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Samuel Kirkland to James Bowdoin

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Kirkland 85c

Samuel Kirkland Papers, Hamilton College Library, Archives Transcription by
Tony Wonderley, Historian, Oneida Indian Nation (Feb. 1997) Samuel Kirkland
to James Bowdoin
Boston March 10, 1784 Sir-- At the last meeting of the Honorable Board of
Commissioners of the Scotch Society it was proposed that I should furnish
them with a more particular account of the present state of the Indians to
whom I have officiated as a Missionary, and the prospects that open for
spreading the knowledge of Christianity among the various tribes of the six
Confederate Nations and others. Agreeable to your request shall make the
following observations. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras have been pretty
generally united during the late troublesome times, except one village
which resided on the Susquehannah. Their whole number consists of about 800
souls, the greater part of them purpose to collect and settle in the
Vicinity of Oneida the present year. A considerable part of the Onondaga
and Cayuga Tribes consisting of about 360 souls have proposed to the
Oneidas settling in their territory and neighborhood which the Oneidas most
cheerfully granted. The Senecas - who are more numerous than all the other
five Tribes - expect to form one general settlement in the western part of
their Country about 130 Miles west of the Oneidas. In a late conference
with a number of the Senecas they appear more friendly towards Christianity
than ever I knew them. The Oneidas upon becoming acquainted with the
Situation, Manners and Religion of the Stockbridge Indians have lately
invited them to Remove and Settle in their Country, which has been accepted
and begun to take effect. Most of their young men are going this spring to
plant and make other necessary provision for the women and children, many
of whom expect in the course of the present year to move to their new
settlement. The Mohigan and Narraganset Tribes have also a large tract of
Land given them by the Oneidas; about

about fifty of the former have already begun the settlement of said grant
and made considerable improvements. About one hundred more are in the move,
and nothing but the scarcity of provision in that quarter they tell me will
prevent their going and making some preparations the ensuing Year. The
Oneidas expect in the course of two years to have more than 1000 Indians in
their vicinity, who will be disposed to attend the word of God and among
those, some hearty lovers of the religion of Jesus, to use their own
expression. About 80 of the Delaware tribe who could not live peaceably on
the Ohio have lately petitioned the Oneidas for a settlement in their
Country and Neighborhood where they might have the privilege of religious
instructions, their petition was immediately granted. The motives which
have induced the Oneidas to these Measures and to press my return to them
so soon as they shall be comfortably resettled in their own Country are as
follows, and nearly in their own words when addressed to me last fall, and
repeated the winter past. "We have been for many Years attending to the
vast difference betwixt white people and Indians. We have labored much to
investigate the cause. We can no longer be idle spectators for the one are
in prosperous Circumstances and have many privileges, the other are
indigent and wretched. The one appear to be favorites of Heaven and
honorable in the sight of men, the other to be despised and rejected by
both. We Indians therefore must alter our conduct. We must give up our
pagan customs. we must unite all our wisdom and strength to cultivate the
manners and civilization of the white people who are thus distinguished by
the favour and protection of the great Spirit above, and embrace the
religion of the divine Jesus or we Indians shall before many years be not
only despised by the nations of the Earth, but utterly rejected by the Lord
Jesus the Saviour of the white people "We entreat our Father to make one
trial more for Christianizing Indians--at least for one if not for two
years and if there be no encouragement after this that we shall be built up
as a people and embrace the religion of Jesus he may leave us and we shall
expect nothing but ruin." The

The foregoing observations will enable the Honorable Board to form some
judgment of the prospects which now open for attempts to spread the
knowledge of Christianity among the five Nations and some other Indian
Tribes. But time, with the divine blessing, on further exertions must
determine what success may be produced from the most encouraging
appearances. That you may yet see some happy fruits of your charity and
ardent wishes for the conversion of the Heathen is the Constant prayer of
Sir Your obedient and very Humble Servant Samuel Kirkland
Honorable James Bowdoin Esquire

State of Indians etc. made to Commissioners March 10th 1784 by Samuel