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Perishing Heathens

Stories of Protestant Missionaries and Christian Indians in Antebellum America

Julius H. Rubin

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 10/2017
Pages: 270
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496203083


In Perishing Heathens Julius H. Rubin tells the stories of missionary men and women who between 1800 and 1830 responded to the call to save Native peoples through missions, especially the Osages in the Arkansas Territory, Cherokees in Tennessee and Georgia, and Ojibwe peoples in the Michigan Territory. Rubin also recounts the lives of Native converts, many of whom were from mixed-blood métis families and were attracted to the benefits of education, literacy, and conversion. During the Second Great Awakening, Protestant denominations embraced a complex set of values, ideas, and institutions known as "the missionary spirit." These missionaries fervently believed they would build the kingdom of God in America by converting Native Americans in the Trans-Appalachian and Trans-Mississippi West. Perishing Heathens explores the theology and institutions that characterized the missionary spirit and the early missions such as the Union Mission to the Osages, and the Brainerd Mission to the Cherokees, and the Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees. Through a magnificent array of primary sources, Perishing Heathens reconstructs the millennial ideals of fervent true believers as they confronted a host of impediments to success: endemic malaria and infectious illness, Native resistance to the gospel message, and intertribal warfare in the context of the removal of eastern tribes to the Indian frontier.  


Julius H. Rubin is a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Saint Joseph. He is the author of Tears of Repentance: Christian Indian Identity and Community in Colonial Southern New England (Nebraska, 2013), The Other Side of Joy: Religious Melancholy among the Bruderhof, and Religious Melancholy and Protestant Experience in America.


"Perishing Heathens breaks ground in American religious and cultural history and in postcolonial studies.  Rubin's dual focus on missionaries and Christianized Indians of the early republic reconsiders the impact of evangelical Protestantism on individuals—Native, mixed, or white—and recasts the old binaries between indigenous and settler, colonized and colonizers."—Jennifer Snead, associate professor of English at Texas Tech University and editor of The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation  

"I found this book to be a valuable source on this important period and a thought-provoking treatment of this very challenging subject."—Kathleen Bragdon, author of The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Northeast