6) European Influence on Religious Beliefs

The European influence on Calusa and Iroquois religion was also another area where differences may have occurred. One question that might arise is whether the frequent or not-so-frequent contact with the Europeans might have affected their influence on the Indian religions? If so, in what ways were the Indian’s beliefs and rituals affected? These are the questions that will be discussed in this portion of the research.

The Calusa were staunchly opposed to any contact with the Spaniards who attempted to trade with them (MacMahon, pg. 116). This process also transferred to the Calusa and their religious beliefs and rituals. They were able to remain resilient to the attempts made by the Spaniards to convert them to Spanish beliefs and customs (MacMahon, pg. 85). Darcie MacMahon recounts the tale of a Spanish missionary named Juan Rogel who stated, “They said to me….that I should let them be, that they did not want to listen to me” (pg. 84). This proves that the Calusa remained obstinate and held to their religious views and beliefs. They continued to follow their cacique, who was also their spiritual leader, until the very end when they fled their land which ridden with disease and fellow Native Indians who sought to capture them for trade with the Europeans.

The Iroquois have quite a different story. They were quite open to trade with the Europeans and so their religious beliefs were influenced by them. The Iroquois had received both positive and negative information about the Jesuit missionaries from their captives (or new adoptees) in the mid-1600s (Richter, pg. 2). The Iroquois were at first not at all pleased as the missionaries brought disease with them and their customs were drastically different than the Natives were accustomed to. The Iroquois were also unhappy that the Jesuits forbade converts to participate in religious rituals and celebrations (Richter, pg. 2). The Iroquois however only complied with the missionaries when it best suited their needs. Otherwise, “…many Iroquois decided that the services of priests were no longer required” (Richter, pg. 3). It would take many years until the Jesuits were able to successfully establish a mission among the Iroquois (Richter, pg. 3).

Despite their initial repulsion by the Jesuits, there eventually were converts. According to Daniel Richter, “priests made sincere converts and attracted substantial political followings” (pg. 4). The way the Jesuits were able to obtain converts was originally through diplomatic relationships. What was most important regarding the Iroquois and Jesuits was the fact that Iroquois would bring, “…some of their families to serve as hostages, and be answerable for their countrymen’s good faith….they declared, among other things, that all their desires were to have some…Fathers with them to cement the peace” (Richter, pg. 4). This was a sort of trade-off that would, in the mind of the Iroquois, seal the deal of peace among the French and themselves.

In conclusion the religious views are another way in which the Calusa Indians and the Iroquois greatly differ. Not only between themselves, but also their reaction to the Europeans who brought in their new forms of religion. The Calusa were obstinate and would have nothing to do with the religion of the Spaniards. The Iroquois started off the same way as the Calusa until they began to use the Jesuits to exact revenge on their foes. However the Jesuits did eventually win over quite a few converts. This just further shows the differences among the Calusa and Iroquois.


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