Native Americans, Christianity, and the Reshaping of the American Religious Landscape

Native Americans, Christianity, and the Reshaping of the American Religious Landscape

JOEL W. MARTIN
MARK A. NICHOLAS
FOREWORD BY MICHELENE PESANTUBBEE
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807899663_martin
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  • Book Info
    Native Americans, Christianity, and the Reshaping of the American Religious Landscape
    Book Description:

    In this interdisciplinary collection of essays, Joel W. Martin and Mark A. Nicholas gather emerging and leading voices in the study of Native American religion to reconsider the complex and often misunderstood history of Native peoples' engagement with Christianity and with Euro-American missionaries. Surveying mission encounters from contact through the mid-nineteenth century, the volume alters and enriches our understanding of both American Christianity and indigenous religion.The essays here explore a variety of postcontact identities, including indigenous Christians, "mission friendly" non-Christians, and ex-Christians, thereby exploring the shifting world of Native-white cultural and religious exchange. Rather than questioning the authenticity of Native Christian experiences, these scholars reveal how indigenous peoples negotiated change with regard to missions, missionaries, and Christianity. This collection challenges the pervasive stereotype of Native Americans as culturally static and ill-equipped to navigate the roiling currents associated with colonialism and missionization.The contributors are Emma Anderson, Joanna Brooks, Steven W. Hackel, Tracy Neal Leavelle, Daniel Mandell, Joel W. Martin, Michael D. McNally, Mark A. Nicholas, Michelene Pesantubbee, David J. Silverman, Laura M. Stevens, Rachel Wheeler, Douglas L. Winiarski, and Hilary E. Wyss.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0631-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xv)
    Michelene Pesantubbee

    Too often the story of Christian missions among Native Americans has tended toward one-dimensional renderings or particular methodological studies of events. Whether we are talking about the Jesuits in seventeenth-century New France, the Franciscans in Alta California in the eighteenth century, or nineteenth-century Protestant missionaries in the Southeast, the classic story of Native American Christian encounter in North America was told from the Euro-American perspective of religio-ethnocentric state building. The unquestioned image of the self-sacrificing missionary enduring the hardships of the frontier predominated into the twentieth century with little regard to the adversities Native peoples faced from advancing colonization of...

  4. [Maps]
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)
    Joel W. Martin

    “A silent indignation arises within me, at the impious and savage procedure of Europeans,” a young Cherokee man named David Brown declared to New England citizens assembled one electric night in 1823 in Salem, Massachusetts. They had gathered to hear the Cherokee convert promote Christian missions to Native peoples, and they would do so, but only after he had provided a detailed history lesson about Europeans’ destructive actions in the New World. Before talking about missionaries and his kinsmen and kinswomen in the present, he wanted his audience to encounter some bitter truths about the past from a Native American...

  6. PART I: Negotiating Conversion
    • HARD FEELINGS SAMSON OCCOM CONTEMPLATES HIS CHRISTIAN MENTORS
      (pp. 23-37)
      Joanna Brooks

      How did it feel to be Samson Occom (1723–92), Mohegan, ordained Presbyterian minister, itinerant spiritual leader to Native New England communities, and one of the founders of the pantribal Native Christian Brotherton? How did it feel to grow up a diligent young Mohegan man, on the banks of the Thames River in Connecticut, at a time when English colonialism had already made devastating incursions into every dimension of Mohegan life? When the colony-appointed Christian schoolmaster Jonathan Barber came after Mohegan children, chasing them from their play, catching ten-year-old Samson by the shoulders to “make [him] Say over [his] letters,”...

    • EAGER PARTNERS IN REFORM INDIANS AND FREDERICK BAYLIES IN SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND, 1780–1840
      (pp. 38-66)
      Daniel Mandell

      In late September 1819, after an initial summer organizing schools, teaching, and preaching in five Native communities in southern New England, Frederick Baylies of Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard, enthused to his employers, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), that “a new Era appears to be commenced among the Indians.” His glowing report emphasized how the newly formed schools were “flourishing” and “will be the means of great good. Here the tender mind, is early disciplined to order, here they are early taught the excellency of the Christian Religion, & the importance of a regular life.”¹

      This was...

    • CRISSCROSSING PROJECTS OF SOVEREIGNTY AND CONVERSION CHEROKEE CHRISTIANS AND NEW ENGLAND MISSIONARIES DURING THE 1820S
      (pp. 67-90)
      Joel W. Martin

      During the fall of 1823, New England church officials of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) enlisted Cherokee convert David Brown, then a twenty-two-year-old student at Andover Theological Seminary studying Hebrew, Greek, and French, to embark on a grand speaking tour in the eastern United States to promote the cause of missions to Native Americans. This tour, although almost completely overlooked by scholars today, generated a great deal of contemporary press coverage and anticipated the tour of the more famous convert and Cherokee editor Elias Boudinot. Most important, it can be reconstructed in precise detail not just...

  7. PART II: Practicing Religion
    • NATIVE AMERICAN POPULAR RELIGION IN NEW ENGLAND’S OLD COLONY, 1670–1770
      (pp. 93-124)
      Douglas L. Winiarski

      On March 30, 1740, the tranquil Sabbath morning in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was shattered by the appearance of a local villager professing a fantastic story. The previous day, he explained to the assembled churchgoers, eight Spanish wizards had appeared at his farm on the outskirts of town and propelled both the man and his house “over the Tops of Trees” to a landing spot nearly four miles away. Plymouth’s leading citizen, a prosperous farmer, civil magistrate, and Indian missionary named Josiah Cotton, dismissed the story in his private memoirs, calling it “ridiculous & incredible.” In his opinion, the unidentifi ed storyteller...

    • BLOOD, FIRE, AND “BAPTISM” THREE PERSPECTIVES ON THE DEATH OF JEAN DE BRÉBEUF, SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY JESUIT “MARTYR”
      (pp. 125-158)
      Emma Anderson

      On March 16, 1649, the Jesuit mission of St. Louis, deep in Wendake, in the present-day Canadian province of Ontario, was overrun by Haudenosaunee warriors eager finally to gain total territorial and economic ascendancy over their beleaguered Wendat rivals.¹ Many people died, both during the battle and in its aftermath, when the victorious Haudenosaunee selectively punished their opponents through grueling torture before ritually integrating the remaining survivors into their community.

      Despite the grim ubiquity of death on that raw, late winter day, it has been the demise of famed Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf that has, over the centuries, been...

    • THE CATHOLIC ROSARY, GENDERED PRACTICE, AND FEMALE POWER IN FRENCH-INDIAN SPIRITUAL ENCOUNTERS
      (pp. 159-176)
      Tracy Neal Leavelle

      In 1712 the Jesuit missionary Gabriel Marest described for a colleague a tense encounter that occurred at his post in Kaskaskia, an Illinois Indian village near the Mississippi. A young woman holding a rosary in her hand passed by the cabin of a ceremonial leader. “This [healer],” the missionary reported, “imagining that the sight of a similar rosary had caused the death of his father—fell into a rage, took his gun, and was on the point of firing on this poor Neophyte.” Only the timely intervention of some onlookers saved the young woman from a tragic death. “I do...

  8. PART III: Circulating Texts
    • THE SOULS OF HIGHLANDERS, THE SALVATION OF INDIANS SCOTTISH MISSION AND EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY BRITISH EMPIRE
      (pp. 179-200)
      Laura M. Stevens

      In May 1768 Alexander Mowbray, a merchant of Edinburgh, wrote to Eleazar Wheelock, the founder of an Indian school in New England, with news of the death of one of his students.¹ This student, a twenty-six-year-old Narragansett named Tobias Shattock, had been traveling to London with his brother John to appeal a case involving their tribe’s land.² While hosted by Mowbray, both brothers had caught smallpox, and only John had survived.³ Throughout his letter Mowbray took pains to describe the outpouring of assistance that the Shattocks’ illness had provoked. Several physicians, including the Philadelphian Benjamin Rush, who was studying in...

    • PRINT CULTURE AND THE POWER OF NATIVE LITERACY IN CALIFORNIA AND NEW ENGLAND MISSIONS
      (pp. 201-222)
      Steven W. Hackel and Hilary E. Wyss

      Much has been made of the distinction between Protestant and Catholic forms of evangelization, especially in terms of missionary work. Certainly there is a great deal to be said about the different strategies members of each religious group employed to reach prospective Indian converts, most specifically in terms of the relationship between literacy and religion. Protestantism, which emphasized an individual’s direct reading of the Bible, encouraged high rates of literacy; Catholicism, in which priests generally interpreted the Bible for parishioners, did not. Nonetheless, surprising similarities emerge where conventional wisdom had suggested there were only differences. Both Catholic and Protestant missions...

  9. PART IV: Creating Communities
    • HENDRICK AUPAUMUT CHRISTIAN-MAHICAN PROPHET
      (pp. 225-249)
      Rachel Wheeler

      In April 1819, the Reverend Levi Parsons set out on a tour to raise money for his upcoming mission to the Jews in the Holy Land. Like many contemporary Christians, Parsons believed conversion of the Jews would hasten Christ’s Second Coming. His stop in New Stockbridge, New York, proved especially weighty, for in his audience sat several dozen listeners who appeared to him as sons of Abraham—members of the Mahican Nation. Parsons preached with fervor from Romans 10:1, “Brethren my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.” The topic would not have...

    • TO BECOME A CHOSEN PEOPLE THE MISSIONARY WORK AND MISSIONARY SPIRIT OF THE BROTHERTON AND STOCKBRIDGE INDIANS, 1775–1835
      (pp. 250-275)
      David J. Silverman

      Between 1803 and 1805, several councils took place between the Onondagas and Oneidas of the Iroquois League and the Stockbridge Indians, a group that had moved from western Massachusetts to Oneida country in upstate New York shortly after the American Revolution.¹ In all likelihood, the attendees also included representatives from the Christian Indian community of Brother ton, composed of Narragansetts, Mohegans, Pequots, Niantics, Tunxis, and Montauketts from coastal New England and Long Island, making their own start fresh among the Oneidas. The main topic of these meetings was how to reverse the death, dispossession, and despair that had wracked Native...

  10. CONCLUSION TURNS AND COMMON GROUNDS
    (pp. 276-288)
    Mark A. Nicholas

    Fields of study can resemble compasses pointing in the directions that draw scholars’ attentions. But the metaphor of the compass is particularly useful here. Studying Native peoples as part of early America’s religious history now has a particular magnetism that is spinning the arrows of many disciplines. Scholars in this volume use history, literary critique, religious studies, and anthropology to approach Native Christians with new questions, examine sources in new ways, and discover new areas of study for early American and Native American religious experiences. Our authors look at the indigenization of Christian material objects and Christian texts; the physical...

  11. CODA NAMING THE LEGACY OF NATIVE CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY ENCOUNTERS
    (pp. 289-304)
    Michael D. McNally

    Each study in this volume has done much to complicate and open up our sense of past encounters between various Christian missionaries and various Native North American peoples. These encounters could transform missionaries even as their missionary projects could transform the cultures of Native communities. Missionary encounters have led to the tragic loss of many Native languages; missionary encounters have also led, through the mechanisms and practices of literacy, to the retention of Native languages. Missionary encounters could eradicate traditions; they could also provide material for new articulations of those traditions. The encounters could introduce or exacerbate divisions in Native...

  12. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 305-308)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 309-325)