Catholic Indian Missions of Canada

The first Catholic Indian Missions in Canada were established by the French priests attached to the parties of French explorers to whom the propagation of the Faith formed a necessary part of the work of colonization. As early as 1535 a missionary accompanied Cartier's second expedition. Missionary work among the Indians began with the advent of the Recollects, 1615, who labored among the Hurons. The Jesuits, who proved to be a more vital force in this field, arrived in 1625, and were followed by the Sulpicians, 1651, who took up the work of the former after the suppression of the Society, 1773. Among the obstacles confronting these pioneers were: an unknown land; primitive living conditions; a people who were nomadic, superstitious and unmoral; inter-tribal warfare among the Indians; the white men who plied the savages with intoxicating liquor; and the unsettled state of the country, which alternated between French and English control. Missionary work began along the Saint Lawrence River and in the northeast country; spread to Lakes Erie and Ontario, 1648; then to the country north of the Great Lakes after the dispersion, and almost total extinction, of the Huron nation in 1648. In 1735, missionaries accompanied the French explorers to the middle west where, by 1818, missions were flourishing under the control of the Jesuits and Sulpicians who by 1838 had reached the far west, and established missions there, 1842. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate arrived in Canada 1841, began their labors along the Saint Lawrence, and gradually extended their missionary work over the entire country. They were followed by the Capuchin Fathers, 1894. Conditions gradually adapted themselves to the civilizing influences of the missionaries, and by 1885 the roving life of the latter had ceased. Among the missions were those established in the east at Tadoussac, for the Montagnais; Gaspe, for the Montagnais and Micmacs; Miscou, for the Micmacs; Three Rivers, for the Montagnais and Algonquins; Saint Joseph and Christian Island (Lake Huron), for the Hurons; Saint John and Saint Mathias for the Petuns; Quinté Bay, for the Cayugas; Sault Saint Louis, for the Iroquois, among whom was Catherine Tekakwitha, the "Lily of the Mohawks." In the middle west and west were those at: Saint Paul, for the Chippewas; Ile à La Crosse, for the Dené Indians; and Garden River, Pigeon River, Saint Boniface, Wabassimong, Fond du Lac, Saint Joseph's on Great Slave Lake, Our Lady of Good Hope, within the Arctic Circle, Lake Caribou, and Divine Providence.

Among the missionaries who labored in Canada were: the Jesuits Bressani, Chaumonot, Massé, Brébeuf, Chabanel, Daniel, Garnier, Lalemant, Labrosse, Nobili, and Du Rancquet; the Recollects Jamay, Dolbeau, Le Caron, who prepared a dictionary of the Huron language; Sagard, the historian of the early Catholic missions in Canada, and Hennepin; the Sulpicians De Queylus, Souart, Picquet, Mathevet, who prepared a dictionary of the Abenaki language; Thavenet, Guichart, and Cuocq; the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Durocher, Tache, Faraud, Grollier, called the Apostle of the Arctic Circle; Grandin, and D'Herbomez; and the secular priests Brabant, Nicoloye, and Demers.

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