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PREFACE TO VOL. XVI
The preliminary matter and first chapter of the so-called Le Jeune's Relation of 1639 (Document XXXIV.) were published in Vol. XV. We herewith give the rest of Part I. (Le Jeune's own portion), and the two opening chapters of Part II., which was Lalemant's report to his superior, Le Jeune, of affairs in the Huron country. Following is a synopsis of the contents of the present volume:
XXXIV. Continuing his annual narrative, Le Jeune describes in detail the foundation of the Ursuline convent at Quebec by Madame de la Peltrie, and the arrival of these nuns (August 1, 1639), with the Hospital sisters and a reinforcement of Jesuit Fathers. The nuns are taken, for a visit, to Sillery; they are overcome with joy to see the Indians offering their devotions in the chapel, and still more when children, both French and Indian, come to the Ursulines for instruction; while the sick are brought to the Hospital sisters for care, even before their baggage arrives from the ship. As aid in this emergency, mattresses are loaned them by the Jesuits. Madame de la Peltrie "cannot contain herself; she wishes to be everywhere, wherever the Savages are in question; and she is already the godmother of several. She could not meet a little Savage girl without embracing and kissing her." The good sisters do
the same, "without heeding whether or not these little Savage children were dirty, and without asking whether this were the custom of the country."
The superior then praises in high terms the devotion and charity of the Duchess d'Aiguillon, foundress of the hospital, and quotes one of her letters showing her pious intentions in its establishment,also a letter from Father de Quen, describing the condition of the inmates of the hospital, and extolling their piety.
Le Jeune again explains the necessity of rendering the savages stationary; and recounts the assistance given for this purpose by many friends of the missions- not only private persons, but the Company of New France. He reports much progress in their mission, with more conversions than in preceding years. "Over 800 Algonkins, attracted by the report of our faith, and by the assistance given the sedentary savages at Sillery, have come down to Three Rivers; but they declare that they come only to acquire a knowledge of the true God." The missionaries still have to contend with the opposition of the medicine men, and the Algonkins "are much diverted from the good thoughts that God has given them," by a contest with their enemies and their defeat therein. Moreover, they are held in bondage to Satan, by their superstitions and by their unwillingness to observe single marriage. The missionaries console themselves, however, with the pious sentiments and behavior of their actual converts, upon which the superior dwells at much length.
Discouraging news comes from Three Rivers, of hostile feeling among the Indians, caused by the revival of the old story that the French had introduced
the smallpox, then raging there.
But the aboriginal
families settled at Sillery are steadfast in their faith and religious duties. The missionaries are especially consoled by the discretion of some Indian girls, who refuse to marry men that are not baptized, and refer their suitors to the Fathers for answer. The baptized Indians so faithfully observe fast days and Lent, that they abstain from meat in the midst of others who are feasting thereon; and even pass two days without eating any food, while hunting during Lent, rather than eat meat. The writer describes the conversions, baptisms, pious acts, and family affairs of the earliest Indian settlers at Sillery, most of whom are now Christians. The missionaries are deeply grieved at the misfortune which befalls these families late in the summer of this year (1639),— an attack of smallpox; the disease was brought by some Indians who had been trading with the Abenakis of Maine. François Xavier Nenaskoumat and Noël Negabamat, the head men, are both stricken, and removed to the hospital at Quebec; while others of their followers are also afflicted with various diseases. But these trials appear only to strengthen the faith and resignation of all.
Le Jeune relates the conversion, and the pious sentiments expressed by several of his neophytes. One is a young Algonkin, "whose conversion alone more than sufficiently repays all the trouble and expense incurred for the salvation of the Savages." So full of self-abnegation is he that, in the depth of winter, he goes in a thin, worn robe, refusing to wear the good one given him by the Fathers, for these reasons: "I fear that my body, if I supply it with comforts, and cover it warmly, will be always urging me
to procure for it the same good things; and, if I cannot cover it by my own skill, it will gradually lead me to frequent your society for its own special benefit, rather than for the salvation of my soul. This has made me resolve not to make use of your presents. Secondly, if I show myself desirous of your gifts, I shall be continually importuned by a woman who has very little sense, who will urge me to get from you all that she will think your goodness can grant me. Hence, I have made a resolution to disregard my body, that I may better reflect upon the welfare of my soul." A dearly-loved sister of this convert dies without baptism; he decides that, since she has refused the friendship of God, he will no longer love her; and presently he loses all memory of her. Another neophyte is a chief who remains steadfast through both affliction and the ridicule of his countrymen. A third is the "sorcerer" or medicine man, who had formerly so hindered the missionaries. This last, Pigarouich, had sought to obtain baptism; but he fell from grace, engaging in gambling and debauchery, and was refused by the missionaries until, at the end of two years, he shows that "the Faith has taken possession of his soul; and after many entreaties, he is granted the desired boon.
Le Jeune then relates the progress, during the past year, of his seminaries for Indian boys,- these now include Montagnais and Algonkins, as well as Hurons. Among those of the last-named tribe, the most satisfactory results were visible in a man of fifty years, whom the Fathers received most reluctantly; but this convert was snatched from them by death at the time when he gave most promise of usefulness to
the mission cause. The Algonkin and Montagnais lads are exceedingly tractable and industrious, and surprise their preceptor by their intellectual acumen and quickness. There has been, however, much illness among them; so the missionaries decide to retain hereafter only a few of the younger boys.
The writer adds some interesting information in regard to the superstitious beliefs current among the aborigines that each man has several souls; that the souls of the dead must not be allowed to enter the cabins of others; that sickness may be healed by a solemn gambling bout. He mentions also some of their customs - those connected with gambling; the resuscitation of a dead man, by conferring his name and responsibilities on another; and customs relating to marriage and burial. He closes his part of the Relation by mention of the frightful mortality caused among the savages of his district by the smallpox epidemic,- which has begun also to attack the French, and the anxieties and labors thus laid upon the missionaries and the Hospital nuns, who labor to relieve the prevalent wretchedness.
The Relation of the Huron mission in this year is sent by Jerome Lalemant, who, in the first two chapters, given in the present volume, describes the physical aspects of that region, and the tribes dwelling therein; the difficulties attending the mission, and the hopeful prospect. He enumerates the priests who are laboring among the Hurons, and describes their daily occupations, their plan of work, and their intentions for the near future.
MADISON, WIs., February, 1898.
R. G. T.