From the beginnings of the settlement of Oregon, and really most Tribal territories, there were missionaries from various Christian denominations who came and began to convert tribal peoples. The conversion was an attempt to “save” these “savage” and “barbaric” peoples, and “civilize” all peoples according to what their church thought was their mission. The Missionaries set up outposts and offered aid to other white peoples, colonizers, to maintain faith while they were engaged in the colonization of tribal lands. Then the missionaries established schools, really immersive assimilation centers to assimilate native children into the Christian faith. The two main churches in western Oregon were the Catholic and Methodist churches. Bith these missionary organizations established centers to attract missionaries and networks of churches to support their people. The Methodists were the first, and went among the tribes beginning the conversion process. The Catholics were in western Oregon second but they had a more developed Missionary corps, being trained in catholic Universities in Europe and by the 1850s going out to the world to have missionaries in all areas being colonized.
Religious conversion in this era was part and parcel fo the overall process of assimilation policy as established by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Churches were assigned to reservations, and for some twenty years, the churches provided the only education, and teachers for reservations. In the 1880s, the BIA took over most reservation and off-reservation schools, but the protocols were from religious organizations. As such for most of the first 160 years of education of native peoples, in on-reservation and off-reservation schools, it was essentially religious education as even into the 20th century the educational protocol was religiously based.
The following is a set of essays about the missions, missionaries, and education of Native peoples in Oregon.