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PREFACE TO VOL. XVII
Le Jeune's Relation of 1639 (Doc. XXXIV.) is, like the majority of the regular series, in two parts, the first (by Le Jeune) devoted to the field at large, with especial reference to the Lower St. Lawrence region, and the second (by Jerome Lalemant) giving an account of the year's work among the Hurons. Part I., begun in our Vol. XV., was concluded in Vol. XVI., which also contained the first two chapters of Part II., concluded in the present volume.
Following is a synopsis of the material contained in this volume:
XXXIV. Father Lalemant continues his account to Le Jeune (his superior, at Quebec) of the Huron mission. He briefly reviews the year's work, and, though the missionaries still have many difficulties to contend with, he looks forward hopefully to the future. He enumerates the baptisms of the past year. Many of these conversions have occurred among the Wenrôhronons, a tribe forced by its weakness to take refuge with the Hurons, who receive the strangers with the utmost kindness and hospitality, - even meeting them halfway, to aid them in carrying their goods and infant children. The hardships of the journey are, nevertheless, so great that many of the refugees die on the way, and those who survive are afflicted by illness. In this emergency, the Fathers are able to render great aid, especially as their domestics, or donnés, have learned in Europe the use of the lancet and other remedies; thus they are enabled to reach the savages, and minister at once to their temporal and spiritual necessities. Most of the refugees have settled at Ossossané, and the infant church in that village now numbers almost sixty persons, which affords the missionaries great consolation. Valuable aid in their labors is given by the earliest real convert, Joseph Chihwatenhwa, who improves every opportunity to profess his faith and to exhort his countrymen to embrace it. On Christmas night, “not contenting himself with one Mass, he hears five in succession,- during most of them, on his knees; this, for a Barbarian, who has never known what that posture is, might well pass for a petty martyrdom.” While dangerously ill, and delirious,“ his utterances and ravings are only about the things of God and the Faith;” and, going to the fire, he defies imaginary enemies to “burn him, and see if it is in earnest he believes, or only with his lips."
Lalemant reports that several causes have aided the progress of their work — the patience and courage of the pioneer missionaries, despite persecutions and dangers; the irreproachable lives led by lay Frenchmen in the Huron country; the aid of Joseph Chihwatenhwa, just mentioned; the favors and graces of the Virgin Mary; and finally, “ the holy prayers and devotions of so many good souls in France,”. to which last, the writer, like St. Francis Xavier, ascribes great power and efficacy.
The writer narrates their change of residence from Ihonatiria to Teanaustayaé, the most important of the Huron villages. He enumerates the conversions, since that event; but regrets that many persons, who were baptized when in danger of death, now fail to
appreciate the benefits of the holy rite. He then relates “the most noteworthy particulars of these baptisms.” The Hurons, having captured in war over a hundred Iroquois prisoners, bring these home, and, according to their custom, put many of them to death, with most cruel torments.
" All those," says Lalemant,“ who were assigned to the Villages where we have residences, or which are near these, were, thank God, instructed and baptized.
These afterward displayed so much fortitude in their torments that our Barbarians resolved no longer to allow us to baptize these poor unfortunates, reckoning it a misfortune to their country when those whom they torment shriek not at all, or very little. Indeed, this has given us so much trouble since then, that there has not been one of these for whose baptism we have not been obliged to give battle to those who are their Masters and Guardians; and sometimes it has been necessary to atone for this violence by some present." One of these prisoners, an Oneida chieftain, encourages his companion in misery by reminding him of the blessedness prepared for them in heaven. The hideous cruelties inflicted on this chief are related at length; he dies at last, and “we have reason to believe that this brave spirit now enjoys in heaven the freedom of the children of God, since even his enemies loudly exclaimed that there was something more than human within him, and that without doubt baptism had given him his strength and courage, which surpassed all that they had ever seen.”
The Father then narrates the birth of their little church in Teanaustayaé, where about fifteen persons receive baptism on New Year's day, 1639, others being from time to time added to this number. He then describes the establishment of the new mission at Scanonaenrat, and states that it has gained, since the beginning of the year, about twenty converts. Among those baptized was “ a poor Hiroquois pris
a oner,” who“ during his last and fatal night” of torments, had endeavored to choke himself. " This obliged the Fathers to go and visit him a little while before the final cruelties were exercised upon him, to make him acknowledge his fault, to lead him to accuse himself thereof, and to ask pardon for it. Having done this, he was granted absolution; and two hours later he was boiling in a kettle, of which the inmates of the Fathers' cabin were invited to come and get their share."
The Fathers had hoped to begin other missions, but find it necessary to devote all their care to the upbuilding of the three churches already established. In the summer, the savages being then scattered in various directions, the missionaries spend a little time in rest and spiritual refreshment, and then make short journeys to the neighboring villages, baptizing here and there a few converts,- among these, several Iroquois prisoners, who are afterward tortured to death.
Lalemant goes on to describe the obstacles and difficulties that beset their work,- hindrances raised by the evil demons that rule the land of the Hurons. The“ black gowns" are again accused of spreading disease and death, to the ruin of the country; their instructions to neophytes are interrupted by infidel blasphemies; snowballs or clubs are flung at them as they pass, or through the openings in their cabins; and they are even threatened with death. The demons aforesaid have sent certain New England Indians into these regions, who repeat the calumnies against the Jesuits, that they have learned from the
English. Even some of the native Christians think that the Fathers cause their death, through love to them, that they may the sooner enter upon the bliss of Paradise. The converts also are persecuted, threatened, and almost ostracized by their own people; and from this arises the chief anxiety of the missionaries, that their flock may, despite all their efforts, be led back to the paths of evil. Notwithstanding the ignorance and weakness of the neophytes, there are some of them who, through their faith and virtue, daily awaken in the Fathers feelings of consolation and gratitude.
Lalemant describes various feasts, dances, and other superstitious ceremonies, especially those celebrated by the savages as a result of their dreams,these latter being directly inspired by the devil. This belief of the Fathers is confirmed by the tales of the old men, whose traditions state that these solemnities were taught them by the demons. They regard these observances as affairs of great importance, and by them regulate all their proceedings. The Father describes their ceremony
of marrying the seine” to young girls; also the game of “dish,". in which latter they think success depends mainly upon their charms and dreams. He recounts their devotion to their Ascwandics, or “familiar demons,”—a sort of fetich, which is kept in a pouch, and to which its owner prefers his request for any desired article or event. “ Some of these are more positive and efficacious than others. Some buy them from the Algonquains, who are reputed to have excellent ones, and this is the most costly and precious merchandise of the country; others have inherited them from their relatives."
Lalemant again mentions the practices of the med.