Delivered at the Changing Face of Missionary Education workshop in Munster, Germany, July 2014
Abstract: Growth of the Jesuit order in Canada was restricted following the British conquest of New France in the 1760s. Although not completely banned, the order was not allowed to recruit in the colony and over the subsequent three decades it slowly died out. The end of the order in Canada was significant. Before the conquest, the Jesuits were one of the colony’s largest land holders and they managed, operated and served as intercultural intermediaries in three of New France’s most important missions to Indigenous people: Jeune-Lorette (Wendat), Odanak (Abenaki), and Kahnawake (Mohawk). Without the order in place, colonial land management and relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples needed to be re-evaluated.
This paper focuses specifically on how Indigenous peoples living in these communities – specifically Jeune-Lorette and Odanak – responded to the demise of the Jesuit order. In each community, the end of an official Catholic presence corresponded with related threats posed by a growing settler population to nearby land and resources. At both Jeune-Lorette and Odanak, Wendat and Abenaki peoples responded to these changes by seeking out new educational opportunities. They sent young men to Moors’ Indian Charity School (Dartmouth College) in New Hampshire, the Petit Seminaire in Quebec, and, in the early 1800s, built community day schools led by community members and attended by both boys and girls. In examining this transition, and later community uses of formal schooling, the paper argues that explicit instruction in reading, writing and numeracy was a central experience within Jesuit missions before the demise of the Jesuit order.