The Jesuit Relations are the most important set of documentary materials on the 17 th century encounter of the Europeans and the native North Americans
They are annual reports on efforts to convert the savages to Catholic Christianity by French missionaries
Detailed reports which include progress of colonization, epidemics, and war.
Also included descriptions of customs, habits, the cultures of the natives
The Jesuits were members of a religious order know as the Society of Jesus
They took vows of poverty and obedience to distinguish themselves from other priests.
Every Jesuit was at one time a college teacher. Their skills in rhetoric and learning prepared them for their job among the natives.
In the 17 th century, when the Jesuits arrived, they began studying the languages and cultures of the Indians.
Over 200 years the Jesuits encountered almost every Indian nation in the Northeast and the nations experienced tremendous change brought on by the colonization of New France.
Ch. 1 – Montagnais Hunters of the Northern Woodlands
Theme- The Montagnais Indians practiced a religion called Animsism. Their spiritual beliefs gives them a chance to devote themselves to nature and its power. The Jesuit Relation’s focus on their spiritual beliefs gave them insights into their culture and customs.
Ch. 1 cont.
Father Paul Le Jeune was the author of the earliest published Jesuit Relation
Le Jeunes contact with the Montagnais and the Algonquins allowed him to observe how their ancestral way of life was barely beginning to show the effects of European colonization.
The Montagnais and Algonquins were very knowledgeable about their surroundings and seasonal resources. This allowed them to become technologically sophisticated in such things as transportation.
The Jesuit Relation revealed different aspects of their lives like their migration patterns, social interactions, etc.
Ch. 4 – Diplomacy & War
Theme – The Jesuits came to America to establish themselves in an existing native alliance system. Unfortunately they came during a time when many nations were in war and they were not able to fully avoid the disputes.
Ch. 4 cont.
The Jesuit missions of New France were conducted in the 17 th century in an atmosphere of tension, war, and shifting alliances including France.
The French did not come to America as Christian conquerors as did the Spanish in Mexico and South America.
The Jesuits could not avoid the conflict and subsequently events like the peace negotiations at the Three Rivers, Iroquois attacks on the Algonquins, and annihilations of the Hurons were recorded in the Jesuit Relations.
Ch. 5 – Writings on the Natural Environment
Theme – The Jesuit Relations include many writings on the North American environment. They describe its flora, fauna and landscape. This gives us much insight on the nature at the time as well as a perspective on what the 17 th century European attitudes were towards the subject.
Ch. 5 cont.
At the time of the Jesuit missions America remained a mysterious region to the French.
The harsh climates and endless forests of Canada suggested to them a God-forsaken quality because at this time uncultivated nature was seen as evil and ugly.
The Jesuits tried to clear misconceptions about natural phenomena with the natives. They attempted to elaborate about earthquakes, eclipses and comets and how they are natural occurences.
Ch. 8 – Exploring the Mississippi
The Jesuit Relations also includes writings about explorations of French voyages in search of new mission fields. Father Jacques Marquette was a famous missionary explorer who wrote regarding the discovery of the Mississippi River, his journey to New Mexico and he recordings of the habits and customs of the natives he encountered along the way.
Ch. 8 cont.
Father Marquette departed to New Mexico by following the Mississippi.
During his travels he recorded his encounters with the “Wild Rice” people, the fire nation and the village of Maskoutens.
He also noted the features of the Mississippi and the wild life that surrounded it. He also wrote about the native people and specified details of whom encountered on his exploration.