Abstract

Abstract:

Taking the interactions between Jesuit missionaries and Iñupiat communities as its focus, this article interrogates the complexity of conversion in the Alaskan territory on Seward Peninsula. The Jesuits viewed their evangelizing efforts as a corrective of Native "superstitions" and, simultaneously, Native communities of the Seward Peninsula brought Christianity alongside of, rather than in lieu of, Iñupiat religious practice. Particular focus is given to the Jesuit missionary Bellarmine Lafortune and the King Island community, just off the Seward Peninsula. Though he considered the pre-contact Iñupiat to be superstitious, Lafortune did not ascribe to a definition of conversion that required a full break with previous cultural traditions. This allowed for more fluidity in that space of conversion, and just as Iñupiat men and women converted to Catholicism, elements of Catholicism could be converted and made Iñupiat. After providing background information about the Jesuit mission to the Peninsula, the article considers Iñupiat cultures (mainly of King Island) and how the Jesuits attempted to evangelize these communities. The continued emphasis on dance and reciprocity in the King Island community demonstrates how Catholicism lived alongside indigenous cultures.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2161-8534
Print ISSN
2161-8542
Pages
pp. 37-66
Launched on MUSE
2019-11-15
Open Access
No
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