||The Jesuits and the Huron
This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 2 Adventures and Mystics
In the 17th century, religious orders began arriving in New France intending to convert the Native population to Christianity. The first order established in Canada were the Récollets in 1615. The Jesuits followed in 1632. The annual reports of the Jesuits' missions, The Jesuit Relations, soon became an important instrument for promoting New France among the rich and the educated in France.
In Paris in 1639, a tax collector, Jérôme Le Royer de la Dauversière, and a priest, Jean-Jacques Olier, dreamed of founding an evangelical colony on the island of Montreal. Their goal was to create a people - white and Native - united in the Catholic faith. They chose Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve to lead the enterprise. De Maisonneuve was accompanied by Jeanne Mance, whose mission was to build a hospital. They arrived in Montreal on May 17, 1642, and founded Ville-Marie. The conversion plans failed and, in 1650, the missionary society, burdened by numerous debts and deceptions, crumbled while colonization and commerce became the main focus of the city of Montreal.
The Jesuit missionaries had a different approach. They lived among the Natives and tried to gain their confidence by learning their languages and customs. Between 1610 and 1640, diseases carried by the Europeans killed close to half of the Huron population. Huron shamans accused the Jesuits of bringing disease and angering the gods with their religious practices. When the weakened villages fell into the hands of enemy Iroquois, the Jesuits were tortured, as was Jean de Brébeuf in 1649. Between 1648 and 1650, the Iroquois nearly decimated the Huron nation.