Q&A: Who was Henry Benjamin Whipple?

“It may be beyond my province to offer these suggestions; I have made them because my heart aches for this poor wronged people.”  -Henry B. Whipple to Abraham Lincoln, March 6, 1862

Henry Benjamin Whipple, MNHS Collections

In 1859, Henry Benjamin Whipple was voted the first Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota.  In his role as Bishop, Whipple traveled throughout the state of Minnesota preaching in cabins, school houses, saloons, stores, and Indian villages.  He was an advocate for the welfare of the Indian people and made a firm commitment to the establishment of Indian missions and fought for the reform of the U.S. Indian System.

Whipple made many trips to Washington, D.C., in which he pleaded for Indian reform and to expose abuses in the Indian service.  Whipple considered the system of treaty making a nursery of fraud and called the entire history of the Indians one of neglect, wrong, and robbery.  He wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln just months before the U.S. – Dakota War, pleading for a change and arguing that, “The first thing needed is honesty.”  Following the war, Whipple opposed the wholesale executions and extermination or deportation of the Dakota.

Although President Lincoln agreed with Henry Whipple and promised reform, Lincoln’s calls for reform were ignored by Congress.  Whipple faced the enmity of many whites who hated the Indians and was considered a fanatic by several of his fellow bishops.  Still, he lived in service for the welfare of the American Indians.

However, it should also be noted, as stated historian Anton Treuer, that “Whipple was ultimately at the forefront of the removal and assimilation policies that impoverished and disempowered the Minnesota Ojibwe.”

Read Henry Benjamin Whipple’s autobiography

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Source:

“Henry B. Whipple,” The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, http://www.usdakotawar.org/history/henry-b-whipple.

Colin Mustful, A Welcome Tragedy:  Factors that Led to the U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862, (Colin Mustful, 2014).

Anton Treuer, The Assassination of Hole in the Day, (St. Paul, MN:  Borealis Books, 2011), 192.