Tysen Quaintance 11-27-11 History 140 Dr. Arguello
The Jesuit Relations were a collection of documents annually published in Paris between 1632 and 1673. They provide a first hand account of the encounters of Native Americans and Europeans as well as an accurate description of the customs and cultures of the many native tribes. Unlike most other colonists and fur traders in New France the Jesuits training made them masters of the written word and there use of the printing press spread stories of Indian culture, war, and colonization thorough Europe.
Unique to the Relations when compared to other colonialist texts the presence of the “natives voice”. When reading the Relations it is important to remember the cultural differences between Jesuits and Natives but also the differenced between the seventeenth century culture and today. In the introduction Greer also states that the Jesuits often described the Natives as Adam and Eave “before the fall”, naked. They emphasized their cultural virtues. Greer questions if they began to see the world the way the natives did.
The first published Jesuit Relations were written by Father Paul Jeune mainly on the Montagnais tribe. The Montagnais and Algonquins had superb knowledge of the seasonal landscapes as well as be technologically sophisticated and adapted. They use light weight canoes and used sleds in winter. Jesuits would consult shaman or “jugglers” on their religious beliefs. Modern anthropologist would consider their religion as “animism”, believing that natural phenomenon had a spirit.
In 1633 Jeune writes of a French child that injured a Native. Native culture would call for presents but the French intended to whip the boy in front of the Natives. The natives refused it and protected the French Boy. In there culture children are not punished. Jeune then expresses his concern for the difficulties they will have in teaching the Children. In 1664 Jeune describes many things he admires about the Indians. Among them were the fact that due to no law or punishment, the Indians obey their Chief out of only respect and good will. They are also happy with basic sustenance, there is no temptation to give themselves to the devil to acquire wealth. They also had no word for anger.
The Relations of the 17 century were filled with stories of a gruesome war between the Southern Five Nations of the Iroquois and the Northern alliance: Hurons, Algonquins, Montagnais, and the French. The Relations are first hand accounts of raids, captivity, torture, and redemption. They captivate the reader with a tale of the unified Christian Northerners crusading against the southern “infidel”. What was unique was that it was not a story about only European frontiersmen squaring off against the savages, instead it featured the allied Natives as well.
In 1647 the Jesuit Jerome Lalemant wrote of a women taken prisoner by the Iroquois following a raid on her village. She broke free from her restraints at night while her captures slept. As she escaped she buried a hatchet in the scull of a warrior. The writer describes with admiration that she evaded her captures for days. Naked and famished she reached the French settlement having never seen a Frenchmen before but with nowhere else to go.
One of the biggest goals of the Jesuits was to convert the Iroquois. This was impossible until a period of peace between 1667 and 1684. This peace came in part due to pressure from the south, toll of epidemic, losing the Dutch as trading partners, and the French Military invasion of the Mohawks. After the war resumed in 1684 many Iroquois, ironically many Mohawks, went north to live with the French as “mission Indians”.
Claude Chauchetiere in 1682 wrote a letter about the Iroquois mission of Sault St. Louis. In it he is very pleased with the progress of the Iroquois. He explains a group of women that after learning of nuns decided to create a convent and took the vow of chastity. He takes pleasure in writing about Indians being aware Sabbath by making tack marks to keep track of the days while away on hunts. He also describes them as confessing their smallest imperfections and praying with such devotion. They also eagerly dress in a way that is more excepted by Europeans on Sundays and fest days.
Jesuit Jacques Marquette accompanied French explorers from the great lakes down to the Mississippi River to claim more territory for France. Along the way Marquette was able to meat many new Tribes of Indians. He formed a relationship with one tribe named the Peoria of the Illinois are. Following devastating epidemic and vicious attacks from the Iroquois, the Peoria developed a closed trading relationship with the French. This also resulted in converting to Christianity.
The Illinois welcomed Marquette with open arms., they showered him with gifts, food, and urged him not to leave. He explained to them that the He writes that they observe humanity in them that they have not seen in other nations. Marquette writes that the Peoria have many wives that they are very jealous of. They cut the noses and ears off those that are unfaithful. They also already possessed guns though having not met any Europeans. They obtained them from trade with other Natives. They have never experienced famine due to there plentiful crops and plentiful “wild cattle” or buffalo.