations takes one week to go and the same to come back and I stay over a few days to rest when there, and so it altogether covers over three weeks or more. Therefore, though I have settled here and desire to busy myself in all the white man’s ways that I am able, I have not yet become independent. And therefore, I earnestly wish, if it were possible, that the Grandfather would enable us to receive a year’s rations at a time, and then we would make speedy progress in the white man’s way.

And because of this also, the children do not advance much in their learning. For when we go after the food they also go along. If they should stay behind, food is scarce, therefore they go along.

And now I hear it said that schooling in the Dakota language is to be altogether stopped, and on this account I am sad. For in the school-house here they learn well and also they pray. It is because they do these things in the Dakota language that we have been brought to understand them and to love them, and gladly live in accordance with them. Then also if it was all done (the teaching and praying) by a white man we would understand nothing about it, and so I do not think it would be well.

And now this is the last thing I want to say. The Grandfather has for his own the Indians all over the land, and he always helps them according to what may be for their welfare. Now he is measuring off the land for them, but I hear it said that he measures it very, very small, and I am sad about that. If only he would have mercy and measure it off for them largely, that is what I think. A good while ago the Grandfather made a treaty with the Indians and promised to give them three hundred and twenty acres, and according to that I have chosen my homestead and that suits me. Therefore I prize the Grandfather’s word and measure myself by it. And thus I possess myself and my children.

Although we are not many people here, yet I always command them to give heed to the words of the Grandfather. And I bear witness to their constant attendance at the house (the school and church) that stands here. Although I am wholly an Indian, yet these are my judgments and so I tell them. And I write them in order that some may think about the Indians. My friends, I wish you to hear these words and so I write them. I shake hands with a good heart.


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