Why Have You Come Here?: The Jesuits and the First Evangelization of Native America

Paperback | August 15, 2006

byNicholas P. Cushner

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Christian evangelism was the ostensible motive for much of the early European interaction with the indigenous population of America. The religious orders of the Catholic Church were the front-line representatives of Western culture and the ones who met indigenous America face-to-face. Theywere also the primary agents of religious change. In this book, Nicholas Cushner provides the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the American missionary activities of the Jesuits. From the North American encounter with the Indians of Florida in 1565, through Mexico, New France, theParaguay Reductions, Andean Perus, to contact with Native Americans in Maryland on the eve of the American Revolution, members of the order interacted with both native elites and colonizers. Drawing on the abundant documentation of and scholarship about these encounters, Cushner examines how theJesuits behaved toward the indigenous population and analyzes the way in which native belief systems were replaced by Christianity. He seeks to understand how and why the initial European-Indian encounter changed not only the religion of the natives, but also their material culture, economicactivity, social organization, and even their sexual behavior. Always sensitive to the influence of European "cultural filters" on Jesuit accounts, Cushner attempts as far as possible to discover the authentic voices of the Native Americans with whom they interacted. The result is a fascinating andhighly accessible introduction to the earliest colonial encounters in the Americas.

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Christian evangelism was the ostensible motive for much of the early European interaction with the indigenous population of America. The religious orders of the Catholic Church were the front-line representatives of Western culture and the ones who met indigenous America face-to-face. Theywere also the primary agents of religious chang...

Nicholas P. Cushner is Professor of History (Emeritus) at the Empire State College, State University of New York, in Albany.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:270 pages, 5.98 × 9.21 × 0.79 inPublished:August 15, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195308018

ISBN - 13:9780195308013

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"This is a book for which the author must be heartily congratulated. Such a daunting, yet, on the whole, successful examination of Jesuit-Indian interactions --on a continental scale, in five different American locations, and in comparable chronological settings --has rarely, if ever, beenseriously attempted or has produced such convincing results. If anything, Cushner's book strengthens the notion that conversion to Christianity, and probably to any new religion (or belief system), is such an intimate, individual event that we will never be able to interrogate a convert's sincerity,let alone to quantify the overall phenomenon." --Journal of American History