Christian Missionaries Oppose Removal Analysis

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The primary documents ‘Christian Missionaries Oppose Removal’ from 1830 and the extract from ‘The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden’ from 1814/15 provide crucial insight into the attitudes that the missionaries held towards both Maori and Native Americans (specifically the Cherokees.) In doing this, they successfully reveal some aspects of constructions of ‘race’ in the early nineteenth century. Both documents expose the view that the missionaries held of the indigenous people as ‘savages’ needing civilizing, a predominantly ‘white’ lens with an ethnocentric bias. Though this was the case, the missionaries did view the Maori and Native Americans in a more favourable light than others at the time. It can be discerned that ‘race’ was built …show more content…
We see the attitude of superiority in phrases such as ‘their minds appeared like a rich soil that had never been cultivated’ and ‘there was only one remedy which could effectively free them from their cruel spiritual bondage and misery.’ Further evidence of the ethnocentric bias Marsden held is in him referring to the Maoris’ lives as in a ‘degraded condition.’ Three hundred years prior to the humanitarian way of the ‘civilizing’ missions, the United States had been colonized in a way that lead to slavery, the tobacco …show more content…
It reveals numerous ideas about ‘race’ at the time, ideas which heavily informed the efforts made to civilize the Cherokee people. Similar to the first document, the idea that white people are superior to the Cherokees is frequently alluded to. The positive reaction of the missionary to the Cherokee women abandoning their traditional Indian dress indicates the pressure for the Native Americans to remove all traces of their culture and heritage in favour of assimilating and becoming civilized – ‘If the present course continues, when those who are now in the decline of life shall have passed away, the dress of the Cherokees will scarcely distinguish them from their white neighbours.’ There are numerous instances within the document that the white and red lens and ethnocentric viewpoint is revealed, for example, ‘In education we do not know that the progress should be called rapid progress. Certainly it is far less so than is desirable.’ The red lens is present, perhaps evident of the preconceived notions those living in America had of ‘race’ during this time. Even missionaries dedicated to a humanitarian way of assimilation could not shed their red lens, though the author’s message is one of optimism for the ability of the Cherokee people to become civilized he still holds the view that white people are superior and

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