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Unaffected by the Gospel

Osage Resistance to the Christian Invasion, 1673-1906: A Cultural Victory

Willard Hughes Rollings

Publication Year: 2004

For most of the nineteenth century the Osage were the targets of intense missionary activity, part of the American goal to relocate and "civilize" them. Here, too, the tactic of passive resistance served them well. Earlier scholars claimed that while the Protestant missionaries failed in their efforts to convert the Osage, the Jesuits succeeded. Rollings shows, however, that neither Protestants nor Catholics had any real success in converting the Osage to Euro-American Christianity.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

When I began this project, I had no idea that it would take so long to complete. I began this endeavor soon after I finished my first book about the Osage people. Thinking, since I was so familiar with the people and the topic, that with a bit more research, I could soon write a book about Osage interaction with the United Foreign Missionary Society and the ...

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1. The Osage: Unaffected by the Gospel

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pp. 1-22

These sad epistles from missionaries on the Osage prairies might be seen as cries of despair from failed missions, or as vivid evidence of Osage victories as they held fast to their way of life and fought to retain their culture. Perspective is so important in viewing the past. History is interpretive, as cultural and temporal contexts shape all accounts. Historical interpretation depends upon the interpreter, and, until recently, Native history was written by ...

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2. Osage Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains

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pp. 23-44

Neither the Protestants nor the Roman Catholic missionaries who ventured onto the Osage prairies in the1820s knew of such charges made against the Osage; indeed they knew little of the people they sought to save. The leaders of their societies heard a brief description presented by the superintendent of Trade, Thomas McKenney, but it is not clear whether that brief bit of information was shared with the missionaries out in the ...

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3. The Protestants Prepare for the Osage

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pp. 45-64

In November 1820 five missionaries of the UFMS crossed into the prairie homelands of the Osage. These five men had come a long way from their New England homes to bring the word and wisdom of their god to the Osage people. On November 15 they located the site for their mission on a sloping hillside along the west bank of the Neosho River (Six Bulls or the Grand). They believed ...

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4. The Protestants Arrive: 1821

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pp. 65-86

In 1821, the Osage were a tribe of six thousand people with at least one thousand warriors. Living in three groups stretched from the Osage River to the Arkansas, this powerful tribe was confronting ever-growing challenges in the early nineteenth century, the least of which were the thirty-nine New England Protestants who had just made their way to their prairie neighborhood. ...

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5. Peaceful Resistance and the Co-option of the Protestants: 1821–1839

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pp. 87-114

The southern Osage did not need Christianity; they needed tools and weapons. They needed muskets and gunpowder to fight the Comanche, Wichita, and Pawnee enemies in the west. They needed those same weapons to resist the Cherokee, Creek, Kickapoo, and Shawnee invaders in the east. They needed tools, for knives, awls, axes, hoes, needles, band metal, pots, and pans had all become a necessary part of Osage life, and they could ...

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6. Spiritual Victories, Secular Compromises: 1838–1859

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pp. 115-128

Although there is no evidence the Osage celebrated when William Requa closed the Boudinot Mission and retreated to the Missouri frontier, his departure in 1838 signaled the Osage victory over Protestant colonialism. Subjects of sixteen years of zealous proselytizing, the Osage had successfully and nonviolently resisted the concerted and diligent efforts of the New England Protestants to transform them into Protestant ...

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7. The Catholics Return: 1820–1870

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pp. 129-148

In April 1847 Fathers Schoenmakers and John Bax, along with Brothers John De Bruyn, Thomas Coghlan, and John Sheehan, arrived at the Osage agency on Flatrock Creek to begin their work of converting the Osage to Roman Catholicism and civilization. This spring 1847 arrival was not the first contact the Osage had had with Roman Catholic missionaries, for Jesuits had been visiting the Osage since the seventeenth century. Early French explorers ...

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8. Resisting the Catholics

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pp. 149-170

The Jesuits established themselves in the small métis trading community along Flat Rock Creek, just two miles from where it joined the Neosho. The mission was set amid métis traders’ homes, and alongside the Osage agency and the trading post of the American Fur Company. The métis community was made up of French-Osage families who shared a language and a common culture with the European Jesuits, so that the French-speaking ...

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9. Ga-ni-tha—“Move to a New Country”

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pp. 171-186

By 1872 all the Osage had moved to their new reservation. Most had arrived in 1871 upon completion of the winter hunt. Others, uneasy about the Kansas lands but unsure of the new lands, had remained in the west for another season.Some mixed-bloods had remained in Kansas, because the “treaty” gave them title to their individual farms. They soon joined their kin on the reservation, however, when they were attacked by Kansas settlers who ...

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10. Epilogue

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pp. 187-190

Political factionalism shaped and limited the expansion of West Moon Peyotism. The critical political issues involving allotment and tribal rolls divided the Osage, and the political opponents of Black Dog and Claremore were unwilling to convert to a religion touted by their rivals. They would, however, in time abandon their old religion, and Peyotism would eventually spread to the Non-dse-wa-cpe, Wa-xa-ga-u-gthin, and Iu- ...


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pp. 191-218


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pp. 219-236


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pp. 237-243

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826335593
E-ISBN-10: 0826335594
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826335586
Print-ISBN-10: 0826335586

Page Count: 255
Illustrations: 5 halftones, 4 maps
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 779183266
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Unaffected by the Gospel

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Presbyterian Church -- Missions -- Great Plains -- History.
  • Catholic Church -- Missions -- Great Plains -- History.
  • Christianity and culture -- Great Plains -- History.
  • Racism -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Osage Indians -- Religion.
  • Osage Indians -- Missions.
  • Osage Indians -- Social conditions.
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