The Symbol of Domination
The New World brought untold riches to the powers of the Old World. Gold, silver, furs, tobacco, and many, many other resources became the currency of conquest. There was however one other resource that can not be left off that list, souls. Religion, as is almost always the case, became a weapon and resource in the New World.
The natives that lived in North America had beliefs and religion of their own. That didn’t really matter. The Catholic Church, under the auspices of both Spain and France, saw the natives as savages and pagans. They sought to “rescue” their souls for God.
To do so they established missions all through the New World. These missions often became the center of life for many of the Europeans living in the frontier. They became crucial to not only gaining the support of the natives but converting them to Christianity.
In particularity unsafe or contested areas, sometimes these missions would become forts. From there they would be able to attack enemies and aggressively spread the word of God.
Not all native tribes took to the missionaries very well. They saw no reason to change their traditions and beliefs. There was an effort to make them more like the white man by encouraging them to move from the hunter/gatherer society they had always known to an agrarian based society. All too often the attempts to “civilize” the natives lead to bloody conflict that never ended well for them.
The crosses that are shown in the picture above came were found in the area of one of the old mission/forts. Where the meaning of cross to some is death and rebirth, to others it could just as easily be about the end of a way of life.