Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/498

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

482

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

absolute, in the main they wielded it with moderation if not always with discretion; and, if they placed the spiritual welfare of their children above their earthly good, it was due to the times and their calling. It may be added that the same error is too often to be discerned in missionary systems the world over. In order to Christianize, the missionary should first educate.

The best proof of the good character and kindness of the fathers is to be found in the fact that many of the neophytes cherished an unbounded affection for them, as is attested by many contemporaries. Nevertheless, from first to last of mission rule, discontent was rife among the converts, and had the mission Indian possessed but a spark of the courage which characterizes our Eastern tribes, mission sway would have been short-lived. Imagine a body of Iroquois driven to church by the whip, or forced to kneel by being punched with goads! The evidences of discontent appear in the threatened uprising at all the missions and the actual revolts at several, by the hostile attitude of all the gentile tribes who were brought into direct or indirect relation with the missions; and, above all, by the numerous yearly desertions at every establishment. The causes of trouble are not far to seek. In the first place it is evident that, call it by what name you will, the neophytes were subjected to a state of slavery—a slavery, too, which galled, however mild the type, but from which they found it exceedingly difficult to escape; for, in addition to the aid of the soldiers in hunting renegades, the priests could usually count upon the assistance of the gentile tribes to return fugitives. The wild Indians hated the neophytes, and the rule among them was—once a neophyte always a neophyte. How strongly linked was the chain which bound the neophyte appears in the provision that, even when liberty was given him after ten years' service, a portion of his earnings was still claimed by the Church. The crops the neophytes were compelled to sow were sown mainly for the profit of others, the harvests they reaped were not their own. Thus the usual incentives of toil were absent. Though professedly regarded as a child by the fathers, the Indian was virtually a slave.

The sudden breaking up of all tribal ties and the substitution of arbitrary authority for the independence of the liberty-loving Indian, together with the complete change of life, must also have been irksome and productive of unhappiness.

Possibly, however, the most potent of all causes for discontent is to be ascribed to the fearful mortality which from the very first raged among the mission folds. Its sources are somewhat obscure, although it is safe to attribute it largely to what may be termed unnatural conditions of life. It is stated, and it may be readily believed, that when visited by even trifling disorders the