Project Canterbury

Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate
Being Reminiscences and Recollections
of the Right Reverend
Henry Benjamin Whipple, D.D., LL.D.
Bishop of Minnesota

New York: The Macmillan Company, 1899.

Chapter XXIV

IN the year 1868 Congress, without my knowledge, appropriated forty-five thousand dollars for the Sisseton and Wahpeton Indians at Fort Wadsworth and Devil's Lake, the condition being that the money should be expended by myself. I promptly declined the trust. Congress adjourned without placing it in other hands. The Secretary of the Interior informed me that unless I accepted it the money would remain in the treasury and the Indians would suffer and perhaps die from starvation.

I conferred with Bishop Whittingham, who said, "It is your Master's cross and you must bow your shoulders to bear it."

My trusted friend Dr. Jared W. Daniels offered to aid me in its administration. The merchants H. B. Claflin of New York and Lemuel Coffin of Philadelphia purchased goods for me at cost, and I secured supplies at the lowest prices. Messrs. Burbank, Wilder, and Merriam of St. Paul transported my goods at twenty cents per hundred less than the Government paid them. We took with us a large supply of axes.

At the first council Simon Anagmani rose and said, turning to me:--

"The sky has been iron above our heads, and the ground iron beneath our feet. We look in your face and we see we are saved." He sat down overcome by tears.

We showed the Indians our goods and said to them:--

"You have paid to traders fourteen dollars for blankets, and here are better ones which will cost you four dollars and a half. We have everything that you need. We shall feed and clothe the aged and sick, but every able-bodied man must work. A white man can cut a cord and a half of wood in a day; you can cut half a cord. A white man can split one hundred and fifty rails in a day; you can split fifty. A white man can cut twenty logs for a house in a day; you can cut eight.

"On Saturday there will be a man at every tipi, and if you have worked according to our direction, you will be paid in goods and provisions. If you are idle, you must starve."

At first some of the men refused to work, and others took a day or two to decide the question, but within a week all were working like beavers.

One day two wild Indians came to Dr. Daniels, and said:--

"We are hungry."

The doctor replied, "If you will chop wood for one hour, I will give you a good dinner, but I cannot feed any one who refuses to work."

After talking the matter over for half an hour they decided to cut the wood. When they had finished their dinner the doctor said:--

"After you had chopped that wood the dinner was yours, not mine. We have come here to make men of you, not beggars."

He then showed them a piece of land, telling them that if they would build a house upon it, he would pay them for the work, and the land should be theirs. These men with many others became good farmers.

The indisposition to work on the part of the wild man does not spring from laziness. It is a severe experience for the Indian to give up his wild life. The muscles of his chest and arms are not well developed, while those of his legs are like steel. With the wife, used to the manual work about the wigwam or tipi, it is the reverse. The man has always been on the chase; he has lived in the open air and in an open wigwam. His first house consists of one or two badly ventilated rooms; he is ambitious and works hard. He has been a meat eater. His food at first is insufficient; he is poorly dressed and knows nothing of the laws of hygiene, and so takes cold easily, often dying of consumption. After he has crossed the Rubicon, and has home comforts, his naturally strong constitution keeps him healthy. Formerly, when a contagious disease appeared it decimated a tribe; but under the care of physicians this danger is avoided, and some of the tribes have increased in numbers.

Hence, it would be as sensible to expect the wild man to take kindly to manual labor as it would be to expect the man of the city, suddenly thrust into a wilderness, to supply himself with food and clothing by skilful use of bow and arrow and knife; although, in the latter case, the white man, in spite of the years of civilization behind him, usually possesses enough of the wild nature of his own barbaric forebears to lend fascination to forest life.

The next year we bought cattle and wagons, with which we paid the Indians who were employed to do the freighting. Honest work for wages is the solution of the Indian question. Almshouses make paupers, and Indian almshouses make savage paupers.

The Indians are not so unlike their white brothers that there is not a wide difference among them as to energy, thrift, and industry. Many years ago I was able to lead an Indian, who had the reputation of being an inveterate gambler, to the Saviour, naming him when baptized after a dear friend. A short time ago I paid a visit to his "comfortable home, and found him a well-to-do farmer, with horses and cattle and an overflowing granary. His son's fine crop had been destroyed by hail, but it had been insured for several hundred dollars.

It is almost impossible to retain good mechanics and artisans at remote agencies for the meagre salaries which the Government offers. Many of these employees I remember with gratitude for their kind interest in the work.

One secret of the success of the early English missions was that the employees of the Hudson Bay Company were men of excellent character. The missionaries were able to hold them up as examples to the converts. The people on the frontier invariably take the side of their Indian neighbors against other tribes. The people north of St. Cloud looked upon the Sioux as incarnate devils, and the people in the south had the same opinion of the Ojibways. No one seemed to think that to leave the races without government, without the protection of law, and to permit them to wage vendetta with each other, was sure to bring bloodshed.

"Lex talionis" is the law of barbaric life. A man is killed,--another must die in his place. This goes on year after year, and is the first cause of war between Indian tribes. A willingness to forgive injuries is the first sign of the power of the religion of Jesus Christ.

I said to my diocesan council, the year following the appropriation made for the Indians of Fort Wadsworth and Devil's Lake:--

"Brethren, I am aware that my course in this Indian question has alienated friends as dear as my life. My motives, even, have been assailed. It has been hard to meet this opposition and hatred. I have tried to say with St. Paul, ' It is a small matter that I am judged by you, or by man's judgment. There is One that judgeth me--the Lord.' When I first looked into the faces of these perishing heathen, my heart was touched with pity, and I have been strangely led by the Providence of God. The world and the Church have forced me to be the friend of this poor race, which has cost me more anxiety and has brought me more trials than all my other work. But I do not regret it. I was repaid for all when I parted with Taopi on his death-bed. It will not be in my day, but my children's children may thank God that He gave me grace to be the friend of this helpless race. In that faith I can work and bide my time, and die."

Hearing of the attacks which had been made upon me for accepting the secular appointment of the charge of the Dakota Indians, the late Secretary of the Interior wrote me the following letter:--

QUINCY, ILLINOIS, May 29th, 1869.

My dear Bishop: I was amazed to learn that you were blamed for your connection with the appropriation for the Wahpeton and Sisseton bands of Sioux Indians. The appropriation was placed at your control, and you designated to expend it, without the least suspicion on your part that such a thing was contemplated. When you learned what had been done, you promptly and decidedly declined the trust, urging that your ecclesiastical duties demanded the whole of your time; that you could not give that personal attention to the expenditure of the fund which was necessary, and that you did not in any event want the responsibility of disbursing public money; and it was only at my urgent solicitation, and my assurance that if you declined to act the money must remain in the treasury unexpended, and the Indians be left to suffer, that you finally consented to accept the responsible trust which Congress, without your knowledge or consent, had devolved upon you. I was anxious to have the benefit of your services, and to meet and overcome, if I could, the objection based on the want of time. I told you that you would be at liberty to employ any competent and trustworthy person to perform the actual labor, under your personal direction and supervision, and that you would not be required to visit the Indians and make the disbursements in person. After hearing and considering all the reasons and arguments which I presented, you reluctantly consented to accept the trust, which I am sure you would not have done, could the fund have been made available for the relief of the starving Indians, without your cooperation. You then mentioned to me a gentleman in whose integrity and capacity you had confidence (Dr. J. W. Daniels), as a suitable person to aid you in the discharge of the duties you had assumed. I replied that you were much better qualified to make a selection than I, and to exercise your own discretion and choose your own assistant. The manner in which you acquitted yourself of the trust met my entire approbation and I have felt under great obligations to you for sacrificing, as I am sure you did, your personal interest and wishes for the benefit of the Indians. During my entire administration of the Department of the Interior, I was indebted to you for valuable counsel and assistance in the management of Indian affairs. Your only reward has been the consciousness of doing good. I have no knowledge of any pecuniary compensation having been made, though you well deserve it. Respectfully and truly, Your friend,


THE RIGHT REVEREND H. B. WHIPPLE, Bishop of Minnesota.

While Mr. Browning was Secretary of the Interior, he tried most faithfully to redress the wrongs of the Indians. Other secretaries who have received much censure, I believe tried to do their duty. I know that Secretaries Schurz, Delano, Vilas, and Hoke-Smith were unjustly censured for wrongs for which they were not responsible.

As I look back, I seem to have been a man of war from the beginning. Circumstances forced me to be so. Not only have I fought many hard battles with Indian officials, but some quite as severe in their defence. Carl Schurz, as Secretary of the Interior, was denounced for his cruelty in the removal of the Poncas to the Indian Territory, and was accused of lack of sympathy with them. He was not responsible for the removal of the Poncas. At the time a proposition was made to bring the Upper Sioux down near to civilization; this would have made them neighbors to the Poncas, who were their enemies. The friends of the Indians, believing that it would be destruction to the Poncas, recommended their removal. No one considered what the effect would be of changing these men from a high northern latitude to the Indian Territory. Secretary Schurz carried out the suggestion of the Indians' friends, and I do not recall a secretary who tried more faithfully to benefit the Indians. He was the first secretary who inaugurated the system of Indian police and the employment of Indians in the transportation of supplies. At all times he gave me his confidence. The above letter of Secretary Browning was read in my absence from the council, and, by a rising vote, the following resolution was passed.

Resolved, That the Council records its grateful appreciation of Bishop Whipple's efforts to Christianize the Indians within his jurisdiction, which have proved him a faithful and true witness of the gospel of Christ, Who died for all and Who is no respecter of persons.

It is a matter of gratitude to God that my diocesan council stood by me at that anxious time. During the last months of this trust I had a severe illness brought on by exposure in a blizzard. There were no railways west of St. Cloud, and I had to drive nearly one hundred and fifty miles whenever I visited Fort Wadsworth. Upon one of these visits I was unable to cross the Pomme de Terre River, for, although ice had been formed, it was not strong enough to bear my horses. The river was very broad, and, as the nearest house was twenty miles back, there was nothing for me to do but to spend the night by some haystacks. The thermometer stood below zero, and a blizzard raged in full fury till morning. It was an experience which nearly cost me my life, and I was ordered by my physician to France. My faithful friend, General Sibley, without compensation, came to my relief, and, with Dr. Daniels, completed the work.

The following letter shows the love of General Sibley's heart for the poor Indians.

ST. PAUL, January 10th, 1878.

My dear Bishop: I have just read your letter of 8th inst. I sincerely regret that your state of health requires you to seek a more genial temperature, while I appreciate how indispensable rest must be to your overworked physique. You have my earnest prayers to the Giver of all Good, for your complete recovery.

You and I have labored hand in hand for the benefit of the poor Indian. Would to God our efforts had been more successful! You cannot have felt more humiliated, and I may add indignant, as a citizen of a great nation, which has offended God, and outraged humanity by its perfidious and cruel policy toward the oppressed race committed to its care, than I have. Our skirts are clear of any participation in this infamous treatment of the miserable red man, and I thank God from my heart for it. That we shall be visited with some awful punishment as a people, for having crushed into the dust a noble race, which was entitled to the highest consideration at our hands, is, to my mind, as certain as is my conviction of the existence of a just God, who will by no means clear the guilty. In what shape this penalty will be inflicted, whether in the form of international war, civil commotions, pestilence or famine remains to be seen. Our own state is violating the commands of the Most High, every day it neglects to act with common honesty to her creditors, and will in some way or other receive her punishment. I so emphatically stated to the meeting of the Joint Committee at the capitol last winter, when seventy or eighty members of the Legislature were present. My predictions were, of course, received with incredulity, and the fact that an adverse vote of the people upon the proposition for the settlement of the bonds was followed by splendid and abundant crops, has been more than once cited to me as a striking commentary upon my lugubrious utterances on the occasion referred to. All the reply I can make is, "Wait and see."

I have good reason to believe that Mr. Hooper will not be confirmed as agent for the Sissetons, and in that case, George H. Spencer will probably be appointed, "a consummation devoutly to be wished."

The late investigation has exposed the corruptions heretofore existing in the Indian Bureau, but neither you nor I will be surprised at the developments. God bless you and bring you back to us in restored health and vigor.

Faithfully yours,

RT. REV. H. B. WHIPPLE, Faribault, Minn.

During my absence in 1870, my dear brother, the Rt. Rev. W. E. Armitage of Wisconsin, made a visitation for me and sent me the following cheering letter, which is an index to the loving heart which endeared him to all who knew him:--

Jan. 5th, 1870.

My dear Bishop: Sunning yourself away off at Mentone, I know you'll be glad to hear something of Minnesota, after my pleasant three weeks in it, specially as I have nothing to tell you to give you the least care or anxiety. Everywhere I was received with the hearty cordiality which you know so well, and was aided and accompanied by the clergy, so that the whole visitation was a sort of Convocation. I was strongly tempted to steal some of your clergy, for you have some splendid men among them, but I forebore, thinking, apart from any dishonesty there might be in it, that it would be "mean "in your absence. I began at Winona, on Advent Sunday. I wanted Riley to begin with. He is a very fine fellow and an acquisition to your Diocese in every way. He went with me to Wabasha. Seabreeze is in splendid condition, rejoicing in his parsonage. At Lake City Dr. Adams presented three candidates; there Dr. Welles met me--the finest object of plunder I think I saw in Minnesota--and took me to Red Wing, where I confirmed eight, and lectured for the Brotherhood. Here Riley turned back, and Dr. Welles became my guardian to Cannon Falls, stopping for a wedding on the road. Next morning Dunbar took me to Granville School-house where, with Burlison and Dubois we had an unusually solemn service, and I confirmed eight. Then I drove to Northfield with Burlison for the train to Minneapolis where I spent my second Sunday, being at Gethsemane in the morning, St. Mark's in the evening, and St. Anthony in the afternoon. I think I should like to steal Minneapolis if I could, for it is one of the most beautiful towns I ever saw. I stayed with the Dean and enjoyed the whole visit extremely.

Monday morning Dr. McMasters joining us, Knickerbacker, Bradley, Dickey, Tanner, Stewart, and I moved on to the Minnesota Valley, besieging Mankato first, where I consecrated the church. The Belleplaine church is the prettiest rural church I ever saw built of timber--I should like to order four like it immediately. I reached Faribault just in time for my lecture there. The storm next day kept me in, and I can't tell you how I enjoyed the home feeling of your study, only I missed you.

My third Sunday was spent in St. Paul, and very pleasantly. Morning at Christ Church, afternoon St. Paul's Church, and evening with his holiness, whose chapel and work are alive and promising. On Monday I was treated with the greatest attention. Understanding that I wanted to go to Hastings, the governor and a large party opened a new E. E. for me, and went with me to that place, the governor himself carrying my valise from the present terminus to the ferry. I confirmed seven for Williams, another fine fellow, and the next day he went with me into my own dominions for a service at Prescott. On Wednesday I confirmed eight at Pine Bend, and three at Rosemount for that indomitable Kollitt, and eight in the evening at Northfield for Burlison. A pleasant visit to Owatonna completed the round, and then I crossed to our St. Croix country, whose views your people are given to borrowing for "Gems of Minnesota Scenery." It was all pleasant, from beginning to end, and the weather has been more merciful than it has been to you, I am sure. By the way, you must reform when you come home and give up some of your long visitations--they would kill a Hercules, and wear out anybody's lungs and bronchial apparatus. School-house preaching, cold riding, and "that north room "in the farm-houses are the unscientific title as well as cause of your present illness. Don't do so much!

I have been interrupted so often in this letter that I fear it will not be of much comfort to you. I half feared to recall your thoughts to Clergy and Parishes, but I know you are dwelling on them constantly, and I just wanted to tell you that I congratulate you on your Diocese, in which I could not find a thing to cause you uneasiness, or to hinder your taking full time for your recovery. Do not think of hurrying home. It is part of your pay for previous work that they can do without you now for a while. Do not write to me, or consider this a letter to be answered.

I am ever yours,
Most affectionately,


Project Canterbury