Comparing Missionary Efforts

Every missionary endeavor in North America must be seen as a combination of forces. Europeans varied in their approach to native peoples. The Spanish came first and were the most aggressive and successful in converting Native Americans to a European faith, in this case, Roman Catholicism. The French and English who followed were neither as determined to convert nor as thorough in their missionary efforts. The Jesuits, who spearheaded the French effort, were a determined group, but they suffered from a lack of money, missionaries, and government support. The English, while not entirely unconcerned with native conversion, were the weakest of the three main European colonizers as far as missionary work was concerned. As for Native American acceptance of European missionary ideas, the record is mixed. Generally, native peoples tended to pick and choose, adopting those pieces of European religion they admired, while at the same time striving to maintain their political independence and, later, their cultural autonomy. Matthew Jennings See also: Christ and Christianity; Dominicans; Franciscans; God; Jesuits; Native American-European Relations; Religion (Chronology); Religion (Essay); Serra, Fray Jun­pero; Spanish Colonies on Mainland North America (Chronology). Bibliography Axtell, James. The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. Weber, David J. The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

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