Emma Anderson

Associate Professor, Department of Classics and Religious Studies

Member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and thereby authorized to supervise theses.

Office: DMS 10112
Telephone: 613-562-5800, ext. 1176
E-mail: eanderso@uOttawa.ca

I joined the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa in 2005, the same year I concluded my doctorate at Harvard University.  While I enjoy teaching a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses, my primary area of research involves native-Catholic religious interactions in North America since the seventeenth century. 

Over the last several years I have been writing a book entitled The Death and Afterlife of the North American Martyrs, which explores the history of devotion to eight Jesuit missionaries slain by native people during the 1640s, a decade of unprecedented disease, dislocation and warfare across the colonial northeast.  This book explores how these violent encounters were understood by all participants: plumbing the perspectives and motivations of the missionaries, their native slayers, and those native Catholics who, although they died alongside the “Jesuit martyrs,” have yet to receive comparable recognition as martyrs by the Catholic Church.

The book also traces the evolution of the martyrs’ saintly “afterlife:” their continual remembering and reinvention in the Catholic collective imagination, an exercise which was critical both to their eventual canonization in 1930 and to the formation of a distinctively North American Catholic identity.  In examining how the lives and bloody deaths of these figures has been interpreted, contested, and continually transformed by devotees and detractors since the 1640s, my book eschews the encyclopedic for the intimate.  It illuminates the deeply personal perspectives and contributions of the martyrs’ individual venerators and critics while reflecting more broadly upon the role of religion, victimhood, and violence in creating competing collective identities in North America from colonial times to the present.  This book will be published in the fall of 2013 by Harvard University Press.  Perhaps it, like my first book, will eventually be translated into French. 

My first book, Betrayal of Faith: The Tragic Journey of a Colonial Native Convert documents the fascinating and poignant true story of Pierre-Anthoine Pastedechouan, a seventeenth-century Innu man who, as a child, spent five years in a French monastery before being sent home as a missionary to his people.  So changed was the adolescent by his experiences in France that, when told of the plan to return him to Canada, he reported asked: “But my Fathers, how can you want me send me back to those beasts who do not know God?”  Robbed of both his traditional religious identity and critical survival skills by his French sojourn, Pastedechouan had difficulty winning the acceptance of his community upon his return.  Suspended between two worlds, he ultimately became alienated from his native community and his missionary mentors, an alienation which would ultimately cost the young man his life.

My current research explores the growing contemporary veneration of a twentieth-century native woman, Rose Prince of the Dakelh or Carrier Nation.  Prince spent much of her life (first as a student, then as a worker) at the Lejac Residential School near Fraser Lake, B.C.  In 1951, when the school’s cemetery was relocated, her coffin broke open.  Despite the fact that she had been dead for two years, eye-witnesses claim that Prince’s corpse was so perfectly preserved that it looked as if she had merely fallen asleep.  Her alleged “incorruptibility,” or failure to decay after death, led many to speculate that Rose Prince might have been a great, if heretofore unknown, saint, as Catholic theology has traditionally regarded this as an especially potent indicator of an individual’s holiness.  Since 1990, there has been an annual pilgrimage to Prince’s gravesite.  Some pilgrims, believing the soil to have miraculous properties, applied it to their bodies seeking healing. 

In my view, it is a particularly fitting moment to explore the life, death, alleged incorruptibility, and growing veneration of Rose Prince.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has just concluded its coast-to-coast consideration of the ongoing effects of the residential school system upon Canadian First Nations.  Moreover, many native Catholics this summer are eagerly anticipating the October 2012 canonization of Catherine “Kateri” Tekakwitha, a seventeenth-century Iroquois Catholic to whom Rose Prince is often compared.  How will the elevation of “the Lily of the Mohawk” affect “the Rose of the Carrier?”

University degrees 

2005 - PhD, Harvard University
1998 - MA, Harvard Divinity School
1993 - BA, Carleton University

Fields of interest

  • European-Aboriginal Religious Contact in Colonial Canada
  • North American Religious History
  • Aboriginal Religions
  • Post-Tridentine French Catholicism
  • Conversion and De-conversion
  • Miracles, Healings, and Marian Apparitions
  • Material Culture and Religion, Popular Religion
  • Religion in Contemporary Canada
  • Religion and Violence in colonial North America

Courses taught

  • SRS1191 Religion, Culture, and Identity in Canada
  • SRS1591 La religion, la culture, et l’identité au Canada
  • SRS2386 Missionaries, Medicine Men, and Methodists: Selected Topics in the History of Religion in Canada
  • SRS2781 Christianisme, culture, et changement
  • SRS3110 Religion, Spirituality, and Culture in Contemporary Western Society
  • SRS3139 Religious Encounters in the Colonial Americas
  • SRS3140 Divine Images and Sacred Stories: Art, Religion, and Mythology
  • SRS3141 Gender and Piety: Women and North American Christianity
  • SRS4907 Dialogue, Imposition, and Resistance: Aboriginal-EuroCanadian Religious Interactions, 1600-Present
  • SRS5918 The Sacred Gaze, Religion, Art, and Culture
  • SRS6907 Selected Topics in Christianity: Miracles, Healings and Apparitions: Interpreting Extraordinary Religious Phenomena 
  • SRS6907 Selected Topics in Christianity: Aboriginal Peoples and Christianity
  • SRS6907 Selected Topics in Christianity: Understanding Christian Martyrdom

Selected publications


Bones of Contention: The Making of the North American Martyrs. Cambridge: MA: Harvard University Press, 450 pages (forthcoming, 2013).

La Trahison de la foi: le parcours tragique d’un converti autochtone à l’époque coloniale. Québec: Les Presses de L’Université Laval, 2009.

The Betrayal of Faith: The Tragic Journey of a Colonial Native Convert. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Book Chapters:

« ‘Nous avons esté faits un spectacle aux yeux des anges et des hõmes’: le martyr, le sacrifice, et le retour des âmes en Amérique du Nord au 17ième siècle » in Galland, Caroline, and Van Ruymbeke, Bertrand eds. Colonisation et Confessionnalisation en Amérique du Nord : XVIIe-XVIIIe Siècles  Paris : Les Presses de l’Université de Paris (forthcoming, 2013).

“ ‘My Spirit Found a Unity with this Holy Man:’ A Nun’s visions and the Negotiation of Pain and Power in Seventeenth Century New France,” in Plane, Ann-Marie and Tuttle, Leslie, eds.  Dreams, Dreamers, and Visions in the Early Modern Atlantic World.  Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press (forthcoming, 2013)

“Perceiving Presence: Marian Apparitions and Healings in Nineteenth-Century Europe,” in Sarah Coakley, ed., Spiritual Healing. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans ( forthcoming, 2013).

“Blood, Fire, and ‘Baptism’: Three Perspectives on the Death of Jean de Brébeuf, Seventeenth-Century Jesuit ‘Martyr,’” in Joel Martin and Mark Nicholas, eds., Native Americans, Christianity, and the Reshaping of the American Religious Landscape, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press (forthcoming, 2010).

« Les représentants naïfs: l’exhibition, le baptême, et l’éducation des ‘petites sauvages’ en France au dix-septième siècle, » in Hélène Cazes, ed.Histoires d’Enfants. Québec: Presses de L’Université Laval, 2008.

“‘They Should be Ashamed to Eat, Who are Reluctant to Work:’ The Jesuit Agriculturalist Ethic on the Frontiers of Eighteenth-Century New Spain,” in C. Pullapilly et al, eds. Christianity and Native Cultures: Perspectives from Different Regions of the World. Notre Dame, IN: Cross Cultural Press, p. 306-351, 2004.

“Fatal Ambivalence: The Religious Journey of Pierre-AnthoinePastedechouan, Seventeenth-Century Montagnais Amerindian,” in C. Pullapilly et al, eds. Christianity and Native Cultures: Perspectives from Different Regions of the World. Notre Dame, IN: Cross Cultural Press, p. 352-383, 2004.

Journal Articles:

« ‘Pleut à Dieu que je fusse mort en France.’ Le Destin Tragique de Pierre-Anthoine Pastedechouan, Autochtone du Canada en Anjou, » Archives d’Anjou, 2007.

“Between Conversion and Apostasy: The Religious Journey of Pierre-Anthoine Pastedechouan,”Anthropologica  Vol. 49: p. 17-34, 2007.

“My Misfortune is That I Have Not a Mind Strong Enough to Remain Firm in My Determination:” The Fatal Ambivalence of a Seventeenth-Century Aboriginal Convert,” (Part II of a two-part series) in ARC: The Journal of the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University Vol. 34, p. 107-130, 2006.

“Do Not Send Me Back to Those Beasts Who Do Not Know God’: The Religious and Cultural Transformation of an Innu Child in Seventeenth-Century France,” (Part I of a two-part series) ARC: The Journal of the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University Vol. 32: p. 73-96, 2004.

“Changing Devotional Paradigms and Their Impact upon Nineteenth-Century Marian Apparitions: The Case of La Salette,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 52 (1998): 85-122.




© University of Ottawa
For additional information, consult our list of contacts.
Last updated: 2012.06.27