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Fall 2014 · Vol. 43 No. 2 · pp. 253–259 

Recommended Reading

Mission and North American Aboriginal Peoples: A Selected Bibliography

Vic Froese

The titles below should interest anyone attentive to Native issues and concerns, especially as they relate to Christianity and mission. There are gaps, of course, beyond those that can be expected when including only fifty out of the thousands of works out there. American literature is regrettably under-represented. And I have not included many Catholic or the considerably fewer Orthodox works that deal with mission to Aboriginals. I’m sure other omissions will embarrass me when I learn of them. But it’s a place to start, with many provocative titles, which I hope will whet the appetite of some you for learning more.

A few recent titles stand out. Remembering Jamestown: Hard Questions about Christian Mission (Pickwick, 2010) is a collection of papers originally read at a 2008 Regent University consultation on the missiology of Jamestown. Contributors to this volume include George (Tink) Tinker and Richard Twiss, who share (along with other contributors) a sharply critical view of the missiology that guided interaction between early Christian Europeans and Natives on this continent. They differ starkly, however, on the question of the compatibility of Christianity and Native traditions. Twiss (Lakota/Sioux) is optimistic, whereas Tinker (Osage Nation) is certain they are deeply at odds. Tinker aside, none of the contributors object to calls for a postcolonial theology of mission, a theology which Amos Yong attempts to outline in his concluding essay.

Marion Grau’s Rethinking Mission in the Postcolony: Salvation, Society and Subversion (T & T Clark, 2011) is part history, part anthropology, part philosophical-theological reflection on mission in the “postcolony.” Though her gaze does not fall on North American Aboriginals, her explorations of missionary endeavors in South Africa and New Zealand produce insights that apply to that setting as well. Significantly, Grau refuses to {254} abandon mission as many postmoderns are tempted to do when faced with its ambiguities and outright failures. She chooses instead, as one reviewer puts it, to identify “the multiplicity of borders and boundaries that constitute the postcolony and then explores what it means to ‘do theology’, progressively, across this disputed territory.”

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision (Eerdmans, 2012), by Randy Woodley (Keetoowah Cherokee and professor at George Fox Seminary in Portland), has been called a courageous work for attempting to mediate a dialogue between the Native traditionalists and Christian evangelicals so often at loggerheads with each other. His main point is that the Native American Harmony Way and biblical shalom are “parallel theological constructs” and offer a basis for a mutually edifying conversation that just might inch us closer to healing—of ourselves and of creation. Using careful biblical exegesis, ancient Native stories, and contemporary Native theologians, Woodley artfully weaves together a compelling case for a holistic vision of life as lived in harmony with self, others, creation, and God—which is to say, a vision of the community of creation.

Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together (Herald, 2013) is edited by Steve Heinrichs, former Mennonite Church Canada director of Indigenous Relations. With eighteen essays and as many responses, half of them written by North American Indigenous participants and the other half by “settlers” from Canada and the United States, this collection is heftier than Remembering Jamestown, but the critical sentiments and tone are alike. Contributors include “traditional Indigenous practitioners, Christians (Anabaptist, anarchist, evangelical, and liberal), hybrid Christian traditionalists, post-Christians, agnostics, and animists.” Among the more familiar names are Randy Woodley, Ched Myers, and Tink Tinker (again!). Terry Leblanc, Di Brandt, and Brian McLaren, among others, offer thoughtful responses.

The essays in Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis (InterVarsity, 2014) likewise wrestle with the implications of the postcolonial critique of evangelical missions. As the title suggests, the problem of the cooperation of mission Christianity and colonialism is not only a North American phenomenon, but North American Native concerns dominate the discussion here. Contributors engage in significant soul-searching, though also in conversation with tough critics of evangelical mission, which include Daniel Hawk, Richard Twiss (again!), Randy Woodley, and Ray Aldred.

It’s fair to say that these books—most of them from Christian publishers—will be unsettling for many of us, or at least leave us doubting the reliability of our moral compass. And this is not a good thing if it leaves us {255} floundering or ethically paralyzed. But that sense of disorientation might just be the initial shock of a conscience reawakened from a complacent sleep. It would be foolish, if not immoral, not to pay attention.

  • Anderson, Emma. The Betrayal of Faith: The Tragic Journey of a Colonial Native Convert. Harvard Historical Studies, v. 160. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Austin, Alvyn, and Jamie S. Scott, eds. Canadian Missionaries, Indigenous Peoples Representing Religion at Home and Abroad. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.
  • Berkhofer, Robert F. Salvation and the Savage: An Analysis of Protestant Missions and American Indian Response, 1787–1862. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1977 [1965].
  • Block, Alvina. “Changing Attitudes: Relations of Mennonite Missionaries with Native North Americans 1880–2004.” PhD diss., University of Manitoba, 2006.
  • Bowden, Henry Warner. American Indians and Christian Missions: Studies in Cultural Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
  • ———. “Oberlin and Ojibwas: An Evangelical Mission to Native Americans.” In Evangelical Tradition in America, 149–79. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984.
  • Boyden, Joseph. The Orenda. Toronto: Hamish Hamilton, 2013.
  • Boyden’s award-wining novel takes place in pre-confederation Canada early in the seventeenth century. Told from the perspective of a Huron warrior, a young Iroquois girl, and a French Jesuit missionary, it paints a vivid picture of Native and missionary life in those turbulent times.
  • Carlson, Joyce, ed. 1992: Aboriginal Reflections on 500 Years. Winnipeg, MB: Dr. Jessie Saulteaux Resource Centre, [1992?].
  • Costello, Damian. Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2005. {256}
  • Deloria, Vine V., Sr. “The Establishment of Christianity Among the Sioux.” In Sioux Indian Religion: Tradition and Innovation, ed. Raymond J. DeMallie and Douglas R. Parks, 91–111. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, 1987.
  • Fontaine, Theodore. Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir. [Surrey, BC]: Heritage House, 2010.
  • Fraser, Gordon H. No Dark Valley: A Collection of Stories about Indians and Missions to Indian Tribes. Westchester, IL: Good News, 1972.
  • Friesen, John W. Aboriginal Spirituality and Biblical Theology: Closer than You Think. Calgary, AB: Detselig, 2000.
  • Graber, Jennifer. “Mighty Upheaval on the Minnesota Frontier: Violence, War, and Death in Dakota and Missionary Christianity.” Church History 80, no. 1 (2011): 76–108.
  • Grant, John Webster. Moon of Wintertime: Missionaries and the Indians of Canada in Encounter since 1534. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984.
  • Grau, Marion. Rethinking Mission in the Postcolony: Salvation, Society and Subversion. London; New York: T. & T. Clark, 2011.
  • Gualtieri, Antonio R. Christianity and Native Traditions: Indigenization and Syncretism Among the Inuit and Dene of the Western Arctic. Notre Dame, IN: Cross Road, 1984.
  • Hall, Suzanne E., ed. The People: Reflections of Native Peoples on the Catholic Experience in North America. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association, 1992.
  • Heinrichs, Steve, ed. Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together. Waterloo, ON; Harrisonburg, VA: Herald, 2013.
  • Higham, C. L. Noble, Wretched & Redeemable: Protestant Missionaries to the Indians in Canada and the United States, 1820–1900. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000.
  • Ingleby, Jonathan. Beyond Empire: Postcolonialism and Mission in a Global Context. Milton Keynes, UK: AuthorHouse, 2010.
  • Jackson, Robert H. From Savages to Subjects: Missions in the History of the American Southwest. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. {257}
  • Jacobs, Adrian. Native Missions History. Belleville, ON: First Nations Centre for Ministry, 1996.
  • Janzen, Abraham Ewell. The Story of Post Oak M. B. Mission to the Comanches. Hillsboro, KS: Board of Foreign Missions, Mennonite Brethren Church of North America, 1948.
  • Jennings, George J. “American Indian Ethos: A Key for Christian Missions?” Missiology 5, no. 4 (1977): 487–98.
  • Kampen, Melanie. “Unsettling Theology: Decolonizing Western Interpretations of Original Sin,” MA thesis, Conrad Grebel University College and the University of Waterloo, 2014.
  • Kater, John L., Jr., ed. The Challenges of the Past, the Challenges of the Future: Essays on Mission in the Light of Five Hundred Years of Evangelization in the Americas. Berkeley, CA: Church Divinity School of the Pacific, 1994.
  • Kidwell, Clara Sue, Homer Noley, and George E. Tinker. A Native American Theology. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis, 2001.
  • LeBlanc, Terry. “Mi’kmaq and French/Jesuit Understandings of the Spiritual and Spirituality: Implications for Faith.” PhD diss., Asbury Theological Seminary, 2012.
  • LeBlanc, Terry, and Jennifer LeBlanc. “NAIITS: Contextual Mission, Indigenous Context.” Missiology 39, no. 1 (January 1, 2011): 87–100.
  • Lindenfeld, David F., and Miles Richardson. Beyond Conversion and Syncretism: Indigenous Encounters with Missionary Christianity, 1800–2000. New York: Berghahn Books, 2012.
  • Martin, Kathleen J. Indigenous Symbols and Practices in the Catholic Church: Visual Culture, Missionization and Appropriation. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010.
  • McKay, Stan, and Janet Silman. The First Nations: A Canadian Experience of the Gospel-Culture Encounter. Gospel and Cultures Pamphlet 2. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1995.
  • Noley, Homer. First White Frost: Native Americans and United Methodism. Nashville: Abingdon, 1991. {258}
  • Peelman, Achiel. Christ is a Native American. Ottawa: Novalis-Saint Paul University; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1995.
  • Pointer, Richard W. Encounters of the Spirit Native Americans and European Colonial Religion. Religion in North America. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007.
  • Rausch, David A., and Blair Schlepp. Native American Voices. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1994.
  • Regan, Paulette. Unsettling the Settler within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010.
  • Rubin, Julius H. Tears of Repentance: Christian Indian Identity and Community in Colonial Southern New England. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2013.
  • Schultz, Paul N., and George Tinker. Rivers of Life: Native Spirituality for Native Churches. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1988.
  • Smith, Andrea. Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.
  • Smith, Craig S. Boundary Lines: The Issue of Christ, Indigenous Worship and Native American Culture. Glendale, AZ: The Native American District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, 2000.
  • Smith, Kay Higuera, Jayachitra Lalitha, and L. Daniel Hawk, eds. Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014.
  • Starkloff, Carl F. “Church between Cultures: Missions on Indian Reservations.” Christian Century 93, no. 35 (1976): 955–59.
  • ———. “Religious Renewal in Native North America: The Contemporary Call to Mission.” Missiology 13, no. 1 (1985): 81–101.
  • Tinker, George E. American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2008.
  • ———. “Decolonizing the Language of Lutheran Theology: Confessions, Missions, Indians, and the Globalization of Hybridity.” Dialog 50, no. 2 (2011): 193–205. {259}
  • ———. Spirit and Resistance: Political Theology and American Indian Liberation. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.
  • Treat, James, ed. Native and Christian: Indigenous Voices on Religious Identity in the United States and Canada. New York: Routledge, 1996.
  • Twiss, Richard. 500 Years of Bad Haircuts. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2000.
  • ———. “Clashing Worldview Assumptions that Brought Social, Economic, and Spiritual Devastation to Native American Peoples.” Cultural Encounters 2, no. 2 (2006): 81–93.
  • ———. Culture, Christ, and the Kingdom Seminar: A First Nations Christian Perspective: Presenting Biblical Principles for Native/Indigenous Ministry that Honors God, His People, and His Creation. Vancouver, WA: Wiconi International, 1997.
  • ———. Dancing Our Prayers: Perspectives on Syncretism, Critical Contextualization and Cultural Practices in First Nations Ministry. Vancouver, WA: Wiconi, 2002.
  • ———. One Church, Many Tribes. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2000.
  • ———. The Turtle and the Snail: Completing the Circle! An Emerging Native American Christian Voice in the Church Today. Plummer, ID: Richard Twiss, 1997.
  • VandenEnden, Michael. “Aboriginal Cultural Recovery and the Fear of Syncretism.” Direction 39, no. 2 (2010): 234–43.
  • Vilaça, Aparecida, and Robin Wright, eds. Native Christians: Modes and Effects of Christianity among Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. Vitality of Indigenous Religions. Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2009.
  • Woodley, Randy. Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012.
  • Yong, Amos, and Barbara Brown Zikmund, eds. Remembering Jamestown: Hard Questions about Christian Mission. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2010.

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