The Catholic Calumet
Colonial Conversions in French and Indian North America
University of Pennsylvania Press 2014
New Books in Christian StudiesNew Books in French StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Native American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network March 9, 2015 Franklin Rauch
Studies of Christian missions can easily fall into two different traps: either one-sidedly presenting the missionaries as heroes saving benighted savages or portraying them as villains carrying out cultural imperialism. At the same time, these vastly different perspectives are based on the same error of minimizing native agency. In The Catholic Calumet: Colonial Conversions in French and Indian North America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), Tracy Leavelle transcends these limited perspectives. Through careful research and masterful prose, Leavelle embraces and elucidates the complexities inherent in the relationships between French Catholic missionaries, mostly Jesuits, and Native Americans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Through insightful explorations of the historical record, Leavelle reverses stereotypes commonly held about Christian missions, showing how missionaries also had to “convert” to native ways of thinking and that Native Americans had considerable space in which to maintain traditional identities or to develop their own ways of being Catholic. Moreover, Leavelle‘s skill as a writer makes for a book that is not only informative and thought provoking, but genuinely moving as well.