The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999

Book Reviews
JESUS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
On the Padres' Trail. By Christopher Vecsey. (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1998. Pp. xvii+439. Illustrations, maps, preface, acknowl-
edgments, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-268-03702-7. $50.00, cloth).
The author of this study, a professor of religion, specializes in Native Ameri-
can studies and Roman Catholic history. This book, the first installment of the
author's projected multivolume series examining the history of Native American
Roman Catholicism throughout the United States, explores the beliefs of the
Southwestern mission Indians and their descendants. Although organized
chronologically, its disciplinary approach is sociological and anthropological
rather than historical, focusing on religious practices and theological beliefs.
This viewpoint, however, does not detract from the book's academic quality,
scholarship, and potential usefulness to historians. It is well written, extensively
researched, and cogently organized. As well, the book provides easily under-
stood explanations of complex theological and religious doctrines.
Professor Vecsey selectively examines in three separate sections of this volume
the history of relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Native
Americans in Sonora and Arizona (the Pimeria of New Spain), New Mexico, and
California. He begins his analysis in each case by examining the establishment of
missions in the colonial period, following through with an investigation of
Native American Catholicism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and
concluding with an inquiry into current problems existing today between the
Church and Indian congregations on the reservations of the Southwest. Based
on an extensive secondary literature culled from the disciplines of history, soci-
ology, anthropology, and religious studies, along with his own field notes and
interviews with informants, Vecsey concludes that Indian Catholics have "inter-
preted and reinterpreted Christian messages" brought to them by the Church
from colonial times to the present "in terms of aboriginal beliefs." Hence,
Roman Catholicism among Native Americans in the Southwest is a distinct cre-
ation, with its own context, history, and hue" (p. 41). Its exact nature, moreover,
varies from place to place throughout the region. For example, the author
argues that the Yaqui of Arizona and Sonora have fused Catholic and indigenous
beliefs into a coherent theological whole that perpetuates many forms of
Christian symbolism side by side with the integrated worship of natural phenom-
enon and ancient beings, the huya aniya as it is called. In the case of New
Mexico, and to an extent also of California, he finds Native American spiritual

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed November 21, 2014.