Salvation from empire : the roots of Anishinabe Christianity in Upper Canada
Murton Stoehr, Catherine
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This thesis examine the cultural interaction between Anishinabe people, who lived in what is now southern Ontario, and the Loyalists, Euroamerican settlers who moved north from the United States during and after the American Revolution. Starting with an analysis of Anishinabe cultural history before the settlement era the thesis argues that Anishinabe spirituality was not traditionalist. Rather it inclined its practitioners to search for new knowledge. Further, Anishinabe ethics in this period were determined corporately based on the immediate needs and expectations of individual communities. As such, Anishinabe ethics were quite separate from Anishinabe spiritual teachings. Between 1760 and 1815, the Anishinabe living north of the Great Lakes participated in pan-Native resistance movements to the south. The spiritual leaders of these movements, sometimes called nativists, taught that tradition was an important religious virtue and that cultural integration was dangerous and often immoral. These nativist teachings entered the northern Anishinabe cultural matrix and lived alongside earlier hierarchies of virtue that identified integration and change as virtues. When Loyalist Methodists presented their teachings to the Anishinabeg in the early nineteenth century their words filtered through both sets of teachings and found purchase in the minds of many influential leaders. Such leaders quickly convinced members of their communities to take up the Methodist practices and move to agricultural villages. For a few brief years in the 1830s these villages achieved financial success and the Anishinabe Methodist leaders achieved real social status in both Anishinabe and Euroamerican colonial society. By examining the first generation of Anishinabe Methodists who practiced between 1823 and 1840, I argue that many Anishinabe people adopted Christianity as new wisdom suitable for refitting their existing cultural traditions to a changed cultural environment. Chiefs such as Peter Jones (Kahkewahquonaby), and their followers, found that Methodist teachings cohered with major tenets of their own traditions, and also promoted bimadziwin, or health and long life, for their communities. Finally, many Anishinabe people believed that the basic moral injunctions of their own tradition compelled them to adopt Methodism because of its potential to promote bimadziwin.