This book is an examination of how the Chiricahua Apaches were treated by Jesuits and Franciscans who were acting more as officers of the Spanish Empire than for the Roman Catholic Church. The missionaries, charged with converting and creating manageable citizens out of the Indians of the present-day Southwestern United States and northern Mexico, wanted to save souls and convert “savages” to the “true” religion. Their good intentions were complicated by their connection to the Spanish government. Also, European diseases killed many of the missionaries’ converts.
The Spanish government in New Spain wanted the missionaries to help pacify the Indians by converting them, or at least encouraging them to live at and work for, the missions. The missionaries received financial compensation for their missions according to the number of converts or natives they convinced to live and work at the mission instead of raiding Spanish towns and missions. One way to make money for the missions was to sell Indians into slavery, which some of the missionaries were involved in and which comprises the evil part of the story. Looking for financial gain either for themselves or for the missions, the missionaries would baptize an Indian, then sell him or her into slavery. Some of these Apache slaves ended up in Cuba; many were abused, and many died from disease or from that abuse.
This may seem at first to be an anti-Catholic book, but such evils have happened many times throughout history; Pope John Paul II apologized during the 2000 Holy Year for such abominable acts. Author H. Henrietta Stockel uses primary sources and has tapped into the oral tradition of the Chiricahua Apache themselves, providing photos of some of the missions as they appear today as well as maps and drawings from other sources. The book contains many endnotes, a bibliography and an index. The front cover image shows three Apaches - a husband, a wife and their son, and they are in chains. A cross is superimposed on each, and haloes like in images of saints float over their heads (the jacket was illustrated by Douglas Miles and designed by Melissa Tandysh). This is an academic telling of a sad historical episode. Those interested in the Chiricahua Apache, the history of New Spain or the history of the Catholic Church in the New World will also be interested in Salvation Through Slavery.
H. Henrietta Stockel is an independent scholar specializing in Chiricahua Apache history and culture. She is the author of Shame and Endurance (2004), On the Bloody Road to Jesus: Christianity and the Chiricahua Apache (2004), Chiricahua Apache Women and Children (2000), edited the autobiography of LaDonna Harris (2000) and authored The Lightning Stick (1995), as well as authoring or co-authoring other books.