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The Transatlantic Indian, 1776-1930$
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Kate Flint

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691203188

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691203188.001.0001

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Indians and Missionaries

Indians and Missionaries

(p.192) Chapter Eight Indians and Missionaries
The Transatlantic Indian, 1776-1930

Kate Flint

Princeton University Press

This chapter studies British–First Nations relations, looking at Indians and missionaries. The missionaries in question, though, are not just the British who worked in Canada, but First Nations men who toured Britain as preachers and spokespeople. The chapter extends the category to include George Copway, whose account of his 1850 visit to Britain, en route to the third World Peace Conference, provides an extended example of native engagement with, and enthusiasm for, modernity. Many of the white missionaries believed they were importing spiritual and material benefits that would allow their native flocks to engage more effectively with an increasingly technological, less localized, and less subsistence-based world. Native commentators who left accounts likewise often position themselves, however awkwardly, as mediators between old and new lifestyles and discourses. Although they often situate themselves quite confidently as supporters of progress, setting the supposedly ahistorical and primitive against the teleological imperatives that informed late-nineteenth-century social systems, this confidence often breaks down when it comes to the question of belief. Not only do they—both native and white—often seek to establish a common ground between native and Christian spirituality, but they have, perhaps inevitably, a blind spot when it comes to asking whether the substitution, or overlaying, of one belief system with another does, in fact, constitute a form of modernity.

Keywords:   British–First Nations relations, Indians, missionaries, First Nations men, Britain, George Copway, modernity, belief system, native spirituality, Christian spirituality

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