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History Native American

Heavens Are Changing

Nineteenth-Century Protestant Missions and Tsimshian Christianity

by (author) Susan Neylan

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2002
Native American
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    Publish Date
    Nov 2002
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In The Heavens Are Changing Susan Neylan offers a fresh perspective on Aboriginal encounters with Protestant missions, exploring how the Tsimshian in nineteenth-century British Columbia took an active and important role in shaping forms of Christianity and, in turn, were shaped by them. She examines the nature of Protestant missions in their first generation on the north coast of British Columbia (1857-1901), focusing on the Aboriginal roles in Christianization. She pays special attention to the Euro-Canadian missionary perspective, the viewpoints of First Nations themselves, and particular events that illuminate the negotiation of Christian identities, such as forms of worship, naming practices, and mission housing.

While the Euro-Canadian record dominates historical missionary sources, Aboriginal writings illustrate both a genuine evangelicalism and an indigenized Christianity. Christian meanings were constantly challenged from both within and without the mission context through revivalism and group evangelism. Neylan interprets the relationship forged between Tsimshian and Euro-Canadian missionary as a dialogue, although not necessarily a mutually beneficial one. The process by which power was unequally distributed through missionization exposes the extent to which the social and cultural meanings of Tsimshian daily life were contested and negotiated in encounters with Christianity.

About the author

Suzanne Luke is the Curator of the Robert Langen Art Gallery at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Susan Neylan's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"An extremely important piece of research on the history of missionization in Canada. Neylan is the first historian to present an in-depth critical/theoretical analysis of missionization in a British Columbia context. She is the first to give this cultural phenomenon the serious historical study it deserves. Anthropologists, historians, First Nations peoples, and religious scholars will find it invaluable ... so rich with tangible evidence, culled from a wide array of little-known sources." Wendy Wickwire, Department of History and School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria -----
"An interesting exploration of the encounter between Protestant missionaries and aboriginal people of the North Pacific coast ... solidly based in the relevant literature and conventions." Kerry Abel, author of Drum songs: Glimpses of Dene History

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