The Misconceptions Of Their Mission History Essay

3035 words - 13 pages

3
THE MISCONCEPTIONS OF THEIR MISSION:
A Detailed Analysis of the Disruptive Footprint Left Upon The Indigenous Peoples of New France by Early Missionaries
Gabrielle E. Guderyan
Student ID #160029
Professor Patrick Cabel : HIST261
Canadian History Since The 1500s
December 6th, 2017
Word Count: 2,695
From the beginning of the arrival of newcomers to the New World, men of all trades created monumental opportunities to educate themselves on the customs and resources of the Indigenous people of the New World. Although the goals differed from group to group, the ambition of all explorers was for successful economic gain with the goal to discover, claim, and foreign countries of their bountiful resources. However, economic gain was not the only ambition into the Americas, others for example, had goals of cultural and spiritual assimilation. France followed the interest of the North America’s after other leading Christian powers had sent successful missions such as those of John Cabot and later Jacques Cartier on earlier voyages of the discovery of New France. It wasn’t until Samuel Champlain in 1603 sailed up the St. Lawrence river and agreed to support the Algonkian Indians against the aggression of the Iroquois that would change and determine the fate of New France.[footnoteRef:1] The start of colonialism began with the bringing of missionaries by the Jesuit’s in Port Royal on May 22, 1611.[footnoteRef:2] From then on, many other denominations continued to arrive in New France with the purpose of conversion and evangelism through assimilation and in some cases annihilation. The mission the missionaries had in mind was to convert the Aboriginal people to Christ through the ways and practices of Christianity. Their missionary strategy was a set plan of establishing permanent mission stations, to which Indian converts could be attracted both by the consolations of religion and the protection of French power, and where they could be taught the elements of European civilization[footnoteRef:3]. Also through observance of the musical activity among the Aboriginal people, the Jesuit missionaries began their conversion process through music and dance. The Jesuits remained and colonized the great lakes and eastern woodlands region, where their arrival was a source of much controversy among the Indigenous people. Many Aboriginals accepted the beliefs the Jesuit’s imposed because of the opportunities they were exposed to by conversion, however many see the missionaries as an unwelcomed force of tyranny. The intrusion of the missionaries to the Indigenous population altered the dynamics of the Aboriginal peoples in ways that were harmful to many different aspects of life. Despite resistance by the Indigenous communities to be converted, the Jesuit people relentlessly sought to assimilate the people to fulfill their missionary strategy.[footnoteRef:4] The arrival of missionaries among the indigenous people in the early 1600s brought about much hardship and struggle within native communities. The influence the missionaries had on conversion through assimilation and annihilation left an imprint not only on the aboriginal people’s spiritual lives, but also on aspects of their mental, emotional, cultural and social livelihoods. [1: Diamond, Jenness. The Indians of Canada. Sixth ed. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationary, Rodger Duhmael, 1963, 167-168.] [2: Mealing. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents : A Selection. Toronto: McClelland, 1963. Print. Carleton library, no. 7; Carleton library, no. 7, 2. ] [3: Mealing, 15. ] [4: Mealing, 51.]
When the missionaries began to evangelize to peoples of the New World, however when they didn’t immediately convert, the missionaries went to extreme lengths to sway conversion.[footnoteRef:5] The process of conversion affected many aspects of the First Nations way of life through different means, the spiritual lives of the people had the greatest impact. The Europeans were scholarly men of their time and used their education to their advantage during their attempts of conversion. They learned not only the ways and practices of the First Nations culture but also their language, hunting techniques and traditions. Regardless they didn’t take into account the spiritual and religious practices of the First Nations people because of presumptions that they were savages that held no moral sense of being.[footnoteRef:6] A major misconception the missionaries had about the indigenous people was that they had no former spirituality, making them believe that they would be easily converted; because of this misconception the aboriginals were forced to be stripped of their spiritual traditions and practices. The Mi’kmaq began their conversion to subjects of the Vatican after the conversion of Grand Chief Membertou in 1610.[footnoteRef:7] Mi’kmaq beliefs incorporated many traditional aspects in fusion with Christianity, whereas the Huron people believed that everything that existing possessed a soul and was forever immortal. Many aboriginal groups believed that their ancestors were immortal and came back to guide them through their life in forms of spirits or animals. Most major decisions were influenced by dreams and visions. The aboriginals filtered evil spirits through dream catchers, allowing for their ancestors to have a clearer passage to their thoughts. The missionaries considered this to be a demonic ritual that would indefinitely send the souls of the Indigenous peoples to hell, and this assumption led them to pursue their evangelization mission even more diligently.[footnoteRef:8] Their diligence led the missionaries to threaten the Indians metaphorically but later physically, if they denied cooperation through the conversion process of accepting Christ through baptism.[footnoteRef:9] Refusing these warnings of actual ‘flesh-and-blood’, the missionaries became cultivators of civilized ways among the Natives, whose own social and cultural traditions constituted a ‘heathen wilderness’ – a ‘wide and most extensive field’ awaiting the civilizing violence of Christianity.[footnoteRef:10] The violent acts and threats, by the missionaries, didn’t coincide with the teaching of the Christian faith, nonetheless the Indigenous peoples were captivated by the stories told about the origins of the universe, life and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Even though the Aboriginal people were curious about the Christian faith, many of them would not fully convert through baptism based on their suspicions that they would have syndicating their personal spiritual beliefs with those of Christianity. [5: Scalberg, Daniel A. (1993) "Challenge to Missionaries: e Religious Worlds of New France," Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 14: Iss. 1, Article 7.] [6: Alvyn Austin, Jamie S. Scott, eds. Canadian Missionaries, Indigenous Peoples: Representing Religion at Home and Abroad. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005, 21-23] [7: Allan Greer, The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000) 17.] [8: Nicholas P. Cushner, Why Have You Come Here?: The Jesuits and the First Evangelization of Native America. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 20.] [9: Alvyn Austin, Jamie S. Scott, 25.] [10: Alvyn Austin, Jamie S. Scott, 22.]
There was a plethora of implications imposed on the Native American people that created many damages to their mental and emotional states. This emotional trauma was perpetrated in a number of ways, one of the main tactics recorded was priests having a negatively affected the Native’s emotionally, was through the stripping of cultural and spiritual identity as well as using fear tactics to influence submission. This form of Christianity that the missionaries imposed, demanded an all-or-nothing mentality from their converts. There are multiple recordings of Jesuit missionaries forcing the Huron to choose between their community ties, spiritual beliefs, and family structure.[footnoteRef:11] This type of conversion, led the First Nations people to essentially abandon all that they knew, to be accepted into the Jesuit’s realm of beliefs. The process of colonization and conversion brought great disorder to the lives of the Aboriginal people by the impacting their traditions, social relations, ways of thinking, feeling, and interacting within the world. Essentially, colonization through conversion had a devastating impact on all aspects of the health of Aboriginal peoples, particularly the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions.[footnoteRef:12] The sole purpose of Christs’ life was to bring people together and lead people to his love through relational evangelism, the missionaries to New France completely disregarded all forms of relational evangelism and instead stripped the Aboriginals of their feelings and self-identity. This fear tactic brought upon the indigenous peoples by the missionaries, painted false images conveyed cultural fears of the spirits and showed horrifically graphical images of Hell and the afterlife which encouraged the Natives to examine their faith, in hopes of achieving salvation.[footnoteRef:13] The emotional trauma inflicted on the First Nations community because of the missionaries left them in a state of confusion and frustration with their ancestors, breaking up and dividing homes amongst their own people. The division between the Christian and non-Christian aboriginal peoples brought tension not only among families but to the First Nations culture as a whole. [11: Mealing, 74-76] [12: Scalberg, Daniel A. (1993) "Challenge to Missionaries: e Religious Worlds of New France," Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 14: Iss. 1, Article 7.] [13: Alvyn Austin, Jamie S. Scott, 78]
The cultural alterations and dynamics influenced by the presence of the priests in the Frist Nations tribes, not only was encouraged through altering social structure but also was carried through the encouragement of forming distinct establishments.[footnoteRef:14] With the end goal of bringing the First Nations groups to Christ, the mission was always to establish permanent mission stations, to which Indian converts could be attracted both by the consolations of religion and the protection of French power, while being taught the elements of European civilization. The Europeans used clever strategies to gain the trust of the peoples of the New World, which all resulted in an economic gain for the colonists. Through unfair trading of furs for alcohol and other weapons, the scared hunting practices and ways of the indigenous people were forgotten. To persuade the Indigenous populations to convert, it was common of the missionaries to offer resources that was uncommon to the First Nations people such as jewellery, plots of land, guns, and ammunition.[footnoteRef:15] These inducements led many Aboriginal people to seek the benefits of conversion rather than truly accepting Christ as their personal saviour. The enticements that the missionaries offered, were strategical, because they would pursue individuals that were young, poor, and culturally liberal to gain successful conversions. By giving the First Nations people resources that would improve their quality of life in exchange for conversion, the missionaries became more successful in their mission to assimilate the converts. Not only did the missionaries exploit the needs of the people for their own economic gain and an opportunity for conversion they also used homeland resources to further cultural splitting of the First Nations. Another major negative cultural impact that the missionaries imploded was the social structure of the First Nations culture. The style of government that the aboriginal people had in place addressed all conflict through appointed leaders based on clan segments.[footnoteRef:16] From the beginning of the encounters, the missionaries would encourage the First Nations people to abandon their former practices of democracy and take up the European style of democracy; with the end goal of to assimilate the Indigenous peoples into a European life style while instilling correlating values, culturally targeted the Indigenous. The missionaries didn’t only strive to eliminate the traditional practices of the Aboriginal people but they also tried to eliminate the cultural practices as well. Europeans would provide the First Nations groups with alternate social institutions, such as schools and health care services of those like Europe’s, in efforts to make the New World much like the homeland.[footnoteRef:17] This desire to influence European patterns to the First Nation communities was brought on by a widespread belief carried out by the missionaries that conversion would come easier when the Native’s saw their ease of life. By acceptance from the Indigenous populations of the ways and resources the missionaries offered, they allowed assimilation to happen unknowingly leading to the destruction of their cultural practices and traditional ways of life. [14: Cushner, 180-183.] [15: Mealing, 148.] [16: Cushner, 15.] [17: Cushner, 150-152]
Colonialism is the guiding force that manipulated the historical, political, social, and economical contexts shaping Indigenous relations throughout the exploration of early Canada and they largely account for the public erasure of political and economic marginalization.[footnoteRef:18] The missionaries used the sway they had on the spiritual side of the First Nations people to lead them into assimilation of colonization. Over time more and more missionaries came to assimilate different Aboriginal groups, with some successful and non-successful conversions, regardless, the impact left by the colonists affected the cultural and social aspects of the indigenous population. The arrival of the French and European settlers, brought many diseases that had a devastating impact on the First Nations communities. Due to the lack of immunity that the Indigenous people had to the invasive bacteria, many people died when they became ill. Small pox was one disease specifically, that had a large negative impact on the Indigenous tribes, because they were not immune to this disease, many people lost in their battle to overcome it.[footnoteRef:19] This disease alone, killed approximately 90% of the total Native American population in New France.[footnoteRef:20] It was not uncommon, for Jesuits to use these misfortunes of war as well as diseases that affected the Indigenous peoples, to aid them in gaining converts to Catholicism. In cases where sickness and disease arose the missionaries would exploit these difficulties to impose faith. In addition to death and disease, other social implications rested on the splitting of homes because of alcoholism and an increase of disrespect for woman. Traditionally, Indigenous women signified and preserved the cultures knowledge, history, skills, and environmental stewardship. The Aboriginals’ peoples close relationships and dependence on their land came from their understanding that life and livelihood is dependent upon how well they nurture and care for their environment.[footnoteRef:21] In many communities, Aboriginal women are entrusted with knowledge to care for the environment and their families and communities, but their responsibilities for the knowledge are often neglected or forgotten. However, the respect for women, because of the European and influence of alcohol changed the respects for women.[footnoteRef:22] From a whole point perspective, it is evident that the colonialist footprint left by the early explorers of Canada had a significantly disruptive and negative impact on the Indigenous peoples as individuals and as a community as a result of the atrocious acts of biological and social remiss induced upon them. [18: Czyzewski, K. (2011). Colonialism as a Broader Social Determinant of Health. e International Indigenous Policy Journal, 2(1) . Retrieved from: h p://ir.lib.uwo.ca/iipj/vol2/iss1/5 DOI: 10.18584/iipj.2011.2.1.5, 1-2.] [19: Czyzewski, K, 3-4. ] [20: Czyzewski, K, 3-4.] [21: Metcalf, Cherie, and Tania Bubela. "Aboriginal Rights and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Northern Canada." Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge. doi:10.4337/9781781002629.00020.] [22: Metcalf, Cherie, and Tania Bubela. ]
The arrival of early missionaries upon the communities of First Nations peoples in the early 1600s brought about an undying hardship and struggle within indigenous communities throughout the nation. The influence that these missionaries had on the conversion of aboriginal people was great, and through heavy assimilation and annihilation this damaging imprint was left on not only the aboriginal people’s spiritual lives, but also on aspects of their mental, emotional, cultural and social livelihoods. The violent acts and threats carried out by the missionaries, did not coincide with the teaching of the Christian faith, nonetheless the Indigenous peoples were captivated by the stories told about the origins of the universe, life and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Even though the Aboriginal people were curious about the Christian faith, many of them would not fully convert through the Christian traditional expectations of baptismal based on their suspicions that they would have lost their cultural spiritual beliefs in exchange for those of Christianity. The extreme emotional trauma that was forcibly inflicted upon the First Nations community by the missionaries left them in a devastating state of confusion and feelings of frustration with their ancestors, breaking up and dividing homes amongst their own people. The widespread division created between the Christian and non-Christian aboriginal peoples brought hard pressed tension not only among families but to the First Nations culture as a whole. This strong desire to influence European patterns to the First Nation communities was brought on by a widespread belief carried out by the missionaries that conversion would come easier when the Native’s saw their ease of life. By acceptance from the Indigenous populations of the ways and resources the missionaries offered, they allowed assimilation to happen unknowingly leading to the destruction of their cultural practices and traditional ways of life. From a whole point perspective, it is evident that the colonialist footprint left by the early explorers of Canada had a significantly disruptive and negative impact on the Indigenous peoples as individuals and as a community as a result of the atrocious acts of biological and social remiss induced upon them.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Primary Sources
Alvyn Austin, Jamie S. Scott, eds. Canadian Missionaries, Indigenous Peoples: Representing
Religion at Home and Abroad. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.
Nicholas P. Cushner, Why Have You Come Here?: The Jesuits and the First Evangelization of Native America. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Secondary Sources
Allan Greer, The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000)
Calloway, Colin G., and William W. Fitzhugh. "Cultures in Contact: The European Impact on
Native Cultural Institutions in Eastern North America, A. D. 1000-1800." American Indian Quarterly 11, no. 2 (1987): 153. doi:10.2307/1183700.
Charleston, Rev. S. (2001), The Good, the Bad and the New: The Native American Missionary
Experience. Dialog, 40: 99–104. doi: 10.1111/0012-2033.00061
Czyzewski, K. (2011). Colonialism as a Broader Social Determinant of Health. e International
Indigenous Policy Journal, 2(1) . Retrieved from: h p://ir.lib.uwo.ca/iipj/vol2/iss1/5 DOI: 10.18584/iipj.2011.2.1.5
Diamond, Jenness. The Indians of Canada. Sixth ed. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer and Controller of
Stationary, Rodger Duhmael, 1963.
Jesuits. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents : A Selection. Toronto: McClelland, 1963.
Print. Carleton library, no. 7; Carleton library, no. 7.
Kavita R. Mathu-Muju, James McLeod, Leeann Donnelly, Rosamund Harrison, Michael I.
MacEntee. (2017) The perceptions of first nation participants in a community oral health initiative. International Journal of Circumpolar Health 76:1.
Metcalf, Cherie, and Tania Bubela. "Aboriginal Rights and Traditional Ecological Knowledge
in Northern Canada." Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge. doi:10.4337/9781781002629.00020.
McGregor, D. (2005). Traditional ecological knowledge: An Anishinabe woman’s perspective.
Atlantis Women’s Studies Journal 29(2). 1-10.
Scalberg, Daniel A. (1993) "Challenge to Missionaries: e Religious Worlds of New France,"
Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 14: Iss. 1, Article 7.

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