Long before Catholic missionary schools worked to convert indigenous youth, Spanish Catholic missionaries had been working in what became the southwest United States to spread Christianity to Native communities. That history, too, is stained by blood and coercion.
Catholic bishops in Mexico who had worked with Native people ended up torturing those they found betrayed monotheism by practicing their traditional religions. In one famous instance, a Native man caught practicing his own religion was burned at the stake, said Woolley, the history professor.
Later missionaries were less violent and militant, Woolley said, and there is evidence they worked hard to learn about aspects of local culture and spirituality to help them better package and sell Catholicism.
Today, the tension between oppressor and oppressed still exists. Native communities are still grappling with hegemony, or the concept of buying into their own oppression. The Catholic church is grappling with its complicity in wiping out indigenous culture and people.