Vision Questers and Mission Makers: Catholic Missions and Americans in North American History and Culture
Religion played a large role in the European-American conquest of the New World. Catholic mission activities often constitute a painful chapter in indigenous history. Yet Christianity and mission education programs have also played an important role in the survival and revival of Native American societies and sovereignty. Christianity was tool of conquest and perhaps even genocide yet it also was a space where natives and newcomers could explore new spiritual worlds and create a common sacred ground. This class will explore the conflicted history of Catholic evangelism in North America including the legacy of Junipero Sera and the Spanish missions, the Jesuits in New France and the creation of the Jesuit Relations, as well as the role of Catholic mission in Anglo-America’s “civilization program.” The two semester class will also explore aspects of American Indian spirituality through seminal figures such as Neolin, Handsome Lake, Tenskwatawa, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Black Elk and the influence of Christianity in its repression, evolution, and renaissance.
Semester one will focus on exploring the secondary literature from classic works of ethnohistory to recent historiography. Semester two will afford the time and space for in-depth exploration of individual topics through primary sources. Chicago has a marvelous collection of archives and manuscripts documenting the Catholic and Indian encounter specially at the Newberry Library’s Center for the History of the American Indian and the National Archives Great Lakes Branch’s Indian education records.
Theodore Karamanski, Professor of History and Public History Director