Wyandotte woman describes tensions over slavery, 1849

Wyandotte woman describes tensions over slavery, 1849

In 1843, the Wyandotte nation was forcefully removed from their homeland in Ohio and brought to the Kansas Territory. They found themselves on a borderland between Indian Country and Missouri’s slave society, and when the national Methodist church split, debates over slavery threatened the Christianity of the Wyandotte. This letter depicts the complex relationship between recently removed Native peoples, Christianity, and slavery.

Wyandotte Nation Jan. 4th, 1849

Dear Sir,

I will make no other apology for addressing you that our friendship and the position you occupy in community.

It is well known to all, that the conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the slave holding state have seceded from the present church and have formed themselves into “a distinct ecclesiastical organization under the name the “Methodist Episcopal Church South.” A majority of the members of the Wyandotte Society have refused to go with the secession and have sought and obtained a missionary from the Methodist Episcopal Church.

An effort is now being made by slave-holding missionaries and Government Agents to induce the Indian Department to expel our missionary from among us, and thus deprive us our religious rights.

We reside West of the State of Missouri where the compromise act forever excludes Slavery and we think that a slave-holding ministry ought not to be forced upon us, to the rather exclusion of the one of our choice. Dr. A. Stile the Presiding Elder of this District resides in the State of Missouri. The Government Agent threaten strongly that they will prohibit him from coming among us any more to hold our quarterly meeting. We think it a hard case that if after compelling us in a manner to leave our sweet Ohio the government should not allow us to seek our own church relations.

The Missionaries of the Church South bring their Slaves right in among us and engage in the traffic before our eyes. There are now about twenty negro slaves in the Shawnee and Wyandotte Territory’s. It has a very bad affect upon the real Indian, it confirms him in his preconceived notion that labor is dishonorable.

Although slavery is the main objection we have to the new church yet we distinctly disclaim being abolitionists, but residing on free soil we desire to have nothing to do with and consider the matter here as settled.

Now as a personal friend and an acquaintance I have turned to you for assistance. Can you not create interest sufficient for us in Washington to induce the Indian Department to award to us our national inalienable religious rights.

Lucy B. Armstrong

Lucy B. Armstrong, January 4, 1849. Lucy B. Armstrong Papers, Indian History Coll. #590, Box 7 Folder: Wyandotte. Kansas Historical Society. 

Available through the Kansas Historical Society