Presbyterian mission work among Native Americans began in the 18th century. New York Presbytery commissioned the first official American Presbyterian missionary in 1741 for work among the Indians of Long Island. The first official commission under the national structure, the PCUSA, was issued in 1803 for mission work among the Cherokees. The PCUSA also joined the mission efforts of the Dutch Reformed and the Associate Reformed Churches in 1817 to form The Union Foreign Missionary Society, which after a few years was absorbed by the American Board of Commissioners to Foreign Missions.
While many Presbyterians continued to join the combined efforts of the Board, some others preferred a denominational approach and formed the Western Foreign Missionary Society in 1831. By 1837 the WFMS was replaced by the PCUSA's newly created Board of Foreign Missions and the new agency quickly moved to establish mission work among the southern Indian nations.
In the next 55 years, the Board of Foreign Missions, in addition to the Indian Territory missions, established missions among the Chippewas, Ottawas, Dakotas and Sioux in the North; among the Iowas, Omahas, Otoes, Sac and Fox tribes in the Midwest; among the Nez Perce, Sioux and Spokans in the Northwest; among the Navajos, Apaches, Pueblos and Pimas in the far Southwest. In 1870 the ABCFM transferred its Seneca and Ojibwa missions to the Board of Foreign Missions. Beginning in 1884 the Board of Foreign Missions began switching its work among Native Americans to the Board of Home Missions, completing the process by 1893.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The collection consists of correspondence of missionaries written to the secretaries of the ABCFM and the Presbyterian BFM. Documenting the mission work among Native Americans, letters are presumably official in nature but often contain much personal comment and experiences.
NOTES TO THE RESEARCHER
The collection has been left in its original arrangement which was also the sequence in which it was microfilmed. A more in-depth finding aid and index exists in the published guide American Indian Correspondence found in the reference section of the library.
Patrons are encouraged to use the microfilm if at all possible.
NOTE: BOX 1 VOL.1 and part of VOL. 2 of originals is in archives box 24.
Collection rehoused and Finding Aid prepared: February-April 1988