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PREFACE TO VOL. XIV
The greater part of Le Mercier's (Huron) contribution to the Relation of 1637 (Document XXIX.) was presented in our Vol. XIII. We now give the remainder of the Huron report, which thus closes the entire document.
Le Mercier continues his record of missionary labors among the plague-stricken Hurons, — nursing the sick, consoling the afflicted, and baptizing dying children and those adults who at the point of death turned to this rite as a protection from the fires of hell. In the intervals of these labors, the Fathers learn what they can of the native language, “all the secret of which,” says the author, “consists in the conjugations of verbs." In this they are greatly aided by “some catechisms prepared for them last year by Louis de Sainte-Foy, upon the mysteries of the life, death, and passion of Our Lord.”
In March, the missionaries submit to some of the clans certain questions - whether they are ready to believe in and accept the faith; whether they are willing that some of the Frenchmen should become allied to them by marriage; and if there is any probability of the reunion of the natives hereabout to those of the Bear clan, from whom they had become estranged. The second of these queries is readily answered in the affirmative; but they hesitate as to the others.
In April, Garnier and some of the domestics spend a fortnight in a trip to the neighboring Tobacco Nation, during which they baptize fifteen sick persons.
May 3, a fire occurs not far from the mission house, in a cabin occupied by some orphans, whose relatives had been carried off by the pestilence; not only the villagers, but the missionaries, contribute to a fund for the relief of these children, who thus find themselves in better circumstances than before. In this month of May, a new mission house is established at Ossossané, under the charge of Pierre Pijart, and here Garnier soon joins him.
In the final chapter of this report to Le Jeune, Le Mercier relates at length “the happy conversion of Tsiouendaentaha, the first adult savage baptized in good health in the Huron country,” which event fills the souls of the Fathers with gladness.
XXX. The Relation for 1638 consists of two parts: Part I., on the missions of New France in general, by the superior, Le Jeune, and closed at Three Rivers, August 25, 1638: Part II., the annual report to Le Jeune, from the Huron missions, by Le Mercier, dated at Ossossané, June 9, 1638. In the present volume, we publish Part I., reserving Part II. for Vol. XV.
Le Jeune begins his Relation by naming “the four batteries that shall destroy the empire of Satan," which the missionaries are now ranging against as many defenses of that empire - superstition, error, barbarism, sin. These engines of war are: the study of the native languages, the establishment of a hospital, seminaries for Indian children, and the substitution among the savages of a sedentary for a nomadic mode of life.
The writer then recounts minutely the conversions and baptisms of the past year. Notable among these are: an Algonkin who, lying for months at the point of death, is restored to health through the prayers of the Fathers — not only is he baptized, and made a
catechumen, but his wife, sister, and three children; two young men, pupils in the Huron seminary; the wife and children of Pigarouich, the “sorcerer" with whom the missionaries had so many encounters the previous year. Pigarouich burned all the utensils of his art, and since then has steadily refused to practice it, though many times tempted by valuable gifts to do so. The religious experiences of a young Algonkin catechumen, and the proofs of sincerity shown by him, are also rehearsed.
A notable event now occurs,— the establishment of the residence of St. Joseph de Sillery, four miles above Quebec, through the munificence of Noël de Sillery, a Knight of Malta, who, having become a priest, dedicated his fortune to pious works. At this residence are established two Algonkin families, comprising about twenty persons, who consent to settle there and till the soil for their living,— the beginning of an Indian village, where the native converts can be withdrawn from their savage associations, and kept under French and Christian influences. Sillery has by this time become a center for gathering the vagrant savages of that region, and giving them religious instruction.
Progress is also reported from the station at Three Rivers; the savages eagerly bring their children for baptism; “these sacred waters, having many times saved the lives of entire families, are now in great esteem among them.” The medicine men are losing their influence; the “ eat-all" feasts and consultation of demons are no longer practiced.
After its early trials, the seminary for the Hurons is now prospering. One of its pupils, converted to the faith, returns to the Huron country with one of the Fathers, to allay the excitement and discontent of the people, who have been threatening the missionaries sent there — accusing them as sorcerers, who have brought thither the pestilence for the ruin and death of the natives. Besides the seminary for the Hurons, others have been begun near Quebec, for the Algonkins and Montagnais; the mission has now in charge fifteen of these Indian children, who must be supported and educated.
Jerome Lalemant, Simon le Moyne, and François du Peron arrive in the spring of 1638, and are forthwith sent to the Huron country; on the way thither, they meet with various annoyances and losses.
In addition to gentlemen already named, the following have recently rendered material assistance to the editor: Père Colombier, S.J., librarian of l'École de Sainte-Geneviève, and M. Girard de Rialle, director of the Archives au Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris; Dr. Herbert Friedenwald, superintendent of MS. department, Library of Congress, Washington; Rev. W. O. Raymond, president of New Brunswick Historical Society, St. John, N. B.; Rev. Oswald Mueller, S. J., of the College of the Sacred Heart, Prairie du Chien, Wis.; Dr. G. Devron, New Orleans; Dr. J. N. B. Hewitt, of the Bureau of Ethnology, Washington; and Dr. John G. Henderson, Chicago.
R. G. T. Madison, Wis., January, 1898.