The Jesuits were known for their zeal in spreading Catholicism in the New World. Father Le Jeune, a French missionary, was not an exception. He spent years traveling and teaching the essentials of the Christian religion in New France. In his commentary, he noted that the Indians, contrary to popular opinion, were eager to learn the Christian faith. According to him, the Native Americans were ‘but learners of faith, simple, and condescending to the Christian religion and its priests.
’ However, this did not result in mass conversions. In his commentary, Le Jeune noted the egalitarianism and openness of some tribes, particularly the Hurons and the Montagnais. These were symptoms of chaos. Father Le Jeune also criticized the nomadic lifestyle of the tribes he encountered – treating it as a sign of non-civility. The missionaries were shocked at the apparent influence of shamans in certain tribes.
Indeed, in order to discredit the shamans, the missionaries established schools, seminaries, and other centers of learning. The Christian religion (Catholicism) became the emblem of civilization and political unity. Some tribes accepted Christian baptism but most of them simply ignored the missionaries. In response, the French king increased the number of missionaries working in New France. Le Jeune noted that this was due to the ‘ignorant’ nature of the Indians.
Apparently, many of Le Jeune generalizations about the Native Americans were either inaccurate or incomplete. For example, his treatment of nomadism seemed to transpire from his belief that ‘permanency’ is the primary indicator of social unity. This is not the case even in classical anthropology. Bibliography America Firsthand (Marcus and Burner, America Firsthand: Readings from Settlement to Reconstruction, Volume1 , Eighth Edition 2009)