Before the French Revolution, one of the most importantworld events was the Jesuit missions. They went into a new world attempting toconvert tribes that practiced another religion. One of these tribes was theHuron, who put up a harsh fight against colonization. As a whole, bothpopulations had to negotiate and concede different aspects of their cultures inorder to integrate. This did not come down to only religious aspects, butincluded social and cultural differences as well. Roles of the Jesuits The Jesuitshad two main roles in seventeenth-century New France: convert indigenous peopleinto Christianity and coerce them into leading their lives according to theEuropean fashion. They logically did not see this as two completely separateendeavors.
European institutions and patters would only make conversion intoChristianity easier. Furthermore, Christianity was perhaps the most importantpart of Europe’s culture and tradition. Thisparticular tribe’s conception of what a society could be was in tune with theEuropean one. In this sense, the Jesuits did not have too much to do. The Huronpracticed sedentary agriculture, which was a sign of civilization for theFrench. Women grew maize, gathered plants and berries, and made clothing andbaskets. The men cleared the field and were largely hunters to bring in meatthat they consequently cooked. There was a division between the sexes that wasalso in line with the European way of life and Christianity.
Huron men werealso responsible for the defense of the village, yet they attempted to resolveconflicts through discussion, only using violence as a last resort. Nevertheless, there were manydifferences in the way that the Huron and Europeans governed. Huron people hada matrilineage society.
The clan segments in their governments had a civilleader and a war chief—these were the two headmen that each clan had. Theirdecisions were largely based on discussions. However, dreams and visions werean important part of the Huron culture; this meant they also had an importantinfluence in decision-making.As a whole, the Huron’s religion wasvery different from Christianity. Both believed in souls. However, in theHuron’s case, everything that existed had a soul, even mundane objects made bypeople.
These things were also immortal, while in Christianity immortality wassaved for the divine. Both cultures also believed in witchcraft, but Huronfirmly believed that this was something men could do as well. Successes of the MissionThe beginning was fairly easy. TheHuron were content with the French goods brought by the Jesuits. The Europeanswere also allies to the Huron in battles, which they obviously deemed positive.The indigenous people were enthralled by the more mythological aspects ofChristianity, like the origins of the world.
The wisdom and life of JesusChrist also interested them. One of the most interesting andimportant aspects of the Jesuit mission with the Huron was their integrationinto the indigenous village. Jesuits infiltrated villages, social structuresand customs in order to communicate more fluently with the indigenous people.
They translated important liturgical texts into Wendat, the Huron language.Furthermore, they had important treatises on the different sacraments so as toinitiate the Huron more easily. The Jesuits thought that to communicate “themessage of Christianity to native Americans, it was necessary to learn and usenative languages and to incorporate into missionary teaching as many Nativecultural concepts with as little distortion as possible” (Steckley 478). Thisproduced much religious literature, which the Huron then disseminated to theregion of the Great Lakes and other places.Failures of the Mission There was alarge incompatibility between Huron and Christian ways of being in the world. Ingeneral, the Huron were reticent to oblige by European standards. Theindigenous people often offered resistance when the Jesuits attempted toconvert them into their religious and social patterns. The Jesuits alsoinsisted that converts could not form a part of indigenous culture andtraditions.
The Christians had their own culture, including the Jesuits and theconverts, and the Huron had another completely different way of living. Eventhough this latter group obviously started out with only the Huron, there weresome Europeans that later followed suit.This caused a rift within the Huronpopulation that the Iroquois took advantage of. The Huron population wasalready fragile and the other tribe attached pillaging, killing, and raping.
The Huron confederacy strongly declined in the middle of the seventeenthcentury until it ceased to exist. As statedbefore, a great divide happened within the Christian community that had perhapsthe most influential negative effect on the mission. This was in part due tothe Huron themselves. Because they solved problems through discussion andnegotiation, the imposing and sometimes crude ways of Christian conversion weredifficult to tolerate for some Europeans.
Relationships to Colonization and Globalization In thissense, colonization and globalization hit a crisis during the Jesuit missionswith the Huron. Although even contemporary society deems these two concepts aspositive, the more traditional factions within the Christian community startedquestioning them. As stated before, this was in part due to the way the Huronrelated through each other as equals, through words. However, in the granderscheme, Europeans started worrying that converts would completely do away withtheir origins. Jesuits as Tools of God One could see Jesuits as tools of avengeful God.
The Huron did not want to be colonized. However, this religiouspeople went through with the conversion anyways. What led them to ignore thewill of the people that they were interacting with? The knowledge that theywere doing God’s will. This reached such extremes that they used fear tacticsin order to coerce people into believing in God, consider their mortality, andseek their salvation. For example, they illustrated Hell in a horrific mannerso as to frighten the Huron.
Jesuits also took negative elements from Huronculture in order to frighten them.Conclusion One can consider the Jesuit missionwith the Huron largely as a failure. It exterminated a tribe and led to thereversion of most of the objectives the Jesuits set out to reach. Nevertheless,if one takes into account that these were largely negative aims, one could sayit did not turn out so bad after all. Furthermore, there was a substantialamount of religious literature that the Jesuits translated into the Huronlanguage, which then served as cultural and historical artifacts.
As a whole,the Jesuits attempted to impose their religion and culture onto the Hurontribe, yet they ended up destroying the people and producing important historicaldocuments. In this case, religion served as a divisive element that caused twocultures to decline at once, due to the perceived and preached incompatibilityof their cohabitation.