Converting the natives in Huronia
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Converting the natives in Huronia
Converting the natives in Huronia

In 1615, Samuel de Champlain went himself to Huronia.
Champlain visited Huronia in 1615 and discovered a complex and fascinating society. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Champlain visited Huronia in 1615 and discovered a complex and fascinating society. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
He found a far more complex society than he had imagined.

"In this stretch of land there are eighteen villages," he wrote. "They have a total of 30,000 souls. Their cabins are covered with the bark of trees, and a space at one end where they keep their corn. In one cabin, there is place for twelve fires and twenty-four families. The men go out to other nations to trade and to barter what they have for what they lack."

Champlain's trading empire spread into the heart of the continent and the Hurons grew rich and imposed their power. Paul Le Jeune, a Jesuit, related the words of a Montagnais:

"The beaver does everything perfectly well. It brings us kettles, hatchets, swords, knives; in short, the beaver makes everything"

Soon France insisted that Champlain send out missionaries in order to convert the natives to Catholicism.
The Recollet friars were the first to spread the Christian faith among the natives in Canada. (Recollet friar portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The Recollet friars were the first to spread the Christian faith among the natives in Canada. (Recollet friar portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Three Recollet friars were brought over in 1615.

One of them, Gabriel Sagard, was astonished by what he saw:

"The boys and young men of Canada and those particularly from the land of the Huron, have always had the capability of turning to evil as soon as they could, and the young women to prostitution as soon as they were able to; even mothers and fathers often act as pimps to their own daughters. One can attribute this partly to their nudity. and partly to the lack of spices and wine, and another part to their use of tobacco, the smoke of which stupefies them and goes straight to the brain."

Champlain did not foresee that his traders and missionaries would not get on well together.

Gabriel Sagard explained:

"The greatest hindrance came to us from the French...
The Jesuits had relatively few converts among the Huron people. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The Jesuits had relatively few converts among the Huron people. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Most of them did not wish us to convert the Savages. They were fearful that the beaver trade would fall off; that was the only purpose of their voyage. O my God, my blood freezes in my veins, at the realization that for them, a beaver skin was more important than the salvation of a people."

They faced a difficult task. The Huron resisted conversion, since they had their own god.

"It is the belief of the Hurons," explained the Recollet friar Gabriel Sagard, "that the Creator is named Yoscaha, and has a grandmother named Ataensiq.
That he sows wheat, works, drinks, eats, and sleeps like other men. That all the animals of the world belong to him. That he is of a very good nature and everything that he does is well done. They also believe that certain spirits dominate all rivers, voyages, trading, wars, celebrations and maladies. They believe that souls are immortal and, on departing the body, go to dance and rejoice."

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The Society of Jesus, The Jesuits

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First Nations. Issues of Consequence

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New Advent- Thodat - Gabriel Sagard

Louis Fournier-Gabriel Sagard (in French only)

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