The Spring 2020 issue of “South Dakota History,” the quarterly journal of the South Dakota State Historical Society, highlights the legacy of Benedictine missions on the Crow Creek and Standing Rock Indian reservations.
Titled “Converting the Missionaries: Benedictine Priests’ Changing Attitudes,” the issue features articles that challenge the one-sided perspectives of missionary work on Indian reservations. Instead of simply trying to Christianize American Indians, Paul G. Monson, Steven A. Stofferahn, and Robert W. Galler Jr. argue that Benedictine priests adapted to Lakota and Dakota cultures as much as they influenced the tribes.
In an article titled “From Swiss Monk to Lakota Missionary: How Sitting Bull Transformed Bishop Martin Marty,” Monson examines the relationship between the Lakota leader and the bishop. Before arriving in Dakota Territory, Marty’s religious training emphasized a communal approach to missionary work. After meeting Sitting Bull in 1877 and 1879, however, Marty reformed his method and stressed individualized self-determination in regard to conversion. Monson is an assistant professor of church history at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology near Milwaukee, Wis.
“‘Down Too Deep’: Father Pius Boehm, from Reluctant Missionary to Devoted Caretaker at Crow Creek, 1887–1935” by Stofferahn explores how Boehm’s experiences as head of the Immaculate Conception Mission School at Stephan transformed him. In his nearly five decades at Crow Creek, Boehm was forced to confront and alter his ideas about missions, American Indians, and his general worldview. Stofferahn is a professor and chair of the Department of History at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.
Galler’s article, “Converting the Missionaries: The Transformation of Benedictine Priests at Crow Creek,” focuses on the series of priests who served at Stephan mission in the 19th and 20th centuries. Starting with the arrival of Father Pierre Jean De Smet in the 1860s, each subsequent missionary to the Dakotas both carried Catholic and American traditions to local American Indians and adapted their own practices based on their interactions with native people and traditions. Galler is a professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, Minn.
“South Dakota History” is a benefit of membership in the South Dakota State Historical Society. For information on membership, call 605-773-6000. To purchase individual issues, call 605-773-6009.
About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.