You are on page 1of 16

Adult Education Quarterly

http://aeq.sagepub.com/ Cunning Pedagogics: The Encounter between the Jesuit Missionaries and Amerindians in 17th-century New France
Michael Welton Adult Education Quarterly 2005 55: 101 DOI: 10.1177/0741713604271853 The online version of this article can be found at: http://aeq.sagepub.com/content/55/2/101

Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com

On behalf of:

American Association for Adult and Continuing Education

Additional services and information for Adult Education Quarterly can be found at: Email Alerts: http://aeq.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://aeq.sagepub.com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

Welton / CUNNING PEDAGOGICS ADULT EDUCA 10.1177/0741713604271853 TION QUARTERL Y / February 2005

CUNNING PEDAGOGICS: THE ENCOUNTER BETWEEN THE JESUIT MISSIONARIES AND AMERINDIANS IN 17TH-CENTURY NEW FRANCE
MICHAEL WELTON

The Jesuit encounter with the Amerindians of the St. Lawrence Valley in 17th-century New France provides us with incalculable insights into the inner workings of the colonial imagination that believes the objects of instruction have everything to learn and nothing of value to teach. This article explicates how the Jesuits got to know their learners, how they tried to displace indigenous adult educational leaders and gradually produced Euro-Catholic subjectivities in their learners, and the pedagogical methods and techniques they used to undermine the indigenous belief and action system. Keywords: Jesuits; Amerindian; lifeworld; colonization; spirituality

The encounter between the Jesuit missionary and the Amerindians of New France is an excellent, if unusual, place to begin the Canadian story of adult learning in the age of conquest and discovery. The pedagogical encounter between the Jesuits and the Amerindians of Canada highlights the way one societys learning system can disrupt, often in radical ways, that of the other. Traditional Amerindian world orientations had to cope with changes to their way of symbolically ordering the world and learning systems during many centuries. But Amerindian modes of subsistence and production came under relentless assault. It began inconspicuously in the late 15th century and continued inexorably through the 16th to 18th centuries as the fur trade penetrated the St. Lawrence Valley and onward to the west. Between 1632 and 1670, approximately 100 Jesuit missionaries came to New France, made possible by the French reoccupation of the St. Lawrence Valley in 1632 (Eccles, 1990; Grant, 1984; Jaenen, 1973; Moogk, 2000; Trigger, 1976, 1985; Trudel, 1973). This article explicates how the pioneering Jesuits got to know their learners, how they tried to displace indigenous adult educational leaders and gradually produced
MICHAEL WELTON recently retired from Mt. St. Vincent University where he taught courses in adult education history, critical learning theory, and lifelong learning. His latest book, Designing the Just Learning Society: A Critical Inquiry, is forthcoming.
ADULT EDUCATION QUARTERLY, Vol. 55 No. 2, February 2005 101-115 DOI: 10.1177/0741713604271853 2005 American Association for Adult and Continuing Education

101

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

102 ADULT EDUCATION QUARTERLY / February 2005

Euro-Catholic subjectivities in their learners, and the pedagogical techniques they used to undermine the indigenous belief and action system. The Jesuit Relations, a 73-volume collection of letters and reports (1610-1791) that Jesuit missionaries wrote back to France, provide an invaluable archival resource for reconstructing the pedagogical encounter between the Jesuits and the Amerindians of New France (Thwaites, 1896-1901). This source is accessed primarily through English translations and their usage in secondary sources. It will be referenced as Jesuit Relations. James Axtells (1985) text, The Invasion Within, is acknowledged as seminal for this article.

GETTING TO KNOW YOUR LEARNERS


The Jesuit desire to understand the Amerindian other was motivated by an interest in exercising a symbolic, cultural domination over their student adversaries. The Jesuits were scathingly critical of earlier attempts to baptize Indians without instruction and knowledge of indigenous languages. Forced into unaccustomed humility, the Jesuits had to forgo quick converts to learn the vernacular languages. Placing oneself in a learning relationship with ones adversary required courage, patience, and humility. Paul Ragueneau (1608-1680), a wily veteran of the Huron mission, advised newcomers to cultivate a tried Patience, to endure a thousand contumelies; an undaunted Courage, which will undertake everything; a Humility that contents itself with doing nothing, after having done all; [and] a Forbearance that quietly awaits the moment chosen by Divine Providence (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 80). The Jesuits decided to learn indigenous languages (their founder, Ignatius Loyola, had counseled them thus) to introduce their pedagogical program to the Indians. These learned priests, masters of many texts and languages, now faced the unpleasant thought of becoming like children, stumbling over words, making silly phrases, being laughed at. Most challenging of all, they had to translate ideas from a hierarchical, patriarchal, technological, status-ridden Christian Europe into the mental universe of the Indians. The Jesuits grappled with new throaty sounds and struggled to find words for sheep, sin, prison, cannon, king, and Christ. They suffered endless ridicule. But the black robes persisted, many winning Indian names as signs of some acceptance. The Jesuit attack pedagogy was aimed primarily at undermining the lifeworld foundations of Indian ways of life. The lifeworld is the taken-for-granted source of meaning and action, and various spiritual-religious practices (animism) were interwoven into everyday life. The shaman, a person of considerable spiritual power and therefore of cultural authority, performed medicinal and psychotherapeutic functions in all tribes. The Jesuits sought to dislodge him from his place of lifeworld supremacy through ridicule, mockery, and one-upmanship and to insert themselves in his place. This was a brilliant, ruthless pedagogical strategy. They used their scientific knowledge of solar and lunar eclipses, tides, and the magical power of the

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

Welton / CUNNING PEDAGOGICS

103

printed word to de-authorize the shaman. They marshaled their own lifeworld resources (now increasingly penetrated by scientific forms of knowledge) to undermine the Amerindian cultural foundations and create a native fifth column in the Devils Empire. In the early stages in New France, the missionaries thought they should first reach the children. They either sent them away to the Old World or had them come to Quebec or other centers for instruction. But this strategy failed. The children were restless and unhappy, and the Jesuits turned to adult education approaches. They imagined that by creating Christian villages such as Sillery, they would be able to impose major reforms of native life with relative impunity, free from cosmopolitan interference or colonial contamination (Axtell, 1992, p. 163). Let these barbarians remain always nomads, exclaimed Father Le Jeune, then their sick will die in the woods, and their children will never enter the seminary. Render them sedentary, and you will fill these institutions (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 55).

THE TRIBAL WILDERNESS LEARNING SYSTEM


Amerindian cultures were primarily voice-and-ear oral cultures. Lacking the book as storehouse of cultural memory, the historical experience of the tribe was contained in flexible units of memory, such as adages, proverbs, and repetitive, thematic formulas (Axtell, 1985, p. 14). Myths (such as the notion of the earth held on a turtles back) provided orientation points to the mysteries of the cosmos. Although orally transmitted knowledge was not static, it was slow to change. Because the existence of traditional knowledge depended on human memory, it was more fragile, less authoritative. Within these oral cultures, which did not have formalized schools, indigenous educators transmitted the traditions of tribal life to the new members of the culture. The tribal wilderness learning society had to reproduce the skills necessary to transform nature into energy and sustenance and that were essentially woven into life activities. These skills were learned through doing. The technical knowledge and skills of the Indians, embodied in objects and economic practices, experienced strains when Europe disrupted age-old patterns of hunting, gathering, and farming. In fact, the European perception of fur-bearing animals as commodities for exchange on the market radically contradicted Amerindian notions of the animal as equal, coinhabiter of the cosmos (Martin, 1978; Merchant, 1989). When the Amerindians neglected their ethical obligations to the animal world, for whatever reasons, the way was opened up for the degradation of the system and the colonization of the lifeworld. The shaman was, perhaps, the most significant adult educator in Amerindian tribal society. His role was to maintain the balance and order of a tribal society constantly threatened by bad spirits. In unusual times of trouble or foreboding, the shaman was called on to restore order and good times. He could teach his people what the new signs and dreams meant and allay collective anxiety. But the shaman, as

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

104 ADULT EDUCATION QUARTERLY / February 2005

guardian of the traditional lifeworld (its sources of meaning, social stability, and personal coherence), was in a precarious situation. If his techniques failed (e.g., if he was not able to prevent disease from spreading), he could be easily discredited and the traditional lifeworld as legitimate fund of meaning undermined. Amerindians imagined that a master spirit brought the world into being. Every plant, animal, and human had a guardian spirit (or boss or owner). One of the most significant learning occasions for indigenous men was the quest for the guardian spirit. This quest involved fasting and mutilation as the person sought to transform himself psychically to receive the spirit in trance-like dreams. Like early modern Europe (Ginzburg, 1983; Thomas, 1971), Amerindian cultures believed in witches who were capable of undermining the persons, or cultures, successful achievement of the good life. The worlds of spirits and nature were closely intertwined. God was the animating life force coursing through the cosmos. Amerindian spirituality was very individualistic; Catholic spirituality allowed little room for individual expression. Amerindian spirituality was oriented to the present; Catholic spirituality to the future good life beyond the earth. The Amerindians had considerable trouble comprehending some of the basic tenets of Christian dogma, such as sin, guilt, and hell. The Huron recognized the presence of certain evil forces and the dangerous consequences that might result from failing to do proper service to a particular deity (Ronda, 1981, p. 69). But they could not understand the idea of primordial fault or grasp the Christian insistence that a person who lived a moral life might also be a great sinner (Ronda, 1981, p. 69). The Christian version of heaven and hell held little appeal for the Amerindians. If thou wishest to speak to me of Hell, go out of my cabin at once, exclaimed one Huron. Such thoughts disturb my rest, and cause me uneasiness amid my pleasures (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 70). The Amerindians, too, anticipated an afterlife. But it was not a place of reward or punishment for actions on earth. Baptism was another religious practice that Amerindians had problems with. As smallpox and other diseases swept through the villages, baptism was believed to cause death. Charles Meiachkwat, a Huron convert, was confronted by his wife who wailed disconsolately, Dost thou not see that we are all dying since they told us to pray to God? Where are thy relatives, where are mine? The most of them are dead; it is no longer a time to believe (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 72). Amerindians used the association of death and baptism to resist Jesuit incursions into their lifeworlds. Jesuit and Indian stood on common ground in their assessment of each others religious leaders. Both believed that the other were devils, demons, witches, and sorcerers. One group of Huron leaders contended that Jesuits were not men, they are demons (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 75). Within their inspirited cultural horizon, the Indians easily imagined that the black robes had great evil powers. They were rumored to harbor diabolical charms in their houses; these charms taking the form of disease-spreading domestic animals or serpents. There were many other charges, some obviously wild (such as equating the

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

Welton / CUNNING PEDAGOGICS

105

Catholic Eucharist with the bringing of a corpse from France to spread the plague). But in an environment of so little respect and hostility, wild imaginings festered like open wounds in the tropical heat. Huron and Montagnais religious leaders largely succeeded, claimed Ronda (1981), in depicting missionaries as disease-bearing sorcerers who possessed horrible charms and displayed a sinister obsession with guilt, death, and punishment (p. 75). The Jesuit Relations records a fascinating theological disputation between Paul Le Jeune and Carigonan, a Montagnais holy man. Le Jeune had spent some time in the winter of 1633-1634 with a nomadic band of Montagnais, learning the language, hunting moose, and trying out some evangelism. At night, seated with Carigonan in smoky cabins, Le Jeune and Carigonan matched their wits and intelligence. Le Jeunes opening move asked Carigonan what his beliefs about the afterlife were. All souls travel on foot to a great village beyond the western edge of the world, Carigonan replied (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 77). Ridiculed by Le Jeune, Carigonan retorted, Thou art mistaken . . . either the lands are united in some places, or there is some passage which is fordable over which our souls pass (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 77). Carigonan could not understand that Le Jeune would prefer to believe that souls floated upward. Le Jeune then demanded to know what the souls ate on their long trip and was quickly told that they eat bark . . . and old wood which they find in the forest (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 77). Le Jeune thought it little wonder that the Montagnais feared death if that was what they had to eat on their soul journey. Unperturbed, the Indian theologian described in more detail the activities of souls after death: They eat, hunt, and sleep as they had in life. Le Jeune thought this idea ludicrous. Le Jeune also thought that the Indian idea that all beings had souls would mean that heaven could not contain them all. Appalled at Le Jeunes ignorance, Carigonan countered,
Thou art an ignoramus, thou has no sense. Souls are not like us, they do not see at all during the day, and see very clearly at night; their day is in the darkness of the night, and their night in the light of the day. (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 77)

When accused of not answering the question, Carigonan cut him short. Be silent. Thou askest things which thou dost not know thyself; if I had ever been in yonder country, I would answer thee (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 77). Although this attempt at dialogue had little chance of success, both Jesuit and Amerindian believed in a supernatural realm and in its interaction with humans. Both acknowledged that human beings could be affected for good or ill by the actions of spirits and demons. Both theologians accepted the dualism of body and soul. But unlike Father Le Jeune, Carigonan believed himself able to cure the sick, guarantee successful hunts, and kill faraway enemies. He even imagined that his soul could leave his body at will. These assertions merely confirmed Le Jeunes

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

106 ADULT EDUCATION QUARTERLY / February 2005

perception that Carigonan was an enemy of the faith. In the end, Le Jeune, a gifted rhetorician, had to admit grudgingly that Carigonan was a worthy opponent, that the Montagnais held to their faith as tenaciously as did any pious Christian (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 78). Amerindians lacked an aggressive missionary impulse, and the idea of a single religion shared by all peoples seemed to the Indians an absurdity (Ronda, 1981, p. 81). A Huron explained it to Jean Brbeuf this way: Do you not see that, as we inhabit a world so different from yours, there must be another heaven for us, and another road to reach it? (Charlevoix, 1870, p. 79). Pressed to convert to Christianity, Hurons and Montagnais provided these answers: Such is the custom of our country, or Such is not our custom; your world is different from ours; the God who created yours did not create ours (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 81). In 1637, elders in the Huron village of Wenrio met with Jesuits to discuss the impact of the mission on their town. Aenons, an esteemed indigenous leader, responded,
When you speak to us of obeying and acknowledging as our master him whom you say has made Heaven and earth, I imagine you are talking of overthrowing the country. Your ancestors assembled in earlier times, and held a council, where they resolved to take as their God him whom you honor, and ordained all the ceremonies that you observe; as for us, we have learned others from our own Fathers. (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Ronda, 1981, p. 82)

COLONIZING THE AMERINDIAN LIFEWORLD


The Jesuits came from a Europe steeped in hierarchy. Men dominated women, parents their children, an emergent absolutist state demanded loyalty and obedience from its subjects, nobles and merchants ruled the artisans and peasants below, the Catholic Church lay under the authority of the Holy Father: all were under the Father-God. When the Jesuits encountered the fluid and relatively egalitarian Amerindian societies, they were confused and puzzled. The Jesuit Father Bressani could not understand that the Amerindians had neither King nor absolute Prince. Nor could he fathom that
even the Fathers do not exercise over their sons in order to correct them, as they use words alone; and, thus brought up, the more the sons increase in age, the more they love and respect their fathers. Therefore both the former and the latter obtain everything precario by eloquence, exhortation, and entreaties. (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Anderson, 1991, p. 122)

The Jesuit invasion of the Amerindian lifeworld was directed with fierce aggression and hostility toward women. Women posed considerable threat to the Jesuit project. Like other elements of their intellectual system, the Jesuits perceptions of women were shaped by Aristotelian ideas (Pagden, 1982). Women were passive and men active, they were deemed to be mens helpmates, they were more feeble

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

Welton / CUNNING PEDAGOGICS

107

than men, they possessed less capacity to reason, and it was natural that they be governed by men. Within Catholic teachings, womens sexual nature was threatening and dangerous, always poised to subvert service to God by luring men into bodily pleasure. For these dedicated celibate men, the open manifestation of sexuality and bodily display (one Jesuit spoke of the ease with which he could reach out to touch the apples of sin) in Amerindian culture must have been excruciating. The Jesuit project of undermining traditional relations between men and women required a cultural revolution. Women had considerable power, authority, and prestige in Amerindian tribal life. Although there was a sexual division of labor, Indian cultures lacked the moral vocabulary to conceive of women as bad or evil. Father Allouez, who worked with the Ottawa mission in 1667, was plainly shocked at men and womens control over their own sexual practices. Jesuit missionaries thought that this freedom of sexual expression denoted a lack of control, a certain wildness that appeared to threaten civilization itself (Anderson, 1991, p. 86). The Jesuits also thought the Indian ease of divorce scandalous. Pierre Boucher, a governor of Trois Rivires and resident of New France from 1635 to 1717, was astonished that divorce did not appear to trouble the Indians very much. He imagined that women could simply tell their husbands to leave and they would skulk away (Devens, 1992, p. 26). Women had considerable power in the matrilineal and matrilocal Iroquoian and Algonquian-speaking tribal cultures. The women essentially managed the longhouse. They made crucial decisions about crops, food consumption and distribution, and crafts. They made clothing and tended to the children. The Jesuits were astounded that the Indians did not use physical coercion to discipline their children. Priests such as Le Jeune thought that Indian children were freer than wild animals. They were also astonished that no one appeared to accept the rule of the other. However, there were asymmetries in Amerindian culture. In the spiritual realm, the Huron myth of Aataentsic recognized womens creative powers but also their destructive potentialities (Anderson, 1991, pp. 166-168; Davis, 1994; Trigger, 1976). Women did not play the role of shamans, but through dreams, individual women could set in motion a sequence of collective religious action (Davis, 1994, p. 248). Women also played significant roles in dances to placate bad spirits. In the political realm, their voices carried the day mainly in lodge and longhouse. Village and tribal governance, in contrast, were in the hands of male chiefs and councils. Womens influence in these deliberative learning spaces was informal. Male chiefs presided over frequent local meetings (young men and women were not usually in attendance); in larger assemblies, young men, and sometimes women, were invited. In Iroquoian matrilineal communities, women had a more formal role in political decision making through their right to select chiefs. History records only one instance of an Indian woman speaking before the large and unruly assembly of Ataronchronons. During a smallpox epidemic in 1640, a woman rose to denounce the Jesuits as disease-bearing devils (Davis, 1994).

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

108 ADULT EDUCATION QUARTERLY / February 2005

Intertribal leagues (or political federations) were essential communicative learning spaces. At the dawn of modern Canadian history, the Jesuits were actually attempting to subvert a relatively democratic learning process that proceeded through communicative processes. Amerindians developed procedures for
styles of communication that operated around the council fire, on embassies to rouse for war or make amends for a murder, at large assemblies, where many opinions were given, matters opened with the leaders appreciative words about the mens safe arrival, no one lost in the words or fallen in the stream or slain by an enemy. (Davis, 1994, p. 252)

Those participating in these deliberations had to learn how to use special tones for their comments and opinionscalled acouentonch by the Huronsto modulate their voices and speak
slowly, calmly, and distinctly, each person reviewing the issues before giving his opinion. No one ever interrupted anyone else, the rhythm of taking turns aided by the smoking of pipes. No matter how bitter the disagreementas when some Huron villages wanted to rebury their ancestorsbones in a separate gravecourteous and gentle language was sought. The Hurons said of a good council, Endionraondaone, even and easy, like level and reaped fields. (Davis, 1994, p. 252)

Before large assemblies or at treaty-making gatherings, men had to adopt a Captains tone, as one Jesuit put it. Speakers also learned to use mnemonic devicessuch as marked sticks or shells on a wampum beltas teaching (or instructional) devices. They used dramatic gestures and paced the stage, making their arguments like an actor on a stage, as another Jesuit expressed it. Political speech was poetical, full of metaphors and circumlocutions. Oratory was the prime lifeworld curriculum for men who wanted to deliberate with other men in the traditional political sphere; the main learning mode was through mentoring and apprenticeship. The Jesuit program for women promoted premarital chastity, male courtship and governance, and marital fidelity. Left to their own persuasive and coercive devices, the Jesuits could not succeed easily in breaking womens power and authority. Traditional society provided women with power to influence men and keep the children from being taken away by the missionaries. The transformation of a relatively egalitarian tribal, preliterate society to a hierarchical, European-oriented, Catholic society required force from outside the indigenous lifeworld. Left on their own, Amerindians would probably not have freely chosen to live settled lives. They would have continued to be as free as the wild animals that roam in their great forest (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Etienne & Leacock, 1980, p. 35). The system force that incapacitated and pathologized the Indian lifeworld was the Eurodominated fur trade. This was a cataclysmic force that turned the Amerindian world upside down and disordered the gender system. Incorporation into the emergent

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

Welton / CUNNING PEDAGOGICS

109

global world system gradually shifted Amerindian cultures from subsistence (production for use value) to market-oriented trapping (production for exchange).

CUNNING PEDAGOGICS: METHOD AND TECHNIQUE


Jesuit pedagogy was in the service of an apocalyptic, otherworldly mission to establish Christs kingdom on earth before his return. Achieving this end justified their usage of coercive means to convert their pedagogical subjects. They had learned to adapt themselves to the capacities of children [and] simple persons and appeal to all five senses in their preaching and catechizing (Axtell, 1985, p. 76). As startling as this may be to present-day teachers, the Jesuits conducted an assault on their learners beliefs, practices, and priests. They used ridicule and verbal attacks as a teaching device, mocking their learners gods and rituals. They shattered Indian etiquettejesting in the victims presence was a European practice throwing the Indians on the defensive by the very act of having their beliefs questioned, a process, claimed Axtell (1985), that no culture can long withstand (p. 94). Perhaps the Indians lacked an armour of self-consciousness strong enough to repulse the Jesuits unseemly irruptions (Axtell, 1985, p. 95), particularly as the Indian lifeworld was undermined by war, famine, and disease. The Jesuits were educational warriors and not neutral facilitators. So once they sensed that the traditional lifeworld was eroding, they focused their attacks on the inadequacy of the indigenous meaning system. They remonstrated against the shamans songs and incantations, easily demonstrating their inadequacy to ward off smallpox, diphtheria, influenza, and measles, and rushed in to replace them at the nadir of shamanic power. The indigenous knowledge systemas learning resource for problem solvingdid not provide the besieged Indians with a way of explaining what was, in fact, happening to them. The shaman was discredited as the focal adult educator (or hermeneutical expert). The lifeworld abhors a vacuum, and Jesuit argument that misfortunes were due to an omnipotent Gods just punishment of native sin (Axtell, 1985, p. 97) gained a foothold in indigenous epistemology. The Jesuits became Christian shamans and colonized a central cultural category within the native lifeworld. They even appeared to possess the ability to summon wildlife and to control the weather to the natives advantage (Axtell, 1985, p. 100). These wily Jesuits knew the laws of probability and wagered that they had a 50% chance of succeeding. It was worth the gamble, apparently, and no doubt reflects their ambivalence to the interplay of supernatural and natural orders. The Jesuits also used their skills at predicting eclipses of the sun and moon and their ability to read and write to create a spiritual aura around themselves. In 1683, Thierry Beschefer informed his French provincial that the prediction of eclipses had always been one of the things that have most astonished our Indians; and it has given them a higher opinion of their missionaries (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

110 ADULT EDUCATION QUARTERLY / February 2005

Axtell, 1985, p. 101). It was relatively easy for the Jesuits to disabuse the Indians of the fanciful notion that a divinity resided in the sun, a heavenly body. On January 31, 1646, an eclipse occurred. Just as the Jesuits had predicted, the Huron converts of Ossossane rushed from their lodges. They awakened the villages remaining pagans, insisting that they come and see how truthful are our preachers; and strengthen yourselves, by this argument, in the belief of the truths which they preach to us (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 102). For oral peoples whose only libraries are the collective memory deposited in the elders, the Jesuits second skillreading and writingwas perhaps more aweinspiring than any other and may have contributed to the Indians reception of Christianity as much as any single method or argument employed by the missionaries (Axtell, 1985, p. 102). The manner in which the Jesuits used their literacy speaks volumes of their cunning pedagogics. They argued that just as the written word was superior to the spoken, Christianity was superior to the native religion. The written word was solid, stable; the oral was variable, porous. According to Axtell (1985), Francesco Bressani reported that one of the three most compelling arguments used by the Jesuits with the Indians was that scripture does not vary like the oral word of man, who is almost by nature false (p. 103). Axtell said that after admiring the excellent handwriting, and how much more accurately it could transmit words than could fallible memories, they began to discern the certainty of the divine word (p. 103). The Jesuits had considerable success in instituting a new ground of authority the written word. In 1647, at an important tribal council meeting, a Huron convert challenged the speaker, who was relating tribal legends for the younger generations benefit. Where are the writings which give us faith in what thou sayest? he asked.
If each one is permitted to invent what he will, is it strange that we know nothing true, since we must acknowledge that the Hurons have been liars from all time? But the French do not speak by heart; they preserve from all antiquity the Sacred books, wherein the word of God himself is written, without permission to any one to alter it the least. (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 103)

The Jesuits took advantage of the Amerindian ignorance of the vicious disputes about the meaning of the sacred book in Europe (multiple interpretations, schisms, disputes, endless religious rivalries, secular doubts) to implant their ideology with great certainty in a disintegrating oral culture (Grafton, 1992). The Jesuits used visual images to teach the faith. Conversion by the image (Gagnon, 1975) has its roots in Loyolas Spiritual Exercises. The Jesuit founder encouraged his novices to practice mental representation of central biblical themes; to use relics, images, and adornments as sensory aids to spiritual learning; and to extend their imaginations to encompass the entire world of lost souls. Jesuit pedagogues sought to transform the perspectives of their pupils by appealing to the full

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

Welton / CUNNING PEDAGOGICS

111

range of the sensorium. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Jesuits gave their native proselytes oval brass or bronze medals (of Christ as an infant, for instance) bearing such inscriptions as Good and infinite Jesus have mercy on us. Writing from Sillery in 1676, Father Jean Enjiran requested things which may help us to win those poor Indians and specified
medals; small crucifixes a finger in length, or smaller still; small brass crosses and brass rings, also some in which there is the figure of some saint, or the face of Jesus Christ or the Blessed Virgin [and] wooden rosaries, very black and very thick, which they wear hanging from the neck or about the head. (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 113)

It is not stretching matters to assume that these Christian images replaced (or added to) the traditional amulets worn for protection and good fortune. The Jesuits believed that their Indian pupils learned best at moments of heightened emotion and melodrama. Believing that perspective transformation required shock treatment, Jesuit educators painted frightening verbal portraits of hell, the fiery underworld. Loyola believed that potential converts ought to be able to see the vast fires, and the souls enclosed . . . in bodies of fire; hear the wailing, howling, cries, and blasphemies of the damned; smell the smoke, the sulphur, the filth, and corruption; taste the bitterness of tears, sadness, and remorse of conscience; and touch the flames which envelop and burn the souls (as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 114). Indian catechumens were encouraged to use the see-hear-taste-touch mode of pedagogy to instruct novice Christians. According to an 18th-century Jesuit historian, some Indians thought the Jesuits were perpetrating a fraud because how could there be enough wood to keep a fire burning forever? Had not the Jesuits told them that the fires of the underworld burned by themselves? An ingenious Jesuit priest figured out a way to undermine the doubters. He invited the leading men of the village and others to come to an object lesson demonstration. Passing a lump of sulfur around to the villagers, they felt it in their hands. Then the priest crumpled some of the lump into a kettle full of coals. The earth burned and emitted a sickening odor. Axtell tells us that a historian noted that they believed in the word of God that there is a lower world (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 114). One can try to imagine oneself actually hearing the wailing of tormented souls. But the Jesuits went one step further by creating a play to celebrate the birth of the Dauphin. Sponsored by Governor Montmagny in Quebec in 1640, the Jesuits created a scenario to strike the Indians eyes and ears. In this gruesome bit of popular theatre, an unbelievers soul was chased by two Algonquin-speaking demons who, on capturing it, hurl it shrieking into a hell that vomited forth flames. Perhaps the earliest Canadian form of using drama as a teaching tool, this scenario sent more than one native spectator . . . home to terrifying nightmares (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 114). These spectacles appeared to worka spectacular pedagogy of fear designed to dynamite traditional mindsetsbut they were not

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

112 ADULT EDUCATION QUARTERLY / February 2005

universally appropriate or applicable in the settings in which most missionaries actually worked. The Jesuits had used pictures to instruct their pupils when they first landed in Acadia in 1611. They continued to learn how to meet the visual preferences of their learners. In 1637, Father Le Jeune used pictures of hell featuring enchained souls mad with pain. Rather sadistically (meant, perhaps, to trigger real-life memories of Iroquois torture practices), Le Jeune desired pictures for the Hurons that clearly depicted
three, four, or five demons tormenting one soul with different kinds of tortureone applying to it the torch, another serpents, another pinching it with red-hot tongs, another holding it bound with chainsit would have a good effect, especially if everything were very distinct, and if rage and sadness appeared plainly in the face of the lost soul. (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 115)

The Jesuits studied the aesthetic preferences of their students to increase the effectiveness of their pedagogy. After working with the Hurons for several years, Charles Garnier became very attuned to native aesthetic preferences. In approximately 1645, he wrote to his brother, a Carmelite monk, requesting pictures that included an 18-year-old beardless Jesus, Jesus on the cross, damned and happy souls, and an uncluttered Judgment. The Hurons favorite was a picture of the child Jesus clutching the knees of the Virgin, regally crowned and holding a scepter in her right hand and the earth in her left. The Indians preferred illuminated paintings to highlight the sacred mysteries. But Garnier had learned that what mattered most to the Indians were the cultural details. Amerindians imagined, at least for a long time, that pictorial people were actually alive, capable of watching them. The Jesuits provided pictures with people with their eyes closed. Bodies had to be semicovered, heads uncovered, hair straight and well combed, with no beards. The Jesuits even learned the symbolical significance of Indian color schemes. Happy souls should be white; others dressed in bright red or blue, not green or yellow. Portrayals of damned souls, Garnier thought, should be grilled and blackened by the flames, hair shaggy, eyes flashing and mouth agape with agony, and hands, feet, and middle girdled by red-hot chains. If that did not work to good effect, then the scaly dragon strangling the lost souls body, poked by horrific demons with harpoons, would do the trick (Rapport de lArchivisite de la Province du Quebec, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, pp. 115-116). The Jesuits grounded their pedagogical practice in the learners needs with a vengeance. The Jesuits imported a European aesthetic into Amerindian culture. Claude Chauchetire, a priest at Sault Saint-Louis, crafted illustrated books for his villagers by doing sketches for Michel Le Nobletzs catechetical lessons (Nobletz was a missionary in Brittany in the early 17th century). Chauchetiere thought that these wordless books served as mute teachers, able to travel with the Indians into the bush to hunt. This pictorial pedagogical experimentation encouraged Jean Pierron,

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

Welton / CUNNING PEDAGOGICS

113

a missionary to the Mohawks, to try his hand at religious artistry. In a bizarre painting that had as its didactic purpose to stop a number of older men and women from plugging their ears when the priests spoke, one of his paintings included, in the lower portion, an image of an old woman who was stopping her ears before a black robe attempting to show her paradise:
But there issues from Hell a Demon, who seizes her arms and hands, and puts his own fingers in the ears of this dying woman, whose soul is carried away by three Demons; while an Angel, coming out of a cloud, sword in hand, hurls them down into the depths. (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 116)

Once explained to the villagers, not another person was found who dared to say, I do not hear (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Axtell, 1985, p. 116). Pedagogical inventiveness and ingenuity were in the service of a puissant war against paganism.

VICTORIOUS PEDAGOGY: THE NEW FAITH TAKES HOLD


Eventually, this unceasing, persistent, fanatical assault on the Amerindian lifeworld, assisted by the ironic twists of history (disease and the fur trade), had gathered enough neophyte Christians together to create factions within many of the Indian villages. Between 1632 and 1672, the Jesuits claimed to have baptized more than 16,000 natives (of which one third were infants, children, and adults who soon died). Early converts faced the taunts and threats from nonbelievers, and the powerful pull to return to the old ways was always a nagging presence. The Jesuits then moved to the second phase of pedagogical instruction. They had to educate their fragile converts in the mysteries of faith and create a stable, deep Euro-Christian subjectivity in their converts. Although Catholic churches appeared in every conceivable style, the Jesuits sought to create a lavish, sensual, sacred pedagogical space to exert influence over their followers. They conducted their services and rituals with flash and pomp to provide the believers with a spiritual ambience that would awaken the senses and cast a spell over them. Their brocaded vestments and sparkling altar vessels, liberally endowed by two French noble women, added to the spell. And the Jesuits used chants and hymns, with their lovely lilting cadences and melodies, as mnemonic devices to anchor Christian verities (Axtell, 1985, pp. 118-121). The Jesuits worked hard to create a moral regime that put considerable coercive pressure on women to see themselves as the cause of domestic disputes. Young girls were even cloistered and guarded by male relatives and bells to ensure that young lovers did not crawl into their beds (Jesuit Relations, as quoted in Anderson, 1991, p. 96). Feminist historian Karen Anderson (1991) is astonished that the Huron and Montagnais moved from resistance to compliance, to self-policing (p. 96). The converts were actually behaving as if the Jesuit conception of the world were true.

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

114 ADULT EDUCATION QUARTERLY / February 2005

One might speculate that the erosion of the foundations of the lifeworld undermined womens autonomy, self-esteem, and confidence, leaving them vulnerable to the external judgment that they were flawed human beings who could be affirmed only when they obeyed the rule of their superiors. In the context of French political power, economic imbalance, persistent warfare, death and disease, crisis of faith, and Jesuit persistence, native men and women had very little room for maneuver. In situations of radical disempowerment, men and women will struggle to find ways to retain their dignity and exercise mastery over their life situations. Men sought power through identification with economic ends of the global fur trade, entering, however, into a Faustian bargain. For some disempowered Indian women, 17th-century Roman Catholicism provided some channels for their affirmation of identity and voice. Catholicism employed female imagerythe Virgin Mary, female saintsand could be co-opted by women as symbols of power (Shoemaker, 2002, p. 18). In conclusion, the Jesuit encounter with the Amerindians of the St. Lawrence Valley in 17th-century New France provides us with insights into the inner workings of the colonial imagination (an imagination that is still present in the 21st century). As exquisitely educated Euro-intellectuals, the Jesuits simply took for granted that their vision of truth and the ordering of material and spiritual worlds must, and would, prevail in the future. Their apocalyptic, intolerant faith animated their pedagogical project. They were brilliant popular educators: resourceful, courageous, and culturally attuned. Indeed, one is taken aback at how contemporary their methods seem. Yet this brilliant marshalling of pedagogical energy was ultimately in the service of a worldview that divided humankind into (Christian) friends and (Satanic) enemies. The Jesuits had nothing important to learn and everything important to teach. The political context of pedagogical instruction in the early Jesuit era and our own are neglected at our peril.

REFERENCES
Anderson, K. (1991). Chain her by one foot: The subjugation of women in seventeenth century New France. London: Routledge. Axtell, J. (1985). The invasion within: The contest of cultures in colonial North America. New York: Oxford University Press. Axtell, J. (1992). Beyond 1492: Encounters in colonial North America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Charlevoix, P. F. X. (1870). History and description of New France (J. G. Shea II, Ed. & Trans.) New York: J. G. Shea. Davis, N. (1994). Iroquois women, European women. In M. Hendricks & P. Parker (Eds.), Women, race, and writing in the early modern period (pp. 243-258). London: Routledge. Devens, C. (1992). Countering colonization: Native American women and Great Lakes Missions, 16301900. Berkeley: University of California Press. Eccles, W. J. (1990). France in America (Rev. ed.). Markham, Ontario, Canada: Fitzhenry and Whiteside.

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011

Welton / CUNNING PEDAGOGICS

115

Etienne, M., & Leacock, E. (Eds.). (1980). Women and colonization: Anthropological perspectives. New York: Praeger. Gagnon, F.-M. (1975). La conversion par limage [Conversion by the image]. Montral, Quebec, Canada: Les Editions Bellarmin. Ginzburg, C. (1983). Night battles: Witchcraft and agrarian cults in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. New York: Penguin. Grafton, A. (1992). New worlds, ancient texts: The power of tradition and the shock of discovery. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. Grant, J. W. (1984). Moon of wintertime: Missionaries and the Indian of Canada in encounter since 1534. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press. Jaenen, C. (1973). Friend and foe: Aspects of French-Amerindian cultural conflict in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Toronto, Canada: McClelland and Stewart. Martin, C. (1978). Keepers of the game: Indian-animal relationships and the fur trade. Berkeley: University of California Press. Merchant, C. (1989). Ecological revolutions: Nature, gender and science in New England. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Moogk, P. (2000). La nouvelle France: The making of a French CanadaA cultural history. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. Pagden, A. (1982). The fall of natural man: The American Indian and the origins of comparative ethnology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Ronda, J. (1981). We are well as we are: An Indian critique of seventeenth-century Christian missions. William and Mary Quarterly, 34, 66-82. Shoemaker, N. (2002). Kateri Tekakwithas torturous path to sainthood. In V. Strong-Boag, M. Gleason, & A. Percy (Eds.), Rethinking Canada: The promise of womens history (pp. 15-46). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Thomas, K. (1971). Religion and the decline of magic: Studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England. Middlesex, UK: Penguin. Thwaites, R. G. (1896-1901). The Jesuit Relations and allied documents, travels and exploration of the Jesuit missionaries in North America (1610-1791). Cleveland, OH: Burrows. Trigger, B. (1976). The children of Aataentsic I: A history of the Huron People to 1660. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queens University Press. Trigger, B. (1985). Natives and newcomers: Canadas heroic age reconsidered. Kingston, Ontario, Canada: McGill-Queens University Press. Trudel, M. (1973). The beginnings of New France 1524-1663. Toronto, Canada: McClelland and Stewart.

Downloaded from aeq.sagepub.com by kamau makesi-tehuti on March 28, 2011