Syllabus – Fall

Vision Questers and Mission Makers: Catholic Missions and American Indians in North American History and Culture 

The Purpose 

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.

While this class is historical in its structure and orientation throughout it will be attentive to the presence of the Catholic mission past in the present. Catholic missions are still active in American Indian communities. To what extent have these current programs learned lessons from the past? Are there legal issues that flow from abusive mission activities and how has the Church faced these? How do American Indian Catholics harmonize/reconcile Church teachings and liturgical practice with Native American spirituality?

Instructor: Professor Theodore J. Karamanski,, Teaching Assistant: Marie Pellissier, Office hours: T/Th, 11:30-4:30, Crown 517, or by appointment.

Semester One

Semester one will focus on exploring the rich range of primary sources produced by Catholic missionaries and Native American spiritual leaders and converts.  Class readings will also include the secondary literature on Indian missions, from classic works of ethnohistory to recent historiography.

The typical procedure for the first semester is to have lecture and discussion on Tuesday mornings and a discussion of readings on Thursdays. Each Thursday I would like you to hand in to me before class a set of 2-3 discussion questions or points flowing from the reading that you will share with the class. Sometimes you will be asked to present a brief oral abstract of your reading which may have been different from what other students read. Your discussion of the readings will be an important factor in your class participations grade.

Readings include the following books: Joe Jackson, Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary; Allan Greer, The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth Century North America; Charles Eastman, The Soul of the Indian. Other readings will be delivered to students as pdf files one week before they are to be discussed and will consist of scholarly articles, book chapters, and occasionally primary source documents, websites, and videos. Expect about 20-25 pages of reading a week, save of course for Black Elk.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the semester students should be able to do the following; a) have an understanding and appreciation American Indian culture; b) understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Catholic Church’s mission to evangelize American Indians; c) critique scholarly analysis by professional historians and anthropologists; d) organize digital data in a graphic form; c) prepare a historiographic essay on a research topic of their choice.

Final Grade determination

  • Class participation element of the class will constitute 40% of the final grade.
  • Another 50% of your final grade will be based on a 8-15-page historiographic essay. That essay will be due December 7th at 5:00 PM. It will be on a topic that will be the focus of your second semester research.
  • Finally, 10% of your grade will come from participation in a digital humanities project.

Digital Humanities Project: Mapping Missionaries

Purpose: Students will use Google Fusion tables to visualize and analyze data about Catholic missions in the United States. Students will then write a 4-page paper about their experience using Google Fusion tables and the conclusions they were able to draw from their data, citing both their data and readings/discussion from class.

Semester 1 Schedule

Week 1. Introduction. The Challenge of American Indian History & the Legacy of Catholic Missions. Readings:

Week 2. American Indian Spirituality. Readings: Charles Eastman, The Soul of the Indian.

Week 3. Seventeenth Century Jesuits in America. Readings: The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America, edited by Allan Greer (New York: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2000).

Week 4. Digital History Workshop w/Marie Pellissier. Projects due October 5.

Week 5/6. Indian Reception of Jesuit Missions. Readings sections from: Carol Devens, Countering Colonization: Native American Women and Great Lakes Missions, 1630–1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); Carole Blackburn, Harvest of Souls: The Jesuit Missions and Colonialism in North America, 1632–1650 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2000); Tracy Lavelle, The Catholic Calumet Colonial Conversions in French and Indian North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011);Allan Greer, Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

Week 7. How did Christianity Change Native Spirituality? “Preserving the Sacred: Historical Perspectives on the Ojibwa Midewiwin” By Michael Angel; “Notes on the Post-Contact Origin of the Midewiwin,” Harold Hickerson Ethnohistory Vol. 9, No. 4 (Autumn, 1962), pp. 404-423; “Interpreting Sacramental Systems: The Midewiwin and The Wi:Gita,” Donald Bahr, Wicazo Sa Review Vol. 7, No. 2 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 18-25 Gregory E. Dowd, “Thinking and Believing: Nativism and Unity in the Ages of Pontiac and Tecumseh,” American Indian Quarterly, 16:3 (1992), 309-335; Alfred A. Cave, “The Delaware Prophet Neolin: A Reappraisal,” Ethnohistory, 46, No. 2 (Spring, 1999), pp. 265-290; Jane T. Merrit, “Dreaming of the Savior’s Blood: Moravians and the Indian Great Awakening in Pennsylvania,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 54, No. 4 (Oct., 1997), pp. 723-746.

October 10 No class, fall break.

Thursday: October 12 Movie: Black Robe (1991).

Week 8-9 A Saint and the Sinned Upon: The Controversy Over the California Missions. Readings, selections from: Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015); Lisbeth Haas, Saints and Citizens: Indigenous Histories of Colonial Missions and Mexican California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

Week 10. Catholic Missions in the Mountain West.  Selections from, Jacqueline Peterson, Sacred Encounters: Father De Smet and the Indians of the Rocky Mountain West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993).

November 2 Kim Sigafus (White Earth Ojbwe) Ojibwe traditions and food ways.

Week 11-12. Boarding School Days. Readings: Loyola Special collections: Anishinabe enamiad, Zephyrin Engelhardt 1851-1934.; Franciscans. 1896, Holy Childhood of Jesus Boarding School Oral Histories,; Article on clergy abuse of Indian students,

Tuesday, November 14th, 5:30-7:00 PM. Speaker Anthropologist Sally Thompson (University of Montana ret.) on the drawings of Nicholas Pont and the legacy of Jesuit missions in modern Montana.

Week 13-14. Catholic and Indian. Readings: Allan Greer, Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); Michael F. Steltenkamp Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man, Missionary, Mystic (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).

Saturday, December 2: Field Trip to Milwaukee, Marquette University, Board of Catholic Indian Mission Archives, Archivist Mark Thiel.

Monday, December 11: Topic Historiographic Essays Due.

Syllabus is subject to change.