In considering this important part of the subject, I feel unwilling to touch upon points of discussion which might give offence to any sect of Christians whatever ; but it cannot, and should not be concealed, that one of the principal causes of failure in the attempts made to convert the North American Indians, is the manner in which Christianity has been preached to them.

This observation will be found to apply both to Roman Catholic and Protestant. With respect to the former, it was not likely that the Indian, who possessed strong powers of reflection, and, as Mr. Tudor expresses it, “ some of whose notions are the soundest principles of natural religion,” could receive any solid benefit from the abstruse doctrines, idle ceremonies, harassing ordinances, and vexatious penance approved of by the early Jesuits. It has been already noticed how indignant Father Charlevoix was at the Dutch Protestant ministers for questioning the creeds, ceremonies, and doctrines taught to their female Roman Catholic converts. “They attacked them,” said he," on the subject of their devotions to the Mother of God, on the worship of the Saints, on that of the Cross, and of the Images; but they found these female converts well instructed, and firm in the belief of what we had taught them on these articles." In like manner did Père Rasles complain of the minister from New England interfering with his

you en

neophytes, and “ turning into ridicule all the pious observances of our Roman Catholic church, -our purgatory, invocation of saints, images, crosses, beads, and tapers.” But it did not require the ridicule of any sect whatever to make the Indian entertain indifference towards these pious observances,' - observances which no, liberal Roman Catholic would ever wish to see pressed upon the mind of the savage whom he calmly hoped to convert to Christianity. What then was the result? “They have a great complaisance for all that is said to them,” writes Father Hennepin, and in appearance do every thing seriously which treat them to do. When we say to them, Pray. to God with us, they do so; answering, word for word, according to the prayers that have been taught them in their own language. Kneel down, they kneel; take off your bonnet, they take it off ; be silent, they are so.

If one say to them, Hear me, they hearken directly; and if one gives them; some holy image, or crucifix, or beads, they will merely use them as ornaments to adorn their persons. And yet the Jesuit missionaries wished to make the world believe that their young Indian pupils and catechumens comprehended fully the doctrines they inculcated to them. “ I had last year two scholars,” says one of these early mis


Hennepin, vol. ii. ch. 32.

sionaries; “but now I have above twenty. After the departure of my master, (a native who was teaching him the Indian language) I collected and arranged a part of what he had taught me, and which I had written in detached pieces, according to his humour in dictating to me. Having therefore mustered my treasures, I set about composing something upon the catechism, or the principles of the faith ; and, taking my paper in my hand, I began by calling some of the children to me by a little bell. I then explained to them, in a general way, the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and of the Incarnation, and I repeatedly asked them if I spoke right, and if they understood me well; they all answered me, Eoco, eoco, ninisitoutenan; yes, yes, we understand.”* These young Indian scholars were more polite than most of their masters. “The religion, or rather the superstition of the Indians,' says another of the Jesuit missionaries, “also consists in praying ; but, O my God, what prayers ! In the morning, the little children, in coming out of their cabins, cry aloud, Cakouaki packais, amiscouaki packais, mousouaki packais Come porcupines, come elks, come beavers. This-this is all their prayers !"† And no bad prayer either for little Indian children to make, whose daily sub

* Relation de la Nouvelle France, 1633, p. 110.
+ Ibid. 1634, p. 80.

sistence often depended upon the produce of their father's chase.

What can be said also of the infliction of religious penance upon the Indian converts ? The French inissionaries must indeed have entered little into the sentiments and character of the North American Indian, if they thought that the prescription of such discipline could serve them in their work of conversion. Not that an Indian warrior, possessing such extreme self-command, and educated to bear with indifference the most severe trials, would shrink at the infliction of any penance which it was likely the church would impose upon him. His own voluntary penances, or self-devotion for the commission of what, according to Indian notions, amounted to crimes or offences, were far more severe than any thing ordained by even the rigorous bigotry of their Jesuit instructors. The anecdote related by Volney of the Miami chief, who, having murdered another Indian, offered his own life as an atonement to the family of the deceased, has been already mentioned. “If they will not receive these presents,” said he, “ let them fix the time and place. I shall be there alone, and they may take my life.” Heckewelder also relates a similar instance, which occurred in Canada in 1793. Two Indians met on the street of the village of La Chine, and one of them, a man of great personal strength, insulted the other, calling bim a coward, and ad

dressing him in other opprobrious terms; upon which the latter drew out his knife, and stabbed him to the heart. A crowd immediately collected, calling out, “Kill him, kill him!" The Indian sat down by the dead body, and placing himself in an attitude proper to receive the stroke of the tomohawke, coolly awaited his fate. This he expected from the hand of some relative of the deceased, but no person seemed inclined to strike the blow. After the body was removed, the Indian was left sitting alone on the spot. Not meeting the fate he expected, he rose and went to a more public part of the village, and again lay down on the ground waiting the fatal stroke; but no one attempted to touch him. He then went to the mother of the Indian whom he had killed, an aged widow, and thus addressed her : “ Woman, I have slain thy

He had insulted me, it is true; but still he was thine, and his life was valuable to thee. I therefore now surrender myself up to thy will."*


* Heckewelder's Account of the Indians, ch. 6. The story proceeds thus : “ Thou hast indeed killed my son, who was dear to me,” replied the woman,

s and the only support of my old age. One life is already lost, and to take thine on that account can be of no service to me. Thou hast, however, a son, whom, if thou wilt give me in the place of him thou hast slain, all shall be wiped away." The Indian then said, “ Mother, my son is yet a child, only ten years old, and can be of no service to thee, but rather a trouble and charge :

« ElőzőTovább »