American Indians •  American West •  History and Religion

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Unaffected by the Gospel: Osage Resistance to the Christian Invasion, 1673-1906: A Cultural Victory

Willard Rollings

The Osage were fierce warriors who seized control of most of present-day Missouri and Arkansas in conflicts with other tribes. Against Euro-American invaders, however, they adopted nonviolent resistance. Even though their territory steadily diminished, and the tribe was relocated to a small strip in northern Oklahoma, the tribe's cultural and religious beliefs and practices survived.
Willard Hughes Rollings claims Osage nonviolent resistance was a successful strategy for cultural preservation. By avoiding war they avoided military defeat and were better able to minimize the compromises forced upon them. Living among competing colonial powers, they successfully manipulated imperial rivalries.
For most of the nineteenth century the Osage were the targets of intense missionary activity, part of the American goal to relocate and "civilize" them. Here, too, the tactic of passive resistance served them well. Earlier scholars claimed that while the Protestant missionaries failed in their efforts to convert the Osage, the Jesuits succeeded. Rollings shows, however, that neither Protestants nor Catholics had any real success in converting the Osage to Euro-American Christianity.


Willard Hughes Rollings (1948-2008) was associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Rollings, of Cherokee descent, was raised in New Mexico and was a recognized scholar in American Indian history. He wrote four books, including The Osage: An Ethnohistorical Study of Hegemony on the Prairie-Plains.


"This is more than a study on how the Osage Indians resisted efforts to "civilize" them through Christianity. It is also an explanation of how and why they adopted a policy of nonviolent resitence. . . While scholarly, Unaffected by the Gospel will also appeal to the general reader."


Roundup Magazine

"An excellent piece of research, well told. Recommended."


CHOICE Magazine

" Unaffected by the Gospel is a readable synthesis that provides an adequate introduction to the subject."


Great Plains Research

"Rollings has produced a thoughtful work."


The Catholic Historical Review

"(Rollings) has written an interesting account of the Osage Nation, tracing the effects of colonial contact and conquest."


American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"Rollings presents an extremely informative synopsis of Osage diplomatic history from the earliest French contact to lay the background for the nineteenth-century missions."


The Chronicles of Oklahoma

"Rollings' work is an important addition to Osage studies."


Journal of the West

"Rollings has written a compelling and accessible book that will alter perspectives on the Osages."


Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"...Rollings provides readers with an engaging and thoughtful book that should appeal to anyone interested in the interactions between Osages and missionaries in the nineteenth century."


Western Historical Quarterly

6 x 9 in. 256 pages 5 halftones, 4 maps