Battle for the Soul

Battle for the Soul: Mètis Children Encounter Evangelical Protestants at Mackinaw Mission, 1823-1837

KEITH R. WIDDER
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.14321/j.ctt7zt6cw
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  • Book Info
    Battle for the Soul
    Book Description:

    In 1823 William and Amanda Ferry opened a boarding school for Métis children on Mackinac Island, Michigan Territory, setting in motion an intense spiritual battle to win the souls and change the lives of the children, their parents, and all others living at Mackinac.Battle for the Souldemonstrates how a group of enthusiastic missionaries, empowered by an uncompromising religious motivation, served as agents of Americanization. The Ferrys' high hopes crumbled, however, as they watched their work bring about a revival of Catholicism and their students refuse to abandon the fur trade as a way of life. The story of the Mackinaw Mission is that of people who held differing world views negotiating to create a "middle-ground," a society with room for all.Widder's study is a welcome addition to the literature on American frontier missions. Using Richard White's "middle ground" paradigm, it focuses on the cultural interaction between French, British, American, and various native groups at the Mackinac mission in Michigan during the early 19th century. The author draws on materials from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives, as well as other manuscript sources, to trace not only the missionaries' efforts to Christianize and Americanize the native peoples, but the religious, social, and cultural conflicts between Protestant missionaries and Catholic priests in the region. Much attention has been given to the missionaries to the Indians in other areas of the US, but little to this region.

    eISBN: 978-0-87013-967-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  6. Foreshadows
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)

    The story of the Mackinaw Mission shows how the Métis functioned as a distinct group of people after the War of 1812. Since the Métis embodied characteristics of both Indian and European-American cultures, a close look at their origins and development leads to an analysis of their social structure and the larger society in which they lived. This, in turn, provides a clearer understanding of the historical world in which Christian missionaries met Métis, tribal Indians, and European Americans. By viewing the mission as part of the larger community at Mackinac, the missionaries emerge as persons determined to change the...

  7. I. The Métis Family: Origins and Characteristics
    (pp. 1-26)

    William Warren, who spent one year as a boarding student at the Mackinaw Mission from 1831 to 1832, tells us how the Métis came about when he relates how the French came to live among the Chippewa in order to trade. The Chippewa had established extensive trading networks long before the French arrived, and they incorporated the newcomers into their system without seriously disrupting their social order. Relationships soon developed between the Chippewa and the French that transcended the exchanges of goods and furs. Warren tells us: “Another bond which soon more firmly attached them one to another with strong...

  8. II. “Go Ye into All the World . . .”
    (pp. 27-46)

    William and Amanda Ferry and their associates came to Mackinac Island to transform the spiritual and temporal lives of people. The missionaries believed that the Holy Spirit had called them to God’s service, and that God had directed them to Mackinac. Most of the missionaries were lay people with minimal theological training, but they brought their skills and abilities to the mission convinced that God would use them to achieve his will among the “heathen.” The Mackinac missionaries were part of an American phenomenon in which men and women motivated by spiritual concerns spread the teachings of evangelical Protestant Christianity...

  9. III. Mackinac, 1815–1830: A Métis Community Responds to Americanization
    (pp. 47-68)

    After 1815, the Métis encountered a growing number of American nationals who came to establish American institutions at Mackinac, to re-establish preexisting institutions, and to extend the influence and authority of the United States throughout Michigan Territory. The outcome of the War of 1812 ensured that the forces of American law, government, military, business, and Protestant Christianity would work together to reform the fur-trade society with English as the common language. The middle ground, however, made room for Americans, but unlike the French and British, the Americans instituted changes which over time would cause it to crumble. As the Métis...

  10. IV. Evangelical Ministry to the Multi-Ethnic Community at Mackinac, 1822–1837
    (pp. 69-102)

    Protestant missionaries came to Mackinac Island armed with an intertwined, two-part strategy to reform the fur-trade society. First, they hoped to convert as many people as possible to evangelical Christianity by encouraging men, women, and children to undergo a personal conversion experience. This rite of passage was both a visible means of coming to know God and a sign that a true spiritual transformation had taken place in the new believer. Both old and new members of the Presbyterian church participated actively in its spiritual and communal life. William and Amanda Ferry organized numerous opportunities for prayer, preaching, and teaching...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. V. Together as Family
    (pp. 103-132)

    At Mackinaw Mission Métis children and Protestant missionaries brought together the ways of the fur-trade society and the emerging American republic. When William and Amanda Ferry attempted to Americanize their students and to convert them to evangelical Protestant Christianity; they met girls and boys intent upon retaining their own identity. The missionaries assumed the role of parents for boarding children, and together they created a family that met physical, intellectual, and spiritual needs of everyone. The children, their parents, and the missionaries negotiated understandings whereby new ways, brought by Americans, could be incorporated into the lives of Métis children at...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 133-136)

    Métis identity or nationalism in the western Great Lakes region experienced a far different fate than it did at Red River or other places in Canada. In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota there existed no large centralized settlement like the one at Red River where the Métis formed a majority of the population. Even as European Canadians discriminated against the Métis during the first half of the nineteenth century, Red River provided a focal point for their identity and aspirations. The persistence there of the fur trade as a viable economic activity after it declined in the United States allowed the...

  14. Appendix 1. Children at Mackinaw Mission
    (pp. 137-144)
  15. Appendix 2. Missionaries to Mackinac and Lake Superior, 1822–1837
    (pp. 145-150)
  16. Appendix 3. Letters Containing Conversion Accounts Written by Students at Mackinaw Mission
    (pp. 151-171)
  17. Appendix 4. “A Sketch of the Seat of War Between the Chippeways and Sioux”
    (pp. 173-176)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 177-220)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-242)
  20. Index
    (pp. 243-254)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)