The Huron People and Recollects in New France
We all know the famous story of the European conquest of the New World. After its discovery by Christopher Columbus, the European powers sent numerous missions to New World. They wanted to grab a hold of as many territories as possible. Portugal colonized what is now known as Brazil. Spain established the vast New Spain in what is nowadays known as Latin America. On the other side, the British and the French conquered North America.
Samuel de Champlain
Samuel de Champlain was a French settler, diplomat and explorer who made more than 20 trips across the Atlantic. He also founded Quebec City. Best known as the Father of New France, he is important to Canadian history due to the fact that he made the first accurate map of the coast. The New World was a business opportunity for him and his uncle in the beginning. However, it later became his passion project. He not only governed New France, but also explored the area and made geographical maps. De Champlain made efforts to learn from the natives and integrate them into a new society while conquistadors murdered around 8 million indigenous people. He achieved so by bringing missionaries.
Jesuits were known for their countless missions around the world. However, de Champlain’s travels were financed by merchant societies. So, they insisted that he brings inexpensive, yet effective missionaries. Therefore, he turned to Recollects.
The Recollects were a French reform branch of the Franciscans. They took vows of poverty and devoted their lives to prayer, penance and spiritual reflection. Their vows of poverty were the virtue that persuaded Champlain that the Recollects were the right religious order to bring to New France. So, they arrived in Quebec City in 1615.
The Recollects believed that colonization and evangelization were inseparable. Thus, they tried to integrate native tribes into French settlements. The Recollects wanted to teach them their religious ways. That proved difficult because the natives didn’t want to move to the settlements. At the same time the communication between them proved difficult. While the priests tried to make the natives learn their ways, they made no efforts to learn the ways of the natives. All except one.
The Huron people and Gabriel Sagard
Gabriel Sagard was a curious and wide-eyed Recollect lay brother. He regularly spent time with the native Huron people. They were peaceful and generous people, and he was fascinated by them. Everything about them was interesting to him. Sagard lived in an Indian-style cabin, which they built for him. There he divided his time between praying, studying their language and visiting Huron families.
He wrote and published an account of his stay among the Huron people, in which he described his journey. He wrote about the geography, the flora and fauna and the customs of the people in this travel book. Sagard published the first dictionary of the Huron people at the same time. Sometimes those were bound together, sometimes separately.
Gabriel Sagard Le grand voyage du pays des Hurons, situé en l’Amerique vers la Mer Douce… Original 1st edition of Sagard’s account printed in 1623.
His journal, Le grand voyage du pays des Hurons, is the first work to bring attention to Huron people and everything about their way of life in a time of great explorations.
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