Saturday, April 04, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  April 5

James T. P. Irvine Reports on Missions to Native Americans    1855

As many readers of this column already know one of the official special Sundays designated by General Conference is Native American Ministries Sunday.    In 2015 the celebration will be on April 19.  For more information see

Regular readers of this column will also note the absence of Native American subject matter in the 9 + years of weekly columns.  The omission is not from lack of interest in Native American history.  Instead it reflects the sad history of genocide and expulsion that marks the history of Native Americans in Texas.  In addition to the common themes of expropriation of Native American lands in the rest of the United States, Texas had two additional circumstances which resulted in fewer Native Americans in Texas.  The first was the absence of federal lands in Texas due to the terms of the treaty of annexation.  Texas retained title to “unoccupied” land so it would be able to pay off the debt incurred by the Republic of Texas.  The absence of federal lands militated against the establishment of reservations.  The other factor was the proximity of Oklahoma (Indian Territory), Mexico, and New Mexico—all of which offered better prospects for Native Americans than did Texas.  

In all my searches in pre-1860 Texas Methodist documents, I have found only one mention of an organized mission effort to Texas Native Americans.  That was the report of James T. P. Irvine, Secretary of the Missionary Society of the East Texas Conference for 1855.  Irvine reports a failure and discontinuance of that mission.  Here is the report.

Indian mission was established at our last annual Conference for the benefit of the remnant of what was once two strong tribes of Indians on the Trinity River.  W. P. Sansom labored among then almost half the year, but could accomplish but little or no good, owing to their wandering habits and general indifferences to their wretched moral conditions, and was directed by the Presiding Elder to discontinue his labors on the mission.  While these unfortunate people demand our deepest sympathies, yet under all the circumstances as reported by the missionary, we can not advise its continuance on our mission list.


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