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Willy-Nilly Baptisms and Chichimeca Freedoms: Missionary Disputes, Indigenous Desires and the 1695 O’odham Revolt

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This paper uses the 1695 revolt of the O’odham (Pima) in northern New Spain as a window into ritually inflected encounters between indigenous communities and European evangelists. A careful study of the diverse religious and military reports on the O’odham rebellion reveals a more complex rendering of native participation than the dichotomous options of conversion or rejection. Soldiers’ journals, missionary letters, and official reports not only list possible reasons for the uprising, but also help explain the long periods of relative cooperation that preceded and followed it. Even as several O’odham rejected Christian symbols and rituals in 1695, they also welcomed missionaries with crosses, accepted baptism, celebrated feasts, and constructed churches before and after the revolt. At the same time, the uprising exposed internal Jesuit ambivalence about the authenticity of indigenous sacramental participation. While priests like Eusebio Kino believed in a patient and relatively tolerant approach to existing O’odham practices, others like Francisco Xavier Mora insisted on a more immediate and thoroughgoing transformation to European norms. This disagreement and the ensuing gap between early promises and actual implementation help explain shifting O’odham strategies for negotiating missionary encounters.

Affiliations: 1: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill


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