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Battle for the soul

Métis children encounter evangelical Protestants at Mackinaw Mission, 1823-1837

Keith R. Widder

Publication Year: 1999

In 1823 William and Amanda Ferry opened a boarding school for Métis children on Mackinac Island, Michigan Territory, setting in motion an intense spiritual battle to win the souls and change the lives of the children, their parents, and all others living at Mackinac. Battle for the Soul demonstrates how a group of enthusiastic missionaries, empowered by an uncompromising religious motivation, served as agents of Americanization. The Ferrys' high hopes crumbled, however, as they watched their work bring about a revival of Catholicism and their students refuse to abandon the fur trade as a way of life. The story of the Mackinaw Mission is that of people who held differing world views negotiating to create a "middle-ground," a society with room for all.
     Widder's study is a welcome addition to the literature on American frontier missions. Using Richard White's "middle ground" paradigm, it focuses on the cultural interaction between French, British, American, and various native groups at the Mackinac mission in Michigan during the early 19th century. The author draws on materials from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives, as well as other manuscript sources, to trace not only the missionaries' efforts to Christianize and Americanize the native peoples, but the religious, social, and cultural conflicts between Protestant missionaries and Catholic priests in the region. Much attention has been given to the missionaries to the Indians in other areas of the US, but little to this region.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I am indebted to many people who assisted me in the research and writing of this book. Richard White offered many penetrating insights, criticisms, and much encouragement. David T. Bailey, always a source of fresh ideas, challenged me to consider perspectives that I had overlooked. I also benefited much from the comments of Gordon Stewart, Donald...

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xx

In October 1823, William and Amanda Ferry opened a boarding school for Metis children on Mackinac Island, Michigan Territory, and in doing so they set in motion an intense spiritual battle to win the souls and change the lives of the children, their parents, and all others living at Mackinac. For the next fourteen years children born and raised in the...

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Foreshadows

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pp. xxi-xxiv

The story of the Mackinaw Mission shows how the Metis functioned as a distinct group of people after the War of 1812. Since the Metis embodied characteristics of both Indian and European-American cultures, a close look at their origins and development leads to an analysis of their social structure and the larger society in which they lived. This, in...

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I. The M

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pp. 1-25

William Warren, who spent one year as a boarding student at the Mackinaw Mission from 1831 to 1832, tells us how the Metis came about when he relates how the French came to live among the Chippewa in order to trade. The Chippewa had established extensive trading networks long before the French arrived, and they incorporated the newcomers...

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II. “Go Ye into All the World…”

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pp. 27-45

William and Amanda Ferry and their associates came to Mackinac Island to transform the spiritual and temporal lives of people. The missionaries believed that the Holy Spirit had called them to God's service, and that God had directed them to Mackinac. Most of the missionaries were lay people with minimal theological training, but they brought...

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III. Mackinac, 1815–1830: A Métis Community Responds to Americanization

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pp. 47-67

After 1815, the Metis encountered a growing number of American nationals who came to establish American institutions at Mackinac, to re-establish preexisting institutions, and to extend the influence and authority of the United States throughout Michigan Territory. The outcome of the War of 1812 ensured that the forces of American...

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IV. Evangelical Ministry to the Multi-Ethnic Community at Mackinac, 1822–1837 [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 69-101

Protestant missionaries came to Mackinac Island armed with an intertwined, two-part strategy to reform the fur-trade society. First, they hoped to convert as many people as possible to evangelical Christianity by encouraging men, women, and children to undergo a personal conversion experience. This rite of passage was both a visible means of coming...

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V. Together as Family

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pp. 103-131

At Mackinaw Mission Metis children and Protestant missionaries brought together the ways of the fur-trade society and the emerging American republic. When William and Amanda Ferry attempted to Americanize their students and to convert them to evangelical Protestant Christianity; they met girls and boys intent upon retaining their own identity. The...

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Afterword

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pp. 133-135

Metis identity or nationalism in the western Great Lakes region experienced a far different fate than it did at Red River or other places in Canada. In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota there existed no large centralized settlement like the one at Red River where the Metis formed a majority of the population. Even as European Canadians discriminated...

Appendix 1: Children at Mackinaw Mission

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pp. 137-143

Appendix 2: Missionaries at Mackinac and Lake Superior, 1822–1837

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pp. 145-149

Appendix 3: Letters Containing Conversion Accounts Written by Students at Mackinaw Mission

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pp. 151-172

Appendix 4: “A Sketch of the Seat of War between the Chippeways and Sioux”

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pp. 173-175

Notes

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pp. 177-220

Bibliography

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pp. 221-241

Index

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pp. 243-254


E-ISBN-13: 9780870139673
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870134913

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 1999