The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents
Travels and Explorations
of the Jesuit Missionaries
in New France
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CONTENTS OF VOL. LXVIII.
Preface To Volume LXVIII
Relation du Saguenay, 1720 à 1730. Pierre Laure; Chekŏtimi, March 13, 1730
Lettre au Père d’Avaugour, Procureur des Missions de l’Amérique Septentrionale. Mathurin le Petit; Nouvelle Orleans, July 12, 1730
Lettre au R. p. Richard, provincial de la province de Guyenne, a Bourdeaux. Luc François Nau; Quebec, October 20, 1734
Lettre au R. P. H. faye. J. Pierre Aulneau; Quebeck, April 25, 1735
Lettre au reverend pere Bonin. J. Pierre Aulneau; Quebeck, April 29, 1735
Lettre au reverend pere Bonin. J. Pierre Aulneau; Monreal, June 12, 1735
Lettre au R. p. Benin. Luc François Nau; Sault St. Louis, October 2, 1735
Lettre au R, P, Bonin. J. Pierre Aulneau; Fort St. Charle, ches les Kriistinaux, April 30, 1736
Epistola ad R, P. Franciscum Retz, Præsitum Generalem Societatis Iesu, Romæ. Mathurin le Petit; [Nouvelle Orleans, June 29, 1736]
Lettre à —————. Nicolas de Gonnor; Notre Dame de Laurette, 
Bibliographical Data; Volume LXVIII
[INSERT GRAPHIC HERE]
ILLUSTRATIONS TO VOL. LIX.
PREFACE TO VOL. LXVIII
Following is a synopsis of the documents contained in this volume:
CCII. Pierre Laure writes to his superior a report (dated March 13, 1730) of the Saguenay mission, of which he has charge; it covers the nine years which he has spent there, He begins with a general description of the Saguenay region, which has but four permanent posts — Tadoussac, Chicoutimi, the Jérémie Islets, and the Moist River. Laure notes in detail the peculiar characteristics of the Saguenay River, and graphically describes some of his experiences in traveling on “this capricious river” in stormy weather. He also describes Lake St. John and some of its tributaries — especially one which rolls down in its waters many curiously-shaped stones. He gives an account of the Mistassin Indians and their religious beliefs; among them he finds a tradition of the deluge, and the assertion that on one of their mountains still lie some remains of “the great Canoe.” Laure praises their gentleness and simplicity, and especially admires their sobriety — for, unlike other savages, they neither desire nor relish “fire-water. “One of the curiosities of their country is a cave of white marble, regarded with superstitious reverence by the savages. There are numerous medicine-men among this tribe, who [Page 9] practice “30 different kinds of jugglery” When questioned by the missionary, they candidly admit that their arts are fraudulent, and that they really have not seen any demons.
Laure, coming to the Saguenay in 1720 finds little trace of the religious training that was given to the Montagnais by Crépieul and other early missionaries; and they are much corrupted in morals. He finds drunkenness and licentiousness prevalent to an alarming extent. Unfortunately, these savages can hardly understand his Algonkin speech, and he cannot reach them with his instructions and rebukes. “Without a house, without assistance, without consolation, I pined away — solely through not being able to express the bitterness of my heart, otherwise than by the pallor of my countenance.” In this plight, Laure has recourse to his departed predecessor, Crépieul; “I went to the Church several times, and asked the venerable deceased to send me from Heaven his montagnais tongue, which was no longer of use to him. But the saints desire us to take the same trouble that they themselves have taken to become qualified to glorify God.” He finds, however, a mortal instructor, who “directed my studies in a masterly manner.” With this aid, he is able to preach to the savages, and to compose catechism and hymns in their language. Becoming ill in the winter, he goes in the spring to Quebec; but almost immediately has a presentiment that he is needed in his mission, and returns thither.
The Montagnais chief is converted, and dies most Piously, regretted by all, especially by his spiritual father. This is the beginning of an epidemic of [Page 10] illness which carries away over a score of savages, and gives the missionary little rest by day and night; for he is continually called upon to comfort the sick and bury the dead. He relates the particulars of some conversions occurring in this sad time. The various methods of sweating, the chief remedy of the savages, are carefully explained. After the epidemic is over, Laure is so prostrated by his arduous labors that his recently-acquired knowledge of the language temporarily forsakes him. The Indians accuse the French of selling them goods infected with contagion; and the missionary thinks that this charge is but too true, for the Frenchmen who open the bales are at once attacked by fever, and only those savages die who use these goods.
The Tadoussac mission, in its palmy days containing nearly 3,000 men, has been reduced by diseases to but twenty-five families. The ruins of the former Jesuit residence and church are still visible when Laure returns: he advocates the rebuilding of these edifices. He describes with much detail the appearance and habits of the seal, the manner in which it is hunted at Tadoussac, the usefulness of this animal, and the manufacture of the oil. Laure ascribes the ruin of the Tadoussac mission to the jealousy of some Frenchmen who thought that the missionary watched them too closely; they assigned the pretext that the Indians “were kept at prayers day and night, and were not allowed time to hunt.” But the savages themselves say that, “as they go to confession only once a year, and no longer see a priest on the rocks, they lose. heart and do not venture to go far from the shore, where alone the seals are to be [Page 11] found.” For this reason, the annual product of seal-oil has diminished to a small fraction of the amount obtained when the mission was carried on.
After leaving Tadoussac, Laure goes to the Jérémie Islets, among the Papinachois — whose origin he ascribes to some Basque fisherman, who, “ship- wrecked on their shores with some Eve, has been their unfortunate Adam.” Among these people Laure finds great interest in the gospel, and the utmost kindness toward himself. He undertakes to reëstablish the Chicoutimi mission, in which he is greatly aided by the coöperation and excellent judgment of the clerk in the trading post there. A plain but well-appointed church, and a house for the missionary, are built (1726-28). “A large number of resident savages would complete his happiness;” but there is nothing for them to live upon. He suggests that the trading company would do well to support the Indians here, during three months of the year, “in order to prevent their completely destroying the summer beaver, whose fur is worthless.” He also urges that a small fund be established for supporting and instructing Montagnais children during the winter, that they may become preachers of Christian doctrine among their relatives.
Laure proposes to his superior the extension of the Saguenay mission. He desires to go to Labrador, “where I know that great results can be obtained;” a new missionary could take his place at Chicoutimi, with the aid of Laure’s Montagnais writings.
CCIII. A letter from Mathurin le Petit to D’Avaugour (dated at New Orleans, July 12, 1730) gives a report of the Louisiana missions. The event of most importance therein is the terrible massacre by [Page 12] the Natches Indians (October 28, 1729) of the French People settled among them, over two hundred in number. The relation of this is preceded by an account of those savages, their character, customs, and religion.
The Natches tribe “Is the only one on this continent which appears to have any regular worship.” They worship the sun, and their chief of highest rank styles himself “Brother of the Sun” — arrogating to himself therewith despotic authority. At his death, his servants are strangled, that they may follow him in that capacity to the other world. They believe in the immortality of the soul, with rewards or punishments in its future existence. Their crops are planted together in one large field, and all assemble to collect the harvest. The first fruits gathered are presented to the temple, and then distributed according to the orders of the great chief. Marriages are a matter of barter, the husband paying a stipulated price in peltries or goods. Polygamy is prevalent among the chiefs — the support of their wives and children costing them nothing, because they have “the right to oblige the people to cultivate their fields, without giving them any wages.”
Le petit gives a long account of the customs observed by this people in carrying on their wars. The captives whom they bring home are made slaves; but, if given to the relatives of dead warriors, the captives are burned to death. The medicine-man flourish here, as among other savage tribes; “all their art consists in different juggleries” — in dancing, singing, smoking tobacco, and invocations to their fetiches. Other jugglers undertake, by similar means, to procure favorable weather. Both [Page 13] these classes of conjurors are composed of old men, or those too indolent to work. When successful, their gain is considerable; but, if they fail, their heads are cut off. Ambassadors from other tribes are received by the Natches Indians with numerous and elaborate ceremonies, in which the calumet, or peace-pipe, is conspicuous.
Having furnished this preliminary information, Le Petit narrates the particulars of the terrible vengeance taken by these savages for the injustice shown them by a tyrannical French commandant. They form a conspiracy, even with other tribes, to exterminate the French settlers; “and in less than two hours they massacred more than two hundred of the French.” Among these are the commandant at the Natches village, one of the earliest grantees on the Mississippi estates, and the Jesuit priest Du Poisson. The savages spare two Frenchmen, a tailor and a carpenter; they kill such women as have nursing children, or are not in good health, and enslave all the others. A few French fugitives escape, one of whom is aided to reach New Orleans by some Yazoo Indians whom he encounters. They assure him that they will remain faithful to the French; but no sooner do they return to their own village than they form a plot to murder the Frenchmen there. On December 11, they murder their missionary, Father Souel, and, on the next day, the garrison at the French post near their village. Soon afterward, they attack the Jesuit Doutreleau, on his way to New Orleans, who narrowly escapes them with his life.
As soon as Perrier, the governor at New Orleans, hears of the savages’ treachery, he takes all possible measures to defend the colony. All other French [Page 14] Posts along the Mississippi are warned; guns and ammunition are distributed in the city and on the Plantations; two ships are despatched to the Yazoo River; fortifications are erected not only at New Orleans, but on the plantations; and companies of militia are organized. All the available soldiers are mustered to proceed against the Natches, Meanwhile, Le Sueur conducts 700 Choctaw warriors thither, to secure the release of the French prisoners; this is accomplished, on January 27, 1730, the Choctaws taking the Natches village by surprise, and capturing and killing a considerable number of their men. On February 8, the French troops, with some savage allies, arrive: but, finding many difficulties in their siege of the village, a mutual agreement is reached (February 25), by which the French receive their remaining captives, and withdraw — building, however, a fort on a bluff near by, to secure control of the great river. The Choctaw allies go to New Orleans, to receive payment for their services; they disgust the French by their vanity, greed for gain, and insolence. The Natches had been joined in their revolt by some negro slaves; three of these, the ringleaders, are abandoned to the ’ Choctaws, who have “burned them alive, with a degree of cruelty which has inspired all the negroes with a new horror of the Savages, but which will have a beneficial effect in securing the safety of the colony.” Some Natches prisoners are also burned by the savages allied to the French; and the writer adds, “our own people, it is said, begin to be accustomed to this barbarous spectacle.” The French women enslaved by the Natches return to New Orleans, and “many of them were in great haste to [Page 15] marry again.” The little girls made orphans by the massacre are placed in charge of the Ursuline nuns, since “none of the habitants wish to adopt” these children. A warm eulogy is bestowed upon these devoted nuns, who, only seven in number, are overloaded with cares and labors.
The Chickasaw Indians are endeavoring to seduce the Illinois tribes from their loyalty to the French; but they refuse to listen to these overtures, and even send ambassadors to assure the French of their fidelity and devotion, and to offer their aid in fighting the Natches. The piety of these ambassadors edifies all the French people, and Le Petit admits that many of the latter “are not so well instructed in religion as are these neophytes.” One of these Illinois savages has visited France, and his tribesmen refuse to believe the wonderful stories that he tells them, on his return, about what he saw there.
The Natches have fled to the Red River, and dwell there in three forts. “This war has retarded the French colony; nevertheless, we flatter ourselves that this misfortune will be productive of benefit, by determining the Court to send the forces necessary to tranquilize the colony and render it flourishing.” Troops are now on the way from France.
CCIV. Luc Francois Nau, who has just arrived in Canada, writes (October 20, 1734) to his provincial, describing the long and arduous voyage which he and several other priests have made. He narrates the discomforts they endured from close and crowded quarters; the stench and vermin proceeding from a crowd of military recruits, and another of released Prisoners, who are being shipped to the American colonies; the ship-fever which rages throughout the [Page 16] vessel, and carries off many persons; and the annoyance caused to the officers and the priests by certain abbés of the bishop’s suite — ignorant, conceited, and quarrelsome men, “whom he had collected from the streets of paris.” Nau relates various items of news regarding the mission stations assigned to himself (Sault St. Louis) and to other priests; a proposed expedition to the Western Sea; and rumors about white men who dwell in the great unexplored region beyond the Mississippi.
CCV. Pierre Aulneau announces (April 25, 1735) to a friend his near departure for the West, where he is to undertake a mission among the Sioux. His first effort will be to learn the languages of these and other Western tribes, who are almost entire strangers to the French. He asks his friend to urge in France that more missionaries be sent to America, where they are greatly needed; seven or eight of the missions there have been abandoned, for lack of workers. Aulneau praises the zeal and devotion of those who are engaged in this holy enterprise, and especially thus mentions the late Father Guesnier. The death of this priest is mourned by all, and his garments, and even his hair, are eagerly seized as holy relics by the people of Quebec and vicinity.
CCVI. Aulneau sends to another Jesuit, named Bonin, a similar letter, but giving more details of his proposed Western journey, which is one of exploration as much as of missionary labors.
CCVII. A short letter (dated June 12, 1735) from Aulneau to the same friend, is written from Montreal, on his way to the West. News has arrived, after a silence of three years, from Guignas, who has [Page 17] repeatedly been in danger of death from the Sacs and Foxes. He is worn out with hardships and sufferings; but there is no one who can be sent to relieve him. Aulneau asks his correspondent to send him the computations for eclipses visible in France and America, that he may use them to determine longitudes in the wilderness.
CCVIII. Nau writes (October 2, 1735) to Bonin a long account of the mission at Sault St. Louis (Caughnawaga). With this, he incidentally gives considerable information about the climate of Canada, the physical and mental characteristics of the Iroquois in his mission, their costumes, etc. “The Iroquois and hurons are more inclined to the practice of virtue than other nations; they are the only savages capable of refined feelings; all the others are to be set down as Cowardly, ungrateful, and voluptuous. If there were no french in Canada, we would have as many saints in our mission as we now have Christians; but the bad example and the solicitations of the french are a Very great obstacle to the sanctification of our Iroquois,” Notwithstanding the punishments imposed on Frenchmen who sell liquor to the Indians, — flogging, the galleys, etc., — “still our savages find all the brandy they want; and, as soon as they are drunk, they are capable of any crime.”
Nau is adopted by the tribe, and receives the name of Hatériata, “the brave man.” He recounts the pious exercises and duties of his mission, which include his ministry to the French people settled at the Sault. The savages are unusually proficient in church music, even more so than the whites; “neither Cordeliers nor nuns ever sang as do our Iroquois men [Page 18] and women,” in both richness of tone and correct rendering of the notes. They raise domestic animals, as the French do; the winters they spend in hunting. They aid the French in every quarrel with other tribes, but they still make war through stratagem and surprise. They send a party to the Fox war; but these warriors lose their way, and accomplish nothing. The slaves taken in war “furnish the majority of the adults whom we instruct for baptism in the village.”
The Iroquois tribes in their own country “are visibly on the decrease, on account of their incessant quarrels and the use of intoxicants supplied by the English.” Those at the Sault use Huron rather than their own language, in the church services, Nau is endeavoring to master both tongues, and must also attempt to instruct the slaves who are brought to the village, who seldom can learn the Iroquois language. He relates what information he can give about the various missionaries in New France. La Richardie has gathered at Detroit the scattered Hurons, and converted them all, six hundred in number. At that post are now seventy French families, besides the fort and garrison: the Récollet Fathers are in charge there. Aulneau has gone to the Northwest. Nau has seen La Vérendrye, commandant of that region, who says, “The western sea would have been discovered long ago, if people had wished it. Monsieur the Count de Maurepas is right when he says that the officials in Canada are looking not for the western sea, but for the sea of beaver.” As for the Ottawas and Sioux, the missionaries there “have managed to convert but a few old men and women who are beyond the age of [Page 19] sinning,” and they baptize some children at the point of death; but “those who recover seldom fail later to fall away from the faith.”
CCIX. Another letter to Bonin, from Aulneau, is written (April 30, 1736) from Fort St. Charles among the Crees, “on the southwest side of lake of the woods.” He reaches that place by way of Lake Superior, after a journey of four months from Montreal. He has spent the winter at Fort St. Charles, — a rough stockade, and a group of wretched cabins — southwest of Lake of the Woods; and he intends to go for the summer to Lake Winnipeg, to evangelize the Assiniboines and Crees. In the following December, he is planning to go with some of the former tribe to another savage nation, apparently dwelling on the Columbia River; and he hopes thus to reach the ocean.
As for the savages northwest of Lake Superior, “and especially the Kristinaux [Crees], I do not believe that, unless it be by miracle, they can ever be persuaded to embrace the faith; . . . they are superstitious and morally degraded, to a degree beyond conception . . . Both English and French, by their accursed avarice, have given them a taste for brandy, and have thus been instrumental in adding to their other vices that of drunkenness; so that brandy is their only topic of conversation, the sole object of their petitions; nor can they ever be counted upon unless they receive enough to get drunk on.” Those tribes have notions of heaven and hell; but these are absurd and material to the last degree. Aulneau is “the first missionary who has as yet undertaken to systematize the language of the Kristinaux;” but he has poor facilities for [Page 20] learning it, as all the men have spent most of the winter in an expedition against their enemies the Sioux. Their only idol is the demon; and their fear of him prevents them from paying homage to the one God. Aulneau hopes that a fellow-worker may be sent him, another year. He has a presentment that death is near — which, as we shall see, was fulfilled soon after he wrote this letter.
CCX. Le Petit announces (June 29, 136), to the general of his order, the loss of two workers in the Western missions: Gabriel Guymoneau, for twenty years a minister to the Illinois tribes; and Antoine Senat, a colleague of the former, who was, on Palm Sunday, burned at the stake by the hostile Chickasaws.
CCXI. Nicolas de Gonnor writes to a priest in France, announcing the death of Aulneau, who has been murdered by a band of Sioux Indians, and desiring his friend to tell this sad news to Aulneau’s family. Little more is known about his death than the fact that he and his party of twenty Frenchmen were slain — probably surprised at night; and that other Frenchmen, passing that way, found the dead bodies.
R. G. T.
MADISON, WIS., May, 1900
Relation du Saguenay, 1720-30
Par le R. P. Pierre Laure
Chekŏtimi le 13e de mars 1730
Source: We follow the original MS, in the archives of St. Mary’s College, Montreal. [Page 23]
Relation of the Saguenay, 1720 to 1730, by
Reverend Father Pierre Laure.
Chekoutimi, march 13, 1730.
y Reverend Father,
Your Reverence is aware of the fact that we write from here to Quebec only once every winter, However late the occasion, I beg you to accept the respectful homage which I already presented to you in my heart at the beginning of this year, which I repeat to-day, and which I shall continue to render you until death. If anything can be desired for you, I offer a thousand wishes for you. Yours are and must be orders, for me.
Instead of commanding me, you, as it were, begged of me — while yourself accompanying me, out of exceeding kindness, to the beach where I was to embark on leaving the town last autumn for my mission — to write to you what I had found most edifying among our Montagnais. I understood that you wished to have a simple narration of what had occurred in this triple Church during the nine years that have elapsed since Providence confided the care thereof to me. I obey you; and could I, for a moment, hesitate to satisfy your pious curiosity, and to give you at least some slight proof of my esteem for you, of my submission, and of my gratitude for all the kindness that you have so long manifested toward me? Without roaming the forests, you, My Reverend [Page 25] Father, are equal to many missionaries through the care that you, like a true father, take of your children — who are scattered, but whom you bear, all united together, in your heart. Consequently, what would we not say, had we to repeat your Praises? I shall therefore render you a summary account of my years’ labors, happy if I had a multitude of true converts to present to Your Reverence as a new year’s gift.
The King’s Domain — which here comprises the whole depth of the north shore, and extends from the lower end of Ile aux Coudres to the Seven Islands — contains but 4 posts solidly established: Tadoussak, Chekoutimi, the Jérémie Islets or Papinachois, and the Moisy River. At these various points The farming Company, or Company of the West, maintains warehouses, clerks, and other french employees, for the purpose of hunting and trading with the Savages belonging to each district. For 20 years, to tell the truth, no missionary had been seen there; at last, one was asked for. As I was the only unemployed one at the college, the lot fell upon me, Reverend Father de la Chasse, then Superior of our missions, — animated by that zeal which, after leading him to conceal so many admirable talents that he has received from heaven, and to endure so many and so protracted labors among the Savages, still makes him regret to-day that his duties are confined solely to the french of the colony — made me leave on the 1st of june, 1720, for Chekoutimy.
This post — which lies to the north, and at least 60 leagues from Quebec — is not remarkable in any way, except for a certain number of savages who, from time to time, for the purpose of purchasing what they need, come here with their rich furs from [Page 27] various places, by the little rivers that flow into this famous Saguené — whereof no attempt has yet been made, to my knowledge, to draw an accurate and complete chart. Much that is curious might be said of it, did not the sole information which only Your Reverence expects from me, limit me to my subject. I cannot however refrain from giving you some idea of it.
This river, then, which takes its rise in Lake Piékwagami, — which Father de Crespieuil, whose apostolic sweat for 30 years watered the surrounding forests, called Lake St. John — this river, I say, is, properly speaking, only 25 leagues in length as far as Tadoussac, from a deep basin formed by a chain of mountains, intersected by streams and rivers. Among these streams, to the north-northeast, is that of Chekoutimy, which falls in two cascades — which, issuing from the same river and separating, form the Island whereon we dwell, — and then flows to add, at 9 leagues from these falls, its fresh water to the Salt Saguené.
At The mouth of that river is the alleged capital of the Province of Saguené — I mean Tadoussac, which consists of merely a wooden dwelling and a storehouse. It must be admitted, however, that its situation is very fine, and very well suited for a town. The harbor is spacious, healthful, safe, and sheltered from every wind; medium-sized vessels anchor, at high water, at the foot of the hill. This was the place where the english formerly came to trade with the Savages. A hole in a rock, in which they had placed a mooring-post for their ships, is still to be seen there; and only two years ago there was found, in the sand disturbed by a high wave, their iron chain about 30 brasses in length, and thick [Page 29] in proportion. Here also the Saguené falls impetuously into the river St. Lawrence; and with the rising tides the St. Lawrence fills it so rapidly that, after many observations, it has been remarked that during flood-tide it is high water at Tadoussac and Chekoutimi within about a quarter of an hour of the same time, although the distance is nearly 30 leagues. It is not surprising that this should happen, in spite of the distance.
The Saguené being nearly a league wide at certain parts of its mouth, and so deep that it cannot be sounded, the flood-tide, entering with excessive rapidity, — as if into a chasm with a wider entrance, — pushes back the descending waters with great force. Accordingly, as these are forced back in succession, it is high tide at Chekoutimi — where the bottom is shallower, and the bed of the river narrower — almost at the same time as at Tadoussac, where the water rises more slowly, and where a greater volume is needed to fill the deep bays there, and the full breadth of the river, which is more than 8 or 10 leagues wide at that place.
The mountains between which the Saguené runs are so high and so steep that the largest trees on their summits do not appear from below to be thicker than one’s leg; and about 7 o’clock in the evening in summer, if one be at all near the shore on the south side, or unless one be far out, it is difficult to read in a canoe. In some of the clefts of the rocks, where the sun never shines, are many veins of very fine and very white saltpeter. Hardly a spring passes without some landslides happening through natural causes; and the noise they make is louder than the report of a cannon, while they diffuse in the [Page 31] neighborhood an odor exactly like that of gunpowder. The heat between these two chains of mountains, most of which are bare and inaccessible, is so great that the gum on the canoes often melts at the surface of the water. Nature seems to have contrived favorable and convenient stopping-places for travelers. With the exception of a single stretch of 4 or 5 leagues, to which it would be dangerous to confide oneself too headlessly, and whence in the event of a sudden storm it would be well-nigh impossible to escape in a bark canoe, nature provides here and there small sandy ports, where one can conveniently put in. These landings are more accessible on the north side, Anchorage for vessels can be found almost everywhere; the largest ships, in case of need, would be fortunate to find refuge there — as, during the war, when the English unsuccessfully besieged Quebec, did the french ships that arrived too late to be of use. The remains of their barracks and their batteries can still be seen, z leagues this side of Tadoussac. At low tide, it is more difficult to disembark; it is sometimes necessary to carry one’s baggage a very long distance, over slippery stones covered with those slimy plants that we call “sea-wrack.” But on the other hand, as a compensation, providence has at nearly all these spots placed fire-wood; and little brooks, — which, flowing from the swamps where the beaver dwell, fall from the tops of the cliffs, to refresh and rejoice tired travelers.
The northwest and northeast winds are the only ones that blow on the Saguené; the others are either but slightly felt or at least are never violent. During the many journeys that I have made, I have seen only the 2 former exceedingly treacherous, stormy, [Page 33] and lasting. As soon as either of these winds begins to blow, caution is necessary, however favorable it may be especially if the sky be overcast, and there be any appearance of a storm. For then, as at sea, the waters roar, rise and foam; and, by the conflicts of a thousand waves, pursuing and following one another, or breaking successively one after another, they warn the canoemen to paddle vigorously, and reach land quickly. May I venture, my Reverend Father, to give you one or two instances of it?
During the first year of my mission, between the trips that I made to Tadoussac for the consolation of my neophytes, I was called one day to go to a sick man in urgent need. As I had, as yet, no experience of the danger to be encountered on this capricious river, I wished to hasten my journey; and although I had only an old canoe for 4 paddlers. I had to travel at night. The weather was fine, and the moon at its full showed no sign of a squall. Meanwhile my 2 Savage canoemen were falling asleep. Tired of awakening them at every moment, I at last allowed them to give way to slumber. I took a paddle, and paddled and steered, allowing the current of the tide, which helped me, to drift me along. Some time afterward, one of my men awoke, and took his paddle; and, as it is the custom of the Savages, who are exceedingly independent among themselves, never to say anything to one another about work, for fear of giving offense, he begged me to rouse the other. I did so, and being in my turn overcome by drowsiness, and seeing only an easy navigation, I rested my head and arms on one of the thwarts of the canoe. I had barely fallen asleep when — as I understood as yet but a few [Page 35] words of the montagnais language respecting the management of canoes — I thought that my people were quarreling. I arose, and spoke; but I saw no longer either sky, or water, or rocks, — nothing but profound darkness, caused by a storm which arose suddenly from the northwest, “We are lost, my father,” they called out to me. “Let us land quickly, my children,” I replied. We could see no landing-place, owing to the darkness of the night; and moreover we were at the deepest part of the Saguené. The storm-cloud grew denser, and seemed about to touch us while it rumbled behind us. We fortunately were near the rocks; but, when I tried to land on the first one we touched, my foot slipped and I fell into the water. The canoeman, who had but one arm, hastily shoved the stump, which was as good as a hand, under my armpit, drew me out, and threw me on a point of rocks whereon we placed our canoe. I was astonished to see my 2 Savages sleeping peacefully during the remainder of the night, while I felt the blood flow from a leg which had been injured by striking too hard against a rock; and I could not dress the wound, because there was no fire. My sole fear was that the storm would carry away our canoe; for, in that case, what would have become of us? But divine goodness took pity on the father and on the children, who were not yet ripe for heaven. The storm passed, at a distance; and when day came I was surprised to see ourselves in a kind of niche, and could not help laughing at our fortunate misfortune. Although the falling tide had left us from 10 to twelve feet above the water, we carried down our canoe, the Chapel, and the remainder of the baggage, by means of a small gully down [Page 37] which we slid gently, and reëmbarked. From there we proceeded to Tadoussac; and the missionary administered the last sacraments to the sick Savage, who died a few days afterward. I then returned to Chekoutimi, in the middle of the same river. The northeast wind, accompanied by rain, assailed us so violently that two thwarts of the canoe were broken before We could land. As we were almost submerged, I was about to give absolution to my two men — who, knowing the danger better than I did, were also more frightened, and exhorted me to make them pray well to God. I confess that to their faith and confidence in the blessed virgin and the Blessed Régis we were indebted for our preservation. I quickly tightened the canoe with my girdle and my garters; I handled the sail, and we drove through the waves that, at times, broke over us. Finally, we reached a savage cabin, where our canoe was emptied and repaired, while we dried ourselves near a great fire — which those dear neophytes made for us, with manifestations of sincere compassion. Being thus well informed of what was to be dreaded on that river, I reached my Church, wrongly resolved to be wiser in future. I say “wrongly,” because in certain cases it is prudent not to be too prudent. Timidity might cause the failure of some good work; and an hour’s delay has compelled travelers who had almost reached their destination to be kept back and to suffer from hunger. Not that it is unnecessary to take wise precautions. Temerity has caused the destruction of many here, both french and savages.
I had the honor of telling you in the first Place, My Reverend Father, that the Saguené took its rise in Lake St. John. Now, to finish giving you an [Page 39] accurate idea of these localities, Lake St. John — which is distant about 30 leagues from Chekoutimi in a westerly direction, and situated in the depths of the high mountains that you see to the north of Quebec — is no more than 30 leagues in circumference. It is not deep, and in summer its waters, which are very low, lay bare a beautiful beach of fine sand. It is well stocked with fish; its environs are beautiful; the scenery agreeable; the soil good. But most kinds of grain, especially Indian corn, cannot ripen, owing to the prevalence of the northwest wind — which blows very strongly early in the season, and sometimes brings snow at the end of august. A portion of the old establishment of the missionaries is still in existence; one can see that there had been a large garden, and a chapel, in which our brother Malherbe was buried. I had a cross erected over his grave.
At the upper end of the Lake is a river, which is very curious on account of the variously-shaped small stones that it rolls down its bed. Nature would seem to have applied itself there to giving models for all the arts: birds, animals, vases, tools for all trades are easily recognizable; all these are visible in the water. The difficulty lies in collecting them. A journey would have to be made expressly for the purpose, and one would have to take time to select the pieces oneself, as the savages are not capable of doing so. Now, for that purpose, the curiosity- seeker would have only to pay and feed two canoemen to take him there. I have one of these rarities here. If you place it upright, this grayish and hard stone resembles a sort of monkey, or an earless cat, sitting on its tail and haunches, holding a little ball in [Page 41] its mouth. If you lay it down at its length, it seems to me like a bird carrying something in its beak; on one side of the head is an oblong stain which looks a good deal like an eye. This figure is only an inch wide by one and a half in length. Moreover, this industrious river pays no tribute of its treasures to Lake St. John, into which it falls, — as do many others that flow from the watershed and are fed by Lake Kawitchiwit. This, from lake to lake, reaches as far as father Albanel’s lake, — so called because it was first discovered by that missionary, — about 80 leagues East-northeast from Hudson’s Bay, and quite near the great Lake of the Mistassins; the latter, on receiving the waters of Lake Albanel, discharges into the Northern sea.
In that quarter dwell the Michtassini — or, in French, Mistassins. They derive this name — which comes from michta, “great,” and assini, “stone” — from a great rock in their river. It is the same as that which yields the curiosities I have just mentioned. They have a veneration for that rock; it would be a sin for them to pass near it without leaving some token of their superstitious reverence for Tchigigoutchéou, the god of fine and of bad weather, — who, according to their myths, has by preference chosen his residence there. As a rule, their incense consists of a little black tobacco, a piece of sea-biscuit, or some beaver or fish bones, which they place upon the rock. But other savages, less devout, and hungry for smoking, often while passing take the tobacco from the good or evil Spirit, who has not taken care to benefit by the devotion of his worshipers.
They also claim that near this spot, after the deluge (for, according to their account, they have [Page 43] about the same idea of it as we have), the great Canoe grounded on a high mountain which they point out. Some even assert, as an article of their faith, that they have often seen there an old man of enormous height, armed with bow and arrows, who stalks about in the neighborhood and seems to guard the venerable relics of that canoe, — some timbers of which, they claim, still remain undecayed. These idle fancies, among a thousand others which are unworthy of your attention, My Reverend Father, and upon which the profound erudition of Father Lafiteau — whose departure we would regret still more here, had not his too well-known merits caused him to be recalled to France — would cast a marvelous light, are so common among these peoples that there is not a child who does not know the story of the great Canoe and of the tall savage, the venerable ancestor Mechou. Moreover this tribe, reduced to a small number of people, — a portion of whom come here in the spring, while the others go to the English for what they require, — are of a gentleness and simplicity beyond any idea of goodness that can be conceived. It would not be difficult to make good Christians of them, if they could only see living in closer and longer intimacy with them a missionary who was less hampered, — in a word, one who would be given greater facility and freedom to teach them and their countrymen. Very different from the others, these savages do not, as a rule, like brandy; and if the frenchman — more eager for their goods than for their salvation, — in spite of the repeated prohibitions of our kings, overcomes their natural repugnance for that intoxicating liquor, they drink it only with ridiculous grimaces, and never return [Page 45] to the charge of their own accord. Their reason is, — to use their own language, — that the mind is shamefully lost when once it has been killed by fire- water. To this blessed sobriety they add admirable docility, whatever trouble it may cost them. Some years ago, the missionary sent to their chief, an exceedingly old man who was not yet baptized, a little devotional present, to invite him to come to be instructed. Notwithstanding his great age, the length of the journey, and the fatigue caused by the canoe and by the portages, he consented; he came and presented himself at the Church. “Here, my father,” he said, “is the old man thou didst wish to see.” He caused himself to be instructed every day, in order to prepare himself for baptism; he wished also to confess, — in order, as he said, to cast off all his sins more openly. And, at the end of his life, he received with edification the grace that he had come to seek from a distance of over 250 leagues — or, to speak more truly, which had itself gone so far to seek him.
The mistassins live on fish, with which their lakes are well stocked. There are but few beaver among them, but herds of caribou compensate for that. Nearly all their superstitions are reduced to not allowing their dogs to eat certain bones which they respect, — for fear of profanation, and lest they might be unable to kill any other animal afterward. They are careful to throw these bones into the fire or into the river, This religious act is assuredly due to no other reason than the fear that they formerly had, like our french hunters, that their dogs might break their teeth. Sensible people among them admit it. Among themselves, they seldom drink or eat until they have offered to their dead a small quantity of [Page 47] their food or beverage, which they throw into the fire. This is the benedicite that they teach their children.
The most remarkable of all the curiosities to be seen in these woods, in the direction of Nemiskou, is a cave of white marble, which looks as if a workman had carved and polished it. The aperture is easy of access, and lights up the interior. The vault corresponds, by its brilliancy, to its supports. In one corner is a slab of the same substance, but somewhat rough, which projects, forming a kind of table as if to serve as an altar. Consequently the savages think that it is a house of prayer and council, wherein the Spirits assemble. Therefore all do not take the liberty of entering it; but the jugglers who are, as it were, their Priests, go there in passing to consult their oracles.
Not that I would venture to say that there are clever sorcerers among the Mistassins, or among the other Montagnais; for, at best, they are but clumsy charlatans. At least, as far as I have been able to study them, it is by their imaginary spells that they greatly desire to make themselves respected and dreaded. Even with the aid of their 30 different kinds of jugglery, all these sorcerers seldom succeed in making good their pretensions. Unfortunately, it is sufficient that they should tell the truth once, by accident, to be always believed in future — often, without believing themselves. For I have seen some who passed among them for masters, who candidly admitted to me that their art was but a falsehood; and that it was not true that they had ever seen either the devil or Atchéze, — that is to say, any of those headless and handless phantoms, etc. They said that it was solely with the object of [Page 49] deluding the most credulous that their ancestors had formerly related these fables, in order to give themselves importance and to be looked upon as privileged men, inspired by heaven and superior to the vulgar. Others have assured me that they had seen extraordinary fires and supernatural monsters; but that, since they had embraced Christianity, they no longer saw anything, although they frequently traveled at night. When one who was more obstinate affirmed that he had seen the evil spirit; he was at once asked how that spirit was made, whether he was black or white. He became quite confused, began to laugh, and was unable to answer. Through the admirable providence of God, whose will it is that the others be undeceived, these wretched sorcerers, true or. pretended, whose gross and impure practices are ever deserving of condemnation, nearly always after persisting in their scandalous obstinacy, die a miserable death, in the midst of their criminal actions, or as a punishment for their foolish medicines. Thus I have seen four terrible examples, of which I have had occasion to write to Your Reverence, in connection with that famous juggler of the Lake who, while still quite young, had died a pitiable death with his wife, who was still more superstitious than he. From this example among others will God derive his glory.
But after having given you, My Reverend Father, a summary and perhaps even tedious description of this country interspersed with Mountains, Rocks, lakes, rivers, drunkards, and jugglers, I return to the condition in which, on my first arrival, I found this long-abandoned mission; for although Father André, in his old age, had, after Father de Crespieuil’s death, made some short expeditions to it, [Page 51] nevertheless hardly a savage had retained any other idea of our Holy Religion than a great desire to learn the principles thereof. The young people had never heard of it. The older ones merely mumbled some undistinguishable fragments of the pater and of the Ave of their forefathers, Licentiousness, which prevailed to the utmost degree among them, polygamy, and, still more, drunkenness, — in a word, all the evils born of the grossest profligacy, — were the sole idols worshiped by these poor blind people. They alleged, as a justification for their misconduct, the melancholy scandals formerly set before them by the French, who sojourned temporarily or who remained among them as employees. Thus I arrived here after leaving our dear and peaceful college. The savages manifested their joy by several discharges from their guns. At first, these, rejoicings seemed to me an augury of good. But, after I had taken possession of an old dilapidated chapel, the first spectacle my eyes witnessed was that of some savages who were excessively intoxicated, and of others who were tipsy, and who with a maudlin air came to embrace me, and to ask me to confess them. Who could have restrained himself at such approaches?
The montagnais who is mild, affable, and peaceful is easily led to do what is desired, provided he be looked after. Being credulous and not addicted to retorting, he wishes all that we wish; being timid, he obeys; being poor, through ignorance of the value of his furs elsewhere, he hopes to be assisted; and this I began to make them fairly understand, in Algonkin, to win them, or rather to attract them, to Jesus Christ. When not under the influence of liquor, they seemed to enter into my thoughts. It [Page 53] is surprising that among so many different tribes- people from Chekoutimi, Piékwagami, Nekoubau, and Chomouchwan; Mistassins, the people of Tadoussac, and the Papinacheois — there was but a single drunkard who ill-treated me. My sole regret during these first troubles was that I could not easily make myself understood in this strange land. The pure Algonkin tongue was of hardly any use to me here. Without a house, without assistance, without consolation, I pined away — solely through not being able to express the bitterness of my heart, otherwise than by the pallor of my countenance. Absorbed merely in looking at so fine a field, without being able to sow in it, I had recourse to Father DeCrespieuil; I went to the Church several times, and asked the venerable deceased to send me from Heaven his montagnais tongue, which was no longer of use to him. But the saints desire us to take the same trouble that they themselves have taken to become qualified to glorify God. The means that I selected, therefore, was to secure a good savage woman, who had formerly been a Christian, to instruct me. This Marie, of whom I have already had occasion to speak to Your Reverence elsewhere, after having successfully finished helping me to complete my montagnais books as she desired, ended her days last year by a precious death. She directed my studies in a masterly manner; and, at the very first word that she heard me pronounce, she said to the others: “That will do; our father has spoken our language; I will no longer speak french to him.” Notwithstanding my entreaties, she kept her word; and by dint of making her pupil divine her words, she enabled him to preach on the mystery of Christmas without having the paper before him. [Page 55]
Nearly all the savages had, with consoling edification, come here to assist at the divine mysteries, and to confess themselves at midnight mass. In the autumn, they generally scatter for their hunting to a great distance, — some one hundred or 200 leagues, the others more or less; and they reappear destitute of everything, exceedingly thin, and always with the invariable greeting: ni-paska-bagwanan, “We are dying of hunger.” To supply them with more spiritual food, the celebrant gave them a short sermon, about 3 quarters of an hour long, at the Gospel. The dispositions which seemed to animate them as they left the chapel led the french who were present to conceive that God, when he wills, derives his glory from the mutest tongues. On the following feast- days, we undertook to teach them the principles of faith and morality, on condition that an old man who was better instructed should check the new Catechist at every barbarism in the montagnais language.
Afterward, when the chiefs with their bands had dispersed in the woods, the missionary devoted the rest of the winter to composing an elementary catechism and some hymns in his new language. Being taken sick, he had himself conveyed early in the spring to Quebec, where he intended to spend some time. But hardly had he arrived there and breathed its air than, through I know not what secret inspiration, he felt impelled to return to his mission, contrary to the advice of all in the college — who urged him kindly, but in vain, to wait for the vessel which was shortly to convey supplies to the posts. During my absence the principal chief had come to Chekoutimi. On learning that — disgusted, and despairing of converting them, as I had made a good savage believe — I had turned my regards elsewhere, and [Page 57] had abandoned them, he replied that he would himself go to get me; and that meanwhile word was to be sent me that he would know well how to suppress debauchery, and to use his authority to check, in future, those who should dare to deviate from duty. Some days after he had gone to join his young men, I reappeared. I was consoled on learning that a few words that I had said at my departure had happily been repeated to the alarmed savages, and had produced a salutary fear that could but have a good effect.
This nation is very volatile and does not like to be treated with too much consideration. From time to time it needs to be reminded of its dependence. Naturally timid, it nevertheless by forced discretion often forestalls the reproaches that it feels might be addressed to it. Moreover, as it would be a shame for them to be the only Savages without a missionary, they are restrained, at least to a slight extent, by our threatening to withdraw if they refuse to profit any more by the instructions that are given them.
A few days after his return from Quebec, the father observed with lively pleasure these poor people arriving — some laden with their packages of beaver, martin, and lynx-skins; the others with their canoes. The women carried their children, the bark for their cabins, the kitchen utensils, fire- wood, fir branches for their beds, etc. All the men, on laying down their burdens at the camping-place, formed in line, according to their custom, and fired 3 or 4 volleys from their guns as a salute to the chapel; the french, on their side, replied to it. I received them, before the Church, vested with a surplice; I recited for them a short prayer, after the montagnais veni creator, and then gave a brief [Page 59] exhortation. After that, they went to the french house for refreshments, and thence to make their cabins, or rather — to prepare Your Reverence for what is to follow — their death-beds.
All, with the exception of a young child attacked by scrofula, were in wonderful health. This led me to expect that I should see them assiduously attend the various exercises of the mission, which I was preparing for them; but I soon saw that the desire that I had had to hasten my return was nothing less than the result of humor for, hardly had the chief — who, according to the custom of the nation, was the first to cut and set up the poles of his cabin — finished his work with the others, than he found himself ill. At first he merely laughed at it, and accused himself of being lazy. Seeing that he was sick, I urged him to allow a little blood to be taken from him, for I feared pleurisy. Their manner of bleeding is cruel. They select the largest blood vessel that lies on the hand; they pierce the flesh with an awl beneath the vein, which they afterward raise. They make the puncture — or, rather, the incision — with a knife that is often blunt; it seldom happens that much blood flows and mutilations are always caused, which have crippled many. The chief allowed me to bleed him, but in the french fashion, on the following day only, and not until he had assisted at mass. Being already advanced in years, he had formerly seen the Montagnais missionaries; and had, I can assert, retained, with a horror for superstitions of all kinds, a certain ground-work of religion which had always led him to continue the practice of praying night and morning with his family, as well as he knew how. The sickness increased, but did not prostrate him. He even then had the courage to hotly pursue and [Page 61] silence two importunate savages who wished to force the Clerk to give them liquor; but his just anger heightened his fever. He asked me to confess him. In order not to act imprudently at the beginning, in consequence of my slight knowledge of the language, I had already tested each savage by a double general confession, waiting for the 3rd which was to finish unmasking them to me. This one, who was more sincere and less dull than the others, made his confession, and delighted me; and, being sufficiently instructed, he wished to be carried to the chapel, to make his first communion there. It is not the custom of the savages to kneel; they squat upon their heels. This one while at the altar-rails, exhausted as he was, remained in an admirable Christian posture, until I turned around and made him a sign to sit down, for I feared that he would be overcome by weakness.
During his illness, which lasted only 8 days it is impossible to describe how he edified us by his patience. He had the missionary called almost every moment. This was in the hottest season when those stinging flies that are called mosquitoes, Midges, and gnats are at their worst. When he was told that he should have remained in his cabin, instead of exposing himself outside to those unbearable insects, he gently replied that he had neither strength nor courage to perform any other penance. Tane tché tchichikamaswïanc egou, “How then can I pay for myself?” I can never forget these words. The time was drawing near, and on returning from the cemetery where I had just buried the little scrofulous child whom I have already mentioned, I was summoned on behalf of the sick man, who ceased not to confess, I saw that he could not last long, and I administered the holy oils. “Ah, my father, [Page 63] he said to the missionary, “how happy I am to die thus! Say some masses for me after I am dead, and that is all I need, for I owe nothing to any one.” Then during the recommendation of the soul, looking confidently at the crucifix, and pronouncing aloud the holy names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, he died, as I consider, the death of the predestined. Fully realizing that the nascent faith would lose by the death of Maratchikatik, which means Méchant front [“evil countenance”]; thus was the chief miscalled, — I did nothing but water the ritual with my tears during the obsequies. Indeed, in the bitterness of our hearts we absolutely could sing neither in latin nor in the savage tongue; for all the french themselves wept at the very sight of the mausoleum that had been erected for him. The altar was draped in black; many tapers were lighted; on a handsome pall the sword and gun of the deceased were laid crosswise, — the coat that he had worn as chief, crowning the whole. These rites produced an impression on the minds of those who believed that the man was utterly dead.
I imagined that God would be content with this victim, but 24 others were also needed. To spare you, My Reverend Father, the tediousness of protracted details, — which, however edifying they might be without figures, would be wearying to myself also, — I shall have the honor of telling you in a few words that for 3 weeks the missionary had barely a single day or night to look about him; he was nearly always vested with his surplice, having the crucifix and the holy oils in his hands, his breviary under his arm, — and, moreover, finding no difficulty in getting the usual acts recited in the montagnais language. The french, being without [Page 65] relief, thought only of their own fright. Spending a portion of the day in the confessional, hardly ever omitting the catechism at noon, or the evening prayer for the consolation of the survivors, the father’s life was in truth animated by the timorous fervor of his neophytes. Every day had its funeral and saw many dying persons almost despaired of; so that, while tolling the knell of one in the morning, — for I had to act as beadle, as well as man of all trades, — I would be summoned to attend either some one about to expire, or another who desired to be helped to pray. The most frightful trouble was to see, among the sick, adults who had not yet been baptized. Among these, a certain man from Nekoubau — one of those hardened people, and of the race of the fugitive Cain — caused me most perplexity, An attack of pleurisy, complicated with indigestion, reduced him to the last extremity. I hastened to instruct him in the principal mysteries, when, concealing his indigestion from me, he urged me to bleed him. I did so, and thought that he would expire during the operation. A cold sweat pouring from his forehead seemed to me one of the last symptoms. Not knowing what to do, I went for a dose of theriac to revive him that I might afterward baptize him. The whole of his family went out of the cabin, and I saw that they were going to treat him by jugglery. When forbidden to do so, they obeyed; they reentered, and were themselves witnesses of the prompt effect of the medicine, which enabled the sick man to get up the very next day. Early the following morning, I entered his cabin while they were still asleep. The chief of the band rose, in a state of almost complete nudity, and called [Page 67] out: “Here enters he who has done what we admire.” All squatted like monkeys on the fir- branches, without much shame; they took their pipes, filled one for the sick man who was cured, and thanked me. At the very first compliment, I seized the opportunity to make them understand that the master of life and death was the sole and great God, the creator, who is adored by all nations except by them; that the cure was to be attributed neither to the physician nor to his remedies, but to him who has made all, and who, by thus manifesting his power, showed them that prayer did not kill men, as they pretended. These arguments did not strike them with sufficient force; all, even to the sick man, made only barren promises, the effect whereof has yet to be seen.
Here, on the other hand, is something much more consoling. There was an entire family of truly pre-destined mistassins, whose lovable candor attracted the missionary’s attention still more, It was necessary to go to seek them a league from the village; 5 or 6 little savages, singing hymns, guided me to the spot. There I saw a young child about eleven years old, who was dying. I taught him our mysteries without any trouble, promising myself to instruct him thoroughly if he recovered. He replied concisely to my questions, adding that he did not understand, but that he believed what I myself believed. I was delighted, and did not hesitate to baptize him privately. A matron whom I had baptized at Christmas, with her two children, and who made such use of the grace she had received that she sacrificed herself, and generously died in the service of the sick in question, hastened after us, and undertook to bring me the child on the following day, alive or [Page 69] dead; for it was then dark, rain was falling, and the roads were very difficult. In fact, on the following day I saw from afar the child, carried on the shoulders of that charitable Christian woman. I ran to meet them; she laid down her burden, And, as if God had prolonged his last moments merely that he might thank me, the young child looked at me, smiled, lifted his eyes to heaven (I speak without metaphor), and expired. Thus he would never have had time to be baptized, even without the rites, had I not, in spite of the reasons alleged to hinder me, gone to him on the day before — which was the very day of the feast of my patron, St. Peter [crossed out in MS.]. What an agreeable gift for my name-day, My Reverend Father, to add nothing more!
The eldest son of the family, 19 or 20 years of age, also filled us with the purest delight. I had previously seen him, and had instructed him all the more willingly because he appeared to be more anxious for it. Until then, however, his baptism had been deferred. He also falls ill, and I prepare him in earnest. Seeing that he cannot recover, I baptize him, and name him Pierre Régis. I bring him the Holy viaticum immediately afterward; and, while I am making him say his act of thanksgiving, he gives up his purified soul to God. He had seen his uncle, his aunt, his sister, and his brother die Christians; and there remained only his mother, an old widow, who was not yet baptized. The evidences of zeal that he displayed for her edified us exceedingly, because, forgetting himself, he had nothing else to recommend to me except to have Pity on his mother, and to baptize her soon, for fear of accident. He repeated his entreaties at least 20 times, [Page 71] and he was right; for, 3 days after her baptism, she departed this life, probably to join her children, who were here called “the Holy family.” The affliction ended there, and the other sick people recovered.
Some caused themselves to be sweated (without their usual superstitions), They heat stones red-hot in the fire, and place them in a small, well-closed bark hut. Then the person who is to be sweated, shuts himself up in it entirely naked, and sits down, on fir-branches; and from time to time, in order to increase the heat, he throws cold water on the stones, and also drinks some. This causes him to break out into a profuse perspiration; but; as he breathes no fresh air, I would think that he drinks his own sweat over and over again, and does himself more harm than good. Indeed, there is no doubt that this method of sweating themselves with stones has a very withering effect upon them, and parches their lungs. They have been taught another way of using that remedy, which, by ejecting the noxious humors, allows them to escape outside and [crossed out in M.S.] can but do much good. It consists in boiling in a large kettle spruce-twigs with aromatic herbs, among which are placed some of those oily shrubs that are here called the “pepper-plant,” because their fruit, from which green wax is obtained, has in fact, if not the consistency and hardness, at least the appearance of pepper. A tub is prepared, across which a board is laid to serve as a seat; then, on the outside, to the hoops of the tub are nailed 4 or 5 small sticks, and their pliant tops are tied to a medium-sized hoop. This hoop is placed as high as the neck of him who is to sit in the tub, so that his head is outside, and the remainder [Page 73] of the body is well covered by means of the sticks that hold up the blankets and prevent their resting on the shoulders. When everything is thus prepared, the boiling kettle is put in the tub under the seat. A piece of board is put upon the kettle, to support the captive’s [patient’s] feet and prevent their being burned. The patient, wrapped up only in a sheet, slips gently into the sweating-bath, with a small stick which he uses to stir up the medicine as the heat abates. He remains thus until he feels the perspiration diminish; then quickly putting on a warm shirt, he goes to sweat once more in good robes of beaver-skin, or in a good and well-warmed bed, when he has one. This method of producing perspiration is a sovereign remedy for languor, rheumatism, inflammation, pains in the side, and minor aches; in a word, it is worth many baths. I should consider these the legal purifications of our savages. At all events, several of them who were dying made use of it to advantage; and the french of the posts hardly ever have recourse to any other remedy.
Now, it is to be observed that the barque on which it was intended that I should return to Quebec arrived at Chekoutimi only after the funerals. Shall I tell you of it, My Reverend Father? Either I no longer understood myself, through despondency or grief, or God had permitted his minister to make himself understood in the montagnais language only for that time; but the truth is that, immediately after the mortality, and in the interval of rest, I was as if unable to speak four consecutive words of that language correctly; and I seemed even to have forgotten the little that I previously knew. Yet this remark escapes me solely as a reminder that a [Page 75] Gospel laborer must, if I may venture so to express myself, tempt God for God’s sake, — daring much, undertaking everything, being not too distrustful of his own strength, and dreading nothing so much as pusillanimity in the Lord’s work.
To conclude this funereal narration, the savages attributed this species of contagion to the goods; and, although we tried to undeceive them, there is nevertheless some probability that they were slightly contaminated by the plague of Marseilles For, merely on opening the bales, the clerk and some of his servants were quickly attacked by fever; and there were hardly any savages ill, except those who came to buy the clothes. Moreover, some were so furious that they had to be tied. A woman in her delirium struck me a blow that made me “see a hundred candles,” as the saying is. Then, according to the custom of the savages, they were tied on their beds, with their feet and hands bound to 4 stakes driven into the ground. As I had only a few emetics, and could not attend to all, I gave a portion of them to some persons who are still living. The fear of death, alone, evidently killed one, in especial. He was a robust and strong man, about 50 years of age. The fever attacked him only an hour before his death. Only one man and one woman fled from their true happiness, by withdrawing, in spite of my entreaties, into the woods, where they died without any assistance. The other Idolaters, through a ridiculous superstition, fired their guns backward while retiring, as if to intimidate or arrest death, and prevent it from pursuing them. Such is certainly their idea.
Being no longer busy with these people, it was [Page 77] necessary to go to visit, in their turn, the people of Tadoussac, who had long awaited their father, and who were rejoiced to see him again. This mission — which formerly consisted of nearly three thousand men, and was directed by 3 Jesuits, but which has been reduced by various fatal diseases to 25 families at most — has nothing savage about it, situated as it is on the seashore, and with an agreeable prospect. It stands on a fine plateau (slope] clothed with turf, and covered with flowers and small wild fruits; it is in full sight of those who pass by, and of the ships. The inhabitants, dressed in the french fashion, but rather grotesquely, and without taste, — are slightly less uncouth and more refined than the other Savages from the interior. Old ruined stone buildings, whereof the foundations, cellar, bake-house, and a gable still exist, show that a very neat Church and a very comfortable house once existed there. This chapel was dedicated under the name of Ste. Croix, on account of the reverence that all the Savages of the seacoast had for that venerable symbol of our salvation — as was related to me, but a few months ago, by an aged woman nearly a hundred years old, Instructed by fathers Briet [Bruyas? A. E. J.] and Albanel. The grant of land conceded to the Jesuits by the Queen mother in the year [blank in MS.] is still to be seen on parchment in the archives of the Quebec College.
It would be desirable [crossed out in MS.] I do not even despair that my successor will induce the company of the Domain to raise again this building, — which was about 60 feet long, — as the stone and an old lime-kiln are still on the spot. It would be to the glory of the King, and in the interest of [Page 79] Messieurs the farmers to do this. Can his Majesty’s principal post dispense with a chapel and a house, which together would not cost 1,500 livres? And would they not attract thither an infinite number of montagnais savages from the North and from the South? — who, while filling the granaries of the father of the family, would doubtless swell the profits of the farming, which is on the verge of ruin; and call down, more and more, heaven’s blessings upon our august and pacific monarch.
After the fathers’ house, which was also used by the clerks, was destroyed by fire during their absence, the french traders built a house for themselves: it is on another site, on the same plateau, but to the Northeast of a deep and very cool brook which divides the jesuits’ land from that of the farm. Here — sometimes on the green turf, in fine weather; sometimes in the cabins — the missionary, surprised at the memory and docility of his young plants, catechized them, gradually taught them the general prayers, made them sing, and by little presents encouraged them to surpass one another. The older ones also ranged themselves on their own side. Those who seemed inattentive might expect to be first questioned and to be charitably lifted up in the event of a fall.
The misfortune then, as now, was that in this pretended capital of the Saguené there was no other chapel than a bark cabin, open on all sides; in such a place it would be impossible, for lack of ornaments, to inspire these nascent Christians — who see nothing except through the eyes of the body — with either an idea of our mysteries, or veneration for the hidden sanctity which they represent. “What [Page 81] superfluous fittings !” some would exclaim, from time to time. “What useless furniture, what silks, what stuffs condemned to darkness, and a prey to the moths, in antique chests that, if opened to the adorable body of Jesus Christ, — who, after all, must be the eternal reward of our generosity toward his members, — would soften, by sanctified altar linen, the straw in the manger and the cruel cross of the Savior who awaits us!” Ah! why am I not in a position to erect again that cross at Tadoussac on its former ruins, to give it fresh brilliancy, and make it shine in a new sanctuary? By these externals it would soon deeply impress itself in hearts which, although we call them savage, are nevertheless not far from God’s Kingdom.
In truth I found those good people so well disposed to Christianity that I could not help passing the winter with them. We wintered 8 leagues below Tadoussac, near the Eskoumin; The place was named Notre Dame de bon desir. There, until spring, religious exercises were performed during 5 months. This small and edifying church consisted of 120 adults who had been gathered together. Mass was said before daylight in an old ruined french house; and the savages attended it regularly. From there they went to the hunting grounds — that is, to hunt Seals on the river St. Lawrence, which continues from that point widening as it descends to the gulf, and is there over 15 leagues in width.
You are aware, My Reverend Father, that this trade supplies the oil used for light in this country, and for dressing hides in Europe. Allow me, while giving still further explanation, to enter into some minor details which can but afford you diversion [Page 83] amid your too numerous and tedious occupations. Hitherto, as far as I am aware, this fish has been spoken of only incidentally. Some seem to confound it with the dogfish or Shark, which is very different. It is true that the head of the dogfish somewhat resembles that of the seal: a flat and black nose; large, round, and projecting eyes; thick and grayish lips; an oblong muzzle, a mouth open to the ears, which are almost imperceptible; and whiskers like those of a cat. But, in addition to the fact that the dogfish is fiercer and greatly to be dreaded, it has a rough skin which, when dried, can be used only for polishing carvings, articles turned in a lathe, and joiner-work. The flesh of this animal consists solely of a sort of tendon, or cartilage, similar to the flesh of the breast, which has obtained for it the montagnais name Toutouchoumégou,” the fish that is nothing but breast.” While writing this, it occurs to me that glue might be made from it, as from sturgeon. I have never seen the Savages eat it. On the other hand, the seal-less stunted, and with a longer neck; timid, always on the watch, and diving at the least alarm — does not attack sailors, avoids them as much as possible, and is content with smelt and other small fish — and even with certain worms that are found in the seaweed clinging to the rocks, as we have often had occasion to observe. Its skin, which when dressed is like morocco, but has not so fine a grain, and which is used for making Savage shoes and clothes, or for covering boxes, is coated with hair, very thick and spotted. That with which they are born, and which they retain while suckling, is of a silvery white, without any spots. As the little seal grows, it assumes the mother’s color; it changes, [Page 85] becoming browner, grayer, and blacker; and with a thousand different variegations of velvety shades, it presents a grayish background covered with an admirable variety of figures. There are seals of various kinds, all with the same features. I think you have already had an ample description of them with the [a little] picture that I once sent to Monsieur Bégon, — that generous and constant friend of Our Society, as you know, — who, during the twelve years while he was Intendant in Canada, a worthy heir to his late father’s virtues, and in concert with his charitable Spouse, did as much honor to the king by his rare disinterestedness, by his munificence, by his alms, as he did good to the missionaries; and they will ever glory in giving him a good share in the reward of their apostolic labors, in remembrance of his kindness, his zeal, and his piety.
The female seals carry their young 10 months, The names of the moons of September and june, among the people of the coast, prove this; for all our savage astrologers, who count entirely by moons, have derived the various names of the months solely from the various actions of the land or aquatic animals to which they are accustomed. These mothers, like ewes, possess admirable instinct for finding and distinguishing their young, when these are carried far out on ice-floes by the winds or by the tide. They seldom have more than one at a birth, but it is certain that they never have more than two. The Seal’s meat [flesh] is exceedingly black, coarse, and heavy. It is probably the animal best supplied with blood; but the latter is black, thick, and so warm that it smokes even in extremely cold weather; and it can be smelled 15 or 16 hours after the death [Page 87] of the animal when it is cut open. The savage women and children rush down to the beach, as soon as a laden canoe touches it, and peacefully divide the loins, ribs, feet, flippers, and head. The heart is the least objectionable part. The whole is boiled in a kettle, or is broiled on small wooden spits planted in front of the fire; and is afterward eaten without salt or other condiment. In the first place, the skin of the victim is removed, and all the blubber is taken off in one piece. The fat, from which the oil is procured, is from 3 to 4 inches thick — sometimes more, sometimes less. This blubber, being all collected in certain places, is thrown into a tub, that is, into a kind of press, — where it gradually liquefies and furnishes the most fatty oils, which seem the best for tanning. It is natural that, when liquefied and decomposed in the sun, they should smell bad. Such is not the case with those rendered in large kettles placed on the fire. These are not so thick, are clearer, and used in lamps and for frying, do not smell so bad, and are not so good for tanning; and the Tanners in france are said to prefer the coarser oils, obtained from the marsouin [white porpoise, or white whale]. The former oils, when placed in phials, greatly resemble in color a fine whitish liquor. They are the ones least boiled, and are least suitable for lamps; but are the best for burns, whose stinging pains they soothe. Others are darker and ruddier; these have been longer on the fire, and the persons who rendered them cooked therein cakes or crullers — which, it seems to me, collect all the scum. In a word, and without any mystery, these oils are rendered like hog’s lard, — except that, as the oil ferments in the cask, it needs good barreling; for [Page 89] otherwise it exudes, evaporates, leaks, and forces its way out, more than any other liquid.
What figure of speech shall I make use of, My Reverend Father, to prove that this oil is excellent for frying ? I know not. One would have to become a poet to make it believed. What I do know is that I have seen frenchmen who were rather squeamish, — to say nothing of the Savages, who always have a good appetite, — fry their fish in pure seal oil. They take the precaution, however, first to boil the oil in the frying-pan and to throw into it, from time to time, — from afar, and outside of the house, for fear of fire, — about a pint of cold water. This certainly purifies the oil, and so completely removes its natural odor that the fried fish no more smells of it than if cooked in ordinary oil.
Pardon my making this unctuous remark, — which, in any case, can only facilitate the sale of the oils of the Domain; and, since we are indebted to all, enrich some poor traders.
To season their sagamité (a word, by the way, which is not understood, and never had the signification given to it through a misconception of its sense: for it means nothing but “the water” — or “the broth — is hot,” tchi sagamiteou), the savages carefully keep this oil, when it has settled, in wikwés — this is the name of the Seal’s bladder. These bladders are rather pleasing in shape. When blown out they have a very long neck, the middle of which is considerably enlarged, oval, and terminating in a curved end, bent back somewhat like a thermometer or an alembic. Some hold from 5 to 6 pots, others from 10 to 12, without exaggeration; for I have never seen those monstrous seals that never leave the gulf of [Page 91] St. Lawrence. The blubber of one of these yields a barrelful of oil; but here, as a rule, 3 or 4, and sometimes 6 or 7, are required to fill one.
You no doubt imagine the horrible appearance of those who render these oils [fats] amid the grease and the dense clouds of suffocating smoke. In nearly every instance the women prepare, with as much skill as patience, and cut into small pieces, the blubber, which their husbands afterward try out in the kettles placed on furnaces; for the montagnais alone — very different from the other nations, who look upon their women as slaves — imitate in their households the french and more rational custom of mutually helping one another. To such an extent is this done that the man always reserves the more arduous task for himself, and leaves the less fatiguing to his wife and children, and even, in times of scarcity, deprives himself of what he needs — with this distinction, however, that he is always helped, and eats first. In truth, although the Montagnais women, as compared with the women of other Savage nations, may be looked upon as queens and sovereigns, they have true deference for their husbands; and consequently the latter seldom gainsay them. The choice of plans, of undertakings, of journeys, of winterings, lies in nearly every instance in the hands of the housewife.
I know not whether we should most admire the fatigues endured by these worthy people, the danger they run on the river, or their invincible courage. Cold, storms, snow, ice — nothing prevented them from exposing themselves so far out that, in most instances, they lost sight of land; they were fortunate if they escaped when any of those snow-storms arose [Page 93] that here we call poudrerie [“blizzards”]. During the 4 years while I wintered among them, many who had ventured too far were caught in the ice; being blinded by snow, and unable to extricate themselves, they were compelled to haul up their canoes on an ice-floe, and let themselves drift with the current. I saw a young Christian woman — as intrepid as she was fervent, and whose early death seemed to have been precious in the sight of God — return on foot from afar out on the river, making her way to the shore from ice-floe to ice-floe with her husband, dragging their canoe with them. But, among others, I cannot forget a young savage who embarked, early in the morning, to go hunting with his mother, an aged woman; and who, at nightfall, without having perceived it, found himself in the middle of the river, completely surrounded by great masses of ice, through which it was absolutely impossible for him to make his way. What could they do to reach land, at night, with a broken canoe? They thought that they were destined to certain death — on account both of the excessive cold and of a strong wind which blew them out of their way. They however fired several gunshots, in the hope of attracting attention. Fortunately our savages heard them, and quickly replied by a shot from a petard and by several gunshots. The missionary called out to them, as loudly as he could, to commend themselves in any case to God through the intercession of the Blessed Régis. From their distant voices we understood that they were perishing; that they implored only Heaven’s assistance, and that they repented their sins. All present were ordered to kneel at once, and ask God to save the two poor [crossed out in MS.] unfortunates, [Page 95] who received absolution. At that moment a small passage or lane opened among the ice-floes. By the light of the fires that had been kindled upon the rocks, some of their kindred hurriedly threw themselves into a canoe, and through an admirable effect of providence, guided by cries uttered on both sides, they reached those who were about to be wrecked, and brought them in safety to notre Dame de bon Desir — where, full of joy and gratitude, they confessed themselves on the following day, and vowed never again to be so rash.
So fine an establishment should have lasted forever: religion, which supported the interests of the traders there, was beginning to flourish; we had leisure to instruct the children while their fathers were engaged in hunting; and we visited the latter in bad weather. Prayers were said publicly Every night, by torch-light, and instructions were given with hardly an interruption. On Sundays and holy days, when they had been unsuccessful on a certain number of days in the week, they were permitted as a compensation to go seal-hunting after mass and vespers, which were celebrated at an earlier hour on that account. But jealous people, weary of the missionary, — by whom they considered they were too closely watched, and whose presence they would have dreaded less had they had less occasion to reproach themselves, — abusing the credulity of their masters, frustrated the undertaking, which, as it promised an abundant harvest, gave umbrage to the enemy of the salvation of nations, who had not failed to cause much trouble. The pretext for having the missionary removed was, that but little oil had been obtained the previous year; and it was most falsely alleged [Page 97] that they were kept at prayers day and night, and were not allowed time to hunt. But God — who never lets anything go unpunished, sooner or later — has made it evident that the calumny recoiled upon its authors; and that to believe it too readily exposes one’s own interests to the counter-shock, For, during the 4 years that have elapsed since I withdrew from there, not more than 3 or 4 barrels of oil have been known to be obtained; while formerly there were 48, 66, and even one hundred, if desired. When we ask the savages the reason of this, they reply that, as they go to confession only once a year, and no longer see a priest on the rocks, they lose heart and do not venture to go far from the shore, where alone the seals are to be found. Accordingly, now that the house recently erected and the chapel are in ruins, there remains nothing save only the remembrance that Jesus Christ has been preached there, and should always have been glorified in that dilapidated and unrecognizable post. Every missionary, on beginning his labors, must prepare himself for such sad reverses.
From this post [crossed out in MS.] I proceeded, after All Saints’ day and in the spring, to the Jérémie Islets, 30 leagues to the Northeast of Tadoussac, toward the Bersiamites river — a stream very well known on our maps, which is as wide as, but much shallower than, the Saguené. From that place to LaBrador, the inhabitants — who are, in reality, montagnais — are called Papinachois, from the savage word that describes their character: Ni-papinach “I laugh a little;” Poupapinachewets, “I like to laugh a little.” Indeed, they are lovable people, on account of their invariable gaiety. Would to God [Page 99] that they could communicate their temper to their intractable neighbors, the Esquimaux, who will never be tamed, except through a miracle, because, ensconced in their naturally hollow and impregnable rocks, — where they breathe only through a small air-hole, which also serves them as a window and a door, — and ever suspicious, they never allow any person of any nation to approach, not even if he be a basque; for there is now hardly any doubt that some basque fisherman, shipwrecked on their shores with some Eve, has been their unfortunate Adam,
Now our papinacheois — whom I consider better disposed toward God’s kingdom than are their other distant countrymen — have, excepting in the terminations of the words, the same language as the savages of Chekoutimi; and all these different idioms also resemble algonkin to some extent, except for the accent. Formerly they had a pretty chapel in their village, which is situated on a large bay, 4 leagues from the new establishment of the Islets. It is still called “the bay of the Papinacheois.” As they have been notified of the time when I am to come to them, they send a canoe to get me at Tadoussac, when the mission at that place is ended. On arriving among them, it is incredible how the men and women, with their children, hasten to satisfy their hunger for the bread of the divine word. The more they importune for instruction, the more consolation do they give. All the exercises of the mission are performed in a poor bark cabin, made in their fashion, — open and exposed to every wind and to the rain; its floor consists of branches of fir, the odor of which causes giddiness. I have already had the honor of writing to Your Reverence the results that we might hope to [Page 101] obtain for religion and for the domain, if the King granted them a resident missionary who would attract many strangers; these would, in turn, visit the french employed at the Moysi River, and at the 7 Islands, and their Savages. Those of the Islets are well taught, and make it their duty to instruct one another; while those who are the least depaganized would like to be also instructed, but meanwhile retain their superstitions. This ardor which they manifest for prayer — certainly without any fear, interest, or hypocrisy being apparent in it — sufficiently proves what, with grace and so good dispositions, might be expected from them.
Hardly is mass ended, at which they have assisted with admirable respect and on their knees (a difficult posture for them), when the men and women separately, forgetful of their children and of their food, watch the moment when I have finished my thanks- giving, that they may be instructed, and learn to say their catechism and to sing; for they are convinced that it is only a recreation for me. I have had the consolation of seeing some who pleasantly closed the door of their cabin, to prevent my going out and to make me hear them repeat their prayers, fifteen times in one morning, until the French came to tear me away. A pleasing violence, good God! My Reverend Father [crossed out in MS.].
As the savages occupy themselves with but one thing at a time, they learn and remember with astonishing facility. But the women, everywhere devout, have a better memory. The men make use, to a certain extent, of artificial aids to memory. One of them, in order to learn the Vini Creator in his language, made some small figures for himself on a [Page 103] piece of bark for each verse, which reminded him of the meaning of each strophe. I saw by accident in his curious writing, at the hostem repellas longius, a sort of little imp, which reminded him of the versicle: Matchi-manitoû, etc., “the evil spirit, our enemy.” Another astonished me last year. Before making his confession for easter, he prepared himself and examined his conscience; and at each of his sins he cut a notch on a small stick. By referring to this stick, which answered for a book, he hesitated but once with regard to the number of and the circumstances attending the sins committed during the year, of which he accused himself, Everything of that kind seems spiritual to him who associates with and loves men of that sort. I asked myself whether it were St. Ignatius who had taught him this mysterious secret.
Their docility is no less charming. One of these people had abandoned his lawful wife more than 10 years before, and had taken another, by whom he had children. Being exceedingly afraid that his concubine, who was still a pagan, would be taken from him, he hardly ventured to show himself. Moreover, as he was a good hunter, he was treated leniently. On his side, the missionary, in order to compel him to take back his lawful wife, and send away the other, — who was so anxious to be baptized that she learned all the prayers, the hymns, and the catechism, — gave this unfortunate man a thousand manifestations of affection and zeal. Meanwhile, God decided the matter; for [this double] the good old woman died, a few days after making her confession. There was no Canonical penance to which this guilty Savage, who had formerly been instructed, did not [Page 105] submit in good faith; and he publicly performed them all at the door of the chapel, in addition to the reparation he made in secret. The woman, although not yet subject to the laws of the Church, would have undergone the same penalties, had she not been obliged to retire; she was merely granted the consolation of confessing herself before her baptism. She received it with tears of joy, at the same time as her little children; and the marriage was rehabilitated. This action, which I only half explain, is worthy of remark in a rich savage who owed nothing to any one, and who, as the saying is, was master of his own body. Such was the behavior of him who was most to be dreaded among the papinacheois [and who thenceforward sought only to show attention to the father by little services]. You may judge of the others, who are not, [whom we cannot] disturb [MS. torn here].
I would never end, were I to speak of the Montagnais of the seacoast; and they must not be confounded with those mikmak runners who, not knowing which way to turn, spoil most of the missions, or beg their bread along the banks of the river and in Quebec. We had but too good a reason to repent having allowed some of them to winter at Bon Desir.
But, since I returned to this ruined post only to console myself for its loss, it was necessary to think in earnest about establishing that of Chekoutimi. Providence had given me a clerk as pious and faithful as he was obliging, disinterested, and skillful. In a word, he was the Sieur Montandre des Grondines, whose name, conduct, and probity are not unknown to you. He began by judiciously regulating the quantity of liquor to be allowed the savages, [Page 107] and was ever firm without giving offense. He arranged my few articles of furniture; he undertook to put up my chapel; and this generous frenchman shall have a share in the prayers as long as God’s praises are sung in it. This is the least tribute of gratitude that religion owes him. Although this Church, dedicated under the names of St. francis Xavier and the Blessed Régis, consists only of logs laid one upon another, it has its beauty, Plastered with mortar, well glazed, with painted ceiling and altar-screen, it possesses nearly all its furniture — and, I might say, every convenience. May Heaven grant that similar ones be seen before long at Tadoussac and at the Islets.
All that the missionary lacked was a dwelling near his Church; and this has just been built, as a permanent establishment. A large number of resident savages would complete his happiness; but, as neither Indian corn nor peas, etc., can ripen here, owing to the prevalence of the northeast wind, on what could a village subsist? It would be well and good if the Gentlemen of the Domain, wishing to restock their already ruined lands with Beaver, would incur the slight expense of keeping the neighboring savages here for 3 months, at most, under the eyes of the french, in order to prevent their completely destroying the summer beaver, whose fur is worthless. The benefit that would be derived therefrom in winter would amply repay the expense — which would consist merely of a few barrels of indian corn, of peas, and of coarse flour. I even maintain that, instead of making them lazy, it would make them all the more active in the proper season, when they are better hunters and would have been longer [Page 109] restrained. They would be kept occupied in making canoes and in other work, and in cultivating indian corn in the milk. The question is: would they themselves consent to this plan?
The best way of disseminating and perpetuating religion amid these forests and mountains would be to have a small fund, sufficient to support cheaply and in the savage manner some children who, after being kept for a winter by good old women, — without, moreover, troubling the french of the post, — and after being successively instructed, would go in the spring to teach their parents their doctrine. I speak only after having had a happy experience of it. Knowing how these people live and dress, I consider that it would cost but little to support 5 or 6, with their guardians. It would even be an advantage to the post; for these poor widows would dress the furs, make robes and coats of beaver-skins, and moccasins and snowshoes — and would perform other services in the house, with which it can with difficulty dispense in winter-time. This, in truth, is the simple idea of one of my predecessors; and it is practiced elsewhere, as may be seen in some lettres édifiantes. There would be no question here of buildings or of a seminary. Our savages, who carry their houses with them, are more content under their bark and fir-branches than they would be under gilt canopies and on down. The Children would soon be weary, if shut up in buildings; and their parents, who idolize them, would soon withdraw them when they found them too closely confined.
Not that there are not some reasonable fathers and mothers among them who master the children, and who can be firm in making themselves obeyed, or [Page 111] when they are deprived of them. I know some families of this character; among others, the chief of Chekoutimi and his wife have quite recently given us a fine example. Both had reared in a pious manner 2 sons, — who were the hope of the family, and the elder of whom was married and had a child; while the other was 12 years old, and quite lovable, — a little daughter 10 years of age, her mother’s consolation, and another, a few months old. All these children, even to the grandson, died one after the other within a short time. What a disaster for a savage! The woman, who loved tenderly, but as a Christian mother, wept at each death; nevertheless, she had courage enough to help us in chanting at the obsequies. The man, who bore these successive blows in the same manner, manifested some sorrow; but the whole tribute of his tears consisted in recommending his children to my prayers, — adding that he would do wrong were he to complain of God’s conduct toward him, since he is the master of our lives. He has just learned that his daughter, who was recently married at Tadoussac is also dying: and at Christmas his last child, 15 days old, who was brought to me about midnight, seemed to me so truly dead that I withdrew after a few consolatory words. A quarter of an hour afterward, however, it recovered from its lethargy — or, rather, from a species of intoxication, caused by a dose of Theriac that had been given it without discretion for a cold. My sole anxiety on this occasion is lest our superstitious ones may say that it is, beyond a doubt, prayer that has caused the deaths in this family. Howsoever they may juggle, it is a sure harvest. The eldest was ill for 3 months, without manifesting the [Page 113] least sign of impatience. His younger son, — whom I destined to be, some day, the chief of prayers, — after a long weakness which compelled me to make [hasten] his first communion, caused himself to be brought back here from a very great distance, to receive at last the sacraments of the dying; he compelled his father and mother to travel at night and without resting, saying to them that it was time to hurry. In fact, on the following day he expired before my eyes, — tenderly and of his own accord kissing one of the crucifixes that your Reverence gave me as a present for them last autumn.
This letter is too long, My Reverend Father. I have now but to communicate to you a new design — which, it seems to me, can come but from God since this tends only to his glory; and which has occupied my mind for some time. It is, to extend our mission still farther; for, in truth, to confine ourselves merely to Chekotimi, Tadousac, and the Islets is a small matter. I observe, moreover, that the new posts at the Mistassins — which have just been established for the lake St. John trade — have prevented and will prevent many Savages who are half Christians from coming down here in future, as they will obtain there more than they need. I think that it would be a good thing if Your Reverence would permit me to go to Labrador, where I know that great results can be obtained — without, however, abandoning this mission, where a new missionary, with the assistance of my montagnais books, could take my place while quietly learning. I am writing about it to Monsieur Broäc or to Monsieur Charé both of whom will not fail to confer with you on the subject if, as I believe, they are as zealous as I am assured they are. Indeed, [Page 115] I cannot doubt it, by the repeated entreaties which they have hitherto made to me to send them an extract from my prayers in the Savage tongue; this I have been unable to do. All the french voyageurs have assured me that I would have plenty of employment, both among the Savages and among the employees, — whether Canadians, or fishermen from St. Malo, who are often in need of spiritual assistance. At first, it would be only an experiment; and in any case the montagnais missionary would return to relieve his colleague. Such an experiment is worthy of the zeal which you, My Reverend Father, have displayed for the propagation of the faith. It is for the inferiors to respectfully propose, and for the more enlightened superiors to dispose. Perhaps this information, which I take the liberty of giving you for the glory of God, will touch the kindness of your good heart. Should you not adopt my views, I shall not be alarmed. I submit this project only through the fear that I have long felt that a single savage, either adult or child, of l’Abrador might one day reproach me with his eternal unhappiness. I wish merely to still the clamors of my conscience, which is already too embarrassed to allow of its being more so. All that need be done is to put in my place the first jesuit who may come from france. At the beginning, we shall help one another as regards the language; then I shall embark for the Gulf, and I shall have the honor to be there, as at Chekoutimi and everywhere else, with all gratitude and respect,
Very Humble Servant,
THREE LETTERS, 1730, 1734, 1735
CCIII. — Lettre du Père le Petit, Missionnaire, au Père d’ Avaugour, Procureur des Missions de l’Amérique Septentrionale. A la Nouvelle Orleans, le 12 Juillet, 1730
CCIV. — Lettre du pe Nau, missionaire du Canada, au R. p. Richard, provincial de la province de Guyenne, à Bourdeaux. A Quebec, 20 Octobre, 1734
CCV. — Lettre du révérend père Aulneau, missionnaire Jésuite, ecrite du canada au R. P, Faye de la même Compagnie. De Quebeck, 25 Avril, 1735
Sources: We obtain Doc. CCIII, from Lettres édifiantes, t. vii,, pp. 1-59; the translation, we take from Kip’s Early Jesuit Missions in North America, with a few emendations to secure accuracy. In publishing Docs. CCIV. and CCV., we follow apographs in the archives of St. Mary’s College, Montreal; for our translation of these two documents, we follow in the main an English version by Father A. E. Jones. [Page 119]
Letter from Father le Petit, Missionary, to
Father d’Avaugour, Procurator of the
Missions in North America.
At New Orleans,
the 12th of July, 1730.
y Reverend Father,
The peace of Our Lord.
You cannot be ignorant of the sad event which has desolated that part of the French Colony established at Natchez, on the right bank of the Mississipi river, at the distance of a hundred and twenty leagues from its mouth. Two of our Missionaries who were engaged in the conversion of the Savages, have been included in the almost general massacre which this barbarous Nation made of the French, at a time too when they had not the least reason to suspect their perfidy. A loss so great as this infant Mission has sustained, will continue for a long time to excite our deepest regrets.
As you could only have learned in a confused manner the events of this dark treachery, I will endeavor to relate to you all the circumstances; but first I think that it would be best to make you acquainted with the character of these perfidious Savages, called the Natchez. When I have described to you the Religion, the manners, and the customs of these barbarians, I will proceed to the history of the tragical event which I design to narrate, and [Page 121] will in detail recount all those circumstances, of which I am certain you have hitherto had no knowledge.
This Nation of Savages inhabits one of the most beautiful and fertile countries in the World, and is the only one on this continent which appears to have any regular worship. Their Religion in certain points is very similar to that of the ancient Romans. They have a Temple filled with Idols, which are different figures of men and of animals, and for which they have the most profound veneration. Their Temple in shape resembles an earthen oven, a hundred feet in circumference. They enter it by a little door about four feet high, and not more than three in breadth. No window is to be seen there. The arched roof of the edifice is covered with three rows of mats, placed one upon the other, to prevent the rain from injuring the masonry, Above on the outside are three figures of eagles made of wood, and painted red, yellow, and white. Before the door is a kind of shed with folding-doors, where the Guardian of the Temple is lodged; all around it runs a circle of palisades, on which are seen exposed the skulls of all the heads which their Warriors had brought back from the battles in which they had been engaged with the enemies of their Nation.
In the interior of the Temple are some shelves arranged at a certain distance from each other, on which are placed cane baskets of an oval shape, and in these are enclosed the bones of their ancient Chiefs, while by their side are those of their victims who had caused themselves to be strangled, to follow their masters into the other world. Another [Page 123] separate shelf supports many flat baskets very gorgeously painted, in which they preserve their Idols. These are figures of men and women made of stone or baked clay, the heads and the tails of extraordinary serpents, some stuffed owls, some pieces of crystal, and some jaw-bones of large fish. In the year 1699, they had there a bottle and the foot of a glass, which they guarded as very precious.
In this Temple they take care to keep up a perpetual fire, and they are very particular to prevent its ever blazing; they do not use anything for it but dry wood of the walnut or oak. The old men are obliged to carry, each one in his turn, a large log of wood into the enclosure of the palisade. The number of the Guardians of the Temple is fixed, and they serve by the quarter. He who is on duty is placed like a sentinel under the shed, from whence he examines whether the fire is not in danger of going out. He feeds it with two or three large logs, which do not burn except at the extremity, and which they never place one on the other, for fear of their getting into a blaze.
Of the women, the sisters of the great Chief alone have liberty to enter within the Temple. The entrance is forbidden to all the others, as well as to the common people, even when they carry something there to feast to the memory of their relatives, whose bones repose in the Temple. They give the dishes to the Guardian, who carries them to the side of the basket in which are the bones of the dead; this ceremony lasts only during one moon. The dishes are afterward placed on the palisades which surround the Temple, and are abandoned to the fallow-deer. [Page 125]
The Sun is the principal object of veneration to these people; as they cannot conceive of anything which can be above this heavenly body, nothing else appears to them more worthy of their homage. It is for the same reason that the great Chief of this Nation, who knows nothing on the earth more dignified than himself, takes the title of brother of the Sun, and the credulity of the people maintains him in the despotic authority which he claims. To enable them better to converse together, they raise a mound of artificial soil, on which they build his cabin, which is of the same construction as the Temple. The door fronts the East, and every morning the great Chief honors by his presence the rising of his elder brother, and salutes him with many howlings as soon as he appears above the horizon. Then he gives orders that they shall light his calumet; he makes him an offering of the first three puffs which he draws; afterward raising his hand above his head, and turning from the East to the West, he shows him the direction which he must take in his course.
There are in this cabin a number of beds on the left hand at entering: but on the right is only the bed of the great Chief, ornamented with different painted figures. This bed consists of nothing but a mattress of canes and reeds, very hard, with a square log of wood, which serves for a pillow. In the middle of the cabin is seen a small stone, and no one should approach the bed until he has made a circuit of this stone. Those who enter salute by a howl, and advance even to the bottom of the cabin, without looking at the right side, where the Chief is. Then they give a new salute by raising their arms above the head, and howling three times. If it be [Page 127] any one whom the Chief holds in consideration, he answers by a slight sigh and makes a sign to him to be seated. He thanks him for his politeness by a new howl. At every question which the Chief puts to him, he howls once before he answers, and when he takes his leave, he prolongs a single howl until he is out of his presence.
When the great Chief dies, they demolish his cabin, and then raise a new mound, on which they build the cabin of him who is to replace him in this dignity, for he never lodges in that of his predecessor. The old men prescribe the Laws for the rest of the people, and one of their principles is to have a sovereign respect for the great Chief, as being the brother of the Sun and the master of the Temple. They believe in the immortality of the soul, and when they leave this world they go, they say, to live in another, there to be recompensed or punished. The rewards to which they look forward, consist principally in feasting, and their chastisement in the privation of every pleasure. Thus they think that those who have been the faithful observers of their laws will be conducted into a region of pleasures, where all kinds of exquisite viands will be furnished them in abundance that their delightful and tranquil days will flow on in the midst of festivals, dances, and women; in short, they will revel in all imaginable pleasures. On the contrary, the violators of their laws will be cast upon lands unfruitful and entirely covered with water, where they will not have any kind of corn, but will be exposed entirely naked to the sharp bites of the mosquitoes, that all Nations will make war upon them, that they will never eat meat, and have no [Page 129] nourishment but the flesh of crocodiles, spoiled fish, and shell-fish.
These people blindly obey the least wish of their great Chief. They look upon him as absolute master, not only of their property but also of their lives, and not one of them would dare to refuse him his head, if he should demand it; for whatever labors he commands them to execute, they are forbidden to exact any wages. The French, who are often in need of hunters or of rowers for their long voyages, ’ never apply to any one but the great Chief. He furnishes all the men they wish, and receives payment, without giving any part to those unfortunate individuals, who are not permitted even to complain. One of the principal articles of their Religion, and particularly for the servants of the great Chief, is that of honoring his funeral rites by dying with him, that they may go to serve him in the other world. In their blindness they willingly submit to this law, in the foolish belief that in the train of their Chief they will go to enjoy the greatest happiness.
To give an idea of this bloody ceremony, it is necessary to know that as soon as an heir presumptive has been born to the great Chief, each family that has an infant at the breast is obliged to pay him homage. From all these infants they choose a certain number whom they destine for the service of the young Prince, and as soon as they are of a competent age, they furnish them with employments suited to their talents. Some pass their lives in hunting, or in fishing, to furnish supplies for the table; others are employed in agriculture, while others serve to fill up his retinue. If he happen to die, all these servants sacrifice themselves with joy [Page 131] to follow their dear master. They first put on all their finery, and repair to the place opposite to the Temple, where all the people are assembled. After having danced and sung a sufficiently long time, they pass around their neck a cord of buffalo hair with a running knot, and immediately the Ministers appointed for executions of this kind, come forward to strangle them, recommending them to go to rejoin their master, and render to him in the other world services even more honorable than those which had occupied them in this.
The principal servants of the great Chief having been strangled in this way, they strip the flesh off their bones, particularly those of their arms and thighs, and leave them to dry for two months, in a kind of tomb, after which they take them out to be shut up in the baskets which are placed in the Temple by the side of the bones of their master. As for the other servants, their relatives carry them home with them, and bury them with their arms and clothes.
The same ceremony is observed in like manner on the death of the brothers and sisters of the great Chief. The women are always strangled to follow the latter, except when they have infants at the breast, in which case they continue to live, for the purpose of nourishing them. And we often see many who endeavor to find nurses, or who themselves strangle their infants, so that they shall not lose the right of sacrificing themselves in the public place, according to the ordinary ceremonies, and as the law prescribes.
This Government is hereditary; it is not, however, the son of the reigning Chief who succeeds his father, but the son of his sister, or the first Princess [Page 133] of the blood. This policy is founded on the knowledge they have of the licentiousness of their women. They are not sure, they say, that the children of the chief’s wife may be of the blood Royal, whereas the son of the sister of the great Chief must be, at least on the side of the mother.
The Princesses of the blood never espouse any but men of obscure family, and they have but one husband, but they have the right of dismissing him whenever it pleases them, and of choosing another among those of the Nation, provided he has not made any other alliance among them. If the husband has been guilty of infidelity, the Princess may have his head cut off in an instant; but she is not herself subject to the same law, for she may have as many Lovers as she pleases, without the husband having any power to complain. In the presence of his wife he acts with the most profound respect, never eats with her, and salutes her with howls, as is done by her servants. The only satisfaction he has is, that he is freed from the necessity of laboring, and has entire authority over those who serve the Princess.
In former times the Nation of the Natchez was very large. It counted sixty Villages and eight hundred Suns or Princes; now it is reduced to six little Villages and eleven Suns. In each of these Villages there is a Temple where the fire is always kept burning as in that of the great Chief, whom all the other Chiefs obey.
The great Chief nominates to the most important offices of the State; such are the two war-Chiefs, the two Masters of ceremony for the worship of the Temple, the two Officers who preside over the other [Page 135] ceremonies which are observed when foreigners come to treat of peace, another who has the inspection of the public works, four others charged with the arrangement of the festivals with which they publicly entertain the Nation, and such Strangers as come to visit them. All these Ministers, who execute the will of the great Chief are treated with the same respect and obedience as if he personally gave the orders.
Each year the people assemble to plant one vast field with Indian corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons, and then again they collect in the same way to gather the harvest. A large cabin situated on a beautiful prairie is set apart to hold the fruits of this harvest. Once in the summer, toward the end of July, the people gather by order of the great Chief, to be present at a grand feast which he gives them. This Festival lasts for three days and three nights, and each one contributes what he can to furnish it; some bring game, others fish, etc. They have almost constant dances, while the great Chief and his sister are in an elevated lodge covered with boughs, from whence they can see the joy of their subjects. The Princes, the Princesses, and those who by their office are of distinguished rank, are arranged very near the Chief, to whom they show their respect and submission by an infinite variety of ceremonies.
The great Chief and his sister make their entrance in the place of the assembly on a litter borne by eight, of their greatest men: the Chief holds in his hand a great scepter ornamented with painted plumes, and all the people dance and sing about him in testimony of the public joy. The last day of this Feast he causes all his subjects to approach, and [Page 137] makes them a long harangue, in which he exhorts them to fulfill all their duties to Religion; he recommends them above all things to have a great veneration for the spirits who reside in the Temple, and carefully to instruct their children. If any one has distinguished himself by some act of zeal, he is then publicly praised. Such a case happened in the year 1702. The Temple having been struck by lightning and reduced to ashes, seven or eight women cast their infants into the midst of the flames to appease the wrath of Heaven. The great Chief called these heroines, and gave them great praises for the courage with which they had made the sacrifice of that which they held most dear; he finished his panegyric by exhorting the other women to imitate so beautiful an example in similar circumstances.
The fathers of families do not fail to carry to the Temple the first of their fruits, their corn and vegetables. It is the same even with presents which are made to this Nation; they are immediately offered at the gate of the Temple, when the guardian, after having displayed and presented them to the spirits, carries them to the house of the great Chief, who makes a distribution of them as he judges best, without any person testifying the least discontent.
They never plant their fields without having first presented the seed in the Temple with the accustomed ceremonies. As soon as these people approach the Temple, they raise their arms by way of respect, and utter three howls, after which they place their hands on the earth, and raise themselves again three times with as many reiterated howls — When any one has merely to pass before the Temple, [Page 139] he only pauses to salute it by his downcast eyes and raised arms. If a father or mother see their son fail in the performance of this ceremony, they will punish him immediately with repeated blows of a stick.
Such are the ceremonies of the Natchez Savages with regard to their Religion. Those of marriage are very simple. When a young man thinks of marrying he has only to address himself to the father of the girl, or if she have none, to her eldest brother, and they agree on the price, which he pays in skins or merchandise. When a girl has even lived a licentious life, they make no difficulty in receiving her, if there is the least idea that she will change her conduct when she is married. Neither do they trouble themselves as to what family she belongs, provided that she pleases them. As to the relatives of the girl, their only care is to inform themselves whether he who asks her is an able hunter, a good warrior, and an excellent workman. These qualities diminish the price which they have a right to ask on the marriage.
When the parties have agreed, the future husband goes to the chase with his friends; and when he has sufficient either of game or of fish, to feast the two families who have contracted the alliance, they assemble at the house of the parents of the girl. They particularly serve the newly married pair, who eat from the same dish. The repast being ended, the bridegroom smokes the calumet toward the parents of his wife, and then toward his own parents, after which all the guests retire. The newly married people remain together until the next day, and then the husband conducts his wife to the residence of [Page 141] her father-in-law, where they live until the family has built for him a cabin of his own, While they are constructing it, he passes the whole day in the chase to furnish food, which he gives to those who are employed in this work.
The laws permit the Natchez to have as many wives as they choose, nevertheless the common people generally have but one or two. This however is not the case with the Chiefs, their number is greater, because having the right to oblige the people to cultivate their fields, without giving them any wages, the number of their wives is no expense to them.
The marriage of the Chiefs is made with less ceremony. They content themselves with sending to fetch the father of the girl whom they wish to espouse, and they declare to him that they will give her the rank of their wives. They do not fail however, as soon as the marriage is consummated, to make a present to the father and mother. Although they have many wives, they keep but one or two in their own cabins; the rest remain at the houses of their parents, where they go to see them when they wish.
At certain periods of the moon these Savages never live with their wives. Jealousy has so little place in their hearts, that many find no difficulty in lending their wives to their friends. This indifference to the conjugal union results from the liberty they have of changing when it seems good to them, provided however that their wives have never borne children to them, for if any have been born of the marriage, nothing but death can separate them.
When this Nation sends out a detachment for war, [Page 143] the Chief of the party erects two kinds of poles painted red from the top to the bottom, ornamented with red plumes, and arrows and tomahawks, also painted red. These poles are pointed to the side to which they are to carry the war. Those who wish to join the party, after having ornamented and daubed themselves with different colors, come to harangue the war-Chief. This harangue, which one makes after the other, and which lasts nearly half an hour, consists of a thousand protestations of service, by which they assure him that they ask nothing more than to die with him, that they are charmed to learn from so able a warrior the art of taking scalps, and that they fear neither the hunger nor fatigues to which they are going to be exposed.
When a sufficient number of braves have presented themselves to the war-Chief, he causes to be made at his house a beverage which they call the “war medicine.” This is an emetic, which they make from a root they boil in large kettles full of water. The warriors, sometimes to the number of 300, having seated themselves about the kettle, they serve each one with two pots of it. The ceremony is to swallow them with a single effort, and then to throw them up immediately by the mouth, with efforts so violent that they can be heard at a great distance.
After this ceremony, the war-Chief appoints the day of departure, that each one may prepare provisions necessary for the campaign. During this time, the warriors repair evening and morning to the place before the Temple, where, after having danced and related in detail the brilliant actions in which their bravery was conspicuous, they chant their death-songs. [Page 145]
To see the extreme joy which they show at their departure, we should say that they had already signalized their valor by some great victory, but a very small thing alone is necessary to disconcert their plans. They are so superstitious with respect to dreams, that a single one of evil augury can arrest the execution of their enterprise, and oblige them to return when they are on the march. We see parties, who after having gone through with all the ceremonies I have mentioned, immediately break off from their expedition, because they have heard a dog bark in an extraordinary manner: in an instant their ardor for glory is changed into a perfect panic,
When on the war-path, they march in single file: four or five men who are the best walkers lead the way, and keep in advance of the army a quarter of a league, to observe everything, and give immediate notice. They encamp every evening an hour before sunset, and lie down about a large fire, each one with his arms near him. Before they encamp, they take the precaution to send out twenty warriors to the distance of half a league around the camp, for the purpose of avoiding all surprise. They never post sentinels during the night, but as soon as they have supped, they extinguish all the fires. At night the war-Chief exhorts them not to give themselves up to a profound sleep, and to keep their arms always in a state of readiness. He appoints a place where they shall rally in case they are attacked during the night and put to flight.
As the war-Chiefs always carry with them their idols, or what they call their spirits, well secured in some skins, at night they suspend them from a small pole painted red, which they erect in a Slanting [Page 147] position, so that it may be bent on the side of the enemy. The warriors, before they go to sleep, with war-club in hand, pass one after the other in a dance before these pretended spirits, at the same time uttering the fiercest threats toward the side on which are their enemies.
When the war-party is considerable, as it enters the enemy’s country, they march in five or six columns. They have many spies, who go out on scouting expeditions. If they perceive that their march is known, they ordinarily adopt the resolution of retracing their steps, leaving a small troop of from ten to twenty men who detach themselves, and endeavor to surprise some Hunters at a distance from the Villages: on their return they chant their songs with reference to the scalps they have taken. If they have taken any prisoners, they force them to sing and dance for some days before the Temple, after which they present them to the relatives of those who have been killed. These relatives are dissolved in tears during this ceremony, and drying their eyes with the scalps which have been taken, they contribute among themselves to recompense the warriors who have taken these captives, whose lot is to be burned.
The Natchez, like all the other Nations of Louisiana, distinguish by particular names those who have killed a greater or less number of the enemy. The old war-Chiefs distribute these names according to the merit of the warriors. To deserve the title of a great man-slayer, it is necessary to have taken 10 slaves or to have carried off 20 scalps. When a person understands their language, the name itself of a warrior enables him to learn all his exploits. [Page 149] Those who, for the first time, have taken a scalp or made a captive, do not sleep at their return with their wives, and do not eat any meat; they ought not to partake of anything but fish and thickened milk. This abstinence lasts for six months. If they fail to observe it, they imagine that the soul of him whom they have killed will cause them to die through sorcery, that they will never again obtain any advantage over their enemies, and that the slightest wounds they may receive will prove fatal.
They take extreme care that the great Chief shall not in any way expose his life when he goes to war. If, carried away by his valor, he should happen to be killed, the Chiefs of the party and the other principal warriors would be put to death on their return; but executions of this kind are almost without example, on account of the precautions they take to preserve him from this evil.
This Nation, like the others, has its Medicine- men; these are generally old men, who without study or any science, undertake to cure all complaints. They do not attempt this by simples, or by drugs; all their art consists in different juggleries; that is to say, that they dance and sing night and day about the sick man, and smoke without ceasing, swallowing the smoke of the tobacco. These Jugglers eat scarcely anything during all the time that they are engaged in the cure of the sick, but their chants and their dances are accompanied by contortions so violent that, although they are entirely naked and should naturally suffer from cold, yet they are always foaming at the mouth. They have a little basket in which they keep what they call their Spirits, that is to say, small roots of different kinds, heads of owls, [Page 151] small parcels of the hair of fallow-deer, some teeth of animals, some small stones or pebbles, and other similar trifles.
It appears that to restore health to the sick, they invoke without ceasing that which they have in their basket. Some of them have there a certain root, which by its smell can put serpents to sleep and render them senseless. After having rubbed their hands and body with this root, they take hold of these reptiles without fearing their bite, which is mortal. Sometimes they cut, with a flint, the part affected with the malady, and then suck out all the blood they can draw from it, and in returning it immediately into a dish, they at the same time spit out a little piece of wood, or straw, or leather, which they have concealed under the tongue. Drawing to it the attention of the relatives of the sick man, “There,” say they, “is the cause of the sickness.” These Medicine-men are always paid in advance. If the sick man recovers, their gain is very considerable, but if he should die, they are sure to have their heads cut off by the relatives or friends of the deceased. This never fails to be done, and even the relatives of the Medicine-man find nothing at all of which to complain, and do not testify any concern.
There is the same rule with some other Jugglers, who undertake to procure rain or fair weather. These are commonly indolent, old men, who, wishing to avoid the labor which is required in hunting, fishing, and the cultivation of the fields, exercise this dangerous trade to gain a support for their families. Toward spring, the Nation taxes itself to purchase from these Jugglers favorable weather for [Page 153] the fruits of the earth. If the harvest prove abundant, they gain a handsome reward, but if it is unfortunate, they take it from them, and cut off their heads. Thus those who engage in this profession risk everything to gain everything. In other respects their life is very idle; they have no other convenience than that of fasting and dancing with a pipe in their mouth, full of water and pierced like a watering-pot, which they blow into the air on the side where the clouds are thickest. In one hand they hold the sicicouet, which is a kind of rattle, and in the other their spirits, which they stretch out toward the clouds, uttering frightful cries to invite them to burst upon their fields.
If it is pleasant weather for which they ask, they do not use these pipes, but they mount on the roof of their cabins, and with their arms make signs to the clouds, blowing with all their strength, that they shall not stop over their lands, but pass beyond. When the clouds are dissipated according to their wish, they dance and sing about their spirits, which they place reverently on a kind of pillow; they redouble their fasts, and when the cloud has passed, they swallow the smoke of tobacco, and hold up their pipes to the Sky.
Although they never show any favor to these Charlatans, when they do not obtain what they ask, yet the profit they receive is so great, when by chance they succeed, that we see a great number of these Savages who do not at all fear to run the risks. It is to be observed that he who undertakes to furnish rain never engages to procure pleasant weather. There is another kind of Charlatans to whom this privilege belongs, and when you ask them the reason, [Page 155] they answer boldly that their spirits can give but the one or the other.
When one of these Savages dies, his relatives come to mourn his death during an entire day, then they array him in his most beautiful dresses, they paint his face and his hair, and ornament him with plumes, after which they carry him to the grave prepared for him, placing by his side his arms, a kettle, and Some provisions. For the space of a month, his relatives come at the dawn of day and at the beginning of the night, to weep for half an hour at his grave Each one names his degree of relationship, If he were the father of a family, the wife cries, “My dear husband, Ah ! how I regret you!” The children cry, “My dear father!” The others, “My uncle ! my cousin!” etc. The nearest relatives continue this ceremony for three months; they cut off their hair in sign of grief, they abstain from painting the body, and are never found at any assembly for festivity.
When any foreign Nation comes to treat of peace, with the Natchez Savages, they send their couriers to give notice of the day and hour when they shall make their entrance. The great Chief orders the Masters of ceremony to prepare all things for this grand occasion. They begin by naming those who during each day should support the strangers, for the expense never falls upon the Chief, but always on his subjects. Then they clear the roads, they sweep the cabins, they arrange the seats in a large hall. which is on the mound of the great Chief by the side of his cabin. His throne, which is on an elevation, is painted and ornamented, and the bottom is furnished with beautiful mats. [Page 157]
On the day that the Ambassadors are to make their entrance, all the Nation assembles. The Masters of ceremony Place the Princes, the Chiefs of the Villages, and the old Chiefs of quality near the great Chief On particular seats. When the Ambassadors arrive, and are within five hundred steps of the great Chief, they stop and chant the song of peace. The ambassage ordinarily consists of thirty men and six women. six of the best made, and who have the finest voices, march in front; they are followed by the others who chant in like manner, regulating the cadence with the sicicouet. The six women are the last.
When the Chief has directed them to approach, they advance; those who have the calumets, chant and dance with much agility, now turning around each other, and now presenting themselves in front, but always with violent movements and extraordinary contortions. When they have entered the circle, they dance about the chair on which the Chief is seated, they rub him with their calumets from his feet even to his head, and after that go back to find those who belong to their suite. Then they fill one of their calumets with tobacco, and holding the fire in one hand, they advance all together before the Chief and smoke it: they direct the first puff of smoke toward the Heavens, the second toward the Earth, and the others around the horizon, after which they without ceremony present the pipe to the Princes and to the other Chiefs.
The ceremony having been finished, the Ambassadors, as a token of alliance, rub their hands on the stomach of the Chief, and rub themselves over the whole body; they then place their calumets before [Page 159] the Chief on small forks, while the person among the Ambassadors who is particularly charged with the orders of his Nation, delivers a harangue which lasts for an entire hour.: When he has finished, they make a sign to the strangers to be seated on the benches ranged near the great Chief, who responds to them by a discourse of equal length. Then the Master of ceremonies lights the great calumet of peace, and makes the strangers smoke, who swallow the tobacco smoke. The great Chief inquires of them whether they arrived safe, — that is, whether they are well, and those who are around them go one after the other to discharge the same office of politeness. After which they conduct them to the cabin which has been prepared for them, and where they are feasted.
That same evening at Sunset, the Ambassadors, with the calumet in their hands, go with singing to find the great Chief, and having raised him on their shoulders, they transport him to the quarter in which their cabin is situated. They spread on the ground a large skin, on which they cause him to sit down. One of them places himself behind him, and putting his hands on the Chief’s shoulders he agitates all his body, while the others, seated in a circle on the ground, chant the history of their distinguished deeds. After this ceremony, which is repeated night and morning for four days, the great Chief returns to his cabin. When he pays his last visit to the Ambassadors, these place a stake at his feet, about which they seat themselves: The Warriors of the Nation having arranged themselves in all their finery dance around, striking the stake, and in turn recounting their great exploits, then follows the [Page 161] giving of Presents to the Ambassadors, which consist of kettles, hatchets, guns, powder, balls, etc.
The day following this last ceremony, it is permitted to the Ambassadors to walk through the whole Village, which before they were not able to do. Then every evening they give them spectacles, — that is to say, the men and women in their most beautiful dresses assemble at the public place, and dance until the night is far advanced. When they are ready to return home, the Masters of the ceremonies furnish them with the provisions necessary for the journey.
After having thus given you a slight idea of the character and customs of the Natchez Savages, I proceed, my Reverend Father, as I have promised you, to enter on a detail of their perfidy and treason. It was on the second of December of the year 1729, that we learned they had surprised the French, and had massacred almost all of them. This sad news was first brought to us by one of the planters, who had escaped their fury. It was confirmed to us on the following day by other French fugitives, and finally, some French women whom they had made slaves, and were forced afterward to restore, brought us all the particulars.
At the first rumor of an event so sad, the alarm and consternation was general in New Orleans. Although the massacre had taken place more than a hundred leagues from here, you would have supposed that it had happened under our own eyes. Each one was mourning the loss of a relative, a friend, or some property; all were alarmed for their own lives, for there was reason to fear that the conspiracy of the Savages had been general. [Page 163]
This unlooked-for massacre began on Monday, the 28th of October, about nine o’clock in the morning. Some cause of dissatisfaction which the Natchez thought they had with Monsieur the Commandant, and the arrival of a number of richly-loaded boats for the garrison and the colonists, determined them to hasten their enterprise, and to strike their blow sooner than they had agreed with the other confederate Tribes. And it was thus that they carried their plan into execution. First they divided themselves, and sent into the Fort, into the Village, and into the two grants, as many Savages as there were French in each of these places; then they feigned that they were going out for a grand hunt, and undertook to trade with the French for guns, powder, and ball, offering to pay them as much, and even more than was customary; and in truth, as there was no reason to suspect their fidelity, they made at that time an exchange of their poultry and corn, for some arms and ammunition which they used advantageously against us. It is true that some expressed their distrust, but this was thought to have so little foundation, that they were treated as cowards who were frightened at their own shadows. They had been on their guard against the Tchactas, but as for the Natchez, they had never distrusted them, and they were so persuaded of their good faith that it increased their hardihood. Having thus posted themselves in different houses, provided with the arms obtained from us, they attacked at the same time each his man, and in less than two hours they massacred more than two hundred of the French. The best known are Monsieur de Chepar, Commandant of the post, Monsieur du Codère, [Page 165] Commandant among the Yazous, Monsieur des Ursins, Messieurs de Kolly, father and son, Messieurs de Longrays, des Noyers, Bailly, etc.
Father du Poisson had just performed the funeral rites of his associate, Brother Crucy, who had died very suddenly of a Sunstroke; he was on his way to consult Monsieur Perrier, and to adopt with him proper measures to enable the Akensas to descend to the banks of the Mississipi, for the accommodation of the voyageurs. He arrived among the Natchez on the 26th of November, that is, two days before the massacre. The next day, which was the first Sunday of Advent, he said Mass in the parish and preached in the absence of the Curé He was to have returned in the afternoon to his Mission among the Akensas, but he was detained by some sick persons, to whom it was necessary to administer the Sacraments. On Monday, he was about to say Mass, and to carry the holy Viaticum to one of those sick persons whom he had confessed the evening before, when the massacre began; a gigantic Chief six feet in height, seized him, and having thrown him to the ground, cut off his head with blows of a hatchet. The Father in falling only uttered these words, “Ah, my God! ah, my God!” Monsieur du Codère drew his sword to defend him, when he was himself killed by a musket-ball from another Savage, whom he did not perceive.
These barbarians spared but two of the French, a Tailor and a Carpenter, who were able to serve their wants. They did not treat badly either the Negro Slaves, or the Savages who were willing to give themselves up; but they ripped up the belly of every pregnant woman, and killed almost all those who [Page 167] were nursing their children, because they were disturbed by their cries and tears, They did not kill the other Women, but made them Slaves, and treated them with every indignity during the two or three months that they were their masters, The least miserable were those who knew how to sew, because they kept them busy making shirts, dresses, etc. The others were employed in cutting and carrying wood for cooking, and in pounding the corn of which they make their sagamité. But two things, above all, aggravated the grief and hardness of their slavery; it was, in the first place, to have for masters those same persons whom they had seen dipping their cruel hands in the blood of their husbands; and, in the second place, to hear them continually saying that the French had been treated in the same manner at all the other posts, and that the country was now entirely freed from them.
During the massacre, the great Chief of the Natchez was seated quietly under the tobacco shed of the Company. His Warriors brought to his feet the head of the Commandant, about which they ranged those of the principal French of the post, leaving their bodies a prey to the dogs, the buzzards, and other carnivorous birds,
When they were assured that not another Frenchman remained at the post, they applied themselves to plunder the houses, the magazine of the Company of the Indies, and all the boats which were still loaded by the bank of the river. They employed the Negroes to transport the merchandise, which they divided among themselves, with the exception of the munitions of war, which they placed for security in a separate cabin. While the brandy lasted, of which [Page 169] they found a good supply, they passed their days and nights in drinking, singing, dancing, and insulting in the most barbarous manner, the dead bodies and the memory of the French. The Tchactas, and the other Savages being engaged in the plot with them, they felt at their ease, and did not at all fear that they would draw on themselves the vengeance which was merited by their cruelty and perfidy. One night when they were plunged in drunkenness and sleep, Madame des Noyers wished to make use of the Negroes to revenge the death of her husband and the French, but she was betrayed by the person to whom she confided her design, and came very near being burned alive.
Some of the French escaped the fury of the Savages by taking refuge in the woods, where they suffered extremely from hunger and the effects of the weather. One of them, on arriving here, relieved us of a little disquietude we felt with regard to the post we occupy among the Yazous, which is not more than forty or fifty leagues above the Natchez by water, and only from 15 to 20 by land. Not being able longer to endure the extreme cold from which he suffered, he left the woods under cover of night, to go to warm himself in the house of a Frenchman. When he was near it he heard the voices of Savages and deliberated whether he should enter. He determined, however, to do so, preferring rather to perish by the hand of these barbarians, than to die of famine and cold. He was agreeably surprised when he found these Savages eager to render him a service, to heap kindnesses upon him, to commiserate him, to console him, to furnish him with provisions, clothes, and a boat to make his escape to New [Page 171] Orleans. These were the Yazous who were returning from chanting the calumet at Oumas. The Chief charged him to say to Monsieur Perrier, that he had nothing to fear on the part of the Yazous, that “they would not lose their sense,” that is, that they would always remain attached to the French, and that he would be constantly on the watch with his tribe to warn the French pirogues that were descending the river to be on their guard against the Natchez.
We believed for a long time that the promises of this Chief were very sincere, and feared no more Indian perfidy for our post among the Yazous. But learn, my Reverend Father, the disposition of these Savages, and how little one is able to trust their words, even when accompanied by the greatest demonstrations of friendship. Scarcely had they returned to their own village, when, loaded with the presents they received from the Natchez, they followed their example and imitated their treachery. Uniting with the Corroys, they agreed together to exterminate the French. They began with Father Souel, the Missionary of both tribes, who was than living in the midst of them, in their own village. The fidelity of the Ofogoulas, who were then absent at the chase, has never been shaken, and they now compose one Village with the Tonikas.
On the 11th of December, Father Souel was returning in the evening from visiting the Chief, and while in a ravine, received many musket-balls, and fell dead on the spot. The Savages immediately rushed to his cabin to plunder it. His Negro, who composed all his family and all his defense, armed himself with a wood-cutter’s knife, to prevent the pillage, and even wounded one of the Savages. [Page 173] This zealous action cost him his life, but, happily, he had received Baptism less than a month before, and was living in a most Christian manner.
These Savages, who even to that time had seemed sensible of the affection which their Missionary bore them, reproached themselves for his death as soon as they were capable of reflection; but returning again to their natural ferocity, they adopted the resolution of putting a finishing stroke to their crime by the destruction of the whole French post. “Since the black Chief is dead,” said they, “it is the same as if all the French were dead — let us not spare any.”
The next day, they executed their barbarous plan. They repaired early in the morning to the Fort, which was not more than a league distant, and whose occupants supposed, on their arrival, that the Savages wished to chant the calumet to the Chevalier des Roches, who commanded that post in the absence of Monsieur de Codère. He had but seventeen men with him, who had no suspicion of any evil design on the part of the Savages, and were therefore all massacred, not one escaping their fury. They, however, granted their lives to four women and five children, whom they found there, and whom they made slaves.
One of the Yazous, having stripped the Missionary, clothed himself in his garments, and shortly afterward announced to the Natchez, that his Nation had redeemed their pledge, and that the French settled among them were all massacred. In this city there was no longer any doubt on that point, as soon as they learned what came near being the fate of Father Doutreleau. This Missionary had availed [Page 175] himself of the time when the Savages were engaged in their winter occupations, to come to see us, for the purpose of regulating some matters relating to his Mission. He set out on the first day of this year, 1730 and not expecting to arrive at the residence of Father Souel, of whose fate he was ignorant, in time to say Mass, he determined to say it at the mouth of the little river of the Yazous, where his party had cabined.
As he was preparing for this sacred office, he saw a boat full of Savages landing. They demanded from them of what Nation they were. “Yazous, comrades of the French,” they replied, making a thousand friendly demonstrations to the voyageurs who accompanied the Missionary, and presenting them with provisions. While the Father was preparing his altar, a flock of bustards passed, and the voyageurs fired at them the only two guns they had, without thinking of reloading, as Mass had already commenced. The Savages noted this and placed themselves behind the voyageurs, as if it was their intention to hear Mass, although they were not Christians.
At the time when the Father was saying the Kyrie elision, the Savages made their discharge. The Missionary perceiving himself wounded in his right arm, and seeing one of the voyageurs killed at his feet, and the four others fled, threw himself on his knees to receive the last fatal blow, which he regarded as inevitable. In this posture he received two or three discharges. But although the Savages fired while almost touching him, yet they did not inflict on him any new wounds. Finding himself, then, as it were, miraculously escaped from so many [Page 177] mortal blows, he took to flight, having on still his Priestly garments, and without any other defense than an entire confidence in God, whose particular Protection was given him, as the event proved, He threw himself into the water, and after advancing some steps, gained the pirogue in which two of the voyageurs were making their escape. They had supposed him to be killed by some of the many balls which they had heard fired on him. In climbing up into the pirogue, and turning his head to see whether any one of his pursuers was following him too closely, he received in the mouth a discharge of small shot, the greater part of which were flattened against his teeth, although some of them entered his gums, and remained there for a long time. I have myself seen two of them there. Father Doutreleau, all wounded as he was, undertook the duty of steering the pirogue, while his two companions placed themselves at the paddles. Unfortunately, one of them, at setting out, had his thigh broken by a musket-ball, from the effects of which he has since remained a cripple.
You may well imagine, my Reverend Father, that the Missionary and his companions had no thoughts of ascending the river. They descended the Mississipi with all the speed possible, and at last lost sight of the pirogue of their enemies, who had pursued them for more than an hour, keeping up a continual fire upon them, and who boasted at the Village that they had killed them. The two paddlers were often tempted to give themselves up, but encouraged by the Missionary, they in their turn made the Savages, fear. An old gun which was not loaded, nor in a condition to be, which they pointed at them from [Page 179] time to time, made them often dodge in their boat, and at last obliged them to retire.
As soon as they found themselves freed from their enemies, they dressed their wounds as well as they could, and for the purpose of aiding their flight from that fatal shore, they threw into the river everything they had in their boat, preserving only some pieces of raw bacon for their nourishment.
It had been their intention to stop in passing at the Natchez, but having seen that the houses of the French were either demolished or burned, they did not think it advisable to listen to the compliments of the Savages, who from the bank of the river invited them to land. They placed a wide distance between them as soon as possible; and thus shunned the balls which were ineffectually fired at them. It was then that they began to distrust all these savage Nations, and therefore resolved not to go near the land until they reached New Orleans, and supposing that the barbarians might have rendered themselves masters of it, to descend even to the Balize, where they hoped to find some French vessel provided to receive the wreck of the Colony.
In passing the Tonikas, they separated themselves as far as possible from the shore, but they were discovered, and a pirogue which had been despatched to reconnoiter them, was not a long time in approaching. Their fear and distrust were renewed, and they did not decide to stop, until they perceived that the persons in that boat spoke very good French, when they overcame their fears, and in the weak state they were, gladly availed themselves of the opportunity to land. There they found the little French army which had been formed, the Officers [Page 181] compassionate and every way kind, a Surgeon, and refreshments. After recovering a little from the great dangers and miseries they had endured, they on the next day availed themselves of a pirogue which had been fitted out for New Orléans.
I cannot express to you, my Reverend Father, the great satisfaction I felt at seeing Father Doutreleau, his arm in a scarf, arrive after a voyage of more than four hundred leagues, all the clothes he had on having been borrowed, except his cassock. My surprise was increased at the recital of his adventures. I placed him immediately in the hands of brother Parisel, who examined his wounds, and who dressed them with great care and speedy success.
The Missionary was not yet entirely cured of his wounds, when he departed to act as Chaplain to the French army, as he had promised Messieurs the Officers, in accordance with their request. He endured with them the fatigues of the campaign against the Natchez, and there gave new proofs of his zeal, his wisdom, and his courage.
On his return from the Natchez, he came to recruit himself here for six weeks, which he found very long, but which appeared to me very short. He was impatient to return to his dear Mission, but it was necessary for me to fit him out generally with everything proper for a Missionary, and he was obliged to wait for the escort which was going to the Illinois. The risks which they ran on the river during this insurrection of the Savages, induced Monsieur the Commandant to forbid voyageurs going in separate companies. He set out, therefore, on the 16th of April, with many others, in a body sufficiently large to relieve them from all fear of their [Page 183] enemies. I learned, in fact, that they had proceeded above the Akensas, without any accident.
The Pleasure of seeing Father Doutreleau for the first time, and seeing him, too, after his escape from such imminent perils, was much impaired by the vivid grief I felt for the loss of two Missionaries, with whose merit you were as well acquainted as myself. you know that to a most amiable disposition, they united the appropriate qualifications for apostolic men, that they were very much attached to their Mission, that they had already become well acquainted with the language of the Savages, that their earliest labors had produced great fruits, and they gave the promise of still greater results, since neither of them was more than thirty-five or thirty- six years of age. This deprivation, which entirely occupied my thoughts, gave me no time for thinking of the loss we had sustained of their Negroes and their effects, although it very much deranged a Mission which had just been commenced, and whose necessities you know better than any one else.
But nothing has happened to these two excellent Missionaries for which we should mourn, or for which they were not prepared when they devoted themselves to the Savage Missions in this Colony. This disposition alone, independent of everything else, has without doubt placed a great difference in the eyes of God between their death and that of the others, who have fallen martyrs to the French name. But I am well persuaded that the fear of a similar fate will not in the least diminish the zeal of those of our fathers who had thought of following them, neither will it deter OUT Superiors from responding to the holy desires they may have of sharing our labors. [Page 185]
Knowing, as you do, my Reverend Father, the vigilance and the foresight of Monsieur our Commandant, you can well imagine that he did not sleep in this sad crisis in which we now found ourselves. We may say without flattery that he surpassed himself by the rapid movements he made, and by the wise measures he adopted to revenge the French blood which had been shed, and to prevent the evils with which almost all the posts of the Colony were threatened.
As soon as he was apprised of this unexpected attack by the Natchez Savages, he caused the news to be carried to all the posts, and even as far as the Illinois, not by the direct and ordinary route of the river, which was closed, but on one side by the Natchitoches and the Akensas, and on the other by Mobile and the Tchicachas. He invited the neighbors who were our allies, and particularly the Tchactas, to avenge this perfidy, He furnished arms and ammunition, to all the houses of this City and to the plantations. He caused two ships, that is, the Duc de Bourbon and the Alexandre, to ascend the river as far as the Tonikas. These ships were like two good fortresses against the insults of the Savages, and in case of attack, two certain asylums for the women and children. He caused a ditch to be dug entirely around the City, and placed guard-houses at the four extremities. He organized for its defense many companies of city militia who mounted guard during the whole night. As there was more to fear in the grants and in the plantations than in the City, he fortified them with the most care. He had good forts erected at Chapitoulas, at Cannes brûlées, at les Allemands, at Bayagoulas, and at Pointe coupée [Page 187]
At first, Monsieur our Commandant, listening only to the dictates of his own courage, adopted the design of Placing himself at the head of the troops, but it was represented to him that he ought not to quit New Orleans, where his presence was absolutely necessary, that there was danger of the Tchactas determining to fall upon the City, if it should be deprived of its troops; and the Negroes, to free themselves from slavery, might join them, as some had done with the Natchez. Moreover he could feel perfectly easy with regard to the conduct of the troops, as Monsieur the Chevalier de Loubois, with whose experience and bravery he was well acquainted, had been appointed to command them,
While our little army was repairing to the Tonikas, seven hundred Tchactas mustered, and conducted by Monsieur le Sueur, marched toward the Natchez. We were informed by a party of these people that the Savages were not at all on their guard, but passed all their nights in dancing. The Tchactas took them therefore by surprise, and made a descent on them on the 27th of January, at the break of day. In less than three hours they had delivered 59 persons, both women and children, with the Tailor and Carpenter, and 106 Negroes or Negro women with their children; they made 18 of the Natchez prisoners and took 60 scalps. They would have taken more, if they had not been intent on freeing the slaves, as they had been directed. They had but two men killed and seven or eight wounded. They encamped with their prizes at the grant of Sainte Catherine, in a bare cattle-yard enclosed with stakes. The victory would have been complete if they had waited for the arrival of the French army, as had been agreed upon with their Deputies. [Page 189]
The Natchez seeing themselves attacked by the formidable Tchactas, regarded their defeat as certain, and shutting themselves up in two forts, passed the following nights in dancing their death-dance, In their speeches we heard them reproaching the Tchactas for their perfidy, in declaring in favor of the French, contrary to the pledge they had given, to unite with them for our destruction.
Three days before this action, the sieur Mesplex landed among the Natchez with five other Frenchmen. They had volunteered to Monsieur de Loubois to carry to the Savages negotiations for peace, that they might be able under this pretext to gain information with regard to their force, and their present situation. But in descending from their boat, they encountered a party, who without giving them time to speak, killed three of their men, and made the other three prisoners. The next day they sent one of these prisoners with a letter, in which they demanded as hostages the sieur Broutin, who had formerly been commandant among them, and the chief of the Tonikas. Besides, they demanded as the ransom for the women, children, and slaves, two hundred guns, two hundred barrels of powder, two hundred barrels of balls, two thousand gun-flints, two hundred knives, two hundred hatchets, two hundred pickaxes, twenty quarts of brandy, twenty casks of wine, twenty barrels of vermilion, two hundred shirts, twenty pieces of limbourg, twenty pieces of cloth, twenty coats with lace on the seams, twenty hats bordered with plumes, and a hundred coats of a plainer kind. Their design was to massacre the French who should bring these goods. On the very same day, with every refinement in cruelty they burned sieur Mesplex and his companion. [Page 191]
On the 8th of February, the French, with the Tonikas, and some other small Tribes from the lower end of the Mississipi, arrived at the Natchez, and seized their Temple dedicated to the Sun. The impatience and intractability of the Tchactas, who like almost all Savages are capable of striking only one blow, and then disperse; the small number of French soldiers who found themselves worn down by fatigues; the want of provisions which the Savages stole from the French; the failure of ammunition with which they were not able to satisfy the Tchactas, who wasted one part of it, and placed the other in reserve to be used in hunting; the resistance of the Natchez, who were well fortified, and who fought in desperation, — all these things decided us to listen to the propositions which the besieged made, after the trenches had been opened for seven days. They threatened, if we persisted in the siege, to burn those of the French who remained, while on the other hand, they offered to restore them, if we would withdraw our seven pieces of cannon. These, in reality, for want of a good gunner, and under present circumstances, were scarcely in a fit state to give them any fear.
These propositions were accepted, and fulfilled on both sides. On the 25th of February, the besieged faithfully restored all that they had promised, while the besiegers retired with their cannon to a small fort which they had hastily built on the Escôre [bluff] near the river, for the purpose of always keeping the Natchez in check, and insuring a passage to the voyageurs. Monsieur Perrier gave the command of it to Monsieur Dartaguette, as an acknowledgment of the intrepidity with which, during [Page 193] the siege, he had exposed himself to the greatest dangers, and everywhere braved death.
Before the Tchactas had determined to fall upon the Natchez, they had gone to them to carry the calumet, and were received in a very novel manner, They found them and their horses adorned with chasubles and drapery of the altars, many wore patens about their necks, and drank and gave to drink of brandy in the chalices and the ciboria. And the Tchactas themselves, when they had gained these articles by pillaging our enemies, renewed this profane sacrilege, by making the same use of our ornaments and sacred vessels in their dances and sports. We were never able to recover more than a small portion of them. The greater part of their chiefs have come here to receive payment for the scalps they have taken, and for the French and Negroes whom they have freed. It is necessary for us to buy very dearly their smallest services, and we have scarcely any desire to employ them again, particularly as they have appeared much less brave than the small Tribes, who have not made themselves feared by their great number. Every year disease diminishes this Nation, which is now reduced to three or four thousand warriors. Since these Savages have betrayed their disposition here, we have not been able to endure them longer. They are insolent, ferocious, disgusting, importunate, and insatiable. We compassionate, and at the same time, we admire our Missionaries, that they should renounce all society, to have only that of these Barbarians.
I have renewed my acquaintance with Paatlako, one of the chiefs, and with a great number of other Tchactas. They have made me many interesting [Page 195] visits and have often repeated to me very nearly the same compliment which they paid me more than a year ago when I left them. “Our hearts and those of our children weep,” they said to me, “since we shall not see you more; you were beginning to have the same spirit with us, you listened to us, and we listened to you, you loved us and we loved you: why have you left us? will you not return? come, go with us!” You know, my Reverend Father, that I was not able to yield to their wishes. I therefore merely said that I would come to rejoin them as soon as it was in my power, but that after all, I should be here only in the body, while my heart was with them, “That is good,” replied one of these Savages, “but, nevertheless, your heart will say nothing to us, it will give us nothing.” Thus it is that everything comes to that point; they do not love us, and do not find us of the same spirit as themselves, except when we are giving them something.
It is true that Paatlako has fought with much courage against the Natchez, and has even received a musket-ball in the loins, while to console him for this wound he has had more esteem and friendship shown him than the rest. Scarcely was he seen in his Village, when, inflated with these trifling marks of distinction, he said to Father Baudouin that all New Orléans has been in a wonderful state of alarm on account of his illness, and that Monsieur Perrier had informed the King of his bravery and the great services he had rendered in the last expedition. In these traits I recognize the genius of this Nation: it is presumption and vanity itself.
They had abandoned to the Tchactas three Negroes who had been most unruly, and who had taken the [Page 197] most active part in behalf of the Natchez. They have been burned alive with a degree of cruelty which has inspired all the Negroes with a new horror of the Savages, but which will have a beneficial effect in securing the safety of the Colony. The Tonikas and other smaller Tribes have gained some new advantages over the Natchez, and have taken many prisoners, of whom they have burned three women and four men, after having taken their scalps. Our own people, it is said, begin to be accustomed to this barbarous spectacle.
We could not forbear being affected, when we saw arrive in this City the French women whom the Natchez had made slaves. The miseries which they had suffered were painted on their countenances. But it seems as if they shortly forgot them; at least, many of them were in great haste to marry again, and we are told there were great demonstrations of joy at their weddings.
The little girls, whom none of the inhabitants wish to adopt, have greatly enlarged the interesting company of orphans whom the Nuns are bringing up. The great number of these children only serves to increase their charity and attentions. They have formed them into a separate class, and have appointed two special matrons for their care.
There is not one of this holy Community but is delighted at having crossed the ocean, nor do they seek here any other happiness than that of preserving these children in their innocency, and giving a polished and Christian education to these young Frenchmen, who are in danger of being almost as degraded as the slaves. We may hope, with regard to these holy women, that before the end of the year they will [Page 199] occupy the new mansion which, is destined for them, and which they have for so long a time desired.
When they shall once be settled there, to the instruction of the boarders, the orphans, the girls who live without, and the Negro women, they will add also the care of the sick in the hospital, and a house of refuge for women of questionable character, Perhaps they will even at length be able to aid in affording regularly each year the retreat to a large number of women, in accordance with the taste with which we have inspired them.
So many works of charity would, in France, be sufficient to occupy many associations and different institutions. But what cannot great zeal effect? These different labors do not at all startle seven Ursulines, and by the grace of God they are able to sustain them, without infringing at all on the observance of their religious rules. But for myself, I very much fear that, if some assistance do not arrive, they may sink under the weight of such great fatigues. Those who, before they were acquainted with them, said they had come out too soon and in too great a number, have entirely changed their views and their language; witnesses of their edifying conduct and the great services which they render to the Colony, they find that they have not arrived soon enough, and that there could not come too much of the same virtue and the same merit.
The Tchikachas, a brave Nation but treacherous, and little known to the French, have endeavored to seduce the Illinois Tribes from their allegiance: they have even sounded some particular persons to see whether they could not draw them over to the party of those Savages who were enemies of our Nation. [Page 201] The Illinois have replied to them that they were almost all “of the prayer” (that is, according to their manner of expression, that they are Christians); and that in other ways they are inviolably attached to the French, by the alliances which many of that, Nation had contracted with them, in espousing their daughters.
“We always place ourselves,” added they, “before the enemies of the French; it is necessary to pass over our bodies to go to them, and to strike us to the heart before a single blow can reach them.” Their conduct is in accordance with this declaration, and has not in the least contradicted their words. At the first news of the war with the Natchez and the Yazous, they came hither to weep for the black Robes and the French, and to offer the services of their Nation to Monsieur Perrier, to avenge their death. I happened to be at the governor’s house when they arrived, and was charmed with the harangues they made. Chikagou, whom you saw in Paris, was at the head of the Mitchigamias, and Mamantouensa at the head of the Kaskaskias.
Chikagou spoke first. He spread out in the hall a carpet of deerskin, bordered with porcupine quills, on which he placed two calumets, with different savage ornaments, accompanying them with a present according to the usual custom. “There,” said he, in showing these two calumets, “are two messages which we bring you, the one of Religion, and the other of peace or war, as you shall determine. We have listened with respect to the Governors, because they bring us the word of the King our Father, and much more to the black Robes, because they bring us the word of God himself, who is the King of [Page 203] Kings. We have come from a great distance to weep with you for the death of the French, and to offer our Warriors to strike those hostile Nations whom you may wish to designate. You have but to speak. When I went over to France, the King promised me his protection for the Prayer, and recommended me never to abandon it. I will always remember it. Grant then your protection to us and to our black Robes.” He then gave utterance to the edifying sentiments with which he was impressed with regard to the Faith, as the Interpreter Baillarjon enabled us to half understand them in his miserable French.
Mamantouensa spoke next. His harangue was short, and in a style widely different from that which is usual among the Savages, who a hundred times repeat the same thing in the same speech.
“There,” said he, addressing Monsieur Perrier, “are two young Padouka slaves, some skins, and some other trifles. It is but a small present which I make you; nor is it at all my design to induce you to make me one more costly, All that I ask of you is your heart and your protection. I am much more desirous of that than of all the merchandise of the world, and when I ask this of you, it is solely for the Prayer. My views of the war are the same as those of Chikagou, who has already spoken. It is useless therefore for me to repeat what you have just heard.”
Another old Chief, who had the air of an ancient Patriarch, then rose. He contented himself with saying that he wished to die as he had lived, in the Prayer. “The last words,” added he, “which our Fathers have spoken to us, when they were on the [Page 205] point of yielding up their last breath, were to be always attached to the Prayer, and that there is no other way of being happy in this life, and much more in the next which is after death.”
Monsieur Perrier, who has the deepest Religious feelings, listened with evident pleasure to these savage harangues. He abandoned himself to the dictates of his own heart, without taking the precaution to have recourse to the evasion and disguises which are often necessary when one is treating with the generality of Savages. To each harangue he made such an answer as good Christians should desire. He declined with thanks their offers of service for the war, since we were sufficiently strong against the enemies who lived at the lower end of the river, but advised them to be on their guard, and to undertake our defense against those who dwelt on the upper part of the same river.
We always felt a distrust of the Renard Savages, although they did not longer dare to undertake any thing, since Father Guignas has detached from their alliance the Tribes of the Kikapous and the Maskoutins. You know, my Reverend Father, that, being in Canada, he had the courage to penetrate even to the Sioux, wandering Savages near the source of the Mississipi, at the distance of about eight hundred leagues from New Orleans, and six hundred leagues from Quebec. Obliged to abandon this infant Mission, by the unfortunate result of the enterprise against the Renards, he descended the river to repair to the Illinois. On the 15th of October in the year 1728, he was arrested when half-way, by the Kikapous and the Maskoutins. For five months he was a captive among these Savages, where he had much to [Page 207] suffer and everything to fear. The time at last Came when he was to be burned alive, and he prepared himself to finish his life in this horrible torment, when he was adopted by an old man, Whose family saved his life, and procured him his liberty. our Missionaries, who were among the Illinois, were no sooner acquainted with his sad situation, than they procured him all the alleviations they were able. Everything which he received he employed to conciliate the Savages, and succeeded even to the extent of engaging them to conduct him to the Illinois, and while there to make peace with the French and the Savages of that region. Seven or eight months after this peace was concluded, the Maskoutins and the Kikapous returned again to the Illinois country, and took away Father Guignas to spend the winter with them, from whence, in all probability, he will return to Canada. He has been exceedingly broken down by these fatiguing journeys, but his zeal, full of fire and activity, seems to give him new strength.
The Illinois had no other residence but with us, during the three weeks they remained in this city. They charmed us by their piety, and by their edifying life. Every evening they recited the rosary in alternate choirs, and every morning they heard me say Mass; during which, particularly on Sundays and Feast-days, they chanted the different prayers of the Church suitable to the Offices of the day. At the end of the Mass, they never fail to chant with their whole heart the prayer for the King — The Nuns chanted the first Latin couplet in the ordinary tone of the Gregorian chant, and the Illinois continued the other couplets in their language in the [Page 209] same tone. This spectacle, which was novel, drew great crowds to the Church, and inspired a deep devotion. In the course of the day, and after supper, they often chant, either alone or together, different prayers of the Church, such as the Dies irœ, etc., Viexilla Regis, etc., Stabat Mater, etc. To listen to them, you would easily perceive that they took more delight and pleasure in chanting these holy Canticles, than the generality of the Savages, and even more than the French receive from chanting their frivolous and often dissolute songs.
You would be astonished, as I myself have been, on arriving at this Mission, to find that a great number of our French are not, by any means, so well instructed in Religion as are these Neophytes; they are scarcely unacquainted with any of the histories of the old and new Testament; the manner in which they hear the holy Mass and receive the Sacraments, is most excellent; their Catechism, which has fallen into my hands, with the literal translation made by Father Boullanger, is a perfect model for those who have need of such works in their new Missions. They do not leave these good Savages to be ignorant of any of our Mysteries, or of our duties, but attach them to the foundation and the essentials of Religion, which they have displayed before them in a manner equally instructive and sound.
The first thought which is suggested to those who become acquainted with these Savages is, that it must have been at great cost of labor to the Missionaries, and that it will be still more so, to form them into any kind of Christianity. But their assiduity and patience is abundantly recompensed by the blessings which it has pleased God to pour out Upon [Page 211] their labors. Rather le Boullanger has written me word that he is obliged, for the second time, considerably to enlarge his Church, on account of the great number of Savages who each year have received Baptism.
The first time that the Illinois saw the Nuns, Mamantouensa, perceiving before them a troop of little girls, remarked, “I see, indeed, that you are not Nuns without an object.” He wished to say, that they were not mere solitaries, laboring only for their own perfection. “You are,” he added, “like the black Robes, our Fathers; you labor for others. Ah! if we had above there two or three of your number, our wives and daughters would have more sense, and would be better Christians.” “Ah, well! “ the Mother Superior answered him, “choose those whom you wish.” “It is not fur me to choose,” said Mamantouensa, “it is for you who know them. The choice should fall on those who are most attached to God, and who love him most.”
You may well imagine, my Reverend Father, how much these holy women were charmed to find in a Savage sentiments so reasonable and Christian. Alas! it will take time and pains to teach the Tchactas to think and speak in this way. This indeed can only be the work of him, who knows how, when it pleases him, to change the stones into children of Abraham.
Chikagou guards most carefully, in a bag made expressly for the purpose, the magnificent snuff-box which the late Madame, the Duchess d’Orléans, gave him at Versailles. Notwithstanding all the offers made to him, he has never been willing to part with it, — a degree of consideration very remarkable in a [Page 213] Savage, whose characteristic generally is, to be in a short time disgusted with anything he has, and passionately desire whatever he sees, but does not own.
Everything which Chikagou has related to his countrymen, with regard to France, has appeared to them incredible. “They have bribed you,” said some to him, “to make us believe all these beautiful fictions.” “We are willing to believe,” said his relatives, and those by whom his sincerity was least doubted, “that you have really seen all that you tell us, but there must have been some charm which fascinated your eyes, for it is not possible that France can be such as you have painted it.” When he told them that in France they were accustomed to have five cabins, one on top of the other, and that they were as high as the tallest trees, that there were as many people in the streets of Paris, as there were blades of grass on the prairies, or mosquitoes in the woods, and that they rode about there and even made long journeys in moving cabins of leather, they did not credit it any more than when he added that he had seen long cabins full of sick people, where skillful Surgeons performed the most wonderful cures. “Hear!” he would say to them in sport, “you may lose an arm, a leg, an eye, a tooth, a breast, if you are in France, and they will supply you with others, so that it will not be noticed.” What most embarrassed Mamantouensa, when he saw the ships, was to know how it was possible to launch them into the water after they had been built 012 land, where arms enough could be found for this purpose, and above all to raise the anchors with their enormous weights. They explained both these [Page 215] points to him, and he admired the genius of the French who were capable of such beautiful inventions.
The Illinois departed on the last day of June; they were to unite with the Akensas, for the purpose of falling upon the Yazous and upon the Corroys. These last having set out on their retreat to the Tchikactas, whither they were carrying the French scalps they had taken, were met on the way by the Tchatchoumas and by some Tckactas, who in their contest with them took eighteen scalps and delivered some French women with their children. Some time afterward, they were again attacked by a party of the Akensas, who took from them four scalps, and made many of their women prisoners. These good Savages encountered on their return two pirogues of French hunters; they passed their hands over them from head to foot, according to their custom, in testifying their sorrow for the death of the French, and of their Father in Jesus Christ. They made a solemn oath that, while one Akensa should be remaining in the world, the Natchez and the Yazous should never be without an enemy. They showed a bell and some books, which they were taking home, they said, for the first black Chief who should come to their Village. These were all that they had found in the cabin of Father Souel.
I was in pain to learn what these barbarians had done with the body of this Missionary, but a French woman who was then their slave, has informed me that she at last induced them to give it burial. “I saw him,” she would often say to me, “lying on his back in the canes very near his house; they had not taken from him anything but his cassock. Although he had been dead fifteen days, his skin was [Page 217] still as white, and his cheeks as red as if he were merely sleeping. I was tempted to examine where he had received the fatal blow, but respect stopped my curiosity; I placed myself a moment at his knees, and have brought away his handkerchief which was near him.”
The faithful Akensas mourned every day in their Village the death of Father du Poisson, and with the most earnest entreaties, demanded another Missionary. We could not excuse ourselves from granting this request to a Nation so amicable, and at all times so attached to the French, possessing, too, a degree of modesty of which the other Nations were ignorant, and among whom there exists no peculiar obstacle to Christianity, except their extreme attachment to jugglery,
But we have endeavored, my Reverend Father, to console ourselves in our grief with an argument of which you would never think, It is, that we may congratulate ourselves that our loss has not been more general. In fact, the two dear Missionaries for whom we mourn, did not appear to be by any means as much exposed to the cruelty of the Savages as are many others, particularly Father de Guyenne, and still more Father Baudouin.
The latter is without any defense in the midst of the great Nation of the Tchactas. We have always had a great distrust of these Savages, even at the time when they were making war for us upon the Natchez. Now they have become so inflated with their pretended victory, that we have much more need of troops to repress their insolence, and to keep them in their duty, than to finish the destruction of our open enemies. [Page 219]
Father de Guyenne, after much opposition on the part of the Savages in the neighborhood of Carolina, succeeded in building two cabins in two different Villages, to be near at hand to learn their language and to instruct them; but they were both demolished. He will be obliged at last to confine his zeal to the French Fort of the Alibamons, or to seek a more abundant harvest on the banks of the Mississipi.
It only remains, My Reverend Father, to inform you of the situation of our enemies, They are united near the river of the Oachitas, on which they have three forts. We believe that the Natchez are as yet in number about 500 warriors, without counting their women and children; they were scarcely more than 700 before the war. Among the Yazous and the Corroys there are not more than forty warriors. They have planted their corn between two little rivers which run near their forts. It would only be necessary to cut off this corn, to starve them during the winter, but the thing is not easy to effect, from what the smaller Tribes inform us, who harass them continually. The Country is cut up by Bayouks [bayous], and filled with canebrakes, where the inconceivable quantity of mosquitoes would not permit an ambuscade to be established for any length of time.
The Natchez, who were shut up in their forts since the last expedition, have begun again to show themselves. Incensed that a party from Oumas and Bayagoulas had captured one of their pirogues, in which were seven men, a woman, and two children, they went in great numbers near a small fort, where they have surprised ten Frenchmen and twenty Negroes, There was but one small Soldier with two [Page 221] Negroes who were able to save themselves. He had formerly escaped the massacre made by the Natchez by concealing himself in an oven, and this time he escaped by hiding in the trunk of a tree.
You can well believe, my Reverend Father, that this war has retarded the French colony; nevertheless, we flatter ourselves that this misfortune will be productive of benefit, by determining the Court to send the forces necessary to tranquilize the Colony and render it flourishing. Although they have nothing to fear at New Orleans, either from the smaller neighboring Tribes, whom our Negroes alone could finish in a single morning, or even from the Tckactas, who would not dare to expose themselves on the Lake in any great numbers, yet a panic terror has spread itself over almost every spirit, particularly with the women. They will, however, be reassured by the arrival of the first troops from France, whom we are now constantly expecting. As far as our Missionaries are concerned, they are very tranquil. The perils to which they see themselves exposed seem to increase their joy and animate their zeal. Be mindful then of them and of me in your holy Sacrifices, in the union with which I am, with respect, etc. [Page 223]
Letter from father Nau, missionary in Canada,
to Reverend father Richard, provincial of the
province of Guyenne, at Bourdeaux.
y Reverend Father,
We embarked, may 29, on the Ruby, under the command of Monsieur The chevalier de Chaon; and we remained two days in the harbor, waiting for favorable winds, For that matter, those two days were quite sufficient to give us a foretaste of the tediousness of our voyage. The mere sight of the Ste. Barbe, where we were to sleep while crossing the sea, was a revelation to all, but to me more than the others. It is a room about the size of the Rhetoric class-room at Bordeaux, where a double row of frames was swung up, which were to serve as beds for the passengers, subaltern officers, and gunners. We were packed into this dismal and noisome hold like so many sardines in a Barrel. We could make our way to our hammocks only after sustaining sundry bumps and knocks on limbs and head. A sense of delicacy forbade our disrobing, and our clothes, in time, made our backs ache. The rolling and pitching loosened the fastenings of our hammocks and hopelessly entangled them. On one occasion I was pitched out with my bed upon a poor Canadian officer, whom I caught, although unintentionally, as if I had been a rat-trap. It was quite a time before I could extricate myself from ropes and [Page 225] counterpane; meanwhile the officer had scarcely breath enough left to give vent to his profanity. After the very first day’s experience of the Ste. Barbe, one of the missionaries broke down, and Reverend father De Lauzon began to fear that if we were obliged, by the rough weather, to go ashore, the disconsolate man could never bring himself to set foot on board again. Another disagreeable feature was the company we were thrown in with, day and night.
Monseigneur our Bishop reached La Rochelle, after people there had ceased to expect him, and embarked with us. He brought a dozen abbés, whom he had collected from the streets of paris, and at the doors of the Churches — people, most of whom were ignorant and uneducated, who thought that they had a right to insult every one else. They quarreled continually among themselves, and even dared to assail the ship’s officers; and they would have been placed in irons, if it had not been for the respect entertained for the prelate. We shunned those people as much as possible, and banded together with three priests of St. Sulpice, men of intelligence and of rare piety. Messieurs the officers were very attentive. We were indeed bearers of many recommendations to them from Monsieur de Maurepas. They made a great difference between us and the suite of The bishop; and the prelate admitted that they had reason to do so. A third disagreeable feature was the vermin and the stench.
We had on board a hundred soldiers freshly Enrolled, each one of whom carried with him a whole Regiment of “picardie.” In less than a [Page 227] week, those ravenous “picards” migrated in all directions. No one was Free from their attacks, not even the Bishop or the captain, Every time we went on Deck, we could see that we were covered with this vermin. We found them even in our shoes. Another center for the lice, and a source of infection, were eighty smugglers who had already passed a twelvemonth in the prisons; they also sent out swarms of marauders. These wretched beings would have caused the heart of a Turk to melt with pity. They were half naked and covered with sores; some even were eaten alive with worms. We clubbed together and made a collection on board to buy them shirts from the sailors who had them to spare. All that we could do did not prevent the outbreak among them of a kind of pest, which spread throughout the ship, attacking all indiscriminately, and which carried off: twenty of our men at a stroke. So those of the officers and passengers who were not down with it were obliged to work the ship instead of the sailors. Reverend father de Lauson was made boatswain’s mate for the Ecclesiastics. This sickness afforded a fine field for our zeal. Father Aulneau distinguished himself by his assiduity in serving the sick. God preserved him in health during the passage across, for the good of the ship, but scarcely had he set foot on shore, when in turn he was stricken down and brought by two different attacks to death’s door. No one could tell now that i he had been sick. I was the only Jesuit who had nothing to suffer, not even from seasickness.
We reached Quebec on the 16th of august, that is to say, the eightieth day from the time of our embarking. It is one of the longest trips on record [Page 229] from france to Canada. What kept us so long at sea was that we always had contrary winds and so violent that we had to change our foretopmast when off Shore near the grand bank. We were eight days tempest- tossed, unable to carry a shred of sail; our ship, like a mere skiff, became the plaything of the billows, and the seas dashed over the gunwale as if it had been a shell. A pirate or an English man-of-war would have made short work of us, had they attacked us ’ at the time we had so many sick on board. We seemed, however, safe from. alarms of that kind, The size of our ship struck fear into all whom we met; we frightened even one of the King’s vessels we came across at the grand bank. They caught sight of us 7 hours before we noticed them, They immediately bore away; but the wind was not to their liking, and as we sailed faster we overhauled them about 3 in the afternoon, and relieved them of further apprehension. Their ship was the Charante, commanded by Monsieur de la Sauzaie. He sent an officer with “naval refreshments,” that is, liqueurs. We had a good laugh over their fright; but had they been enemies they would have had more reason to make fun of us, for they had had the decks cleared for action since eight in the morning, and we had not a cannon in position to fire.
At last the fatigues and dangers of the sea are past, and nothing but what is pleasant awaits me. Reverend father de Lauzon means to send me to the mission of Saut St. Louis, where he himself Spent 17 years. I shall reach there in a fortnight. It is the most agreeable and flourishing mission of Canada. The number of Christian savages there is nearly twelve hundred. I will be associated with [Page 231] father Labretonniere and a brother. Father Degonner leaves the Saut, where his services are not of much use, as he has great difficulty in applying himself to the study of the Iroquois language. Father Aulneau is to pass the winter at Quebec, there to prepare his examination of the 4th year [of theology]. He may next spring set out with an expedition to discover the western sea, for the court is absolutely determined to have concerning it more than a mere conjecture. The french who returned this year from the upper country have informed us that the savages told them that, eleven hundred leagues from Quebec, there are white people wearing beards who are subjects of a King; that those people built their houses like those of the french; that they had horses and other domestic animals. Might they not be Tartars or stragglers from japan? The Savages spoke about the french to these nations, and they were delighted to learn that in Canada there was a white nation bearded like themselves. “The french, to all appearance, are our brothers,” they said, “and we would like to see them. Invite them to come here among us.” If this story be true, there is there another grand opening for the Gospel. But we cannot count much on the sincerity of the Canadians [Indians] who have spread this report, for there is no country in the world where more lying is done than in Canada. The war is still carried on against what remains of the Renard nation, and against the other tribes which have taken them under their protection. Father Guignas was not taken, as it was feared, but he has had much to suffer, for nothing can be sent him safely. For two consecutive years the provisions sent him have fallen [Page 233] into the enemy’s hands. Father Deblonfont, whom we expected from the province of Lyons, and who had set out from that city for la Rochelle, has not made his appearance in Canada. We do not know what has become of him. It is surmised that father de Laneuville has enticed him away to the mission of the islands. We stand, however, in much need of laborers: if a dozen came over next year, we would not have too many. I intend to stir them up in the home province by my letters, so as to have a good levy. I am writing to some of the willing ones among our Jesuits who formerly spoke to me about their vocation to the missions Etrangères. I am sure that they will have every facility with your Reverence in carrying out their design, I stand as much in need of your Holy prayers as ever, and earnestly ask you for them. I beg you to believe that I will be for life, with the most profound Respect,
my Reverend father,
most humble and
of the society of Jesus.
Quebec, October 20, 1734.
Letter from reverend father Aulneau, Jesuit
missionary, written from Canada to Rever-
end Father faye, of the same Society,
Quebeck, April 25, 1735.
y Reverend Father,
The Peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am happy to take advantage of the last moments I am to pass at Quebek to send you one more token of my respect and attachment, and to thank you beforehand for all the letters, news, and whatever else I asked you to send me over from france. I suppose that my mother sent you the one hundred francs; and that you were able, without putting yourself out too much, to make the purchase I had taken the liberty to trouble you with in my second letter. Should you not have been able to do so, I am not the less sensible of your kindness. I am about to add 1,200 leagues to the distance which already separates us. Reverend father de Lauzon sends me alone to discover other savages whom not one of us has yet set eyes on, of whom we have heard only through the assiniboels and cristinaux, and who dwell 300 leagues beyond the two latter nations. It will be among the last mentioned, however, that I shall pass the winter, 900 leagues from Quebek, as it will be impossible before then to push farther into the heart of the country. To the tribe which is to be the ultimate object of my mission, they have given the name of ouad chipouanes — [Page 237] that is, “those who dwell in holes;” until now, they have remained unknown to the rest of men, Thus, if our good God so wills it, and preserves my life, I shall be the first to bear to them the tidings of the gospel. you can easily imagine that I shall not be in a position to undertake with any hope of success, at the outset, their instruction, I must first set about learning their language, and I have nothing which can be of any assistance to me in that study. It will only be by dint of frequent conversation with them that I shall, with our Lord’s help, manage little by little to compile grammars which may be of use to the missionaries who will come after me. I have been commissioned to do the same for The language of the cristinaux and assiniboels, among whom the french have been but a short time, and who have scarcely ever heard mention made of Jesus Christ, for they have come in contact with but a few of the french, and these few have picked up here and there but a word or so of their language. I am directed not to remain permanently with these tribes, because they rove about and have no fixed dwelling-place. On the contrary, the ouant-chipouanes, if what is said of them be true, have permanent establishments, and consequently there is a better promise of doing good among them. Such, my reverend father, is the undertaking confided to my care. It is certainly beyond my strength and would call for a degree of virtue far higher than I possess; for there I will be for at least three or four years without the least spiritual succor, and removed several hundred leagues from any other priest. You will not find it difficult to comprehend that it is the severest trial I could meet with in life. I confess that I can only [Page 239] look upon my destination with fear and trembling for my eternity. What reassures me is that it is not through any choice of mine that I find myself thus exposed to so many dangers. I even did what I could to have another missionary appointed to accompany me. I succeeded to the extent of having one promised me, if they send one over from france, and some are expected this year. Seven or eight of our missions had lately to be suppressed for want of evangelical laborers, and there are others where there is but one missionary, and one is not enough to work with fruit. When an occasion presents itself, plead hard, my reverend father, in behalf of our missions, for although missionaries here do not find as much comfort and consolation as in many other countries, these are not wholly wanting, while they will find here more numerous occasions than elsewhere of suffering and of becoming more like their model, Jesus Christ crucified. So true is this, my reverend father, that most of the persons of whom providence makes use for the conversion of the poor Barbarians are men in whom we see reproduced all that virtue and saintliness which the society admires in the most holy of her children. I have met with them nearly all this winter, and the striking example they have given me of zeal, recollectedness, self-denial, and interior union with God has, through our Lord’s mercy, awakened in my heart a true and sincere desire to make every effort I can to imitate them. Would that it were possible for me to make known to you all that has edified me in the lives of some of them, for I am sure you would be moved even to tears. I know one among others to whom I opened my heart and who honored me also with his [Page 241] confidence. I had occasion to admire all that I had heard and read of in the lives of the most eminent for sanctity in the society.
We lost during the winter father Guênier, of the province of france. We still deplore his loss,. and if the sanctity of his life did not inspire us with the utmost confidence that he is now engaged praying for us in heaven, we should give a freer vent to our tears.
He was a man of unwearied zeal and of great mortification and prayer. He had a most tender devotion to the blessed Virgin, and it might be said that it was in some sort his very devotedness to the mother of God which was the cause of his death. Worn out with fatigue and labors, persuasion was used to induce him to take some rest and to intrust to another the duty of preaching on the feast of the assumption of our lady. But he gave for reason of his persistent desire to preach that he believed that it would be the last sermon of his life, and that he would be happy before dying to give once more some further proof to the blessed virgin of his devotion and love. I had the happiness of listening to him, two days after we landed, and it was one of the best delivered, most Beautiful, and impressive sermons that I ever heard. It was indeed the last he preached, and during the short time he passed on earth after it, he set us the example of every kind of virtue. It was my privilege to watch at his bedside for two nights during his last illness, and consequently to be witness of the Admirable sentiments to which he gave expression. They were such, my reverend father, as we read of in the lives of St. Louis de Gonzague [Aloysius) and St. [Page 243] Stanislaus. The whole country round mourned for him as for an apostle. During an entire day that he lay exposed after death, there was no one who did not come to bedew the coffin with his tears, or to beg him to be an intercessor in his behalf before God. Had a watch not been set, his clothes would have been cut up for relics. As it was, and in spite of every precaution, this could not altogether be prevented, and he was shorn of nearly all his hair. We were obliged, willingly or not, to take everything he had ever made use of and distribute it among the people. Pray God, my reverend father, to grant me a death as precious in his sight as we have reason to believe was that of this saintly Jesuit. I shall be exposed to many perils; raise your hands sometimes to heaven to obtain for me all necessary grace to undergo the hardships which providence may hold in reserve for me for my sanctification. I remain, my reverend father, with profound respect, and in union with your holy sacrifices,
Your very humble and
very obedient servant,
J. P. AULNEAU,
of the society of Jesus.
Four Letters To Father Bonin
CCVL. — Lettre du Reverend Père Aulneau, missionnaire de la compagnie du jésus, ecritte du Canada au reverend père Bonin de la même compagnie. A Quebek, le 29 avril 1735
CCVIL. — Lettre du père Aulneau au reverend père Bonin, A monreal, le 12 Juin 1735
CCVIII. — Lettre du reverend père nau, missionnaire de la compagnie de jésus, ecritte au R. p. Bonin de la même compagnie. Au Sault St. Louis, le 2 octobre 1735
CCIX. — Lettre du reverend père Aulneau de la Compagnie de Jésus au R. P. Bonin. Au fort St Charle, ches les Kriistinaux, le 30 Avril 1736
Sources: We follow apographs in the archives of St. Mary’s College, Montreal, for our translation of these four documents, we follow in the main an English version by Father A. E. Jones. [Page 247]
Letter from Reverend Father Aulneau, missionary
of the society of jesus, written from
Canada, to reverend father Bonin,
of the same society.
y Reverend Father,
The peace of our Lord Jesus christ.
The lively interest you always took in what concerned me While I was in france encourages me to think that you will be glad to learn what my destination is, now that I am so far from you. It may be that it will make you tremble as much as I do for my salvation. If anything gives me confidence it is that I have had no hand in it myself. Reverend father de Lauzon, my superior, has singled me out for The mission, to which he sends me without consulting me, in spite of my natural repugnance. God’s holy will be Praised; for he alone will now be my consolation, and whatever help I count upon will be derived from Jesus expiring on the cross. I am, then, my reverend father, about to set out on a journey of twelve hundred leagues, to go among savages who have never yet met a frenchman or a missionary. I cannot reach their country this summer; I shall be obliged to pass the coming winter nine hundred leagues from here, part of the time with the christinaux and part of the time with the wandering tribes of the assiniboels, who, in their expeditions, so they tell us, have met these savages whom I [Page 249] am to Seek Out — They call them in Their Language ouant chipouanes, which means “dwellers in holes.” Doubtless in all this traveling about I shall have to undergo many hardships; they would have been more than Welcome had it been Deemed advisable to give me as companion another Jesuit, but I am to be sent alone among these tribes, whose language as well as whose manner of living are unknown. I humbly confess, my reverend father, that it was not without a pang that I brought myself to obey. May God accept the sacrifice I make to Him of my life and of all human consolations for the expiation of my sins. My hope is that he will not abandon me, while I find in the consideration of Jesus Christ crucified enough to strengthen me to bear with all the hardships, and to overcome all the difficulties which providence may have in store for me. I shall be removed several hundred leagues from any other priest, and in that lies the greatest hardship of all my mission, because I am far from flattering myself that I shall seldom Need to cleanse my soul in the blood of Jesus Christ. But God seems to require of me the sacrifice of this very consolation. I can refuse Him nothing; let his holy name be forever Blessed. To reach my final destination I shall have to cross nearly the whole of north america; but my course is so ordered that, instead of passing by The Mississipi river, when I have got as far as missilimakinac, where father Saint pé is stationed, I shall take A northwest direction, and shall traverse all the great Lakes which lie on this aide and beyond the sources of the Mississipi, until I come to the Lake of the assiniboels. I shall leave that post only in The spring, to journey [Page 251] on three or four hundred Leagues beyond, in quest of the Ouant chipouanes, so that my course then will he southwest. Such, my Reverend father, is the route I shall follow toward an objective point which you see is Very indefinite and uncertain, since all we know about it is founded on the reports of other savages, who, for The most part, have little scruple in speaking differently from what they think. If what they add concerning The Place where the ouant chipouanes dwell be true, I should say that these cannot be very far from California, for, if we are to believe their reports, the ouant chipouanes dwell on the Shores of a great river where there is an ebb and flow in the stream, which would go to show that the sea cannot be very far off. It is not easy to determine what river this is. I am led to surmise, however, that it is no other than the great river which father Kino, a German Jesuit, mentions in the map which he traced of the regions lying to the north of california, and Which he calls the “rio Colorado” or “del norté.” See the fifth collection of the Lettres édifiantes. Whatever be the truth relative to these conjectures and to the place where these savages dwell, I am deputed to go in quest of them, and to establish a mission among them if it be possible. All this, my reverend father, is much beyond my strength, wherefore I have placed myself and whatever betides my enterprise in the hands of our Lord. Beg Him to prepare me for every eventuality according to his holy and divine will. Do not forget, either, to send me some nourishment for my soul; nothing could please me more than what You might suggest, by way of encouragement, to animate me to serve and [Page 253] love him who alone deserves our Service and our love. Father Nau is permanently stationed at The Iroquois mission of Sault St. Louis, near monreal. We are Much afraid that father Guignas has been taken and burned by a tribe of savages called the rénards; but in this unfortunate country we should set little value on our own lives which are so often in peril. I should deem myself happy were I judged worthy of laying mine down for the one from whom I received It. I commend myself to your Holy Sacrifices, in union with which I am, my reverend father,
very humble and
very obedient servant,
Quebek, april 29, 1735.
Letter from father Aulneau to reverend father
y Reverend Father,
The peace of Our Lord Jesus christ.
I eagerly take advantage of the remaining moments I have to spend in monreal to write to you a second, and perhaps the last, time in my life. I leave to-morrow for the Woods. In a former letter I told you what was to be the object of my mission; allow me, my reverend father, to commend it again to your holy sacrifices. As for the missionary, I am convinced you will not be unmindful of him at the altar. We received, a few days ago, news of father Guignas; since 1732 he had not been heard from. He is in a helpless state. The hunger he has had to endure, the imminent danger to which he has been continually exposed, of being massacred by the sakis and the renards, and numberless other hardships, borne heroically, have brought him so low, that even the savages, who have little pity for US, are forced to look upon him with feelings of compassion. We are, however, in the impossibility of attempting anything for his relief, owing to the scarcity of missionaries. Pray God, my reverend father, to send laborers to this needy mission. Another cause of anxiety for us is that father Nau was laid up last spring with a violent attack of the gout — I beg you to send me the reckonings of the eclipses of Sun and moon visible in france and america. You will thereby [Page 257] Greatly oblige me. I shall endeavor to turn them to account, to the best of my ability, in determining the Longitudes of the new regions to which providence is sending me. I shall communicate whatever observations I may think likely to be received by you with satisfaction. For that matter, I cannot expect to receive before three or four years what I now take the liberty of asking from you, owing to the great distance which separates us. I remain, my reverend father, with the most profound respect, and in union with your holy sacrifices,
Your most humble and
most obedient servant,
J. P. Aulneau,
Jes., Ind. Miss.
June 12, 1735, [Page 259]
Letter by reverend father nau, missionary of
the society of jesus, written to Reverend
father Bonin, of the same society.
y Reverend Father,
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I question much whether The Letter I had the honor of writing you last year gave you more pleasure than yours afforded me. Several ships had already arrived from france, and had brought letters to nearly all our missionaries, and not one brought a single word to my address, although my post is one of the nearest to Quebec. Imagine my joy When a letter was handed me from the one of all persons in the world whom I esteem most, and to whom I am most deeply indebted! The good opinion you entertain of me covers me with confusion and strengthens my endeavors to become all that you fondly suppose me to be already, and, in fact, that I should be. I feel the Need of being spurred on in the accomplishment of my duties. Although I am here surrounded by holy missionaries, and have continually before my eyes perfect models of virtue, I am still full of defects. This year, I am in a position to speak to you of Canada with more certainty than last year. The climate is salubrious, the quality of The soil excellent, but the natives are indolent. The winter is not so severe as we are told in france. We Never experience more than 3 or 4 days in succession of extreme cold. The [Page 261] thaws have been of such frequent occurrence this year that the drawing of fire-wood was accomplished with difficulty. More precautions against the cold are taken here than in france. We are warmly clad, and our apartments are heated with stoves. All in all, I suffered every year more from cold in france than in Canada. My health is of the best, were it not for a violent attack of gout I suffered after easter, and which laid me up for a month and a half. Even now I have a twinge every day, but that does not prevent me from going about, nor was it The cold that brought it on. I had already felt its approach while yet in france. To speak correctly, we have but two seasons here, — winter and summer. In this mission The winter is shorter by a full month than at Quebec. We are in fact forty leagues more toward the south. Sault Saint Louis is not to be found marked on the maps; this is not surprising, as it is only since these maps were made that our mission has grown into an important village. Our Latitude is 45 degrees and 30 minutes, and we are distant three leagues and a half from the town of Monreal, which lies to the northeast, on the other bank of The river. It is imagined in france that the Iroquois, who formerly treated with so much cruelty the french whom they made captives in war, must be of ferocious aspect, and that their very sight and name would strike terror into all who encounter them. This is pure fancy. Generally speaking, you could find nowhere finer looking men. The Savages are of better build than the french, but side by side with the Iroquois other savages seem dwarfed. Nearly all the men of our mission are nearer six feet in height than five. Their [Page 263] countenance is in keeping with Their stature, and their features are regular. The children especially are diminutive types of the picturesque, Transparency of color being alone wanting. Their complexion is of an Olive tint, but not so tawny as that of other tribes, not differing much from that of the Portuguese I have met even in the streets of bourdeaux any number of men darker than Our Iroquois. They would for the most part be as clear-complexioned as the french, were it not for the effects of the Smoke in their cabins, which is so dense that I fail to understand how they do not lose their sight. The costume of the Iroquois is different from that of the other savage tribes. Their hair is trimmed somewhat like that of the Récollet fathers, with This difference, that they raise in a bunch The hair of the crown by means of a kind of wax mixed with vermilion, and Allow 3 or 4 hairs to protrude above, to which they fasten a porcelain bead or so, or a feather of some bird seldom met with. Over the shirt they usually wear a garment of french fashion, with lace sewed on all the seams. When the weather is cold, or on gala-days, they wear a cloth mantle, an ell and a half square, the lower border of which is trimmed with 8 or 9 bands of lace. Their mitasse, that is their Leggings, are adorned with ribbons and a variety of flowers embroidered with elk-hair dyed red or yellow. These are made to fit closely, the better to show off the elaborate finish of the work. Their moccasins are of smoke-dried deerskin. Some wear silk Stockings and shoes of french make and silver buckles. Among The savage nations all the women are dressed alike. you have no doubt seen The likeness of the holy maiden, Catherine Tégah-Kouita, [Page 265] who died in the odor of sanctity; all the savage women are similarly dressed.
As for the question of morality, The Iroquois and hurons are more inclined to the practice of virtue than other nations; they are the only savages capable of refined feelings; all the others are to be set down as Cowardly, ungrateful, and voluptuous. If there were no french in Canada, we would have as many saints in our mission as we now have Christians; but the bad example and solicitations of the french are a Very great obstacle to the sanctification of our Iroquois. Although it be forbidden under the severest penalties to give brandy to the savages, and although, during the last two months, exemplary punishment has been meted out to four frenchmen, one of whom was condemned to the galleys, two to be whipped by the public Executioner, and the other to be fastened to the carcan for having carried on this illicit trade, still our savages find all the brandy they want, and as soon as they are drunk they are capable of any crime. Not three months ago, an algonquin, in A drinking-bout, killed with three stabs of a knife a poor soldier who was quietly working in a house at monreal. Arrested on the spot, the algonquin thought he would escape punishment because he was drunk and did not know what he was doing. He was condemned notwithstanding to be hanged; but as The executioner was away he was killed by a blow on the bead. Should any one of our savages make his appearance in The village while in a state of intoxication, he is obliged to submit to a public penance. He is to remain kneeling outside the church during mass, and the other prayers made in common, for 10 or 12 days, according [Page 267] to the gravity of The scandal given. Drunkenness is the great Vice Of the savage; but, thank God, we have Many who never touch intoxicating Liquor of any kind. Those who do Drink do not do so often, and, taking all into consideration, our Iroquois are much better Christians than the french.
Before giving you an account of the exercises of our mission, I must tell you, my reverend father, how I was adopted into The Iroquois nation. It is a necessary formality, for a missionary would not be an acceptable person in the village were he not a member of the tribe. Two months after my arrival, I invited the elders to a banquet. The spread consisted of a whole carcass of Beef, bread in proportion, two boisseaux of peas, and a quantity of tobacco. When all were assembled, Reverend father de Lauzon, who had lived many years in this mission, made a Long speech for me. Three Iroquois orators answered in turn. When the speechmaking was over, one of the elders arose and announced that a name must be given to the “black robe,” for this is the appellation by which the Jesuit missionaries are known. After having gone over all the names of former missionaries, he determined that I should hereafter be called hatériate, and I now go by no other name in the village. Ask God in your prayers to give me the grace of realizing to The fullest extent of its signification, — for hatériata in Iroquois means “The Brave,“ — the magnanimous man. It now remained to assign me to a lodge, and to adopt me into a family. I had the honor of being enrolled in The family of the bear. You must know that in the village there are three families: that of the bear, that of the wolf, and that of the tortoise. [Page 269] All new-comers are made members of one of these three families. The family of the tortoise has become so numerous that it has been divided into the great and the little tortoise.
And now let me say something about the exercises of the mission. At daybreak, Be it in winter or summer, father de la Bretonnière says the first mass, at which all those assist who have to go out to the fields to work. They recite Their morning prayers, and then The beads, in two choirs. An hour later, I say the every-day mass, for the whole village, during Which The prayers and hymns of the church in keeping with the season are sung in two choirs also. After the mass, I gather the children together in The church and make them recite their morning prayers, and then teach the boys how to serve mass. About nine o’clock, father de la Bretonnière puts the adults who have not yet been Baptized through their catechism. The remainder of the day is spent going about visiting the sick and in deciding disputes which may have arisen in The cabins. An hour before sunset, I assemble the children again in the church for their evening prayers and for the recitation of Their catechism. As soon as the children are dismissed The men and women repair to The church for the recitation of their prayers in common. On sundays and festivals I am in the confessional until ten in the morning, when I sing high mass, after Which I preach to the french, for I have charge of a french parish, and there is no other church than that of the mission. Other members of our french population, who flock from all sides to the tomb of the servant of God, Catherine Tegah Kouita, to accomplish the Vows [Page 271] made in time of sickness, keep me quite busy. At one in the afternoon, father de la Bretonniere assembles in turn the savages who are members of The sodality of The blessed virgin and those who belong to the congregation of the holy family, to give them a short exhortation. We have, as you see, in the Village two associations, — The sodality and the holy family. To be qualified to become a member of The holy family, one must have passed through the sodality and have given unmistakable proofs of fervor, for its members are all really devout souls and, to say the least, are as worthy members as are those in france. Several Practice austerities which Many a religious would hesitate to undergo. At four in the afternoon vespers are sung, after which benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is always given. There could be nothing more decorous than the behavior of our savages while in church and during their other devotional exercises; the very sight inspires devotion. Father Aulneau, who happened to be here on the feast of Corpus Christi, could not restrain his tears of joy and devotion while the procession lasted. All our warriors were in their war accouterments with The exception of the bearers of the canopy and the chanters. The women and children followed in symmetrical order, most pleasing to the beholder. Three shrines had been prepared at intervals where the blessed Sacrament was set down, and at each halt a volley of musketry was fired and five Mortars discharged.
For our savages singing is a necessary adjunct, as they are incapable of prolonged mental application and it is on this account that all their Prayers are [Page 273] set to music; really, it would b e a great pity were it not so, they succeed so admirably. I often wished that Reverend father Landreau, who is so fond of well-executed church music, could be present at our high masses; it would be a greater treat for him than anything he has Yet listened to. The men who lead off with The first verses he might take for a choir of a hundred Cordeliers, and the women for some great Community of nuns. But what am I saying? Neither cordeliers nor nuns ever sang as do our Iroquois men and women. Their voices are both mellow and sonorous, and Their ear so correct that they do not miss a half-tone in all the church hymns, which they know by heart. Our Iroquois, like all the other savage tribes, with the exception of the Sioux, are sedentary. They raise horses, pigs, poultry, and other domestic animals as do our own people. The men leave us about the end of september, each taking his own road to The hunting- grounds of the deer and beaver, nor do they return to the village before the month of february. Others go on the war-path. We have actually forty warriors out on expeditions to strike at other tribes. Their weapons are ever ready, for they take the part of the french in every quarrel with The other savage nations, — indeed, The Iroquois of Sault St. Louis are looked upon as the most Warlike of all the american tribes; but this is no proof of their Valor. Their mode of warfare is but stratagem and surprise, Their encounters are mere attempts at assassination. They fight bravely then only when they know that the sole alternative lies between victory or death. Our people have a war on their hands this long time with A Savage tribe called the renards. It has [Page 275] been in a very slight degree successful, through the impossibility in which our troops are of ever overtaking Them in sufficient numbers to destroy Them. Last year, ninety of our young men joined the french expedition against the renards; but after inconceivable hardships and a journey of more than seven hundred leagues, Their guides led them astray, and they were obliged to make their way back without having caught sight of The enemy save in one instance. A party of twenty-three savages, nearly all of our mission, and seven frenchmen had somehow become separated from The main body when they found themselves suddenly surrounded by a war-party of two hundred renards. Our men would have been destroyed, had it not been for The resolution of the Iroquois captain. “We are all dead men,” he said, “if we surrender. There is no help for it; we have to sell our lives as dearly as we can. Let us show these renards that we are Iroquois and frenchmen.” Whereupon he led his Warriors to the attack. The enemy could not withstand the first onslaught, but retreated precipitately to their fort. Thirty renards were laid low and ten taken prisoners; our party lost but two frenchmen and one savage.
The majority of the adults whom we instruct for baptism in the village are slaves taken in war. I had The consolation of administering this sacrament to two, and Reverend father de la Bretonniere to four, during the past year; a dozen or so yet remain, who will receive Baptism at Christmas, It thus happens that it is our warriors who contribute Most to the increase of The mission. The five. [Page 277] Iroquois nations, who are with the English, are visibly on the decrease, on account of their incessant quarrels and the use of Intoxicants supplied by The english. It is for this reason that The more provident abandon a country where they cannot live peaceably, and come to settle among us. Others who are accused of witchcraft are also obliged to take refuge at Sault St. Louis, otherwise they would be put out of the way at The first opportunity, A family of agnie Iroquois have come but lately to settle in our village. It is thus that the devil Himself unwillingly becomes The occasion of the salvation of these wretched fugitives by making it less difficult for them to embrace Christianity. The instruction of the slaves is our hardest task, for they seldom learn The Language Well, and it is very hard to make Them understand what we would have Them know. We have had here in The mission for the last ten years a savage woman of the renard nation, and she does not yet know how to speak Iroquois. Iroquois and huron are The only two difficult languages; we must, however, be familiar with Them both in our mission, because all the prayers are in huron. These two Languages have A common origin, but differ from each other as much as french and Spanish. All our savages understand huron, and prefer It to Iroquois, although The pronunciation is not so pleasing to the ear. Hence it is that they do not care to recite their prayers in Their own native Tongue. I told you that I taught the children Their catechism, manuscript in hand of course, for after ten months of study I cannot be very proficient in Iroquois. I am beginning [Page 279] nevertheless to understand and to make myself understood, but I would not dare yet to speak in public.
You expressed the wish, my reverend father, that I should give you all the information possible concerning the Jesuits of our province who are now missionaries in Canada. I shall not be long. Reverend father de Lauzon, superior-general of the mission, is universally esteemed, and with reason, He did his best with our reverend father general to be allowed to resign his office, which is a real burden to Him for more reasons than one, but it was decided that he should complete The ordinary term of six years. So we shall not have Him back in our Mission before their expiration. Father Chardon has been stationed for the last two years at The residence of monreal; he is looked upon as one of the most holy Jesuits sent out to canada. Father Guignas is in the Sioux country, at a little french fort with but six men with Him. Scarcely a month ago The marquis de Beauharnois, governor-general of new france, sent twenty-two men in four canoes with supplies of which he stood absolutely in need, for The Sioux refuse to provide for Him. It is not at all certain that The relief-party will reach him without molestation, their route lying close to the country of the renards. Father Saint pé, who has for companion father du Jaunay, an old fellow- student of mine at nantes, will return next year from missilimakinac, to take charge of the men’s sodality at monreal. Father de La Richardie spent the winter at Quebec, where he did a world of Good by the two general retreats he preached. The mention of this Reverend father’s name reminds me that I must take back what I wrote you last Year. [Page 281] when as Yet I was not well informed of what concerns the hurons. I said that there were no other Christian hurons than those of Lorette. In fact, Seven Years ago there were no others; but father de La Richardie found means to gather. together at detroit The dispersed hurons, all of whom he converted. The mission numbers six hundred Christians. Detroit, at the forty-second degree of Latitude, is situated between Lake huron, and Lake hérié This stretch of country is the Finest in canada; there is scarcely any winter, and all kinds of fruit grow there as well as they do in france. There is question of Building a town there. Seventy french families are already on the spot, and there is a fort and garrison of which the reverend Récollet fathers are chaplains. Father de gonor is at The mission of Lorette, but he is subject to frequent attacks of sickness. Father Aulneau, as robust as he is courageous, has set out for The western sea; he will arrive there only next summer. The first missionary who lands from france will go to keep Him company, otherwise he would not be able to remain there Long alone, as he will be four hundred Leagues distant from father Guignas, who is his nearest neighbor. I had a pretty Long conversation with Monsieur La Verandrie, who is in command of The three most western forts. I understood from the interview that not much reliance can be placed on what he says concerning White, bearded savages. The western sea would have been discovered long ago if people had wished It. Monsieur The Count de Maurepas is right when he says that The officials in Canada are looking not for The western sea but for The sea of beaver. It is to be hoped that father. [Page 283] Aulneau will find more docile savages than The outaouais and The Sioux, among whom fathers Saint Pé and Guignas are laboring with little success. They have managed to convert but a few old men and women who are beyond the age of sinning. The greatest Good they can effect is to Baptize children when they think they are on the point of death; those who recover seldom fail later to fall away from the faith. Let me know on what particular points you desire information concerning canada and our mission more especially, and I shall endeavor to satisfy your pious curiosity. Not a day goes by without my begging Our Lord to shower down his choicest graces on the one who was instrumental in procuring for me The greatest of Blessings, — in having me received into the Society. Pray for me in turn unceasingly, and for my mission.
I have The honor to remain with the most profound respect, in union with your holy sacrifices,
My reverend father,
Your most humble and
L. F. Nau,
of the Society of Jesus.
Sault St. Louis, October 2, 1735.
Letter from Reverend father Aulneau, of the
Society of Jesus, to Reverend Father Bonin.
Fort St. Charle, among the
Kiristinaux, April 30, 1736.
y Reverend Father,
The letters I had the honor to write to you last Year, 1735, caused you, no doubt, some surprise. I therein took the liberty of asking you for certain things which my lack of experience in the missions, whither Providence has called me, and I know not what fancy, alone could have suggested, nor should I be at all surprised if you paid no attention to those requests. Let me ask you to pardon me for all the trouble and annoyance I may have caused you. The wandering life I must needs lead would prevent me from carrying about anything but what is strictly indispensable. Moreover, the money which was to be remitted to you would have scarcely sufficed to buy a quarter of all I asked your reverence. Once more, my Reverend Father, pardon me my want of discretion.
I reached fort St. Charle October 23rd, 1735. I had set out from the Iroquois mission of Saut Saint Louis, June zest, the feast of Saint Louis de Gonzague, under whose protection I believe Providence intended that I should place myself, and thus foreordaining that the day of my departure and of my complete separation from all that could afford me [Page 287] any satisfaction should, contrary to all probabilities, be delayed until the festival of that great saint, With the assistance of so powerful a protector I enjoyed perfect health to the end of my journey. There are, counting from . . .  hundred leagues, nearly all by water and canoe . . . I stopped with Father Saint pé at Missilemakina, . . . I went back fifteen leagues on the distance already covered, so as to take the route by lake superior. I coasted along the lake for the space of two . . . usually following the north, sometimes the west and south- west. . . of lake superior. I struck inland into the region which lies to the north of lake . . . and after having journeyed nearly always on foot, for the space of two or three days, I headed sometimes toward the west, sometimes toward the southwest, and sometimes even toward the south, threading my way among a profusion of lakes. Several of these lakes have a circumference of more than a hundred leagues. From the upper extremity of lake superior to fort Saint Charle, whence I have the honor of writing to you, the distance is set down at three hundred leagues. I journeyed nearly all the way through fire and a thick stifling smoke, which prevented us from even once catching a glimpse of the sun. It was the savages who in hunting had set fire to the woods, without imagining, however, that it would result in such a terrible conflagration. So long a journey through any other country would have been diversified by a number of interesting features calculated to awaken one’s curiosity, but all that was to be met with in this vast region was limited to lakes, rocks, immense forests, savages and a few wild animals, so that, my Reverend Father, I can communicate nothing to you deserving [Page 289] of attention. On One occasion, however, while on the shores Of a large lake which our french call lake de la Croix, and which is about one hundred and twenty leagues from here, I thought I saw a lunar eclipse; it was on the first of October, — If it were truly an eclipse and not merely an effect of the smoke. It ended about nine o’clock at night. I noticed also, on several occasions, especially while on lake Huron, grand displays of the aurora borealis; but incapacity, even more than lassitude, did not admit of my taking observations with sufficient accuracy to give you an adequate idea of them. We have witnessed here throughout the winter the same phenomenon, and scarcely a night has passed but the northern skies have been all aglow with the aurora borealis. And what, my Reverend Father, of fort saint Charle, where I have passed the winter? It is merely an inclosure made with four rows of posts, from twelve to fifteen feet in height, in the form of an oblong square, within which are a few rough cabins constructed of logs and clay and covered with bark. It is about a league in the . . . from 60 to 70 leagues, on the Southwest side of the lake of the Woods. This lake is forty leagues in circumference. Its greatest length is north . . . Several streams put it in communication with other lakes, all of which empty into another which the savages say is larger than . . . They call it ouinipignon. This latter, farther on, gives rise to three . . . rivers which empty into the sea (as well as I can conjecture from what the kristinaux say) beyond port Nelson. It is on the shores of this last lake, about one hundred and fifty leagues from here, that I purpose passing a part of the summer with the Assiniboels, who [Page 291] occupy all the land to the south of it. The lands on the remaining sides are taken up by the Kristinaux, who occupy not only all the northern part as far as the sea; but all the immense stretch of country beginning at the lake of the woods and extending far beyond lake ouinipignon also belongs to them — Some time about the feast of all saints, if it be the will of our good Lord, I intend, with as many of the french as are willing to encounter the same dangers, to join the Assiniboels, who start every Year, just as soon as the streams are frozen over, for the country of the kaotiouak or Autelsipounes to procure their supply of indian corn. It is to evangelize these tribes that my Superiors send me here. From lake Ouinipignon to their country the distance is computed to be two hundred and fifty leagues, but as the party engage in the hunt as they advance, in all likelihood we shall go over more than four hundred. If we manage to reach there in season, I shall not be satisfied with visiting the first. villages of the Koatiouak, but shall push on as far as I can along the shores of the river where they dwell and where the kristinaux say they have seen seals. This would be a sure sign that they are not very far from the sea. Toward the middle of March, I shall leave this place to return to the shores of ouinipignon. I omitted to tell you, my Reverend Father, that fort St. Charles, according to Monsieur de la Jesmeraye, ensign of the detachment of the marine quartered in this country, is situated at 48 degrees 5 minutes. This is all the information, my reverend father, I am able to give you at. present, concerning this wretched country. It may be that I have not expressed myself Correctly, but you will pardon me I am sure. In any case, I do [Page 293] not vouch for the truth of all I have told you, and which I have not learned from personal observation but from the reports of the savages and a few Frenchmen whose experience is but slightly more extensive than my own, At some future date, perhaps, I shall be in a position to give you something more reliable on this vast extent of territory so little known. If I have risked speaking to you at all about these wilds, it was merely to gratify you, As for the savages who dwell here, and especially the Kristinaux, I do not believe that, unless it be by miracle, they can ever be persuaded to embrace the faith; for even not taking into account the fact that they have no fixed abode, and that they wander about the forests in isolated bands, they are superstitious and morally degraded to a degree beyond conception. What is most deplorable is that the demon makes use of the very men who should endeavor to break their bondage to rivet their fetters more firmly. Both English and French, by their accursed avarice, have given them a taste for brandy, and have thus been instrumental in adding to their other vices that of drunkenness; so that brandy is their only topic of conversation, the sole object of their petitions, nor can they ever be counted upon unless they receive enough to get drunk on. The good God has already chastised more than one of Our fellow-countrymen engaged in this infamous traffic by visiting them with financial ruin; but neither the loss of temporal goods nor the fear of losing God in eternity has as yet availed to abolish so shameful a trade. This, my Reverend father, constitutes one of the greatest crosses which the missionaries have to endure here; it has brought about the destruction [Page 295] of several flourishing missions, and has induced many a savage to cast aside every semblance of religion. There were a certain number of Monsonis, neighbors of the Kristinaux, and not a few other Savages among those who dwell about the upper end of lake superior, who had received holy Baptism, and who have been replunged through drunkenness into their former superstitions. I must, however, say, in justice to the French with whom I have journeyed, that they have not mingled in this infamous traffic; and that in spite of all the reiterated demands of the savages They have preferred to ignore all offers of barter from the tribes than give them brandy in exchange. Notwithstanding the shameful vices of these poor infidels, God has allowed them still to retain certain notions which, perhaps, might help to determine them to range themselves on the side of religion, They acknowledge the immortality of the soul. After its separation from the body it goes to join those of the other deceased savages; but these have not all the same dwelling-place — some inhabit enchanting prairies, where all kinds of animals are to be found. These they have no trouble in slaying, and with the viands of the chase they are perpetually regaling one another. No wonder if everywhere, on these plains, you see kettles swung over the fire, and dances and games, — all told, that is their paradise. But before reaching it, there is a spot of extreme peril, — the souls have to cross a wide ditch. On one side of the way, it is full of muddy water, offensive to the smell and covered with scum; while on the other the pit is filled with fire, which rises in fierce tongues of flame. The only means of crossing [Page 297] it is on a fir-tree, the ends of which rest on either bank, Its bark is ever freshly moistened and besmeared with a substance which makes it as slippery as ice. If the souls who wish to cross to the enchanting plains have the misfortune to fall at this dangerous passage, there is no help left; they are doomed forever to drink of the foul, stagnant water, or to burn in the flames, according to the side on which they fall. Such is their hell, and such is their obscure notion of what efforts must be made to secure heaven.
I leave untold a thousand other vagaries, of which, from the little said, you may form a faint idea, nor am I sufficiently versed in the matter, having but a very imperfect knowledge of their language. If it be pleasing to you, I may revert to the subject later on. I am the first missionary who has as yet undertaken to systematize the language of the Kristinaux. All . . . I am not very skillful at it. I have picked up but little during the winter, as all have been out on a warlike expedition against the Maskoutépoéls or prairie scioux. They destroyed a few cabins, and some have returned with a few scalps, which are prized as the most precious trophies of their victories. This war was the occasion for us of much suffering during the winter, as we had no other nourishment than tainted pike, boiled or dried over the fire. The kristinaux are not nearly as numerous as the assiniboels, but they are much braver, or rather much more fierce and cruel. They massacre each other on the most trivial pretext. The war and the hunt are their sole occupations. They are averse to teaching their language to others, so that what little I know has been picked up in spite of them. [Page 299] hope, nevertheless, to announce the gospel to them, before my departure for the Koatiouaks, The demon is the only idol they acknowledge, and it is to him that they offer their outlandish sacrifices. Some have assured me that he has visibly appeared to them. They are in great dread of him, as, according to their own avowal, he is the author of nothing but the ills which befall them. It is for this reason they honor him, while they do not give a thought to God, since he sends them nothing but blessings. They acknowledge having received everything from him, and that he is the author of all things. Wherefore they manifest no surprise when told of his wondrous works, Even the raising of the dead to life would not astonish them. One day, a Monsouis, listening to the story of Lazarus, exclaimed: “Wonderful indeed, that God raised him to life ! He had already given life to him once, could he not give it to him a second time?” When we speak of Christianity to them, one of their standing reasons for not embracing it is, that the Savages were not made for that religion; but the true reason, which they do not wish to avow, is their fear of the demon, and the necessity in which they would be placed of renouncing what they call their religion, which they imagine they could never abandon without immediately being stricken with death. Beg our Lord, my Reverend Father, to enlighten these poor bondsmen of hell, and to touch their hearts. Conjure him especially to send into these vast regions zealous laborers, to announce the gospel to them, and to oblige them, with heaven’s help, to cherish and embrace a religion that they cannot help respecting. I am convinced that if [Page 301] there were five or six missionaries in this region, their efforts would not be fruitless, especially among the Assiniboels and the koatiouaks, who are much more tractable than the others. But what can one poor mortal do in such an extent of country, the very limits of which are as yet unknown:, Scarcely have we fairly entered upon the question of religion with some one of the natives, and commenced to entertain some faint hope of his conversion, than, confronted with the necessity of supplying the wants of life, he has to betake himself to a wandering life in the Woods. There the demon invents a thousand subterfuges to turn him from his purpose, and makes him ashamed that he ever lent an ear to what was said to him about religion. Were there several missionaries here, it would be otherwise. They would be stationed at different points, and could head off, as it were, the roving savage, who, if he escaped from one, would fall into the hands of another. But independently of this, I am altogether too weak and too unworthy to inaugurate a work which would require a missionary of consummate holiness. I submitted this to my superiors before my departure, but my representations were not deemed of any weight. A promise, however, was made to send me a companion this year; if one comes, I hope through the mercy of God that in a few years I shall be able to give you news which will be satisfactory. Before the new missionary can reach me here, I think that I shall have acquired a pretty complete knowledge of the language of the Kristinaux and a smattering of that of the Assiniboels, for Providence has endowed me with a certain facility in mastering these odd jargons. After all, my Reverend Father, what the [Page 303] issue of all these projects will be is known to God alone; and who can tell, perhaps instead of receiving the announcement of their realization you may hear the news of my death. The journey yet before me is one of . . . leagues, even should I not chance to meet With any barbarous treatment or incur the fierce resentment of the savages of the countries through which I have to pass, I place all in God’s hands. I am disposed to offer him with a light heart the sacrifice of my life, It is already too long that I continue to offend him, so it will never be too soon for him to chastise me. I beseech you, my reverend Father, and in spirit I cast myself at your feet to conjure you to remember me in your Holy Sacrifices, me, the most unworthy of creatures. It is in union with these sacrifices that I remain,
most humble and
J. P. Aulneau,
I would beg you, my Reverend Father, to convey the expression of my respect to Reverend Father superior and to all our Reverend Fathers. I recommend myself to their Holy Sacrifices also. As the last canoes are on the point of leaving, I shall not for a long time have another opportunity of writing, I reluctantly close this letter, importuned as I am to finish by those who are to carry it. Please to recommend me often to our Lord at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and be assured that no one can be more respectfully attached to your Reverence than yours, My reverend Father. [Page 305]
Two Letters of 1736
CCX. — Epistola Patris Mathurin le Petit ad R. P. Franciscum Retz, Præpositum Generalem Societatis Jesu, Romæ. [Nouvelle Orleans, 29 Juin 1736]
CCXI. — Lettre écrite par le R. P. Nicolas de Gonnor, À N. Dame de Laurette, 
Sources: For the text of Doc. CCX., we have recourse to an apograph in the archives of St. Mary’s College, Montreal. In publishing Doc. CCXI, we follow an apograph in the archives of St. Mary’s College, Montreal; for our translation, we follow in the main an English version by Father A. E. Jones [Page 307]
Letter of Father Mathurin le Petit, to Reverend
Father Franciscus Retz, General of the
Society of Jesus, at Rome.
ery Reverend Father,
The Louisiana Mission mourns, for it has; this Year been deprived of two Missionaries. On the 6th day of february, Father Gabriel Guymoneau, of the province of france, after 20 years. spent in the Illinois Mission, was carried off by an attack of pleurisy that lasted six days, — to the great regret of all, even of the Indians, whose nature he had already softened by the remarkable purity of his. morals, and the example of all his apostolic virtues.
On palm sunday the fortune of war took from us, Father Senat, of the province of toulouse; he had been in charge of another mission of the Illinois in the same country for 18 months only, but was. already skilled in the language, and was still more remarkable for his zeal. For the purpose of giving spiritual assistance, he accompanied an army composed of french and indians against Barbarians. called tohikakas, who are enemies of this colony. The result of this was unfortunate. Our men were either slain by the enemy or put to flight. Father Senat might, as many had done, have sought safety in flight; but, refusing a horse that was offered him, he preferred yielding to the fury of the barbarians, rather than leave without Spiritual succor the brave head of the army and the french, whom he saw [Page 309] Stretched on the ground through their wounds, or carried off by the enemy. Be could not resist the voice of Charity, or the words of the wounded lying here and there: “Dearest Father, will you forsake us?" The Barbarians, who rushed upon him in a body, as he was kneeling in prayer, were immediately seen showering blows from clubs upon their captive, the prelude to a much greater torture. For no one doubts, although nothing certain has so far reached us, that the Barbarians, according to their custom, shamefully insulted in every manner that victim of zeal and charity; they suspended him, bound, to a frame, and, out of revenge against the French, they immolated him by fire, which was all the more cruel because it burned more slowly. Father Senat had often declared that he desired nothing more ardently than to sacrifice himself, some day, for the Glory of God and the salvation of souls. At the port of La Rochelle, before he embarked for this country, he was heard in the heat of fever, and in a sort of pious delirium, to break out into the following exclamations: “Must I die here? My God! Wilt thou not grant Be to reach my dearest mission, and water it with my blood?”
Mathurin Le Petit, S.J.
[Endorsed: “Letter of Father Mathurin Le Petit to the very Reverend Father General, new Orleans, June 29, 1736. Father Lepetit was then superior of all these missions.“] [Page 311]
Letter written by Reverend Father Nicolas de
My Reverend Father,
Several reasons have induced me to write you this letter: First, to assure you that I have always borne for your Reverence an esteem bordering on veneration, and that my respect and devotedness for you personally are beyond expression. I have more than once reproached myself with not having sooner given you some token of my sentiments in this respect, and for having deferred the accomplishment of this duty, I wish now to express my lasting gratitude for your kindness to me on many occasions, especially while I was an inmate of the Seminary of Luçon, which you governed for so long a time with as much wisdom as success. Another reason for writing you is to beg you to break as gently as possible to Father Aulneau’s mother the news of the death of her dear son, who, we have learned but lately, was slain last May by a party of wandering savages, called the scioux of the prairies, While he was journeying from his own to another mission, with the intention of going to confession and of seeking advice On troubles to which his extreme delicacy of conscience had given rise. He is universally regretted by both the members of the society and by seculars, for he was universally esteemed. Last year, he preached during [Page 313] the Carnival at Kebec, to the great satisfaction of all, those who were not able to attend forming their judgment of him from the testimony of those who were present. The crowd who followed eagerly his sermons were outspoken in their praise. Shortly after, he underwent his fourth year examination [in theology] with ease and all possible success. It was then that he was named to take charge of the most remote and consequently the hardest and the most utterly destitute of all human resources among the various missions of Canada, so much so that during the preceding years two or three persons had died there of hunger. He felt a great repugnance for this post, as he would have to go there alone, unaccompanied by any other missionary, there being too few to spare two for each mission, while some posts even were left vacant; he generously overcame this reluctance through zeal and a love of obedience, much to the admiration of those who knew how painful the sacrifice was; those, on the contrary, who were ignorant of it fancied that he was delighted at the idea of discovering new regions. In fine, my Reverend Father, he was a true Jesuit, and a truly apostolic man. I can speak with more certainty on this point than another, for, as you know, he was my pupil. From his first landing in Canada we became intimate friends, so that we had nothing hidden from each other. I deeply deplore his loss both as a missionary and as a friend. Every one in the mission is in great affliction at losing him, but no one as much as myself. What consoles me is the conviction that if God has. cut short his career it is the sooner to crown his apostolic virtues. He [Page 315] even, it would seem, revealed to him that he would soon receive the reward of his toil, for the Father wrote to me but a fortnight before his death in these terms: “Continue, my dear Father, to pray to God for me, and recommend me to the blessed Virgin; I hope soon to finish my course, but dread lest I finish it badly.” He was surprised with twenty other Frenchmen, but it is not known how they were put to death. No premonitory sign of distrust on the part of the savages was noticed, nor were the victims tortured, as they are wont to be. when prisoners are taken in battle. It is conjectured that they were surprised while asleep, and received their death-blows unawares. The heads of all were then severed from the bodies. It is said, however, that from the position in which the father’s body was found, he must have been on his knees when he was decapitated; and one of the party who found him took possession of his calotte, remarking that, poor as he was, he would not part with it for a thousand escus. Although we entertain no doubts of his eternal happiness, we trust nevertheless that you will give him the benefit of the customary suffrages of the society. If you should yourself see the mother of the dear departed, or if you should write to her, I beg of you to make her understand the share I bear with her in this deep affliction, and that my own grief is too great to allow my offering her any consolation otherwise than by beseeching the God of all comfort to bestow on her the graces she stands in need of to bear the weight of so heavy a blow. Allow me, My Reverend Father, to close here, for my distress overwhelms me. I am, with [Page 317] the most profound respect, in union with your Holy Sacrifices and Prayers,
My Reverend Father,
Your most humble and
most obedient servant,
Missionary of the Hurons
at Notre Dame de Laurette.
Convey, I beg you, the assurance of my great respect to all the Reverend Fathers of the seminary, and in particular to Father Bonin, Father Moreau, and Father Pillex, as I am told they are with you, — without forgetting Father Faure, if he be still there, as I am told. I also very humbly salute the Regents and other gentlemen of the house. [Page 319]
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DATA: VOL. LXVIII
Pierre Laure’s Relation du Saguenay, 1720 à 1730, was dated at Chicoutimi, March 13, 1730. The original MS., in French (a folio of 18 pp.), now rests in the archives of St. Mary’s College, Montreal, The MS., while written in a clear hand, was evidently intended as a first draft, having numerous erasures and interlineations; the writer shows an almost total disregard for accent-marks. This Relation was first published in 1889, by Father Jones, as the initial number of his series of Documents Rares ou Inédits; the following title is a description: “Documents Rares | ou Inédits | I | Mission du Saguenay | Relation Inedite | Du R. P. Pierre Laure, S. J., 1720 à 1730 | précédée de | quelques notes biographiques sur ce missionnaire | par le | P. Arthur E. Jones, S.J.” |
“Montreal | Archives du College Ste Marie | 1889.”
Collation: Title, with verso blank; “Notes Biographiques et, Chronologiques sur le Père Pierre Laure, S. J.,” signed “Arthur Edouard Jones, S. J. Collège Ste-Marie, Montreal, Decembre 1889,” pp. 3-25; text of Relation, pp. 26-72; “Table des Matieres,” pp. i., ii,; “Eriata,” with verso blank. Paper-covered, 8vo.
In the present publication, we have followed the original MS. [Page 321]
This letter of Mathurin le Petit to D’Avaugour, dated at New Orleans, July 12, 1730, we obtain from Lettres édifiantes (Toulouse ed.), tome vii., pp. 1-59.
Doc. CCIV. is a letter of Luc François Nau, addressed to one of the provincials of the order (Quebec, October 20, 1734); CCV. is a letter (dated Quebec, April 25, 1735) by J. Pierre Aulneau to H. Faye; CCVI. and CCVII. are letters written (Quebec, April 12, and Montreal, June 12, 1735, respectively) by Aulneau to Father Bonin; CCVIII. is a letter from Nau to Bonin (Sault St. Louis, October 2, 1735); CCIX. was written by Aulneau to Bonin, from the Cree country, April 30, 1736; CCXI. is a letter by Nicolas de Gonnor to an unknown brother-Jesuit, from Notre Dame de Lorette, apparently in 1736.
All seven of these letters are selected from a considerable collection of apographs made, in 1889, for the archives of St. Mary’s College, Montreal, from the originals, which are in the possession of the Aulneau family, at Bournezeau, Vendée, France. In August, 1892, Father Jones, archivist of St. Mary’s, began the publication of an English translation of the letters, in The Canadian Messenger (vol. ii., No. 8), a monthly magazine edited by him. The same type has been used, with a revised Introduction, in making up a pamphlet which appears as the second number of Father Jones’s Documents Rares ou Inédits, previously noticed. So far as published, the following is a description of this issue: “Rare | or | Unpublished Documents. | II | The | Aulneau Collection | 1734-1745. | Edited | by the | Rev. Arthur E. Jones, | of [Page 322] the Society of Jesus. | Montreal. | Archives of St. Mary’s College | 1893. |”
Collation: Title, with verso blank; introduction by Father Jones, pp. 3-7; text of letters, pp. 7-160. Paper-covered, 8vo.
This is a letter written in Latin by Mathurin le Petit to the father general, dated at New Orleans, June 29, 1736. We follow an apograph in the
archives of St. Mary’s College, Montreal.
NOTES TO VOL. LXVIII.
(Figures in parentheses, following the number of note, refer to pages of English text.)
 (p. 27). — The reference here is evidently to the trading company founded by Law, called the “Western Company,” which was afterward styled “Company of Indies” (vol. LVII., note 37); to this association was entrusted the farming of the revenues in both France and the colonies.
 (p. 29). — Laure himself made, later, a map of the Saguenay region (vol. lix., note 5). Cf. the missionary map reproduced by us in vol. lxv.
 (p. 41). — See sketch of Malherbe in vol. xlvi., note II. The mission station here referred to is that of Metabetchouan (vol. IX., note 31).
 (p. 43). — The river here described is apparently the Peribonca (a name defined by Lovell as “singular, or curious,” one of the chief tributaries of Lake St. John. Lake Albanel is one of the divisions of Lake Mistassini (vol. lvi., note 14).
 (p. 49). — Cf. with this the Iroquois belief in “False-faces” (vol. lxiii., note 29).
 (p. 77). — In June, 1720, a vessel from Sidon brought to Marseilles the infection of the Oriental plague, which quickly extended not only over the city, but throughout the entire province. In Marseilles alone the pestilence destroyed over 50,000 lives.
 (p. 70). — This veneration for the cross is described at length by the Récollet Le Clercq (Rel. Gaspésie, pp. 169-199); but Dionne thinks (Jacques Cartier, p, 237) that the missionary was imposed upon by the savages. Cf. Emmanuel Jurneau’s map of Eastern New Brunswick (1685), reproduced by Ganong in his “Cartography of New Brunswick” (Canad. Roy. Soc. Proc., new ser., vol. iii., sec. 2, pp, 363, 364); the title of the map mentions the cross as “divinely received from heaven, long before the arrival of the French in that country.” But cf. also our vol. lix., note 19; and vol. lxi., note 7.
 (p. 79). — On the MS. is written in French, on the margin: “To be seen in the room of the father procurator.”
 (p. 85). — Requin is the term applied to the great shark, caucharinus glaucus. “Dog-fish” is a popular appellation for various species; it is difficult to identify the one described by Laure.
 (p. 89). — Croccinolle: a sort of fritter, fried in oil or fat. Clapin (Dict. Canad.-Fran., p. 101) spells the word croquecignole apparently a provincial usage for the French croquignole.
 (p. 105). — Reference is here made to the directions given by St. Ignatius for the daily examination of conscience by persons who “make retreat” — that is, practice the “spiritual exercises.” He advises that lines be drawn on a sheet of paper, two for each day of the week; and that on these lines be noted down, by marking points thereon, the faults committed during the day by the person thus examining himself. These lines are shorter each day in succession, “it being reasonable that the number of faults should decrease daily.” There are two kinds of this exercise — the particular and the general examination of conscience. The former “is so called because it is used in a special manner to extirpate a single vice or defect;” the latter “is used against all the vices or sins into which man can fall.” The particular examination is to be made twice daily, and the number of times when a certain sin or fault is committed are to be noted, as above. The record thus formed is to be examined from day to day, and compared with each of the preceding days’ accounts; the penitent can thus estimate the progress of his daily and weekly amendment. The general examination should always occur at least once a day (but twice as often during retreat); a method for this is prescribed, containing five points — thanksgiving for benefits received, prayer for divine grace, a searching examination of one’s soul for faults, entreaty for pardon, and resolutions for amendment. St. Ignatius himself observed the rules prescribed by him, “with the most minute exactness during his whole life, even to the very day of his death.”
 (p. 109). — According to Laure’s journal (some extracts from which are published in Missions du Diocèse de Québec, March, 1864, pp. 44-46), the church at Chicoutimi “was completed (invite. Minorca) on the 28th of September, 1726,” The missionary’s house there was built in 1728; he says,” I did nearly all the inside work with my own hands, for the benefit of my successors, — asking them to pray for me, and wishing them a most Peaceful life.”
 (p. 111). — See full account of Lettres édifiantes in Bibliographical Data for vol. lxvi., pp. 298-334.
 (p. 117). — Pierre Laure was born at Orléans, Sept. 17, 1688 and became a Jesuit novice at the age of nineteen, In 1711, while yet a student, he came to Canada, and spent the next four years as an [Page 326] instructor in the college of Quebec. “In 1716 he had charge of the library; that is the first time when such occupation is noted in the status of the College.” His theological studies completed, Laure was ordained a priest on June 23, 1719. In the following year, he was sent to reopen the Saguenay missions — which, for lack of missionaries, had been abandoned for a score of years. The remainder of his life was spent in that field; he died there Nov. 22, 1738. To his work as a cartographer (vol. lix., note 5) Laure added much exercise in the art of painting (Bull. Rech. Hist., May, 1900, pp. 152, 153).
 (p. 145). — Gatschet (Migration Legend, pp. 181, 182) says that this war-medicine, or “war-physic,” was a decoction of the button snakeroot; but he neglects to state whether he means Liatris or Eryngium, to both of which genera the above popular name is applied. The custom of drinking this medicine is mentioned also by Charlevoix (Journ. Hist., p. 425). Gayarré (Louisiana: French Dominntion, vol. i., p. 317) says that it was “a fermented liquor, made with the leaves of the Cassia berry tree.”
 (p. 155). — Sicicouet: evidently the Algonkin word — written also chichikoé and cicikwan (Cuoq) — used to designate the rattle or small drum used by Indian medicine-men in their incantations (vol. xx., note 3). See Cuoq’s Lexique Algon., p. 87; and Ferland’s Cours d’Histoire, t. i., p. 112, note 1.
 (p. 165). — Vivier states much more forcibly (in his letter dated Nov. 17, 1750) the cause of the revolt of the Natches, as “the tyranny of the French commandant” at their village, one Chopart. Dumont, in his Mémoires historiques de la Louisiana (translated by French in La. Hist. Colla., part 5), describes (pp. 62-72) Chopart’s character and conduct, and the resulting massacre of the French. See also Gayarré’s Louisiana: French Domination, vol. i., pp. 396-423.
 (p. 167). — Marc Antoine de la Loire des Ursins came to Louisiana as early as 1713, and was afterward an official of the Company of the Indies; in 1722, he was in Illinois, and later owned a concession near Natchez. The concessionary Koli (Kolly) is mentioned by Du Poisson in his letter of Oct. 3, 1727 (vol. lxvii., p. 281). Des Noyers was manager of the concession of Terre Blanche, near Natchez; it belonged to one Le Blanc, French minister of war (Dumont, ut supra, pp. 19, 22).
 (p. 173). — The Koroas (Corroys) were a tribe living, when visited by La Salle and other early explorers, on the west side of the Mississippi, above the Natches; later, they were found on the Yazoo River. They were finally merged in the Choctaws, although their language was unlike that of the latter. — See Gatschet’s Migration Legend, pp. 47, 48. [Page 327]
 (p. 187). — The tribes here named belong to the chief branch of the Maskoki (Muskhogee) family. The Cha’hta (Tchactas, Choctaws) were the original group of tribes, — in historic times, settled in the middle portions of the State of Mississippi; from them had earlier migrated (vol. lxvi., note 28) the Chicasa (Tchicachas, Chickasaws) people, who settled in Northern Mississippi, and various smaller tribes (vol. lxv., note 29), who wandered to the west and south. Both these nations are now located in Indian Territory, where they cultivate the lands allotted to them, and are prosperous and fairly civilized. The Chicasa language served as a medium of commercial and tribal intercourse to all the tribes of the Lower Mississippi; it is, accordingly, usually styled “the Chicasa trade jargon.” — Gatschet’s Migration Legend, pp. 52, 90-109.
For interesting early maps of New Orleans, see Waring and Cable’s report on the social statistics of that city, in Tenth U. S. Census.
 (p. 195). — Diron d’ Artaguette had come to Louisiana in 1708, as royal commissioner, in which or similar capacity he acted for many years. As early as 1719, he owned a concession at Baton Rouge. The reference in the text is to Pierre d’Artaguette, a son (or, according to some writers, a younger brother) of the commissioner; he was an officer in the French troops, and served with distinction in both Illinois and Louisiana. He was commandant in the former district from 1734 until the time of his death. That was a tragical event; for in 1736 he came to the South, with a body of Illinois warriors, to aid Bienville in an attack upon the Chickasaws. Wounded in battle, his Illinois savages fled; and D’Artaguette, with several other Frenchmen, including the Jesuit Antoine Senat, were burned at the stake by their Chickasaw captors.
 (p. 197). — Michel Baudouin was born in Canada March 8, 1692 (according to the Catalogues), and entered the Jesuit novitiate at the age of twenty-one. Coming to Louisiana in 1726, he was soon assigned to the Choctaw mission, where he spent eighteen years. From 1749 until the expulsion of the Jesuits from the colony, Baudouin was superior of the Louisiana missions. When that event took place (1763), he was allowed to remain, instead of being sent to France, a planter in the colony having offered the aged priest a home on his estate.
Were it not for the different date of birth (March 27, 1691) given by Tanguay, and his omission of mentioning the man as a priest, this Jesuit could be identified as a son of Gervais Baudouin, a physician at Quebec (Dict. Généal., t. i., end of p. 30).
 (p. 199). — This was done in the fear that the negro slaves in the colony would everywhere revolt. [Page 328]
 (p. 201). — In Europe it is customary for persons at particular seasons to retire for a time from the world, to give themselves up entirely to Prayer and meditation. Some part of the season of Lent is generally selected for this purpose, and many, for the sake of more entire seclusion, take up their residence during this time in some religious house. This is called going into “retreat,” and is the custom to which Father le Petit here refers. — Kip’s Jesuits in America, p. 302, note *.
 (p. 203). — Chikagou, the Illinois chief here mentioned, was induced by Beaubois to go, with several other chiefs of Western tribes, in company with him to Paris, in 1725. The U.S. cath. Hist. Mag. reprints (vol. iii., pp. 160-166) from the London post Man of Jan. 27, 1726, an account of the visit of these “four Savages of Mississippi,” reporting the speeches made by them, and the gifts made to them by the Company of the Indies. Cf. citation from Mercure, referred to in our vol. lxvii., note 41.
 (p. 205). — Padouka (Paduca): the early name of several tribes dwelling in the great interior basin of the United States, S. W. of the Missouri River; they are considered by modern writers as mainly belonging to the Shoshonean family, and include the Shoshones (or Snake Indians), Utes, Comanches, and others. In 1724, Bourgmont visited one of these tribes, apparently the Comanches, on the Upper Kansas River; see account of his expedition in Margry’s Découv. et établ., t. vi., pp. 386-449. Later in the eighteenth century, they ceased to be known under the name Padouka; it is probable that, to escape their enemies, they migrated northward, and broke up into various bands bearing the names of subdivisions of the Padouka nation. The north branch of the Platte River has also borne the name of Paducas Fork; and a town in Kentucky is called Paducah. The family appellation Paduca is, among modem writers, used mainly by R. G. Latham (cited by Powell in U.S. Bur. Ethnol. Rep., 1885-86, p. 108), who thus designates a number of tribes belonging not only to the Shoshonean family but to others — See Coues’s Lewis and Clark Expedition, pp. 60, 478
 (p. 200). — Michel (Louis Ignace, according to Shea) Guignas was born at Condom, France, January 22, 1681, and became a Jesuit novice at Bordeaux, Dec. 9, 1702. He came to Canada in the summer of 1716; and, after spending a year at Quebec, was sent to the Ottawa mission at Mackinac. In 1727, Guignas undertook to begin a new mission, that among the Sioux of Minnesota; he accompanied the expedition sent by Governor Beauharnais in 1727, to build a fort at Lake Pepin, Minnesota. In the following year, the French were obliged to leave this post, on account of the hostility of the Foxes; [Page 329] but they returned to it a few years later (1735), after the renewal of peace. Guignas, while descending the Mississippi from Fort Beauharnais, was captured (Oct. 15, 1728) by the Mascoutens and Chicanos, then located on the lower Wisconsin and the Mississippi; they kept him in captivity for five months, and he narrowly escaped being burned at the stake. He finally acquired such influence over these savages as to induce them to conclude a peace with the French and the Illinois, and to conduct him to the country of the latter. He spent the winter of 1729-30 with his former captors; later, was again at Fort Beauharnais; and remained in the West, laboring sometimes among the Sioux, sometimes at Mackinac, until 1739. He was then sent to the Saguenay mission, but remained there only one year. The rest of his life was spent at Quebec, where he died, Feb. 6, 1752. — See Neil’s Hist. Minnesota, pp. 849-855; Margry’s Découv. et établ., t. vi., pp. 541-580; and Jones’s Aulneau Coll., p. 26, note”.
 (p. 211). — Jean le Boullenger began his missionary labors in New France in 1703; so far as is known, he was in the Illinois mission, most of the time at Kaskaskia — where, as the records show, he ministered until at least 1729.
 (p. 217). — Tchatchoumas (also written Chactioumas): apparently a Maskoki tribe, dwelling on the Yazoo River in the eighteenth century. — See Gatschet’s Migration Legend, pp. 98, 99.
 (p. 221). — This “fort of the Alibamons” (vol. lxvii., note 44) was also called Fort Toulouse.
 (p. 221). — After the massacre of the French by the Natchez (1729), a body of troops was sent (February, 1730) from New Orleans to attack those savages. The latter, during a truce, fled from their village; some took refuge with the Chickasaws, but the greater part crossed the Mississippi, and settled on the Washita or Black River, — as Gatschet thinks (Migration Legend, p. 38), near the present Trinity City, La. A French army was sent against them in January, 1731, which assaulted their village, capturing the chief with forty warriors, and nearly 400 women and children. These captives were sold in the West Indies as slaves, for the benefit of the Company of the Indies. A remnant of the Natches still exist in Indian Territory, dwelling with the Creek and Cherokee nations.
 (p. 225). — Ste. Barbe: a name applied to the gun-room of a ship, because St. Barbara was the patron saint of cannoneers, and because her statue or picture was placed in that room (Littré).
 (p. 227). — This bishop was Pierre Dosquet, a native of Lille, France. He was, in 1725, consecrated as a bishop, and appointed coadjutor of Bishop Mornay; he came to Canada in 1729, and remained there three years. Returning to France in 1732, he was [Page 330] later appointed bishop of Quebec, as successor to Mornay. Dosquet came back to Quebec in August, 1734, but remained only one year; his successor was not appointed, however, until 1739. Têtu says of this bishop (Palais Epis. Québec, p. 57): “Monseigneur Dosquet had a considerable personal fortune, and he lived as a grand seignior during the entire time which he spent in this country;” and contrasts “his aristocratic tastes and somewhat luxurious requirements” with the simple and apostolic lives of Lava1 and St. Vallier.
 (p. 229). — Jean (?) Pierre Aulneau was born April 21, 1705, in Vendée, France. After nearly completing his studies as a Jesuit priest, he came to Quebec, in 1734, and spent his fourth year of theology in the college of Quebec. In the following year, he was sent to begin a new mission, among the savages dwelling about the Lake of the Woods, where a French fort had been erected by La Vérendrye, leader of the expedition which Aulneau accompanied; the priest was also expected to utilize his scientific knowledge in the exploration of that hitherto unknown region. The period from October, 1735 to June, 1736 was spent by Aulneau at Fort St. Charles, where he devoted himself to the study of the Cree language; at the end of that time, he set out with a party of twenty Frenchmen for Mackinac. They had gone but a little distance from the fort when a party of Sioux surprised them, murdering Aulneau and all who accompanied him. — See Father Jones’s Aulneau Collection pp. 3-7, 90-96, for such information as is available regarding this missionary.
 (p. 233). — Jacques Quintin de la Bretonniere was born at Meaux, France, May 5, 1689, and entered the Jesuit novitiate at the age of twenty-one. Coming to Canada in 1721 (1714, according to Tanguay’s Repertoire, as cited by Sulte, Canad.-Fran., t. vi., p, 86), he was assigned to the mission at Sault St. Louis, where he spent most of his life in Canada. He accompanied the Iroquois warriors of that mission on their expeditions against tribes hostile to the French — notably those against the Foxes (1728) and the Chickasaws (1789). He died at Quebec, Aug. 1, 1754.
 (p. 233). — Nicolas (Flavien, according to Sulte) de Gonnor was born Nov. 19, 1691, and became a Jesuit novice Sept. 11, 1710. In 1725, he came to Canada; and, two years later, accompanied Guignas to the Sioux mission. After his return from that country, he was stationed for a time at Sault St. Louis, but did not remain there long, as he found great difficulty in learning the Iroquois language. He spent several years at the Lorette mission, and was again at Sault St. Louis (about 1750-55); another year was spent at Montreal, and the rest of his life (1756 to Dec. 16, 1750) at Quebec, where he died.[Page 331]
 (p. 235). — Luc François Nau was one of the Jesuits arriving in Canada in 1734, and was missionary at Sault St. Louis from 1735 to 1743. His health gave way, and he returned to France, probably in 1744. His subsequent life is unknown.
 (p. 243). — François Bertin Cuesnier came to Quebec in the summer of 1732; he desired to go as a missionary among the Eskimo savages, but his superiors, instead, assigned to him the post of theological professor in the college of Quebec. His frail health was inadequate to even that task, and he died on Dec. 18, 1734, aged about forty years.
 (p. 251). — This was probably Julien Bonin, long a professor in the Jesuit seminary at Luçon; he was born there in 1686, and died at Bordeaux, Dec. 21, 1760. In regard to the tribe here mentioned, Ouant Chipouanes, Father Jones intimates (Aulneau Coll, p, 48, note *) that they may be a California tribe — citing Father Picolo’s report on the missions of that country (Lettres édif, Toulouse ed., t. viii., p. 51). which states that those savages live, during winter, in holes dug in the earth. It is probable, however, that the tribe which Aulneau was to visit was located much farther north; and the etymology of the name which he applies to them suggests that he refers to the nation now known as Chepewyans, a leading branch of the Athapascan family, which extends from Hudson Bay to the Pacific, and southward to Mexico. Elsewhere, Aulneau mentions the same people as Kaotiowak — a name which, after allowing for its Algonkinized form, enables us to state the probability that he referred to the Oregon tribe called Ku-itc, belonging to the Yakonan family. They dwelt, in the nineteenth century, on the lower Umpqua River, on the upper waters of which were located several villages of Athapascan savages, — a vicinage which would naturally cause, in the mind of a stranger, confusion in the identity of the two groups; but it is probable that, at the time when Aulneau wrote, both the Umpquas and the Ku-itc were located much farther east than Oregon.
 (p. 251). — Jean Baptiste de Saint-Pé was born Oct. 21, 1686, and entered the Jesuit novitiate when barely seventeen years of age. Joining the Canada mission, he was stationed among the Miamis, and probably remained with them (or with the Ottawas at Mackinac, where he was in 1735-36) until 1736, when he was transferred to Montreal. In September, 1739, he became superior of the Canadian missions, a position in which he spent nine years; and to which he was again appointed in October, 1754. From 1748 until the latter date, he was superior of the Montreal residence.
 (p. 253). — Eusèbe François Kino (or Chino) was born near [Page 332] Trente, Aug. 10, 1644; and, upon attaining his majority, became a Jesuit novice. In 1678, he came to America; two years later, he was in Mexico, and then went to Lower California and New Mexico, where he established several missions among the native tribes. He also made extensive explorations in that region, and demonstrated the fact that Lower California was a peninsula, not an island. Kino died at Magdalena, March 15, 1711. He had, according to Sommervogel, during his missionary labors “baptized 40,000 idolaters.” The map referred to in the text shows the upper part of the Californian peninsula and gulf, northwestern Mexico, and part of Arizona. It is found in Lettres édif., facing Picolo’s report, as cited in note 39, ante.
 (p. 263). — Regarding the name and seigniory of Sault St. Louis, see vol. xii., note 11. See Chauchetiere’s history of the mission, in Vol. lxiii., pp. 141-245.
 (p. 277). — Reference is here made to the last French expedition sent against the Sacs and Foxes. It left Montreal in August, 1734, and found those savages intrenched on the banks of the Des Moines River, in Iowa. The attack was a failure, and finally ended with some negotiations for peace, half-hearted on both sides; the French expedition returned to Montreal without having accomplished any definite result. It was commanded by Nicolas Joseph de Noyelle, of Montreal. In 1735, a peace was concluded between the French and those tribes, after a war which had lasted twenty-five years. See Hebberd’s Wis. under Dom. of France, p. 142.
 (p. 283). — Armand de la Richardie was born at Périgueux, Jan. 4 (June 7, according to the Catalogues), 1686; and entered the Jesuit order at Bordeaux, Oct. 4, 1703. His studies were pursued at Limoges, Bordeaux, and Marennes; he was an instructor at La Rochelle, Lupon, and Saintes successively (1705-14); and, after his ordination in 1719, at Angoulême for six years. In 1725, he came to Canada, and apparently spent two years at the Lorette mission. In 1728, he was sent to the Hurons at Detroit, who “had had no missionary for 14 years” (Rochemonteix’s Jésuites, t. i., p. 345, note 2): his labors with them were long fruitless, but by 1733 he could announce that they were all converted. He remained among them till about 1753, his last years being spent at Quebec, where he died March 23, 1758.
 (p. 283). — Le Detroit “the Strait,” was the name given to the shores on both sides of the river. — A. E. Jones, S. J.
When Cadillac founded Detroit in 1701 (vol. lxv., note 36), a Récollet priest went with him as chaplain for his troops and pastor for the colonists — a post which was filled by Récollets during the entire [Page 333] French régime. See Shea’s sketch of the Detroit church and neighboring missions, in his Church in Colon. Days, pp. 619-635.
Regarding the early history and settlers of Detroit, see Lanman’s Hist. of Michigan (N.Y., 1839); Farmer’s Hist. of Détroit and Michigan (Detroit, 1884); Hubbard’s Memorials of a Half-Century (N. Y., 1887); and Hamlin’s Legends of le Détroit (Detroit, 1884). At the end of the last-named work are sketches of the French families who first came to the colony. Cf. also Denissen’s Navarre (Detroit, 1897) — an account of the descendants of Robert Navarre, a royal officer at Detroit from 1709.
 (p. 283). — Pierre Gautier, sieur de fa Vérendrye, was a son of Rents Gautier (seigneur de Varennes), and grandson of Pierre Boucher, governor of Three Rivers (vol. xxviii., note 18). Pierre was born at Three Rivers in 1685; he entered the military service, and won distinction among the Canadian officers of his time; he also served in France during 1708-10. In 1712, he married Marie Anne Dandonneau, by whom he had six children. During many years, he maintained a trading post at La Gabelle, near Three Rivers. In 1726, Governor Beauhamais made La Vérendrye commandant of the Northwest. He spent the next seventeen years in that region, not only in charge of the French interests there, but making extensive and important explorations. He traversed the region north and west of Lake Superior, as far as Lake Winnipeg, opening communication and trade with the savages, and establishing French posts, By the end of 1737, he had four forts — St. Pierre, on Rainy Lake; St. Charles, on the Lake of the Woods; Maurepas, at Lake Winnipeg; and Rouge, at the mouth of the Assiniboine River. In 1738, he built Fort la Reine, farther toward Lake Manitoba; and from this post he and his sons made long voyages of exploration to the west and south. In 1742-43, his eldest son, Pierre, accompanied only by his brother and two other Frenchmen, made the memorable discovery of the Rocky Mountains, and took possession of the Missouri Valley for France. Notwithstanding all his achievements, the French government long neglected La Vérendrye, and refused to aid him; and in 1744 he was obliged to surrender his position as Northwestern commandant. Finally, in 1748, he was restored to that office, and promoted from the rank of lieutenant to that of captain — through the influence of Governor Beauharnais, who had always been his friend. At once La Vérendrye began to plan further explorations; but he was attacked by an illness, from which he died on Dec. 6, 1749. For detailed account of his career and achievements, see Sulte’s Canad-Fran., t. vi., pp. 137-158, and t. vii., pp. 3-12; therein are found copious extracts from the memoirs left by the explorer. These papers, with other documents relating to the [Page 334] subject, are Published by Margry, in Découv. et établ., t. vi,, pp, 583-634. See also Neill’s Hist. of Minnesota, pp. 857-862; and Parkman’s “Discovery of the Rocky Mountains,” in Atlantic Mo., vol. lxi., pp. 783-793.
 (p. 289). — Passages in this document marked with leaders, thus: . . . , are torn off or defaced in the original MS.
 (p. 291). — The probable site of Fort St, Charles was about four miles up the bay called Northwest Angle Inlet, west of American Point and Bucketé Island. — A. E. Jones, S. J.
 (p. 293). — Christophe Dufros de la Jemeraïs (Jesmeraye), a nephew of La Vérendrye, was born about 1708, the son of a French officer at Montreal. From early youth he shared his uncle’s adventurous and arduous career, — the privations and hardships of which broke down La Jemeraïs’s constitution, and he died in 1736. A map drawn by him, indicating the discoveries and establishments made by La Vérendrye between Lakes Superior and Winnipeg, is cited by Sulte (Canad.-Fran., t. vii. p. 10, note) as in the Parliament Library at Ottawa.
 (p. 311). — Jean Charles (also mentioned as Gabriel) Guymonneau spent twenty years in Illinois, and died on Feb. 6, 1736.
Regarding the expedition in which Senat lost his life, see note 21, ante.
 (p. 311). — Franciscus Retz was born at Prague, Sept. 13, 1673; and entered the Jesuit novitiate at the age of sixteen. After filling various important offices within the order, he became its general on Nov. 30, 1730 — a post which he filled during nearly twenty Years, dying at Rome, Nov. 19, 1750. The notable occurrences of his administration were the opposition of the Jansenists in France, and the persecutions directed against the Jesuits and their converts in Uruguay and Paraguay.
Retz was the successor of Michelangelo Tamburini, who was born at Modena, Sept. 27, 1648, and entered the Jesuit order Jan. 16, 1665. He became general of the Society in January, 1706; and died at Rome, Feb. 28, 1730. During his term occurred fierce Persecutions of the native Christians in China.