Capture These Indians for the Lord
Indians, Methodists, and Oklahomans, 1844-1939
In 1844, on the heels of the final wave of the forced removal of thousands of Indians from the southern United States to what is now Oklahoma, the Southern Methodist Church created a separate Conference to oversee its missionary efforts among the Native communities of Indian Territory. Initially, the Church conducted missions as part of the era's push toward assimilation. But what the primarily white missionaries quickly encountered was a population who exerted more autonomy than they expected and who used Christianity to protect their culture, both of which frustrated those eager to bring Indian Territory into what they felt was mainstream American society.
In Capture These Indians for the Lord, Tash Smith traces the trajectory of the Southern Methodist Church in Oklahoma when it was at the frontlines of the relentless push of western expansion. Although many Native people accepted the missionaries' religious practices, Smith shows how individuals found ways to reconcile the Methodist force with their traditional cultural practices. When the white population of Indian Territory increased and Native sovereignty came under siege during the allotment era of the 1890s, white communities marginalized Indians within the Church and exploited elements of mission work for their own benefit.
Later, with white indifference toward Indian missions peaking in the early twentieth century, Smith explains that as the remnants of the Methodist power weakened, Indian membership regained control and used the Church to regenerate their culture. Throughout, Smith explores the complex relationships between white and Indian community members and how these phenomena shaped Methodist churches in the twentieth century.
An important book. Critical studies of Methodist missionary efforts among Native Americans are in short supply—and mostly outdated in light of significant research on Christianity and American Indians.
Tash Smith provides a fresh and rich window into Southern Methodism's Indian missions as Oklahoma came to statehood at the turn of the twentieth century. A finely researched and nicely crafted book.
This well-researched, engaging story enriches histories of missionary work among Indian peoples and helps explain the tension between the creation of peoples whose religious lives were, according to some, in need of the power of 'civilization' and 'uplift' that could be found in Christianity.
Smith provides a carefully researched and engaging history of the Indian Mission Conference (IMC) in Indian Territory and Oklahoma.
List of Illustrations
1. The Mission Begins: Origins of the Indian Mission Conference, 1844-1865
2. Rebuilding the Mission: Efforts among the Five Tribes, 1866-1889
3. Expanding the Mission: The Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Agency after 1887
4. The Mission Changes: From the Land Run to Statehood, 1889- 1907
5. Marginalizing the Mission: Indian Work after Statehood, 1907-1918
6. The Mission Reborn: The New Indian Mission, 1918-1940
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