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Dissonant Worlds

Roger Vandersteene among the Cree

By Earle H. Waugh
Subjects Religion, Indigenous Studies, History, Canadian History
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Paperback : 9780889202788, 376 pages, November 1996
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554588176, 376 pages, October 2010
Ebook (PDF) : 9780889205628, 376 pages, January 2006

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Dissonant Worlds: Roger Vandersteene Among the Cree by Earle H. Waugh
Preface and Acknowledgments
Roger (Rogier) Vandersteene, 1918–1976
One. Flemish Matrix: Blood, Art, and Piety
Two: “Steentje’s” Beginnings: Between Family and Flanders
Three: Grouard before Vandersteene: Cree, Catholic, Canadian
Four: “My Little Sisters, My Little Brothers”: From Encounter to Wasabasca
Five: Intransigent Reality: Manitou’s Land, Manitou’s Children
Six: The Great Mystery: Visible and Touchable Art
Seven: Sojourn Charts: Poetry in Serenity and Flux
Eight: Wrestling the Spirits: Powagan, Beethoven, Cancer
Nine: Beyond the Dissonance: Legacy of a Quest
Ten: Theoretical Epilogue: Vandersteene and the Understanding of Religion
Appendix 1: Chronology of Roger (Rogier) Vandersteene’s Life
Appendix 2: Evaluations of Vandersteene Collected during Research
Appendix 3: Ode to Vandersteene by Willem Vermandere
Appendix 4: Names of Informants


How did a Belgian Oblate missionary who came to Canada to convert the aboriginals come to be buried as a Cree chief? In Dissonant Worlds Earle Waugh traces the remarkable career of Roger Vandersteene: his life as an Oblate missionary among the Cree, his intensive study of the Cree language and folkways, his status as a Cree medicine man, and the evolution of his views on the relationship between aboriginal traditions and the Roman Catholicism of the missionaries who worked among them. Above all, Dissonant Worlds traces Vandersteene’s quest to build a new religious reality: a strong, spiritually powerful Cree church, a magnificent Cree formulation of Christian life.
In the wilderness of northern Canada Vandersteene found an aboriginal spirituality that inspired his own poetic and artistic nature and encouraged him to pursue a religious vision that united Cree tradition and Catholicism, one that constituted a dramatic revision of contemporary Catholic ritual. Through his paintings, poetry and liturgical modifications, Vandersteene attempted to recreate Cree reality and provide images grounded in Cree spirituality.
Dissonant Worlds, in telling the story of Vandersteene’s struggle to integrate European Catholicism and aboriginal spirituality, raises the larger issue: Is there a place for missionary work in the modern church? It will be of interest to students of Native studies, the religious history of the Oblates, Canadian studies and Catholicism in the mid-twentieth century.


Dissonant Worlds is not a hagiography....Vandersteene's dream did not come true, but he did leave behind him `one of the most important legacies of interreligious encounter in Canada in this century.'

- Filip Matthus (translated by Tanis Guest)

An important source for scholarly reassessments of Christianity's role among Native peoples, this book will appeal to missiology and North American church history students.

- Jamie S. Scott, York University, Religious Studies Review

More than a biography of a remarkable Canadian and a history and analysis of an important aspect of Canadian Native-Church relations, Dissonant Worlds is a labour of love....Whether or not we are sympathetic with Vandersteene's mission, we cannot but be moved by Waugh's sensitive portrayal of one individual's encounter and its outcome.

- Jordan Paper, York University, Studies in Religion

This biography is as respectful and sensitive to Vandersteene's religious vision as he was to that of his Cree companions.... As much a work of spirituality and theology as of history and biography, this text is highly recommended for students in religious studies, Catholicism, native and Canadian history, philosophy and cultural studies.

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