To the centre of the circle: Pilgrimage to Lac Ste-Anne (Alberta)

Maire Kathleen Anderson-McLean
Dept. of Anthropology, University of Alberta
July, 2005


Conscious renegotiation of incorporation, adaptation, synthesis, and appropriation constitutes the discourse of both syncretic anthropology and mindful missionisation and inculturation, yet such creolising may lead to the denial of separate identities for the missionised and to the deconstruction of their cultural perspectives. In this paper, the issues embedded in this discourse are illustrated in the stories of Native pilgrims and are shown to be issues of concern and debate to theologians and anthropologists who study religion and cultural contact. Images of Man'tou S√Ękahikan as an historic aboriginal gathering ground and contemporary pilgrimage site express the marginality of many aboriginal peoples both in Canadian society and as Catholic pilgrims. The site is a focus for the forging of cultural perspectives as related by the participants, expressed by symbols and rituals, and as understood by the anthropologist. Perceptions and understandings of the space shift as perspectives about identity develop through time. As the locus of an annual Roman Catholic pilgrimage for over one hundred years, Lac Ste-Anne has become a focus for the merging cultures, diverging perspectives, and emerging identities that characterize contemporary Native-Catholic relations.