THE CHEROKEES AND CHRISTIANITY, 1794-1870 by William G. McLoughlin


Essays on Acculturation and Cultural Persistence
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 This excellent collection of essays probes the responses of one Native American tribe to the forces of Christianity. In this posthumously published anthology of essays, McLoughlin (History and Religion/Brown; After the Trail of Tears, 1993, etc.) returns once again to the Cherokees about whom he often wrote. These pieces are so interrelated and have such a directed flow that they actually form a comprehensive study of the struggles of the Cherokees (often among themselves) over the issues of conversion to Christianity and acculturation and assimilation into the dominant Euro-American culture. The first section of the work reflects on the history of missionaries among the Cherokees and their efforts to break down traditional religion. These efforts, most successful among mixed bloods, only succeeded, according to the author, as the traditional cultures and societies that supported the indigenous religion were also broken down, thus making individualistic Christianity (as opposed to the Indians' more communal attitudes) a viable response. Part Two deals with accommodations reached by the Cherokee as they balanced old ways with the new faith. Of particular interest is ``Christianity and Racism,'' an essay on the early debate over the origin of Indian peoples: Were they one of the lost tribes of Israel or the result of a separate genesis in the Americas? Also noteworthy is McLoughlin's review of how the oral tradition became fractured with old stories incorporating elements of the Jewish-Christian tradition. Apocalyptic Ghost Dance movements among the Cherokee are examined, as are political struggles within the tribe. Though the volume could have benefited from further editing (and some ethnocentric bias is evident in the use of generic, non- tribal specific terms like 'Great Spirit' and 'conjurer'), the book is nonetheless a major contribution to the study of Native American history and religious studies.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 1995
ISBN: 0-8203-1639-3
Page count: 364pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994