Perishing Heathens: Stories of Protestant Missionaries and Christian Indians in Antebellum America

By Julius H. Rubin | Go to book overview

6
Métis Christian Indian Lives
Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and Mackinaw Mission Converts

During the first decades of the nineteenth century, an estimated fifty village communities and cities in the Great Lakes region emerged as centers of commerce in the fur trade and later in the growing markets for lumber and mineral ore. Market towns like Detroit, Mackinaw, and Prairie du Chien flourished as burgeoning and stratified communities of Native households and a multiethnic mixture of French, English, and American settlers who married Native women to create a métis subculture. In the decades following the War of 1812 and continuing with the Black Hawk War in 1832, American settler colonialism would transform the region, displacing and dispossessing Native peoples and imposing the hegemony of American laws, courts, language, commercial culture, and Protestant missions. Creoles—those populations already in place when the Americans arrived—included an elite group of households comprising French Canadian husbands and Native wives who served as interpreters and cultural mediators who mobilized their extended kin networks to assist their husbands in business. The mixed-ancestry children in these elite Creole families, and Native children from humbler circumstances, were sent to Protestant mission schools to ensure their success as literate neophytes who might reap the benefits of the Americanization of their communities.1 This chapter explores the religious experiences of Indian neophytes

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