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The Missionary Predicament: conversion practices in Texas, New Mexico and the Californias

In the work of conversion the missionary’s advantages were his faith, self-righteousness, commitment and the power to impose religious commandments. To resist conversion Native American populations relied on traditional practices, shamanic instructions and pronouncements, environmental knowledge, and mobility or a settled lifestyle. The spiritual tension between a sole Catholic practitioner and a community of Native American believers was compounded and shaped by struggles to power and lifestyle differences. This paper explores how these tensions played out in the fields of conversion of Texas, New Mexico and the Californias.

Mariah Wade, University of Texas, Austin