Lakotas, Black Robes, and Holy Women: German Reports from the Indian Missions in South Dakota, 1886-1900

Lakotas, Black Robes, and Holy Women: German Reports from the Indian Missions in South Dakota, 1886-1900

Lakotas, Black Robes, and Holy Women: German Reports from the Indian Missions in South Dakota, 1886-1900

Lakotas, Black Robes, and Holy Women: German Reports from the Indian Missions in South Dakota, 1886-1900

Synopsis

Lakotas, Black Robes, and Holy Women makes available in English a rare collection of eyewitness accounts by German Catholic missionaries among the Lakotas in the late nineteenth century. German missionaries played an important role in the early years of the St. Francis mission on the Rosebud Reservation, and the Holy Rosary mission on the Pine Ridge Reservation, both in South Dakota. Although the accounts reflect the dominant perspective and attitude of missionaries and white teachers in the period of assimilation policy, they also offer firsthand accounts of the Lakotas in the early reservation years by Jesuits who saw themselves as friends and defenders of the Indians against a government policy they considered inappropriate and harmful. During the watershed years of 1886–1900, the German missionaries witnessed and participated in key events in the history of the American West, including the Ghost Dance, the Wounded Knee massacre, the Drexel Mission fight, the repression of Lakota rituals, and the growing importance of Catholicism for many Lakotas. The volume also describes the role of women in the mission and the process of converting and schooling Lakotas.

Excerpt

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents are a collection of Jesuit mission documents relating a wealth of information about the Native cultures of New France (northeastern North America) between 1610 and 1791. The documents were originally kept in Jesuit archives scattered in Canada, France, and Rome and were practically inaccessible to scholars in the United States until they were compiled, translated from the original French and Latin under the direction of historian Reuben Gold Thwaites, and published in English between 1896 and 1901 (Thwaites 1896).

The documents were clearly influenced by the cultural and religious assumptions of the missionaries and the Jesuit superiors in Europe who edited them; nevertheless, given our contemporary interest in understanding the cultural worlds of missionaries themselves, as well as the dynamics of cultural contact and transformation, the Relations’ scholarly value has only increased since Thwaites’s publication.

While Lakotas, Black Robes, and Holy Women: German Reports from the Indian Missions in South Dakota, 1886–1900 is not as ambitious as the Jesuit Relations in depth of time or breadth of documentation, it is equally important for understanding a later period of Catholic mission activity. Karl Markus Kreis’s careful selection and Corinna Dally-Starna’s fine English translation of a wide range of German documents from the first generation of Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in the Dakota Territories, along with Kreis’s extensive scholarly introduction, provide a window on the world of these particular Catholic missionaries. Through that window, we glimpse late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Lakota life as well. Neither the Jesuit Relations nor this collection of German documents were intended to exonerate or implicate the missionaries in the complex and often tragic histories that surrounded them and in which they took part nor to definitely solve many of the contemporary controversies over the missionization of North America. Each set of documents does, however, provide more information and greater . . .

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