Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

How Do You Say “God” in Dakota?

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Numen

This essay explores some of the interpretive problems posed by the missionary work of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions among Minnesota's Dakota Indians in the mid-nineteenth century. Since “success” in conversion has often been defined largely in terms of Native American assimilation to white American societal norms, I argue that the Dakotas' acceptance of a Christianity that was preached to them in their own language poses a problem for understanding what “conversion” meant in this case. The difficulty of knowing what Christianity meant to the Dakotas, a difficulty I see as rooted in the problems attendant upon translation, can be illustrated by showing how distorted some of the missionaries' translations of Dakota religious ideas into English were. Their translation errors took two forms: the postulation of a similarity in reference between Dakota and English terms where it did not exist (as with the English words “god” and “spirit” and what the missionaries identified as their Dakota counterparts), or, conversely, the heightening of differences between Dakota and Protestant Christian religiosity (an effect achieved by associating Dakota terms with English pejoratives). I argue that what unites these two differing types of distortive translations is the missionaries' failure to understand the conceptual universe, or “deep structure”, underlying the Dakota language. And since they failed to perceive the holistic character of this conceptual system, the missionaries may have concluded that they had effected conversions among the Dakotas when they had only scratched the surface of Dakota religiosity.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies University of California,Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Numen — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation