College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


David M Valladares


Native American, Christian Hybridity, Salem Witch Trials, Wounded Knee, Colonial Perspectives, Ghost Dance, Peyote Religion, Newspaper Editorials, Calvinism, James Mooney, Indian Affairs




The American West of the late nineteenth century is too often exhibited by scholars who study it from the point of view of the westward expansion of European settlers on to Native land. However, the nuance of this short period should be examined with careful consideration. With westward expansion came the proselytization of Christianity to the Native populations who retained their own religious ideology. Historians and anthropologists have studied extensively the viewpoints of Christians and practitioners of Native faiths on topics of faith, prayer, and spirituality. However, similar examinations have yet to examine the more accepting and permissive attitudes that Christian colonists developed since the New World received its first Europeans. This thesis explores a new concept of an increasing permissiveness amongst Protestant settler groups within the United States. These changes in perception led to the development of Native-Christian hybridity and empathetic leanings towards practices that would have been considered intolerable in previous iterations. Religious hybrid models of the nineteenth century, such as the Ghost Dance and the Peyote Religion, would have been deemed witchcraft and punished as such when the first Christian settlers of North America were present in the seventeenth century but changes in perception led to more accepting attitudes amongst the group. This work will focus chiefly on primary source material to develop a narrative demonstrating the shifting perceptions of colonists in regard to Native populations even, and in spite of, the coming of Native systems of belief and those of the Christian faith.

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