Changing attitudes : relations of Mennonite missionaries with Native North Americans, 1880 to 2004

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Block, Alvina
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This study compares and contrasts changes in attitudes and methods of the General Conference Mennonite mission in the United States and the Bergthaler Mennonite Pioneer Mission in Manitoba toward Native North Americans. The General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America was closely connected historically with the Manitoba Bergthaler Church. In fact, the Bergthaler Church joined the General Conference in 1968. The General Conference mission to the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Hopi in the United States began in 1880 while the Manitoba Mennonite Pioneer Mission to the Ojibwa, Cree, and people of mixed ancestry in Manitoba began in 1948. Research of case studies for both missions shows that the Mennonite Pioneer Mission began with the same methods and attitudes as the much earlier Mennonite mission in the south. Changes that took place were not dependent on how long the respective missions had been in operation. Changing attitudes happened simultaneously in the United States and in the Manitoba mission, as a reflection of changing attitudes in society. In the 1960s and 1970s, both missions became more accepting of other cultures as missionaries began to dialogue with people of different backgrounds and life ways. They realized that instead of being bearers of absolute truth, they could listen and learn as well. After 1980 and continuing to 2004, interest in missions seemed to wane in the Mennonite constituency. Consequently funding for missions for Native peopels was greatly reduced. This study raised some interesting questions about the dilemmas of syncretism, denominationalism, and what happened to Mennonite distinctives such as adult baptism on confession of faith, the peace position, and separateness from society as Mennonites and Naitve North Americans interacted and faced new challenges of communication and mutual adaptation.