Vanderbilt University, B.A., History, 1998; University of Delaware, M.A., History 2000.
"Cherokee Reckonings: Native Preachers, Protestant Missionaries, and the Shaping of an American Indian Religious Culture, 1801-38"
This dissertation explores the various ways that the southeastern Cherokee interpreted and experienced Christianity in the early 19th century. Knowledge of Christian traditions first spread among the Cherokee when Protestant missionaries preached among them after the American Revolution. By the 1820s several denominations had erected their own mission schools and established regular Sabbath meetings. In the hearts and practices of hundreds of Cherokee faithful, Christian ideas began to commingle with Cherokee customs. I seek to understand how these Cherokee converts conceived of Christianity in the context of their native traditions; what aspects of Christianity appealed to these Cherokee; which Christian customs they rejected, and why. Most Christian inspired Cherokee did not discard their sense of Cherokee spirituality as they adopted new religious practices. I seek to uncover which of their own traditions they maintained along with their Christian beliefs. My dissertation also pays close attention to how Christianity influenced Cherokee social relations, created new loyalties among kin and clan members, and altered concepts of gender.