Sunday, September 21, 2014

Missionaries to the Pawnees

In 1834, the two Presbyterian missionaries, Samuel Allis and John Dunbar showed up at Bellevue, Nebraska, to aid the Pawnee people as best they could and also assist the Government in handing out aid to the Indians. In The Pawnee People, there is much praise for these two missionaries for their actions with the Pawnees, helping them at every turn, it seemed, during the hard years of resettlement on the Loup River.

But Mister Dunbar, according to the reports of the Indian Agent, got in trouble with the Government for selling alcohol to the Indians and was banished from the reservation for a while, a fact not mentioned in the Pawnee book. And I can understand why with all the assistance Mister Dunbar gave to them. Both missionaries were not happy with the Agents assigned by the Government, either, since the Agents were not fulfilling the promises to the Pawnee. It doesn't seem too likely to me that a missionary would be furnishing alcohol, but in any event Mister Dunbar was banned from the res for some reason and maybe the Agent just used that excuse to do it. There was considerable confusion and disruption at this time among the Pawnees, who were suffering from hunger and small pox and the argument of the Government against the annual hunts. And most of the employees of the Government were fired at this time, too.

I have on my shelf a book entitled Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes toward American Indians, 1837-1893 by Michael C. Coleman and it doesn't mention Allis or Dunbar or even the Pawnees in it at all. It concentrated mostly on the Choctaws of Oklahoma and the Nez Perces of Idaho and Oregon. I guess the Board of Foreign Missions of the church didn't think the Pawnees were important enough to be included or maybe they had other reasons.


  1. The Pawnee were in my home state of Nebraska. In my Nebraska history courses in school, there was little mention of them or whatever happened to therm. Indian agents everywhere were apparently frequently at odds with the federal government for fraud, mismanagement, or for protesting policies that adversely affected the welfare of the Indians.

    1. With the invasion of the whites and the Dawes Act the Pawnees and other tribes were landless and many Pawnees moved south to Pawnee, Oklahoma, so there probably not much news of interest re the Pawnees in Nebraska. Agree with you on the Agents and some were outright crooks.

  2. another reason to have a time machine. Oh to go back and see the truth of such things.

  3. Going back in time would be ineresting, but I couldn't do without my modern conveniences, e.g., the PC, TV, etc.