“Behold Glorious Harvests”: The Jesuit Catholic Infiltration of Amerindian Society in New France According to Excerpts from the Jesuit Relations, 1626-1649.

 Dave Hackerson

 

"Father Jean de Brebeuf...  who, not having found there a single Savage who invoked the name of God, labored there so successfully for the salvation of those poor Barbarians that before his death he had the consolation of seeing nearly seven thousand baptized there, and the cross of Jesus Christ planted nearly everywhere with glory, and adored in a country which, from the birth of the world, had never been Christian...  He adapted his own nature and temperament to the customs among these people, with so much ability; becoming all things to all men, in order to win them to Jesus Christ; that he had ravished their hearts, and was singularly loved there...  filled with the hopes that he had for the conversion of these tribes."[1]

 

            During the initial stages of colonization in the St. Lawrence region of New France, the Jesuits exercised a definitive role in fabricating relations between Amerindians and their French counterparts.  This influence continued until 1650, when the remaining significant Jesuit missions amongst the Hurons and Algonquins were laid to waste by the Iroquois onslaught.  The predominant French motive in establishing a presence in Canada lay in generating revenue for the royal treasury through the lucrative fur trade, thus supplying France with the capital needed to pursue international hegemony.  However, the Jesuits viewed the infant wilderness of New France as a land bristling with opportunities for the glories of Christendom, rather than a reservoir for national exaltation through the procurement of material wealth.

            The quote above was a posthumous commemorative by Father Paul Ragueneau following Brebeuf's martyrdom amongst the Iroquois. It reflects the Jesuit sentiments about their work amongst the Amerindians in New France.  Having encountered a land devoid of Christianity and rife with ignorance and barbarism, Jesuit missionaries sought to infiltrate native societies, study their social constructs, and subject them to the rigorous instruction of the presumed one true faith in order to liberate their souls from the "vices of the flesh."[2]  The Jesuit Relations provides the modern historian with a unique firsthand account of this process written by Jesuit priests as they documented their efforts to Christianize the Amerindians. These documents provide insight into the manner in which the Jesuit presence served to transfigure Amerindian society in New France and radically alter traditional tribal dynamics. However, one must remember that  these accounts are the personal reflections of the Jesuits themselves.  Thus, the portrayal of the Amerindian is filtered through a Judeo-Christian construct that continually disparages the traditional elements of his culture as utterly corrupt and inferior to Christendom. However, despite the Judeo-Christian bias of the Jesuit Fathers, one is able to derive an understanding of the Amerindian reaction to the Jesuit presence and the arrival of Christianity to their world through various conversations recorded in the Relations.

            Contact with Europeans generated a demand for  unfamiliar manufactured products such as iron tools, cloth fabric, and various other goods that the Amerindian could not produce themselves.  The Jesuits recognized that the lucrative fur trade which financed New France afforded them a prime vehicle by which they could establish themselves amongst the tribes and strengthen ties between the French and native societies.  "The merchants have not failed to send Frenchmen there (to the tribes) to gain the good will of the Savages, and to induce them to come yearly to the trading station."[3]  The Jesuits and the French soon realized  the vital importance of trade as an official delegation of "gifting" that the Amerindians believed bound two parties together: "... our gifts have a great impact on them."[4]  

            Father Jean de Brebeuf commented on how the Hurons correlated the Jesuit presence amongst them to the retention of trading privileges. Brebeuf demonstrated how this intrinsic sense of reciprocity operated within the Huron conscious:

 "For-as they said- if you go elsewhere, we have reason to fear not only for ourselves but for the whole country as our interests are bound together. Now, however, that you take us as your hosts, we need no longer be afraid as we might, for if you had chosen another place and some ill-intended person had done you harm,  not only the French but the (other) Hurons also, would turn upon us."[5]

In this light, it behooved the Jesuits to utilize this cultural peculiarity to exhort the Hurons to accept their presence in accordance to the dictates of reciprocal obligation. Utilizing the fur trade, the Jesuits were able to situate themselves in key villages of economic hegemony in order to wield greater influence over the tribes of the trade network. “If the Hurons were won over, the nation of the Neutrals, and others neighboring, would hardly be slow to follow.”[6] Within Amerindian communities, Jesuit missionaries would parcel out gifts in order to further reinforce their ties with key members of the village, legitimizing their presence among the tribe as well as symbolizing the good will of Catholic France. 

            Summarily established amongst the Huron and Algonquins through the vehicle of trade, the Jesuits set themselves to the task of mastering the language and acquainting themselves with the elements of traditional society.  Without comprehensive command of the language, all efforts in working to establish God's kingdom in the wilderness were for naught.  Shortly after his arrival in 1626, Father Charles L'Allemant stated: "During the work, the thought of acquiring a knowledge of the language of this country was constantly in our minds; for it was said that we could expect nothing from the interpreters."[7]  Reliance on interpreters would suffocate the labours of the Jesuits and prohibit them from moving beyond the status of strangers living on the fringes of  Amerindian society.  Without the knowledge of language, the Jesuits were denied the means to bridge the spiritual chasm they believed existed between the Amerindian and European.  Most notably, mastery of the Huron language would prove invaluable in extending the ministry to the vast majority of the tribes within the region, for theirs was the language of trade, used by such nations as the Tobacco, Neutrals, Eries, as well as the Iroquois confederation.[8]

            Empowered with the knowledge of language, the Jesuits were then able to fully immerse themselves within the world of the Amerindian and study his culture.  "As to the customs of the Savages, it is enough to say that they are altogether Savage. From morning until night they have no other thought than to fill their stomachs... Vices of the flesh are very common among them."[9] As missionaries, whose Christian duty entitled them to convert the heathen and rescue them from these temporal chains, the Jesuits sought to understand native culture only in respect to the obstructions that stifled the instillment of Christian values.  As a result, the cultural values of the Amerindian were not depicted as legitimate social constructs, but rather as multi-faceted facade that prohibited them from seeing the merits of Christianity. 

            Amerindian society posed numerous obstacles that the Jesuits believed diverted their religious fervor away from the true path of Catholicism.  "Their superstitions are unending-their feasts, their medicines, their fishing, their hunting, their wars, in short, practically the whole of their lives turn on this pivot."[10]  Superstition, according to the Jesuits, set the parameters of their faith; they elaborated extensively on the absence of any pre-ordained doctrine that governed their lives. The lack of any written text led the Jesuits to discount these superstitions as the unfounded fabrications of human speculation.   They believed in a divine being, but this being was merely a creator who fashioned the world around them; the Amerindian felt little need to pay obeisance to this deity.[11] Each tribe possessed its own distinct version of an afterlife, but inherent in all these was the common belief that the next world would be merely a continuation of the present world, rather than the two distinct eternal realities of Heaven and Hell.  Though they professed the immortality of the soul, Amerindians insisted that the immortality and rationality of the soul extended to the animals as well. The Fathers were quick to cite the lack of a moral impetus dictated by a system of reward and punishments in native society; rather, they depicted their lives as merely a quest to merely satiate the needs of the flesh and maintain the continuity of the community.[12] 

            The significantly varied belief system of Amerindian culture as depicted by the Catholic prejudices of the Jesuit Relations represents the diametrically opposed perspectives exhibited by each respective culture.  The fundamental obstruction faced by the Jesuits in New France was the reluctance of native societies to abandon the belief structure that they believed demystified the chaos around them and proved relevant to their environment. Father Brebeuf remarked:  "And when we preach to them about the one God, Creator of heaven and earth and all things, when we speak of hell  and of paradise and others of our mysteries, the obstinate among them reply these things may be good enough for our own people but not for them. Each place has its own way of doing things."[13]  The Jesuits reasoned that if they could redirect the energies of these natives towards the true faith of Catholicism, they would succeed in producing definitive examples of the Christian individual in the midst of the nefarious wilderness: a shining light for all the world to see.  Repeatedly, though, during the initial stages of conversion, the Jesuits commented on the continued resistance of the Hurons and Algonquins to surrender their beliefs and embrace the faith.  "Le Jeune could do much for the Indians there (mission at Three Rivers) were it not for the wretched upper Algonquins; they cling to the superstitions, and torment the Christians in every way."[14]  The key point of contention regarding this conflict of beliefs lay in the universal perspectives of each respective religious infrastructure: the  temporal focus of the Amerindian, contrasted by the eternally mindful Jesuit. 

            When discussing religious matters, the Jesuits refused to indulge the cross-examinations of their Amerindian counterparts and dismissed them as ill-founded postulates.   Rather, assuming the veracity of their religion to be indisputable, the Jesuits believed it to be immoral to engage in such mindless debate.  One such characteristic example concerned the perceived superiority of the Christian creation myth over the Huron creation myth:

 "They tell us how the woman named Eateanstic fell from heaven into the waters which cover the earth and that little by little the earth became bare.  I ask them who created this heaven where this woman could not remain. They remain silent and likewise when I press them to tell me who formed the earth, seeing that it was beneath the waters before this woman fell. One man very subtly  asked in this connection where God was before the creation of the world. The answer was made easier for me, following St. Augustine, that it was for them to understand the question put to me."[15]

This presumed superiority was continually reiterated throughout much of the Jesuit Relations.  The Jesuits refused to entertain the notion that Catholic Christianity was fallible in any regard, for to do so would be sacrilegious.  They denied the Indians the opportunity to analyze Christianity according to their religious infrastructure.  To the Jesuit, their presence would serve to remove the curse of blindness that had obscured the Amerindian vision of God and the universe.  The natives possessed the inherent acknowledgement of God, but the ignorance of their forefathers had established a tradition that distorted this once pure view. 

            According to the Jesuits, Amerindian society was enslaved by its belief structure, founded in superstition, that dictated the routine of life.  These superstitions seemed to permeate every facet of native life and were regarded by the Jesuits as proof of the dominion of Satan over these people.  Instead of a class of priests that educate the people in the annals of the faith, the Jesuits described the prominence of medicine men and diviners amongst the Amerindians that call upon the devil for guidance. "I think these are the true sorcerers allied to the devil...  The devil reveals some secrets to them but with so much obscurity that it is not easy to call them liars...the devil amuses these poor people by putting his impieties and supervisions in place of the acquiescence which they should have to the Providence of God, and the worship they should offer Him."[16]  Jesuits considered the activities of  medicine men and diviners to be merely the exercise of baseless superstition in efforts to address the unexplained  certainties of the future and the mysteries of disease.  Vague prophetic visions, elemental magic, and communal feasts all seemed to reinforce this notion of Amerindian society dominated by wiles of the devil striving to prolong the enslavement of these unfortunate individuals to the carnal pursuits of the flesh.

In spite of these innate obstacles to the Faith, the challenge the process of converting the “Savages” entailed encouraged the Jesuits. Successful conversion of the Savage, in the eyes of the Jesuit, would demonstrate the all-encompassing power of Christ.  Their work would also compel them to rely on the divine intervention of God rather than the merits of superior human intellect: 

 “Their licentious and lazy lives, their rude and untutored minds, able to comprehend so little, the scarcity of words they have to explain our mysteries, never having had any form of divine worship will tax our wits.  And yet we do not lose courage, thank God; trusting in this truth, that God will not have so much regard to the fruits that we produce, as to our good will and trouble we take; and besides, the greater the difficulty in their conversion, and the more distrust we have in ourselves, so much greater will be our trust in God.”[17]

         Faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulties, the Jesuits realized that their work amongst the natives would manifest the incalculable ways by which the Lord established His kingdom in a hostile environment.  Not only would this procedure increase the ranks of citizens in Christendom by utilizing the Jesuits as the instrument of evangelization, but it would serve to refine their very faith as well. 

            The Jesuits realized that the mind of the Amerindian must be rehabilitated in order to render him receptive to the redeeming graces of the Faith.  Thus, their efforts to comprehend the Amerindian belief structure enabled them to develop methods to supplant these cultural precepts. However, these deeply ingrained beliefs could only be deconstructed through patient endurance in the selfless labor to vigorously reeducate the Amerindian mind through Catholic instruction. “The conversion of the Savage takes time. The first six to seven years will appear sterile to some; and, if I should say ten or twelve, I would possibly not be far from the truth. But is that reason why all should be abandoned? Are not beginnings necessary everywhere?”[18]  The Jesuits remained optimistic, relishing the divine sanctity of their cause; willing to labor diligently without the promise of immediate results in order to acclimate the “Savage” mind and ready it for the message of those who would inherit their work in the following years. 

            Initially, the Jesuit strategy of conversion bore a limited scope of focus.  In order to more aggressively pursue the conversion of each tribe as a whole, it was necessary to first establish a core base from which to expand and gradually envelope the entire nation.  Often, when first settling in a village, priests would makedaily visits to local cabins to instruct the children in the rudimentary basics of Catholic catechism.  “We derived considerable advantage from this little exercise, by improving ourselves in the language… these talks, however, were not very long; one must learn to put one foot before the other before he can walk.”[19] These activities served to acquaint the Jesuits with the families of the village and establish camaraderie with the children and gain a greater mastery of the language. Though these short talks did not achieve any significant progress, they did sow the seeds of the faith and established a foundation upon which to build.     

Such preliminary methods reflected the foresight of the Jesuits in their conversion strategy.  First and foremost, they sought out the children as the initial converts to be won to the faith.  Their young and impressionable minds proved to be the most pliant to the Jesuit teachings, for the traditional beliefs of native culture had not yet been firmly fixated.  “The children who have been Baptized at years discretion, have given evidences of a good mind; they quickly apprehend, retain easily, and have become very diligent in the Catechism.”[20] The Jesuits believed that the conversion of the young would ensure that the wiles of Amerindian culture would be eradicated upon the death of the preceding generation.  A core group of Christian youth, rejecting these traditional values, would guarantee that in the following generations these tribes would be exhibit strong Christian leadership.

  The conversion of the young initiated the confrontation between the traditional values of the parents and the Christian learning of their children.  In a communal society in which tribal cohesiveness necessitated family stability, this tension would only be heightened by the chastisement of Christian children by their “heathen” parents.  Thus, in order to maintain family unity, the parents would often request Baptism into the faith.  Le Mercier, a Jesuit priest observing this phenomena, commented on how the presence of converted children worked to coerce the parents to embrace the Faith.  “This Savage had often meditated upon his conversion; it was already a great advantage for him to have a son so well instructed in all the mysteries of the Faith.”[21] Here again, the fundamental foundation in establishing a Christian contingent within Amerindian society, in the eyes of the Jesuits, proved to be the conversion of the youth, the future of the tribe. Once a child converted, the parents soon followed.

Equally as important in converting the children of the tribe were the prominent individuals of the village and their family members.  Concerning a promising young man, Father Vimont wrote:

“The Baptism of this young man causes us to hope for the Conversion of many others; for, besides that he is very exemplary and very zealous, he belongs to one of the largest and most numerous families of the Hurons, which is already thoroughly attached to the faith, and which awaits, it seems, only the Baptism of this young man in order to plunge after him into those blessed waters.”[22]

         Converting these individuals would greatly facilitate the process of evangelizing the community.  The Jesuits recognized that Amerindian leaders lead by example and were emulated by those of the community.  Successful conversion of these individuals would encourage the people to convert and exercise the wisdom demonstrated by their leaders. Rehabilitating these leaders by means of Catholic instruction would circumvent traditional values governing Amerindian society and effectively establish Christian leadership. 

            The Jesuits were often frustrated by their inability to elucidate the spiritual plight of the Amerindian and his urgent need to abandon the folly of Satan in order to gain salvation through the Faith.  The provisions of Heaven did little to dissuade the stubborn resistance to Christian instruction.  Rather, the Jesuits sought to instill fear in the heart of the Savages by relating the horrific imagery of Hell.  This method was especially effective in entreating those in the throngs of illness to abandon their traditional beliefs and accept the mandates of Heaven. Observing a native anguishing in sickness, one Jesuit Father remonstrated with him that “the pains which he suffered, and accounted intolerable, were nothing in comparison with the horrible tortures that he would suffer in Hell, if he continued in his treacheries…  that made an impression on his mind, and he entreated the Father to pray to God for him and to teach him.”[23] The Jesuits likened the fires of Hell to the vengeful torture fires reserved for captured enemies, an image with which all Amerindians could readily identify.  Depicting Hell as one continuous torture fire accentuated Amerindian fear of the horrible wrath of the French God, and proved to be the most effective  Jesuit instrument in the conversion process. 

            The Jesuits carefully scrutinized the motives of those “Savages” who professed a desire to be converted.  If they discovered that these individuals were motivated by mere material gains of the temporal world, rather than the eternal blessings of Heaven, they would fain extend the rites of Baptism and reject their seemingly earnest supplications for conversion.[24]  Due to their notion of the deep-seated depravity of the Amerindian mind, the Jesuits continually deferred the Baptism of potential converts until they determined whether or not they had received sufficient instruction to remove the impurities of superstition, as demonstrated by the following account:

“The half have been baptized; all the others are Catechumens, and exceedingly desirous of the same blessing. But they are put off for good reasons; it is well to try the Savages a long time, especially when one suspects that temporal interest moves them, or that they are more attached to their errors…”[25]

             Ultimately, those who wished to convert had to exhibit genuine divine motivation in order to receive the faith. The Amerindian had to demonstrate sincere abandonment of temporal pursuits in  exchange for the “burden of the Cross” in order to convince the Jesuits of their earnestness.

 However, there was an exception to this standard of conversion by means of subjection to rigorous instruction.  The Jesuits believed that the rites of Baptism should always be granted to those who requested them on the verge of death. Numerous accounts within the Relations describe Amerindians, namely those who fell victim to the ever-increasing epidemics that ravaged native communities, who received Baptism at the moment of death.  The Jesuits believed that the nearness of death, combined with the overt fear of intense torment within the eternal fires of Hell, instilled a sense of urgency in the soul, as in this instance recorded by Father Le Mercier:

“When the Father Superior (Father Chastellain) went to see her and found her quite sick, he had no sooner made overtures of Baptism to her, than she replied that she would be very glad to receive it…  This good disposition, together with the bad condition of her health, which threatened death, induced the Father Superior to instruct her fully…  The chief point is that she died a Christian.”[26]

         The epidemics and illnesses that afflicted Amerindian communities were attributed to the divine hand of God working  clandestinely to advance his kingdom. Stirring the soul to consider their eternal destination in light of the horrific nature of Hell the Jesuits related, it seemed logical for the Amerindian to accept the Faith at the threshold of death.  The ultimate goal of the Jesuits, as stated by Father Le Mercier, is that the “Savage” dies a Christian, regardless of when conversion occurred during the course of their lives.

Amerindian converts were continually commended by the Jesuits for their complete rejection of their traditional practices and their willingness to chastise their heathen brethren for stubbornly clinging to the very customs and rituals that assured their eternal damnation.  One native convert commented to one of the Fathers:  “What they teach us is of importance; they forbid us everything that is bad… all our wicked customs which betray us and cast us into a fire after death… terrible in its duration.”[27] Acquiescence of the convert to Jesuit instruction manifested a complete transformation of the individual and succeeded in replicating Jesuit Catholic ideology within the mind of the native.  The convert renounced the temporal chains that held him captive to the lusts of the flesh and turned his eyes upon the spiritual realm, completely indifferent to the affairs of the present world lest they merit reward in heaven. 

Despite the fact that traditional native society respected the autonomy of the individual in governing their personal activities, Christian natives were critical of each other and prudently reproved their Christian brethren for subsequent faults in matters of the Faith. “One who shall understand the Savage will be astonished at the liberty that  he took in reproving his comrade; for I will say, in passing, that it is astonishing, what respect the Savages show to one another in this regard.”[28]  This particularly delighted the Jesuits, for it represented the victory of Christian doctrine over traditional “savage” dogma within the hearts of the converts: it demonstrated the ability of the Faith to eradicate the dictums of traditional culture and implant the principles of Christianity. 

The Jesuits commended the native converts for their pious behavior and complete devotion to the faith, often commenting that the piety of these natives would discredit the testimonies of the majority of the professed Christians of Europe.   Native converts were continually pursuing the mortification of the flesh by fleeing temptation and seeking God through meditation. One account records how a young Christian native, when confronted by a woman seeking to have sex with him, repeatedly resisted her and ultimately fled into the snow in the dead of winter.  Stripping himself naked, he proceeded to whip himself with a reed for having placed himself in a situation presenting an opportunity for sin.  He earnestly appealed to the Jesuit Fathers, entreating them as to what must he do in order to dissuade the anger of God for his negligence.[29]  Such incidents served to convince the Jesuits that the Faith truly reigned supreme in the hearts of their Neophytes, and that the evils of the flesh could be conquered through the power of God even in the midst of a most barbaric land.

However, these exemplary acts of piety did not remove doubt from the minds of the Jesuit, for these converts where still human,  and apt to fall victim to the resurgent guiles of the flesh.  Thus, in order to preserve the perpetuation of the faith amongst the Christian natives, the Jesuits believed they needed to personally supervise their lives at regulated Christian missions.  Due to the continual conflict with traditional superstitions and the corrupting practices that governed native communities, the Neophytes needed to be isolated from these influences in order to strengthen their faith.[30]  Absent from their  instructing presence, the Jesuits feared the converts would soon abandon the faith and embrace the former depravity of Savage culture due to indirect communal reproach. The converts were well aware of this risk and even professed the frailty of their own human nature in resisting the vices of their traditional culture. “For, while we shall be here among you, it is hardly possible for us to offend God, seeing so many good examples of virtue, and no vices: but in our own country, it is quite the contrary, one knows not what it is to do right; it is chaos confusion and disorder.”[31]  Thus, out of necessity of preserving the faith of the converts, isolation from their heathen brethren was the only feasible means by which to guard them from the debasing facets of native culture that proved to be detrimental to the progression of the Faith.

The fundamentally opposed values that the Catholic faith brought to the Amerindian by the Jesuits sowed the seeds of discontent within native communities.  Tribal unity disintegrated as Christian factions became established in Amerindian society.  Christian Indians, reiterating the teachings of the Jesuits, abhorred every facet of traditional society and exhorted their fellow tribesmen to embrace the faith.  However, traditional advocates earnestly believed that the arrival of  Christianity presented a cruel paradox; the very faith that was supposed to provide salvation only succeeded in initiating the degeneration of tribal existence.  One Algonquin said the following to one of the Jesuit Fathers:

“It is a strange thing, that since prayer has come into our cabins, our former customs are no longer of any service; and yet we shall die because we give them up… Now our dreams and our prophecies are no longer true, prayer has spoiled everything for us…”[32]

 Traditionalists believed that the faith had emasculated their mores and rituals; yet, converting failed to lift the hand of affliction from their tribes.  In their eyes, the Jesuits were the evil that fostered their misfortune by stripping their society of the power to maintain and safeguard itself from the maladies that assailed it, namely, pervasive epidemics and the increasing incursions of the Iroquois.  These natives were confounded by the absence of religious uniformity amongst the French; they questioned the Jesuit Fathers as to why they persistently rebuked Amerindian society when their fellow Frenchmen scoffed at the faith the Jesuits sought to establish in their midst.[33]  How, they asked, could their societies survive when the Jesuit presence and their Christian teaching had destroyed the communal contingency that had sustained them?

The Jesuits viewed this conflict within Amerindian society as pertaining to the pains of cultural transformation and God’s testing of native resolve. Conflict arose as a consequence of the traditionalists’ stubborn resistance to the faith and their continued allegiance to Satan.  Christian Indians were at odds with their heathen brethren because they had exchanged their temporal perspective for divine understanding; they refused to tolerate their iniquity in their presence for fear of the corrupting influence of barbaric customs.[34] Hostility erupted when Christian natives confronted the traditionalists: though they were of the same tribe, they considered each other to be of two completely different worlds. This only reinforced the disjunction within the community, thus furthering weakening the tribe and rendering it vulnerable to the increasing aggression of the Iroquois.  Still, the accounts found within the Jesuit Relations reveal that the Jesuits perceived this conflict to be physical manifestation of the spiritual warfare that was being waged between the terrestrial schemes of Satan to preserve his dominion over native societies and legions of Heaven fighting to liberate them from imminent eternal damnation.  Nonetheless, this conflict reflects the indomitable strain endured by Amerindian society as the result of the slowly growing acceptance of Jesuit teaching.

In the 1640’s documented the increasing frequency of Iroquois raids into New France, resulting in the annihilation of entire villages and threatening to sever the trade that sustained the economy of New France.  However, though the Jesuits were dismayed by the misfortune that befell the native converts and their fellow tribesmen, these attacks served to facilitate their efforts amongst these tribes.  The Iroquois threat succeeded in driving the Huron and Algonquin people out of the forest to the asylum and safety of the French settlements and the Jesuit missions:

“We have recently seen that Mont-real has been the asylum of the refugee Hurons, and the salvation of many others of various nations in which the people have been to know it, and to desire the happiness of being there…[35] They send word that they are perpetually speaking of it (Mont-real), and that sooner or later they will all come thither, notwithstanding the dread of the Iroquois, if there is strong temporal succor against the enemy. Behold glorious harvests.”[36]

         The Jesuits viewed these misfortunes as a blessing in disguise, for their pressing predicament softened the hearts of the “Barbarians” and made their minds more receptive to the Gospel.  Christianity could only thrive in midst of adversity; the Jesuits attributed the suffering of these people to ability of the Christian faith to abound in the season of persecution.[37]

            In the end, the Jesuits welcomed the Iroquois aggression as the divine instrument of God implemented in producing the bountiful yield of harvested souls.  This reflected their sentiment of preservation through destruction.  The annihilation of Huron and Algonquin societies served to gain their eternal enrichment through the grace of Faith.  Though dismayed by the disintegration of their missions through the Iroquois blitzkrieg, the Jesuits gloried in the knowledge that their Christian presence on the eve of tribal obliteration provided a means to salvation for these forsaken masses.  The definitive goal of their mission was to gain souls for Christ, and they reconciled themselves to accept whatever divine means He might employ in achieving this endeavor.

  At the conclusion of the Relations examined here, the glaring paradox evident is how each party perceived the consequences of arrival of Christianity to the Amerindian world.  For the Jesuits, the Amerindian was forever blessed with the endowments of heavenly grace; the destruction of his traditional society removed the temporal chains that would prohibit him from delighting in this eternal reward: “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”[38] However, to the Amerindian, Christianity removed the very traditions by which he defined his existence; without these, he ceased to be anything.  Christianity turned him against himself and shattered the unity that underscored every facet of life; in short, the Faith succeeded in deconstructing his reality.

Works Cited

Thwaites, Reuben Gold, ed. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1610-1791 [collection on-line] (Cleavland, OH.” The Burrow Brothers Company, latter part of 19th century, accessed 28th October 2001, accessed 11th November, 2001) ; available from http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/relations

MacDougall, A.J. and S.J. and J.S. McGivern, trans. The Huron Relation of  1635 [collection on-line] (accessed on 11th November, 2001) ; available from http://www.sfo.com/~denglish/relations/1635/jesuit.html.


[1]Jesuit Relations: Vol.34, p. 40.

[2]Jesuit Relations: Vol. 4, p. 3

[3]Jesuit Relations: Vol. IV, p. 3

[4]Jesuit Relations: Huron Relation of 1635, p. 8

[5]Jesuit Relations: Huron Relation of 1635, p. 8

[6] Jesuit Relations:  Volume 24, p. 43

[7]Jesuit Relations: Volume 4, p. 5

8 Jesuit Relations: The Huron Relation of 1635, p. 10

[9]Jesuit Relations: Volume 4, p. 3

[10]Jesuit Relations: The Huron Relation of 1635, p. 11

[11]Jesuit Relations: Volume 4, p. 4

[12]Jesuit Relations: The Huron Relation of 1635, p. 11

[13]Jesuit Relations: The Huron Relation of 1635, p. 11

[14] Jesuit Relations: Volume 24, p. 10

[15]Jesuit Relations: The Huron Relation of 1635, p. 16

[16]Jesuit Relations: The Huron Relation of 1635, p. 12

[17] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 4, p. 7

[18] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 4, p 8

[19] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 13, p 2

[20] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 35

[21] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 13, p. 5

[22] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 40

[23] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 71

[24] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 13, p. 5

[25] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 29

[26] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 13, p. 6

[27] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 15

[28] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 32

[29] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 18

[30] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 29

[31] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 43

[32] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p 69

[33] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 70

[34] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 34, p. 27

[35] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 85

[36] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 24, p. 73

[37] Jesuit Relations: Vol. 34, p. 57

[38] Romans 8:10 KJV