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In regard to the present critical state of the Cherokees one of the Missionaries remarks,
“ Critical state of the Cherokees.—The civil and religious institutions, which now exist among this people have been a work of much time, patience, and prudence. Some men in the nation seem to have been raised up for the very purpose of bring. ing the Cherokees to the state which they are now in. These men have been for years holding the reins with a firın but careful hand until they have brought the nation up a dangerous precipice and fixed it on a firm civil basis, where, if let alone, it will doubtless prosper ; but if the nation is interfered with, it will be easy to plunge it into the abyss where it was thirty years ago ; to break up all the religious institutions, to scatter the churches, and to cause the people, freed from civil and religious restraints, to abandon themselves to intoxication, lewdness, and almost every other vice, by which they will be wasted away until they become utterly extinct. I think now is the time when every Christian, every philanthropist, and every patriot in the United States ought to be exerting themselves to save a persecuted and defenceless people from ruin.”
The missions among the Choctaws were commenced in 1818. There are now 8 missionary stations. Within two years there has been a very remarkable attention to religion in this tribe. We make the following extracts from the general view of the operations of the Board in 1829.
“ Progress of Religion.—More than a year ago a prevailing attention became apparent in the northeast district of the Choctaw nation ; which, in the course of the last year, spread into all parts of the nation, the excitement becoming more strong, and continued without abatement, till the date of the latest intelligence, The people had before manifested the utmost indifference to the preaching of the Gospel, and seldom could 15 or 20 be collected at a meeting; and those would hear without appearing to be interested or to understand. Now 400 or 500 often assemble, and appear to understand the Gospel, to be convinced of sin, and intent on securing their salvation.
“ Education.-Schools are taught at each of the eight stations, and at various other villages. The following is a summary view of them Sept. 1. The desire to learn to read and sing in their own language is a most universal.
Native pupils in the English schools,
White children in all the schools,
Total, 319 Of the pupils studying English, 67 read wellin any book-64 others in the NewTestament—and 20 in easy reading lessons-108 wrote-37 composed in English -42 were in arithmetick—and 59 in geography. In the Sabbath school nearly 20,000 verses of Scripture have been recited, besides hymns and answers in catechisms.
“Many Choctaw schools in the southern part of the nation are not included in the statement given above. A native, formerly a member of the school of Emmaus, taught four in rotation, embracing 90 scholars. Near Goshen, 20 captains have requested that each might have a Choctaw school in his neighborhood.
" Preparation of Books—Three books in the Choctaw language were published two yeras ago-one an introductory spelling-houk, of 15 pages, another spellingbook of 160 pages, and the third a spelling-book of 144 pages, consisting of Scripture extracts and other useful matter ; designed principalıy for the adult Choctawe.
Since the attention to religion commenced, the desire to learn to read has be. come very strong and general. A book of 59 hymns is printed in an edition of 2,000, which it is expected will be demanded immediately. 'The first of the former books is to be reprinted in an edition of 3,500 or 4000 copies.
In a report compiled by Mr. Kingsbury, (from the reports received from the several stations,) and forwarded to the War department, he remarks in regard to the state of the mission during the past year,
thus: “We have also been permitted to witness a greater improvement in the schools and among the people, ihan in any former year. What was anticipated in the last report, is now in a great measure realized. The Gospel has had a commanding influence in different parts or the nation. By means of this influence, and so far as it extends, a foundation has been laid for an entire change in the feelings and habits of a considerable number of Choctaws. They have nito nly laid aside their vices, but their amusements. Instead of assembling for ball-plays and dances, as formerly, they now assemble for prayer and praise, and to converse on subjects which tend to their moral and religious improvement. Parental influence is now exerted, to a considerable extent, to encourage and sustain those principles and habits which are inculcated on the children while at school. A powerful impulse has been given to industry. Hundreds of Choctaws can now be hired to do many kinds of farming work on reasonable terms. A system of means is now operating, for the civil, moral, and intellectual improvement of the Choctaws; which, if not interrupted, cannot fail, with the blessing of God, to produce important and happy results. But should the present order of things be broken up, there is reason to apprehend that all the ground that has been gained would be lost, and that the nation would sink to rise no more. I regret the necessity I am under of differing from the government in any of their views relative to the Indians. But candor and a regard to what I apprehend to be the best interests, both of the red and white miin, constrain me to say, that, should the Choctaws be brought into such circunstances, as to feel themseives compelled, contrary to the wishes of the best part of the nation, to leave the country they now inhabit, I cannot but anticipate consequences highly disastrous to themselves, and eventually injurious to our own country. And my prayer is, that God in his holy and wise providence, would avert such a calamity.'
Mr. Wright, another of the missionaries remarks,
“ Their former amusements are abandoned, the Sabbath is observed, many at tend to the duty of family prayer, and an almost universal desire to hear the Gospel prevails. There is also a general desire awakened among the people to read their own language ; the Choctaw books are sought for, with an eagerness that is truly wonderful. Such has been the call for books not only here, but in the other discricts that the whole of the edition of the little Choctaw spelling book is entirely expended, and another edition is called for immediately. It is thought that the edition now to be printed, should consist of 3,500 or 4,000.”
The following are extracts from a letter of Mr. Kingsbury in Jan. 1829,
“ To form a correct estimate of what the Gospel, with its meliorating and civilizing attendants, has accomplished for the Indians, we must compare the presént state of those who have in some degree been brought under its influence with their former condition. Judging by this standard, it may be fairly doubted whether the past eight years have witnessed, in any portion of the civilizeil world, a greater improvement than has been realized in the civil, moral, and religious state of the Choctaws.”
Advance in the Arts of Civilization. " Other evidences of improvement we have in the increase of industry, and a consequent advance in dress, furniture, and all the comforts and conveniences of civilized life.
“ It has been remarked by many, that the fields of the Indians have never been kept in so good order, and managed with so much industry, as the past year. At councils and other large meetings, the Indians, especially in the northern and western districts, appear comfortably and decently and some of them richly clad. A great desire is manifested to obtain furniture for their houses, and some are already supplied in a manner not inferior to that of new settlers in our own country.
“ The result of a census taken last year in the northeast district was as follows, viz. population, 5,627 ; neat cattle, 11,661 ; horses, 3,974 , oxen, 112 ; hogs, 22,047 ; sheep, 136 ; spinning wheels, 530 ; looms, 124 ; ploughs, 360 ; waggons, 32 ; blacksmith's shops, 7; cooper's shops, 2 ; carpenter's shops, 2; white men with Choctaw families, 22 ; schools, 5; scholars in a course of instruction, about 1:0. In one clan, with a population of 313, who a year ago were almost entirely destitute of property, grossly intemperate, and roaming from place to place, there are now 188 horses, 511 cattle, 853 hogs, 7 looms, 68 spinning wheels, 35 ploughs, 6 oxen, school, 20 or 25 scholars.
“ The northeast district last year appropriated $1,500 of their annuity for the establishment and support of blacksmith's shops. The present year they have appropriated their whole annuity to similar objects.
“ As an evidence of industry and public spirit, I would mention, that in one neighborhood the natives have built a shop, chopped wood for a large coal-pit, and carried it on their -backs to the place of sitting ; have built a house for their blacksmith, and cleared for him a field of 12 acres, all with their own hands ; they have purchased with their annuity a set of tools and iron and steel to the amount of two hundred dollars, and have engaged to pay their smith $300 more annually, for three years. Similar provision is making for smith's shops in other places.
The following is from a letter of Mr. Byington, in August 1829. “ A great change has taken place within a few years, in the moral condition of the natives. They are quite temperate compared with their previous habits, or with those of white men. Probably there are nut 20,000 white men to be found residing together in any part of the United States, who have not used twice the quantity of ardent spirits which the Choctaws have used during the year past. Several very good laws have been passed in Council to regulate property and the conduct of individuals. The people attach more importance to a good government, to schools, to the Gospel, to industry and its fruits, than they have done. In this part of the nation we do indeed feel that we live in the enjoyments of Christianity and civilization. Often have the men whom we employ, after making a visit into the white settlements, come home to us, bearing abundant testimony in favor of a residence here, compared with one in the settle.'
It would be easy to multiply extracts containing the most minute and interesting information in regard to the moral improvement in this tribe, the prosperous state of their schools, their abandonment of the wicked practices and rites of Indian superstition, and their increasing acquaintance with the arts of civilized life ; but our limits will not permit us to be more particular.
The mission among these Indians was commenced in 1821 by the Missionary Society of the synod of South Carolina and Georgia; and was transferred to the American Board in 1827. There are now four
missionary stations. The schools contain about one hundred members. During the two past years there has been a prevailing attention to religious instruction. In October 1828, one of the missionaries writes,
“ The nation has recently formed some wholesome laws, and to our astonishment they are all strictly enforced. Whiskey is banished from the country. A thief is punished with thirty-nine lashes, without regard to color, age or sex, and is compelled to return the stolen property or an equivalent. One hundred men (twenty-five out of each districi) are to carry the laws into execution, and are paid by the nation.
“ These things are encouraging, and I see nothing in the way, if these people are unmolested, of their becoming civilized, enlightened, and happy.
“ The work of reformation is alreuly commenced ; and if they could but enjoy tranquillity of mind, I have no doubt but that it would rapidly advance."
From the reports of missionaries in July 1828, it appears that a remarkable change had taken place among the Chickasaws with respect to temperance. "I am informed,” says Mr. Holmes, " that it is very common for the full Indians to purchase coffee, sugar, and flour, in the stores on the borders of the nation, but no whiskey. This last article appears by common consent to have been banished froin the nation. We have not seen an intoxicated native during the past year.” There was also at this period an uncommonly general attention to religion. Of late the agitation produced by the fears of a removal seems to have drawn their minds from this subject, and disheartened the chiefs in their exertions to enforce the salutary laws which had been enacted. In the latest view of the operation of the Board it is remarked as follows.
“The condition of the Chickasaws is obviously improving. The chiefs are moro decided in favor of the schools and the preaching of the Gospel. Laws enacted against the introduction of whiskey were very strictly enforced, and a great reformation occasioned for a while ; but of late, some change of rulers, with anxiety respecting removal, have made the laws to be less regarded.”
Our readers will be interested in the perusal of the following extracts from the answers of the Chickasaws at three Jifferent intervals in 1826, to the propositions made by the treaty commissioners on the part of the United States. We quote from the official account of their proceedings, published by Congress.
“We have to look to our Father to still extend his strong arm of protection to us, until we are more enlightened and advanced in civilization. We know that this is a very important subject before the nation. We, the commissioners, on the part of the nation, have to act agreeably to the voice of the People. We are desirous of promoting our rising generation into a state of respectability. We cannot act contrary to the will of the nation. They are determined on staying in their native country; under these circumstances we can only say to our brothers, the Commissioners, that they are still opposed to selling any more of their lands, consequently we can do no more.
“You say that the country we have is greatly too large for us ; we have always taken the talks of our father, the President, heretofore, and reduced our lands to yery small bounds ; not more than what will support us comfortably : We, as well as our white brothers, have a rising generation to provide for. We have
abandoned the idea of hunting for a support, finding the game will not do for a support. Our father, the President, introduced Missionaries to come amongst us, to advance us to a state of civilization ; we accepted them, and are making all the progress that people can; we have also been providing means for the support of missionaries to enable us to go on with the education of our children, and lo have them enlightened. Industry is spreading amongst us ; population is increasing ; we hope soon to arrive at that state of improvement that is so much desired by our father, the President ; we consider ourselves as the tree of the forest, but not of the useless kind. We are a fruitful tree, and have provided means, by the assistance of our father the President, to cultivate and improve it, in order that we may bring forth good fruit. You say it is right that we should be attached to the land of our forefathers, but “how seldom do we see our white brothers leave their bones in the land of their forefathers ?” We can only account for that in this way ; that our white brothers appear always to be desirous of changing their condition. It is not the case with your red children ; they have no desire for changing an old friend for a new one ; we are satisfied to remain here for the support of our children. We know that the United States have always protected us, and that the strong arm of your Government has extended its protection West of the Mississippi, for the peace and happiness of our red brethren ; we have also every reason to expect that the Government of the United States feel themselves bound, by every tie of gratitude, to defend and protect their brothers, the Chickasaws, us we have never shed the blood of any of our white brothers. Therefore, we feel ourselves freed from any danger of our red enemies where we are, and wish not to incur
any expense to our father, the President.."
“ We find it is the wish of our father to exchange lands with us, lying on the West side of the Mississippi river, which we are very sorry to hear, as we never had a thought of exchanging our land for any other, as we think that we would not find a country that would suit us as well as this we now occupy; it being the land of our forefathers, if we should exchange our lands for any other, fearing the consequences may be similar to transplanting an old tree, which would wither and die away, and we are fearful we would come to the same ; we want you, our brethren, to take our talk ; we have no lands to exchange for any other; we wish our father to extend his protection to us here as he proposes to do on the West of the Mississippi, as we apprehend we would, in a few years, experience the same difficulties in any other section of the country that might be suitable to us West of the Mississippi.”
“We further consider that there is a number of nations West of the Mississippi, that have been enemies to us, as well as to our white brothers. It would be as much impossible for to unite us with them as it would to unite oil and water, and we have every reason to believe that those tribes that have left their country are not well satisfied ; and, if that should be the case, we are fearful that those tribes will take satisfaction of us for injuries done by us, as well as our white brothers ; we are a small tribe, and unable to defend our rights in any country.”
In regard to the general improvement among the Indians, and the injustice of the course pursued in regard to them, the following is a remarkable testimony from Hon. James Barbour, extracted froin his letter in 1826 to the Chairman of the committee on Indian affairs.
“ Missionaries are sent among them to enlighten their minds, by imbuing them with religious impressions. Schools have been established by the aid of private as well as public donations, for the instruction of their youths. They have been persuaded to abandon the chase-to locate themselves, and become cultivators of the soil -implements of husbandry, and domestic animals, have been presented them, and all these things have been done, accompanied with professions of a disinterested solicitude for their happiness. Yielding to these temptations, some of them have reclaimed the forest, planted their orchards, and erected houses,