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04 January 2008

Religious Acculturation, Suppression, Revolt

A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen makes passing mention of the processes of religious acculturation as Christian missionaries adapted their messages and teaching to the New World. Native converts accepted Christianity on their own terms, sometimes adding it to existing belief systems.
In some cases, as with the Pueblo Indians, large numbers of Indians converted to Christianity, albeit a mixture of traditional Catholic teachings and their own religious practices, which, of course, the Roman Church deplored. Attempts to suppress such distortions led to uprisings such as the 1680 Pueblo revolt that killed twenty-one priests and hundreds of Spanish colonists, although even the rebellious Pueblos eventually rejoined the Spanish as allies.
Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot’s History, 10.
A footnote reference at the end of the two sentences above creates expectations that the source referenced will offer more information regarding Spanish missions, Pueblo Indian accommodation of Catholic teachings, the suppression of persistent Indian beliefs among nominal converts, or the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. No such information exists in the article cited, the book in which it appears, or the longer book the article anticipated. The footnote gives the source as James Axtell, “The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America,” in his The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 41.

James Axtell explains in the head note to this essay that it was read at a conference in 1979, published in the conference proceedings, and reprinted from that source. It “borrows its title from the book of which it is a partial summary” (40), referring to his anticipated The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). Neither The European and the Indian nor The Invasion Within indexes a single reference to Spain, Spanish, Pueblo, Mexico, New Mexico, or Popé. Both the article and the book it summarizes focus upon the clash of French, English, and Indians in eastern North America. Axtell does mention Spanish colonization in the Preface to The Invasion Within, but excludes them from the main narrative of the book.
In the classroom I have long advocated “A North American Perspective for Colonial History,” in which the Spanish, east and west, share the limelight with the English, French, and Indians. But in books less ambitious than a survey text, selectivity based on historical relevance is a virtuous necessity.
Axtell, The Invasion Within, x
Given the focus of that article in The History Teacher, it would not be surprising to learn that somewhere James Axtell had written on the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, but he did not do so in “The Invasion Within” (the article) nor The Invasion Within (the book). The nearest to a mention of Spanish missions I could locate in The European and the Indian is the single mention of the Dominican and Franciscan orders:
Unlike the Dominicans and Franciscans within their own church and the Puritans and Anglicans without, the Jesuits articulated and practiced a brand of cultural relativism without, however, succumbing to ethical neutrality.
Axtell, The European and the Indian, 69-70.
Noteworthy in this lone reference is its reflection of a central theme in The Invasion Within: the Jesuits’ “brand of cultural relativism” was critical to their success. Moreover, Axtell’s almost celebratory discussions of efforts by Jesuit missionaries to accommodate Indian culture marks the distance between his biases and those of Schweikart and Allen in A Patriot’s History as reflected in the extract above: “[a]ttempts to suppress such distortions led to uprisings such as the 1680 Pueblo revolt.” The capacity of Native American Indians to accept new religious ideas without abandoning old ones is discussed in sympathetic detail by Axtell, but dismissed as “distortions” by Schweikart and Allen.

The footnote reference, thus, seems more like an ironic statement regarding the biases of the authors of A Patriot’s History, referencing a text that not only has nothing to say about the subject of the paragraph, but also referencing an author that spins in an opposite direction the cultural processes mentioned.

The last phrase in the quote above from A Patriot’s History conceals the processes of reconquest of New Mexico nearly twenty years after the Pueblos evicted the Spanish. Under the leadership of Juan de Oñate the Spanish returned to Pueblo country and forced submission. This brutal conquest is glossed by Schweikart and Allen as “the rebellious Pueblos eventually rejoined the Spanish as allies.”

On the page in Axtell referenced in A Patriot’s History, there is a generalization regarding military alliances between Indians and Europeans, although it contains no references to the Pueblos.
Military officers who sought native allies against less receptive natives—or who were sought as allies by native factions—recognized with equal ease the normative behavior of military allies. If their Indian partners seldom conducted war with the martial discipline of Europe, they at least shared a common enemy and a common understanding of strategic alliance.
Axtell, The European and the Indian, 41-42.
Perhaps this vague and not particularly illuminating passage is the intended reference for the footnote. A general notion of the value of an alliance to both sides is an odd reference for a paragraph that otherwise offers considerable substance regarding processes of acculturation and the attendant consequences of disagreements.


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