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Encounters of the Spirit

Native Americans and European Colonial Religion

Richard W. Pointer

Publication Year: 2007

Historians have long been aware that the encounter with Europeans affected all aspects of Native American life. But were Indians the only ones changed by these cross-cultural meetings? Might the newcomers' ways, including their religious beliefs and practices, have also been altered amid their myriad contacts with native peoples? In Encounters of the Spirit, Richard W. Pointer takes up these intriguing questions in an innovative study of the religious encounter between Indians and Euro-Americans in early America. Exploring a series of episodes across the three centuries of the colonial era and stretching from New Spain to New France and the English settlements, he finds that the flow of cultural influence was more often reciprocal than unidirectional.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Religion in North America


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

Richard Pointer begins his new book with a classic narrative of exchange—Daniel Defoe’s famed fictional account of the shipwrecked Robinson Crusoe and his newfound Carib companion ‘‘Friday,’’ to whom Crusoe confides essential lessons from the Christian faith. The snapshot is thoroughly appropriate. Pointer sets out to excavate and explore a story that...

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pp. xiii-xv

This rather short book has taken a rather long time, in fact a very longtime. It began as a kind of idle wondering as I sat listening to Patricia Bonomi and Jon Butler discuss their, at that time, recent books on religion in early America at a session of the American Historical Association. Their conversation and works made clear that scholars were beginning...

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pp. 1-13

Crusoe set about remaking his new world in the image of his old one. In the course of his two-decades-long solitary sojourn, nothing would fall outside his mimetic impulse, least especially the Carib native whom Providence eventually brought his way and called upon him to save. Crusoe named him, sheltered him, dressed him, taught him ‘‘everything...

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1. The Sounds of Worship

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pp. 14-42

With an orchestra the Jesuits could have subdued the whole continent.’’ That memorable line from Roland Joffé’s 1986 film The Mission bespeaks music’s presence and power in the encounter of indigenous peoples and Europeans in the Americas. Nowhere was that more true than in Spain’s colonial territories.1 Almost from the very start of New Spain and Peru in the early sixteenth century, missionary...

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2. A Language of Imitation

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pp. 43-68

In February 1629, Governor Matthew Craddock of the New England Company wrote a letter of instructions to John Endecott, leader of the first wave of planters in what soon became the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Craddock reminded Endecott that ‘‘the main end of our Plantation’’ was to ‘‘bring the Indians to the knowledge of the Gospel.’’ That end could be more quickly achieved if Endecott kept a ‘‘watchful eye...

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3. A Scene of New Ideas

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pp. 69-102

A century after Puritan-Ninnimissinuok meetings and a few hundred miles to the west in central New York, Taunewhaunegeu had had quite enough of the Reverend Samuel Kirkland. It was bad enough that the minister had come and destroyed rum belonging to his wife. Now Kirkland harangued him about ‘‘Temperance, Righteousness, & Judgement’’ for a good two hours. In typical...

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4. "Poor Indians" and the "Poor in Spirit"

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pp. 103-121

Fresh on the heels of his most successful month as a missionary evangelist, Presbyterian David Brainerd headed off into the Pennsylvania interior in September 1745 to visit Indian villages along the Susquehanna River. There he spent nine days observing and conversing with natives more different than he had anticipated from the Indians he had lately seen awakened to Christian faith at Crossweeksung, New Jersey. Brainerd found his attempts...

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5. Martyrs, Healers, and Statesmen

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pp. 122-159

David Brainerd was unusual but not unique. Aspects of his missionary sojourns find parallels before and after him in the long history of religious encounters in early America. Specifically, his close working relationship with Delaware interpreter Moses Tatamy and desire to mold him into a particular kind of Christianized, Anglicized Indian assistant...

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6. Encountering Death

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pp. 160-198

The Oneida Brethren of Good Peter who spoke those words in January 1800 knew all too well that the new century portended more of the troubles and difficulties they had seen in the last. The final quarter of the eighteenth century, since the beginning of the American Revolution, had been especially trying, despite their support for the winning side. Now the unrelenting advance...

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pp. 199-205

In September 1772, recently ordained and commissioned Presbyterian pastor David McClure arrived in northeastern Ohio hoping to minister to the Delaware Indians living along the Muskingum River. His journey westward had included a stop at Brotherton, New Jersey, where he met with John Brainerd and the remnants of the Christian Indian congregation begun by Brainerd’s older brother a quarter century earlier...


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pp. 207-253


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pp. 255-277


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pp. 279-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780253116895
E-ISBN-10: 0253116899
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253349125

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Religion in North America