Kelly Wagner History 140/ Spring 2011Theme 5The Jesuit Relations
The Relations The Relations are “annual reports of French missionaries of the Society of Jesus on their efforts to convert the “pagan savages” to Catholic Christianity.” The Relations are a variety of volumes with information on the progress of colonization, epidemic, devastation, war outbreak and other events that affected the natives. The Jesuits writings were divided in to two: first they were personal chronicles of their first hand experiences and secondly they were a description of the customs and beliefs of this unfamiliar culture. These published relations were for the benefit of audiences back home. The first steps to these volumes began with letters from priests to their superior at Quebec who would edit these letters and forward them to Paris. Paris was the headquarters to the Jesuit province, where these letters would then again be edited and then sent to the printer.
Canadian Missions There were two beginnings to New France, both wrecked by English traders, the Acadian expedition and Quebec. From the beginning in the 1640s, for over a century, there were between 30 and 40 Jesuits total. Most of them came from the Jesuit Colleges of France, and most of them didn’t find service among the Indians appealing. Those who left France, seldom returned because they either were killed in Iroquois wars or finished long careers in Canada. There were Jesuits who started at Quebec to convert the Montagnais and Algonquins and then there were Jesuits who went more inland to the Huron. The Huron “welcomed them because they already valued the French as suppliers of goods and as allies in their wars against the Iroquois.” The Hurons were interested in the stories of the creation of the universe and the teachings of Jesus. Some even asked to be baptized “believing the ritual would initiate them into a curing society.” In the 1640s Iroquois were supplied with guns and caused havoc with the Hurons, the Algonquins and their French allies. Several missionaries were captured, tortured and killed, but the Jesuits just saw this as a way for them to identify with Christ on the cross and to assure themselves that out of affliction would come glory. As natives would convert, most were only doing it because they were about to die. Such as in 1649, right before the Hurons were about to be wiped out, entire villages converted. In the end the Indians had no choice but to convert to what the Jesuits wanted because they were threatened.
Chapter 1: Montagnais Hunters of the Northern Woodlands Father Paul Le Jeune (1592-1664) was the earliest known to have his writing published in the “Jesuit Relations.” He was considered the first superior of the New France mission and spent most of his career in Quebec, in contact with the Montagnais and Algonquin bands. By the time Le Jeune made contact with the Montagnais they were only showing small changes towards the European colonization. He documented that they found ways to live from an inhospitable environment and were very advanced in their technology of transportation such as: the use of birch bark as canoes to carry them and their possessions along the networks of rivers and lakes. During the first part of winter when the snow was light, the natives hunted beavers in small rivers and porcupines upon land. When the snow increased and was deep they would hunt mouse and caribou. Throughout father Paul’s time with the natives they lived everywhere from deep in valleys, to lofty mountains, and flat countries, but they were always in the snow. Once there was no more game left, the Indian who best knew the way to proceed would shout out that he was going to make markings on the trees to guide their way. Depending on the load size that they have to carry will depend if the women go ahead of the men taking a portion of it with them. Upon the morning of their departure they will have breakfast, if its available, arrange their baggage for which they are in charge of put on their snow shoes and make the journey. Its always a difficult journey and one they have reached their new camp the men clear away the snow and the women cut poles for a cabin. The natives would be working so hard they would be sweating, and the priest was too cold to try to help. He was told if he were to fall ill he would be baggage and they would just kill him.
Chapter 1: The Beliefs, Superstitions, and Errors of the Montagnais Indians The Montagnais believed that Atahocam created the world, and Messou restored it. When they are questioned, they say they speak of Atahocam as one speaks “of a thing so far distant that nothing sure can be known about it.” Messou restored the world that was destroyed by the flood. He had great lynxes which were being held in a great lake. When he went in to get them, the lake overflowed and so he sent a raven to search for a piece of land to rebuild earths element, made an otter descend in to the waters, sent a muskrat to bring a morsel to rebuild the earth and shot arrows in to tree trunks to give them branches. These people also believed that “a certain Indian had received from the Messou the gift of immortality in a little package, with strict injunction not to open it. Montagnais believe that all animals have an elder brother who is great and powerful. These elder brothers are Messou’s younger brothers and if you see one of them in a dream, you will have a successful hunt.
Chapter 2: Of the polity of the Hurons and of their government Part of their Law: To visit one another frequently To helps in times of sickness Always have a feast with friends Never marry anyone related to them. They are to make new marriage alliances. To punish murderers, thieves, traitors, and witches. If you are a sorcerer, your punishment is authorized by the entire country. Whoever catches the person in the act has the right to cleave their skulls. If someone has stolen your stuff and you see them with it, you have the right to take your stuff and anything else you please. If you murdered someone, the relatives of the deceased prosecute you and make a complaint to the entire village. You must provide them with 60 presents. The First 9 are called andaonhaan and are given to the relatives to make peace, to take away the bitterness from their hearts and the vengeance towards the murderer. The rest are called Andaerraehaan. These other presents are geared toward what the dead man would need. Long before this time, the punishment was not so generous. The murder would have to stay underneath the raised corpse, so that as the body was decomposing, it would fall on him. It was the families choice for how long the punishment would last.
Chapter 2: War and Government There was always a reason to go to war. They never fought just to fight and the most common reason was if someone was killed and they “fail to give the satisfaction for the death and fail to furnish the presents acquired by the agreements made.” Individuals would raise bands of young men for the purpose of a private quarrel or death of a friend. If they succeeded to catch enemies they would torture them for 5 or 6 days, burning them and cutting limbs open to thrust brands in them. They would even compel them to sing and on the day of their death make them repeat their performance if they had the strength. If the victim was what they considered brave, then they would tear out his heart and roast it on the coals. Then they would put him in the kettle piece by piece. In what they call their “government,” there are several captains for civil states and war crimes. Each of these men are chosen because they are the most intelligent, has the most courage and is the wisest. This was also true for affairs that affected the whole country. As a captain they are required to always be ready to attend to whatever is needed. If they are needed to serve on a council they go, if they are to have an assembly in their cabin they do. “Their government is only civil, and they merely represent what is to be done for the good of the village of the country.”
Chapter 3: Cure The natives had an interesting way to cure diseases. They also had an interesting way of finding out they had a disease. One of these diseases called aoutaerohi, is known once a person dreams that they have it. With this certain disease, to drive the “demon” away, the natives have feasts with songs. There is a total of 12 different kinds of dances as remedies for sickness. Only a dream or sorcerer can determine the proper remedy. In some circumstances, a person could dream that he will die unless the entire country plays a game of lacrosse, and the country will do it.
The Influenza Epidemic of 1637& the Smallpox among the Hurons In the fall of 1636 the Huron villages were hit with fever. Over the winter months the fever spread quite slow, but when spring time hit, the fever came at full force. Village after village the Huron were dying, and becoming more desperate, followed their shamans urging to participate in extraordinary rituals. The Huron’s fear changed to anger and they made plans to kill all the Jesuits as hostile sorcerers. They never did follow through with it, but soon afterwards Father Chastellain fell ill. He died 7 days after his first fever. It was being realized more and more that natives were only being baptized on their death bed. Some wouldn’t be baptized though because they wouldn’t be able to be in the same afterlife as the people they cared about. In 1639 oozing red sores, lassitude and fever were signs of smallpox. In Europe smallpox was killing thousands and making more Hurons perish, than two years before during the plague. The smallpox originated in New England, was carried to St Lawrence Valley by visiting Indians, who gave it to the Hurons, who then gave it to the French when they exchanged goods. The Hurons brought the smallpox from Quebec and mingled with the Algonquins. Whenever someone was sick, it wasn’t unusual for that sick person to still be around the healthy people. So, it was obvious others were going to be infected. In just a few days the smallpox spread from house to house, village to village and eventually throughout the country. Everywhere the Jesuits went death followed and in the cabins Jesuits were denied, some people could be extremely ill, then in the end after a few days, everyone was cured.
Chapter 7: Martyrs and Mystics If you were a Jesuit, or a missionary who died for your faith, you were considered a martyr. But if You were a nun, you were mystical and admired for your ascetic practices and religious visions. The Indians, specifically the Iroquios, were cruel people who did not take sympathy on those who they considered enemies. Father Jogues is a good example of a martyr who was given no sympathy during his capture. He tells his story for the Relations as all the missionaries did, but his was all cruelty. During is first encounter with the Iroquios, a French men, Guillaume Couture, tried to escape, but was caught and shot at. He decided to return the fire and shot an Iroquios in the head. This infuriated the other Iroquios that were there and so they took all his cloths off, beat him with clubs, tore out his finger nails with their teeth, pierced his hand with a knife then tied him up. Now Father Jogues was trying to encourage the Frenchman, but the Iroquios thought he was “applauding” him, so they stabbed and beat him. The Iroquios responded this way because they were still angry about the previous year of the French not accepting the peace conditions. One of the twenty-two captives was a very old man and just barely before he finished telling them that he could find death there if they refused him life, they killed him.
Cruelties Throughout Father Joques Journey Eight days after their departure they were met with two hundred Iroquios, who lined up in two lines and had the captives walk naked through them so they could be beaten. Father Joques fell half way through and couldn’t get up. Needing him alive, they carried him to their village. When they arrived at their village they were beaten again. They burned one of his fingers, crushed another and scratched his wounds with their nails. When this failed they would apply fire to his limbs. This was done to his other companions as well. Eustache, a Huron had it the worst because they cut his thumbs off and thrust pointed sticks in them up to his elbows. Throughout his captivity, Father Joques and his companions were marched, beaten and poked with thorns. They were used for children’s amusement, to where they could throw hot coals on them and burn them with oil. The Iroquios even had other Indian captives cut fingers off of them. Father Joques had picked up his finger and was threatened that he would have to eat it raw if he didn’t throw it out. He was very lucky at one point when he was about to faint, the Iroquios tightened his bonds, but then a brave Indian from a distant land cut his bonds off. The Iroquios started talking about releasing the French, but it never went through. The companion Father Joques had throughout being burned by children was killed because the family he was incorporated in to did not approve of him showing their grandchild the sign of the cross. The father was warned that people planned to kill him and he in the end was killed by the Iroquios. “… as soon as I left those delgihts, I once again felt the desire to follow him.”