Bobbie Kalman and Greg Nickles.
Review by lan Stewart.
In the thousands of years before the padres arrived, Native Americans practiced their own beliefs. The different tribes did not follow one religion, as the padres did. Instead, each tribe believed in its own gods and spirits who were thought to live inside humans, animals, trees, plants, the earth, the sky and water . . . Native Americans who accepted Christian teachings and came to live in the mission were called converts or neophytes. The padres expected neophytes to learn Spanish, dress European-style, help with the work, and pray and worship with them.Mom always said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!" Well, the opposite is true as well. Sometimes you can be too nice, and sugarcoat the truth so much, that it would have been better not to say anything at all.
Such is the case with Spanish Missions. The text takes us from the Spanish conquest of the Americas to the modern era. It touches on various aspects of daily life in the missions - religious instruction, school, daily chores, growing crops, and raising livestock. It ends with historical guides taking tourists through restored mission museums. Yet this book leaves no impression that these missions were part of process that engendered tragic consequences.
There is no Native voice speaking in this book. No Native voice tells what it was like before Spanish colonial missionary zeal destroyed a culture and a way of life. No Native voice tells us that there was a way of life worth preserving and better than the imposed substitute.
Of course, in a Canadian context, we may substitute French or English for Spanish colonialism. Like Kalman and Nickles, any teacher's reluctance, particularly at the elementary school level, to critically confront economic, political, and spiritual racial imperialism will leave nothing but white-washed historical pap in the minds of our twenty-first century adults.
Spanish Missions is not just insipid - the treacly prose and paucity of content certainly won't enhance its readers intellectual capabilities - it is offensive in its lack of character.
lan Stewart works at Lord Nelson School and the University of Winnipeg Library.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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