Rapid Conversion of Native Americans to Christianity

Columbus and Christianity

Source: L. Prang & Co., Boston : Christopher Columbus arrives in America via en.wikipedia.org


This maybe a far-fetched but please hear me out. When the Native Americans joined Christianity they became desirous of European goods and more eager to take part in the fur trade. Thus, could some cross over spiritual worship to enjoy the benefits of European good? Bear in mind that the French traders treated the Americans different as oppose to the other Europeans. The French were willing to learn the Native language, such communication encouraged the American to open to European custom (later we saw intermarriage etc.). Now, I am wondering did the Europeans use Christianity as a way to encourage trading with the Americans or did they use trading as a way to convert? According to Laura Leddy Turner, French Jesuit missionaries were negotiators between fur trappers and Americans, they lived among the Indians. Furthermore, when some European women and children became captives of the Native Americans acculturation took place.

Another reason in the rise of Christian conversion is Native American reaction to new diseases. According to Melissa Sue Halverson, European pathogens inflicted many American with unprecedented infections. Many people who survived became convinced of the Christian God of whom the missionaries spoke. When many shaman and other elders died, it became a bit easier for the missionaries to stir the Americans away from their traditional rituals but to European religious rituals. For this reason one can argue that European diseases played a role in helping missionaries convert.

It is also important to note that many of the South Eastern Native Americans became slaves in the Caribbean markets. Elizabeth Prince Pauls explains that many of the Native Americans who survived the conquest of land in the South East became part of the lucrative slave markets. She further explains that the surviving communities sometimes group together to protect themselves. However, others moved close to Catholic missions to take advantage of  protection with the resident priests. Of course, it became easier to preach the gospel when your target audience is within easy reach. In addition, some Native Americans Incas came as assistants to the priests to escape the harsh Mitayo labour system set up by the Spaniards in Peru. In addition, Nicholas Kar notes that some Mayans converted to Christianity to appease the Spaniards so they could continue practicing their own traditional belief on the low, indefinitely.


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