Research Question: How did the introduction of Christianity influence the lives of Native Americans?
Documents: Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Phoenix and Indian’s Advocate
During Wednesday’s lecture, we talked for a bit about Native American language and how it is endangered. Language has always been an interesting topic to me, especially Native languages because there are so many! It is so heartbreaking to hear about Native languages losing traction because that means that parts of Native American culture is being lost as well. This relates to the newspapers we were given to read because it mentions Christianity.
Native Americans were not originally Christian, it was completely through European force and influence that many Native Americans were forced to convert. In fact, I did some research and discovered that Cherokees (who are the subject of this newspaper) originally followed animism. Animism follows the belief that all objects, creatures, places, and natural phenomena have souls and spirits. Personally, I have always been interested in learning more about animism since I learned about it in World History class and to hear that its popularity was diminished because of European colonization is disheartening. Native American religion is apart of their culture and along with their language it has been driven to the brink of extinction because of forced conversion and the belief that Christianity was the only “correct” belief.
In the document “Cherokee Phoenix”, we do not see mention of previous Cherokee religion or beliefs, instead we see how Christianity was literally integrated into Cherokee culture. For instance, there is a column titled “How To Read Scripture” which discusses why the Bible is so important and why Cherokees need to “awaken”. Additionally, the next column discusses the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation which discusses many rules about Christianity. For instance, Sec. 2 states that any person who denies God shall be denied any Cherokee Nation office. While the acceptance pf Christianity was probably necessary for the Cherokee Nation to remain allies with the Europeans, it is horrible that the Cherokees were required to deny their traditional beliefs.
This can also be proven by looking at the images produced by Voyage. I put both of the newspapers into voyage and the results can be seen above. In both of these images, words associated with Christianity such as “God”, “Bible”, and “church” are found throughout the word jumbles. By analyzing this text and using Voyant, we can answer my research question by noticing how the Cherokee integrated Christianity into the Cherokee lifestyle through actions in their newspapers and requiring officials to be Christian.
One thought on “Blog Post 8 :)”
I am so glad to hear that you enjoyed our discussion about endangered languages and that it inspired your approach towards this blogging assignment! As you noted, Christian conversion was a side effect of colonialism and it sought to replace Indigenous belief systems. Any form of paganism, animism, or polytheism had long been denounced by Christianity, and converters made it their mission (no pun intended) to change that. This had immense damaging effects to Native belief systems, although many communities ultimately blended some Christian approaches into their own beliefs. Eventually Native religious practices were outlawed until the Native American Religious Freedom Act in 1978. Anyway, I really liked your thoughts about Christianity in Cherokee society; it was certainly one of the elements that contributed to the concept of the Cherokee as “civilized” by Euro-American standards. The wordclouds seem really helpful in visualizing the most frequent words from the text and confirming the centrality of religion within the newspaper columns.