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Unaffected by the Gospel: Osage Resistance to the Christian Invasion, 1673-1906: A Cultural Victory.

Unaffected by the Gospel: Osage Resistance to the Christian Invasion, 1673-1906: A Cultural Victory.

By Willard Hughes Rollings. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2004. Pp. xii, 243. $45; paperback $22.95.

Battle for the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs]: G. E. E. Lindquist and the Missionary Crusade Against John Collier.

By David W. Daily. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 2004. Pp. xii, 216. $39.95.

Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers.

By Kent G. Lightfoot. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2004. Pp. xvii, 338. $45.

Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism.

By Damian Costello. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2005. Pp. vii, 193. Paperback $22.

During the past century, research in Native American missions has evolved through three phases or eras. The first era saw major efforts by missionaries to civilize and Christianize American indigenous peoples in ways similar to what was happening worldwide. The second era anticipated the demise of the First Nations as distinct peoples, focusing on the just treatment of Native Americans as they assimilated into the dominant North American culture. The third era, of which the books considered here are products, acknowledges Native American cultural revitalization and a revival of traditional religion.

The four titles under consideration speak in various ways to the relationship of the Christian Gospel and contemporary Indian spiritual and cultural recovery. Unaffected by the Gospel, by Willard Hughes Rollings, a Cherokee scholar, argues that for more than two centuries the Osage Nation, living in the central states, was exposed to the missionizing efforts of both Catholics and Protestants. Nevertheless, few of the Osage actually adopted the Christian faith as the white missionaries understood it.

When their traditional world began to crumble in the wake of the Euro-American incursion, the Osage determined to retain their traditional faith and added Peyotism to it. The result was a religion shaped not by white Christians but by the Osage themselves. The Osage reasoned that they already possessed a gospel and found no need for another, since Christianity as they had experienced it was foreign and lacking integrity.

The resistance of the Osage to the missionary message suggests that many Native Americans were not passive in their response to the newcomers, despite what the mission literature of the time frequently reported. Rollings asserts that traditional aboriginal religion was reconfigured and practiced in new ways.

Battle for the BIA: G. E. E. Lindquist and the Missionary Crusade Against John Collier, by David W. Daily, traces the disturbing interpersonal conflict between Lindquist, a representative of the Home Missions Council of the Federal Council of Churches, and Collier, who headed the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs during the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The conflict produced a transformation in the previously symbiotic relationship between the federal government and a key agency coordinating Protestant/Native American missions. At the heart of the disagreement was the question of what to do about the Indians. Were they to be assimilated into mainstream culture, or should they be maintained as wards of the state? Were there, indeed, other policy options?

Lindquist did not at first believe that Native Americans were able to manage their own affairs. As time went on, however, he abandoned the idea of wardship for Indians and promoted their full political equality. Meanwhile, Native Americans continued to languish in the paradox of dual U.S. and tribal nation citizenship and all that such a status implies. In many ways, this anomaly continues to the present time.

Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers, by Kent G. Lightfoot, defends the thesis that it is not possible to understand the current status of Indian tribes in California without a detailed investigation of their colonial history with missionaries and traders, as well as their subsequent encounters with anthropologists and government agents.

Who are the real California Indians today? Classic social-scientific categorizations no longer effectively describe what groupings are "vital" and what are "extinct." Many Native Americans in the state are regrouping around revived practices and new tribal identities. Groups that were once splintered beyond recognition and heading toward eradication are experiencing communal transformation and redevelopment.

Lightfoot argues that new ways are needed to define Indians and their communities since we can no longer rely on classic ways of describing modern Native cultural realities and reconfigurations. Challenging standard social-scientific assumptions, he states that it was not early missionary and merchant contact that destroyed indigenous identities but the biased perceptions of twentieth-century social scientists who studied the Native people.

Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism, by Damian Costello, reviews the faith of the Native catechist and elder Black Elk, who represents survivor people everywhere. He was exposed to the Gospel as part of his colonial experience and continues to have something unique to say to us about Jesus.

Costello claims that Black Elk was not a passive victim of colonialism but an active agent against it. He rejected the missionary colonialism represented by the church but accepted the message of Christ. Black Elk critiqued Westernization but offered, in return, a Jesus stripped of colonial accretions. He saw how the West, in order to accommodate colonialism, had compromised and domesticated the faith it proclaimed. He believed that, in the process, the Gospel was emptied of its meaning. Black Elk considered himself both Native American and Catholic but did not exist in two religious worlds. Living as a Lakota Catholic, he was able to refashion Lakota tradition in light of the Christian narrative.

All four books contribute to exploding the myth of the vanishing Native American. All desire a strong Native American spiritual identity but differ on how to locate and affirm it. Several anticipate an interfaith dialogue between Christianity and Native American religion.

In spite of much sad Native American mission history, good seeds of Gospel proclamation were planted. Many Gospel truths remain to be discovered and claimed by both Native and non-Native Americans. Herein lies the potential to mutually renew and enrich aboriginal and nonaboriginal cultures alike.

Wayne A. Hoist is an adult educator at St. David's United Church, Calgary, Alberta. He has taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary.
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Title Annotation:Battle for the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs]: G. E. E. Lindquist and the Missionary Crusade Against John Collier, Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers, Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism
Author:Holst, Wayne A.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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