Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

The Heavens Are Changing: Nineteenth-Century Protestant Missions and Tsimshian Christianity

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

The Heavens Are Changing: Nineteenth-Century Protestant Missions and Tsimshian Christianity

Article excerpt

Neylan, Susan, The Heavens are Changing: Nineteenth-Century Protestant Missions and Tsimshian Christianity. Montreal: McGill-Queens' University Press, 2003. xvii, 401 pp., photographs, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-7735-2573-4 Softcover.

Susan Neylan's The Heavens are Changing offers an innovative and thought-provoking examination of Christian missions to Tsimshianspeaking peoples of the Northern Pacific Coast. Neylan moves beyond the staid dichotomous studies that pit 'traditional Indians' against White missionaries. To Neylan, these encounters were far more complex. She focuses on the myriad of interactions between missionizing agents-White and Native-and their subjects, as well as how the encounters were influenced by Tsimshian concepts of class, clan, social, and religious organization. By avoiding a reification of 'traditional' Tsimshian society as well as Christianity, Neylan argues effectively that elastic understandings of Christianity and Tsimshianness' developed out of this colonial encounter, while she also recognizes that in the long run the encounter became one sided. By emphasizing that Christian encounters predate the arrival of missionaries, and that the appearance of missionaries and the arrival of different denominations-Anglican, Methodist, and Salvation Army-were largely initiated by the Tsimshian, she shows that Native people were active agents in their own proselytization. …

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