Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Michael L. Tate


Controversy has shadowed Christian missionary activity among Native American peoples from its beginnings in the 1500’s to the present day. During the last two centuries, the churches have competed for the souls of Indians on reservations, in the press, in Congress and in the federal courts. At stake were access to the reservations and the use of federal funds in religious institutions. These jurisdictional conflicts reflected and reinforced the contentious relationships between Protestants and Catholics in the United States. The history of St. Augustine’s Indian Mission was shaped by a combination of national and local events. The foundation of the mission was delayed for twenty years in part by the controversy over the use o f federal funds by religious institutions. More importantly, the well-established Presbyterian missionaries opposed Catholic attempts to locate on the reservation. The mission was finally established with the help of Mother Katharine Drexel, but only after reservation lands had been opened to extensive white settlement. A series of land rushes soon resulted in the impoverishment of Indian families and further complicated relationships between whites and Indians. While Father Joseph Schell sought to help the Winnebagoes by exposing white corruption, Father John Griese worked to develop employment opportunities and to establish an educational and spiritual ministry. Sioux author Vine Deloria, Jr. has eloquently critiqued the negative impact of missions on Native American cultures. However, Deloria created a stereotype of the missionary and the impact of the missions, which failed to address the complexity of the subject. This study of St. Augustine’s suggests that there was also a positive side to the work of Catholic missionaries, and that a generalized assessment of the missions cannot be written until more case studies have been completed.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of History and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2004, Patrick M. Kennedy

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