Daniel Sabin Butrick

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Rev. Daniel Sabin Butrick (Buttrick)
Born Daniel Sabin Butrick
(1789-08-25)August 25, 1789
Windsor, Massachusetts
Died June 8, 1851(1851-06-08)
Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, Indian Territory
Nationality Euro-American
Other names Daniel Sabin Buttrick
Occupation Minister, Cherokee Defender
Known for A.B.C.F.M missionary to the Cherokee Nation, 1817-1851
Religion Evangelical Christianity
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Butrick (Proctor)(1783–1847?)

Rev. Daniel Sabin Butrick, sometimes Buttrick, (August 25, 1789 – June 8, 1851) was commissioned in 1817 as a minister of the Word of God to the heathen, in the service of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). The next twenty-five years were marked with personal failure and relational conflict as he sought to realize his mission to the Cherokee Nation. Miraculously, his response to the Cherokee removal crisis and Trail of Tears established a legacy. His decision to champion Christian salvation over political advocacy resulted in the creation of an invaluable resource on Indian culture.[1]

Butrick's Interest in "Indian Antiquities"[edit]

Rev. Daniel Sabin Butrick wrote “Indian Antiquities” in response to the Indian Removal efforts that threatened his mission to the Cherokee Nation in the 1830s. His effort to prove that the ancestors of the Cherokee Indians were the lost ten tribes of Israel became an obsession to bring rightness to the injustices the Cherokee suffered at the hands of the Americans. He interviewed informants and planned to have their perspectives published by his editor John Howard Payne (June 9, 1791 - April 10, 1852) on behalf of their nation.[2]

Butrick’s Evangelicalism drove him beyond the ethnocentrism of his fellows and into an obsession to demonstrate the Jewish ancestry of the Cherokee. Butrick undertook the "Indian Antiquities" project as an expression of his faith that the Cherokee were heirs to the promises of the God of ancient Israel. He possessed a desperate hope that the Cherokee would find restoration in Jesus Christ amidst the forced relocation wrought upon them by the Americans. “Indian Antiquities” was Butrick’s attempt to reconcile his theological tradition with Cherokee folkways as he sought to live out an Indian-centered worldview.[3]

An abbreviated version of the “Indian Antiquities” manuscript (ca. 1840) is accessible by way of its posthumous publication, entitled Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians (1884).[4][5] Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians was the product of Butrick's relationships with his Cherokee informants, particularly Thomas Nu:tsa:wi. These relationships bring attention to the role Cherokee Christians played in the creation of the John Howard Payne Papers while offering insight into the complexities of Butrick’s engagement with the Indians as he undertook his project.[6][3][4][7][8]

The "Indian Antiquities" manuscripts remained unpublished during Butrick's lifetime. His editor John Howard Payne published some of Butrick's research in an article, “The Ancient Cherokee Traditions and Religious Rites” (1849).The editors of Payne-Butrick Papers speculated that Payne’s article was intended “to drum up [public] interest in his project.”[9][10][4][3]

Butrick’s collaboration with Payne concluded in the early 1840s. During this era, Butrick wrote with an emotional tone ranging from disillusionment and grief during the early 1840s (after the Trail of Tears) to a feeling of hopeful optimism that arrived shortly before his death in 1851. The historian David James Tackett argued that Butrick began to realize the restitution he hoped for his whole life as he took to heart the encouragement of his wife (Elizabeth Proctor Butrick, 1783-1847?), forgave his brethren at the Brainerd Mission for their shortcomings, and attempted to revive his spiritual ministry among the Five Civilized Tribes.[3]

The "Indian Antiquities" Manuscripts[edit]

The title “Indian Antiquities” refers specifically to the edited manuscript bearing its name in the John Howard Payne Papers of Chicago’s Newberry Library. Payne undertook the difficult work of compiling and editing Butrick’s “Indian Antiquities.” A hundred and sixty years later his successors published these documents in The Payne-Butrick Papers (2010).[7][8][3]

In 1849 Payne published an article on Butrick’s “Indian Antiquities.” In the article’s introduction Payne wrote, “It has cost us no brief study to discover what their first creed was.”[9] The size and scope of his source material on Indian folkways was certainly formidable to sort out. Concerning the task of publishing it, the editors of The Payne-Butrick Papers (2010) wrote, “Editing and annotating the Payne-Butrick manuscript has been an intellectually stimulating endeavor. It has also been challenging ... .”[11][3]

Other documents (besides the aforementioned “Indian Antiquities” manuscript) preserved Butrick’s thoughts regarding the project. In the John Howard Payne Papers, Butrick’s personal correspondence on “Indian Antiquities” are as follows:

  1. A first grouping of Butrick’s letters, containing information about his research methodology and the character of his informants.
  2. A second grouping of Butrick’s letters, covering the difficulties he had citing and submitting his source material. These letters also detail Cherokee political affairs.
  3. “Indian Antiquities” is the rough draft Payne created from Butrick’s bulk of source material. It contains one hundred and twenty-five pages of Cherokee sayings and traditions.
  4. “Notes on Cherokee Customs and Antiquities” is Payne’s polished manuscript. It has one hundred and four pages and contains two chapters with multiple subsections.[3]

Likewise, the Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in the Houghton Library archive contains a voluminous record of Butrick’s theological and political thought in his “Jews and Indians” manuscript, public and private journals, and correspondence with his mission board; American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Of these thousands of pages of documents, the “Jews and Indians” manuscript was the key to unlocking the theological intention of “Indian Antiquities.” It is likely that the ABCFM received it in the mid-to-late 1840s shortly after Butrick’s collaboration with Payne concluded.[12][3]

Lastly, two published works resulted from the Payne-Butrick collaboration. Payne published an article about Cherokee antiquities in the Quarterly Register and Magazine (1849), entitled “The Ancient Cherokee Traditions and Religious Rites.” An anonymous author posthumously published Butrick’s "Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians" in 1884.[9][10][4][3]

The artist and writer Thomas Mails’s (1920–2001) observation about the ethnological material contained in “Indian Antiquities” provides a suitable transition into the importance of this topic. He believed that these materials:

“Are unique and of considerable length, and they are known to all who research Cherokee History. Virtually every published book on the tribe mentions the manuscript in one way or another and in particular refers to its material on ancient festivals as the most voluminous and worthwhile extant.”[13]

Modern Relevance of “Indian Antiquities”[edit]

Researchers have tunneled into the mountain of Daniel Butrick’s manuscripts and excavated his political perspectives. They have also mined his journals for information about the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Considering the many monographs that have contained Butrick’s perspectives, it is ironic that he asked of John Howard Payne:[3]

"Please, let none of this manuscript go from your hands; and if you think it will, on the whole conduce to evil more than good, you will oblige me by burning the whole instead of publishing it. Let none of it be published in any newspaper, or periodical of any kind, but destroy it unless you wish it for your own work."[7]

Butrick never fathomed the wealth of material his collaboration with Payne produced, nor the importance it would hold for future generations of academic researchers.[3] The Historian David James Tackett argued:

"Daniel Butrick’s “Indian Antiquities” contributes to the ongoing discussion about Cherokee Indians and Protestant missions by bringing attention to the intended meaning of his research. For two centuries the researchers who engaged the “Indian Antiquities” manuscript have valued the objective facts of its content—while dismissing the intentions of its author. Butrick’s narrative was an expression of his love for his informants and the story of his interpersonal struggles with his compatriots, ABCFM missionaries, and Cherokee Indians."[3]

Butrick collected the oral traditions of Thomas Nu:tsa:wi and other Cherokee informants and systematized their stories. By modern standards this material is shortsighted. He identified Indians as Jews. Nevertheless, many historians have appreciated “Indian Antiquities” for its facts concerning native culture. Others turned to it for its amalgamated Christian Cherokee narratives. The Historian David James Tackett argued that “Indian Antiquities” should also be valued for the preservation of Butrick’s privileged perspective.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tackett, David James (2011). Abstract to “Rev. Daniel S. Butrick's "Indian Antiquities" : his mission to the Cherokee nation and obsession to prove that they are the lost ten tribes of Israel.” MA Thesis, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
  2. ^ Tackett, David James (2011). Introduction to “Rev. Daniel S. Butrick's "Indian Antiquities" : his mission to the Cherokee nation and obsession to prove that they are the lost ten tribes of Israel” MA Thesis, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. pp. 1-2.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Tackett, David James (2011). Research Methods to “Rev. Daniel S. Butrick's "Indian Antiquities" : his mission to the Cherokee nation and obsession to prove that they are the lost ten tribes of Israel.” MA Thesis, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. pp. 12-18.
  4. ^ a b c d Buttrick, Daniel S. (1884). ' "Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians". Indian Chieftain Newspaper, Published at Vinita, Indian Territory. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Buttrick, Daniel S. (1884). "Antiquities of the Cherokee Indians [a machine-readable transcription]". American Native Press Archives and Sequoyah Research Center. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  6. ^ An “informant” is a general term to describe an individual who provided information (directly or indirectly) to another person on behalf of a research project. The term “antiquitarian” refers specifically to the elders of the Cherokee Nation who provided antiquities for Butrick’s specific inquiries into their folkways.
  7. ^ a b c “Indian Antiquities,” Ayer Manuscript Collection, vols. 1, 3, 4 and 9 of John Howard Payne Papers, TSS, CD-R, Newberry Library, Chicago.
  8. ^ a b Payne, John Howard, et. al (2010). John Howard Payne et al., The Payne-Butrick Papers, 2 vols.. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 928. ISBN 978-0-8032-3020-0. 
  9. ^ a b c Payne, John Howard et al. (2010). “Notes on Cherokee Customs and Antiquities” to Payne-Butrick Papers, vol. 1. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp. xix, 5.
  10. ^ a b Payne, John Howard (1849). The Ancient Cherokee Traditions and Religious Rites. Philadelphia.
  11. ^ Payne, John Howard et al. (2010). Acknowledgments to Payne-Butrick Papers, vol. 1. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp. ix.
  12. ^ Butrick, Daniel S. “Jews and Indians,” Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, MSS, Houghton Library, Harvard University, vol. 3 of ABC 18.3.3.
  13. ^ Mails, Thomas E. (1992). The Cherokee People: The Story of the Cherokees from Earliest Origins to Contemporary Times. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Council Oak Books. p. 368. ISBN 978-0-933031-45-6.