Unselfish devotion


Daily Reading for February 25 • John Roberts, Priest, 1949

The United States agent at the Shoshone Agency, Wyoming, writes of the Rev. John Roberts, missionary at that place:

There is an Episcopal minister in charge of the Indian school here. The school has now seventy-five scholars, and the present gentleman has been mainly instrumental in building it up. He has won my respect and confidence by his unselfish devotion to duty and the pluck and courage and energy he has displayed in meeting and fighting the discouragements in his path.

His salary is very small, and he has so many demands upon him for charity that he is kept poor all the time, and I have made up my mind to appeal to all the Churches I know (of all denominations), to aid him in his noble work.

There is no more urgent demand upon the Christian denominations than the sufferings among these people. No foreign mission can compare with it. These people are ours; they, by God’s Providence, are thrown on our shoulders, and while the government does much for them, it does not propose to meet the demands of delicacies for the sick-bed in the tipis; a cup of tea or a lemonade for a famished child has to fall to the minister’s care.

The agencies further east get the attention of religious people, but ’way here, under the cliffs of the Rocky Mountains, these two tribes, Shoshones and Arapahoes, get very little, and often what they do get is injudiciously sent. Even small sums of money sent to the minister or myself would be directed in the right way.

Please, if possible, speak a good word to the Churches of my State for these poor people. . . . It is encouraging to see how Mr. Roberts has drilled the children in the services and the Prayer Book, and he has a nice little chapel, the gift of some lady in the North. Even the smallest sums sent to him will aid more than you can imagine.

From an appeal for support of the Roberts Mission made in the classified advertisements section of The Churchman (April 3, 1886).

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Ann Fontaine

Thanks for this on John Roberts. I served as priest at Shoshone Mission and some of the older women remembered attending his school. The girls school building is still standing (mostly) and we wish there were funds to restore it. He was a man of his time - making children kneel on broom handles for punishment (common in all schools - Indian and non-Indian) but was compassionate and caring about maintaining the culture and traditions of his students. He allowed them to speak their own language outside of class - translated prayers and Bible readings into Shoshone for worship. He left the government schools because the brutality and poor diet and conditions which he could not change. The death rate of the children who were forced into government schools was twice that of children allowed to live at home or be near family.

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