by Father Dolbeau who toiled among the Montagnais, following them to the woods and partaking of the hardships of their life. His journeys took him as far east as Seven Islands.1
In July 1616, the priests assembled at Quebec to consider the situation. They drew up a report of their observations, in which the following remarks were made as regards the mission to the Montagnais Indians: “ That with regard to the nations down the river and those of the North, including the Montagnais, Etchemins, Betsiamites and Papinachois, the great and little Esquimaux, they occupy an uncultivated, barren, mountainous country; abounding however in all kinds of wild beasts, seals, beaver, moose, bear, marten, otter, lynx—the Indians are nomadic, wandering in the woods, excessively superstitious, attached to their juggleries, with no form of religion, and, so far as regards the most part, it would require a long time to civilize them.”1
In spite of these unpromising conclusions, however, Fathers Huet, Caron or Irenaeus dwelt among these people nearly, if not every, winter until the Recollet missions were superseded by those of the Jesuits. They laboured assiduously, but it was rather in preparing the ground than in gathering the fruits. Some intimacies were established. Father Caron was adopted by a Montagnais chief as his brother. The same priest opened a school at Tadoussac in order, as he says, to attract the Indians, and accustom them to the French ways of living.1 More important, however, was the compiling of a Huron and Montagnais dictionary,1 to which Father Irenaeus, who had been instructed by Father Caron, made a considerable contribution.
The results achieved after 9 years of steady labour are summarised in a letter written in 1624 by the Superior of the Mission to the Provincial in Paris, “ I shall not give you much satisfaction by a great number of souls converted. Few real conversions are made among our Indians; the time of grace is not yet come, although nothing is spared to dispose them for the Faith. It must be hoped that as the colony is peopled we shall civilise the Indians. This is necessary first; their minds will open and their good sense, of which they have the base . . . .”
“ We have thus far traversed more than six hundred leagues inland, and even wintered with the principal nations. They do not lack good sense in what concerns the public or private interest of the nation; they reach their end and even adopt very fit means and measures; and it is the subject of my surprise that, being so enlightened for their petty affairs, they have nothing but what is extravagant and ridiculous when you treat of religious dogmas or rules of morality, laws and maxims. We have visited eight or ten different nations down the river towards Tadoussac, and we have found that almost all the Indians of New France acknowledge no divinity, and are even incapable of ordinary and natural reasonings on this point, so material and benighted is their intellect.” 2
A conference of the fathers was called in Quebec in 1625. After a consideration of the vastness of the field, the paucity of laborers, and the smallness of their means, the fathers decided to call upon the wealthier and
more powerful order of the Jesuits.1 The overtures of the Recollets were heard favourably by the Provincial of the Jesuits in Paris, and five members of the order were assigned to duty in Canada.
Before the Jesuits were fairly settled down as co-laborers with the Recollets, Canada had fallen into the hands of the English, and from 1629 until 1632, when the country was restored to the French, all missions were suspended. When the missions were re-opened, they were taken over entirely by the Jesuits, the Recollets not returning until some years later.
The Recollets had four sedentary stations established before they left Canada—at Quebec, Trois Rivières, among the Hurons, and at Tadoussac. When the Jesuits returned they devoted themselves for some years almost exclusively to the Indians in the west. The reason would appear to be that the western Indians being more sedentary in their habits could be brought more readily under the continuous efforts of the missionaries. The Jesuits referred repeatedly to the difficulties of exercising influence over the eastern Indians, owing to their nomadic habits. They sought to make these Indians more sedentary by various means. A settlement was established near Quebec, where the missionaries hoped to induce the Montagnais to come and make their homes. On one occasion the Montagnais appealed to the Governor for assistance against the Iroquois. The Governor promised them what they asked on condition that they would agree to live in a settlement at Trois-Rivières.
The decision to open a mission for the Indians of Eastern Canada and Labrador at Tadoussac was eventually brought about by negotiations between some Christian Montagnais dwelling at the mission of St. Joseph and some eastern Indians. The former had urged the eastern Indians to give up their wandering life, and live at St. Joseph, where they would be within hearing of the missionaries. The latter objected for several reasons, among them being fear of the Iroquois, and insisted on a missionary being sent to them at Tadoussac. This was conceded. The priest was well received, and the mission was opened.2
The missionaries did not, however, easily relinquish the idea of making the eastern Indians sedentary. Father Le Jeune, who gave the foregoing account of how the mission came to be established, indulged in the same letter, in a bit of prophecy. He said: “ I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet; but, seeing what God has done in one France and in the other for the salvation of the Savages, I scarcely doubt that one day will be seen what I am going to remark.
“ First I expect St. Joseph will be peopled by Abnaquiois, by Bersiamites, by Savages from Tadoussac, by the Porcupine Tribe, by the Oupapinachiwekhi, and the Oumaniwekhi.”
The Bersiamites, Oupapinackiwekhi, and the Oumaniwekhi all dwelt on the Labrador coast, the Oupapinachiwekhi being better known as the Papinachois, and the Oumaniwekhi as the Oumamiwek.
The success which attended the services of the missionary at Tadoussac greatly encouraged him. Each annual Relation is a record of pious practices
on the part of the Christian Indians, and of growing interest among those who were still pagans.
Tadoussac, however, was but a first step. It was nearer to the Eastern and North Eastern Indians than Quebec, but there were tribes down the St. Lawrence a hundred leagues and more beyond Tadoussac, whose trade would not take them to that port; and there were many others in this region, who dwelt far in the interior, from lake Mistassini to the Atlantic ocean, who had no occasion to visit ports on the St. Lawrence. These also were calling for missionaries, with an insistence that would not be denied. Inland journeys became a necessity, if the missions were to be counted successful.
The first journey into the interior was made by Father De Quen in 1647. He ascended the Saguenay to its source at Lake St. John, to make a pastoral visit to the Christian Indians of the Porcupine nation. He was warmly welcomed by the people as the first Frenchman who had set foot in their land.1 Lake St. John was, like Kaniapiskau, Petitsikapau, and Sandgirt, a gathering place for the Indians from all parts of the Peninsula. One of the missionaries related having met Indians from twenty nations at that place.2 Another states that he ministered to two Christian Indians, who had travelled 200 leagues to make confession.
The influence of the missionaries did much to break down the barriers, which had separated the different nations from one another. The father in charge of the missions in 1649-50, reported that “ the Christians with their chiefs, formerly so jealous of their country and port of Tadoussac, that they denied it intercourse with other nations, seeing that the Fathers could not go with them into the depths of their vast forests, invited them to dwell near them.”3 But the influence did not end here. “ These people who formerly concealed from the French the highways to the nations to whom they went for traffic, not being willing that even we should approach them, press us now that they are Christians, to follow them into the vast forests, in order to baptize and confess the nations who cannot reach their country.” 3
That the invitation to the other nations was not without response is evident from the fact reported in the same Relation that the Papinachois “ who inhabit lands in the neighborhood of Anticosti ” began to appear at Tadoussac. A regular mission was established among this nation in 1667.
In 1661, Fathers Druillettes and Dablon made preparations for a journey much beyond anything until that time attempted. Hudson's Bay was the point at which they aimed. The Bay had many attractions for the fathers, both as missionaries and Frenchmen. As the director of the missions says in his report of that year : “ We have long known that we have the North Sea behind us, its shores occupied by hosts of Savages entirely unacquainted with Europeans ; that this sea is contiguous with that of China to which it only remains to find an entrance ; and that in those regions lies that famous bay, 70 leagues wide by 27° long, which was first discovered by Husson, who gave it his name,—Upon this bay are found, at certain seasons of the year, many surrounding nations embraced under the general name of Kilistinons ” 4 They
obtained much information regarding Hudson's Bay from a Nipissirinien captain, and on the strength of it determined to see the bay.
They set out on June 1, 1661, and after many hardships managed to reach lake Nekouba, near the watershed separating the waters flowing into Hudson's Bay from those whose outlet is in the St. Lawrence. Reports of Iroquois onslaughts in the neighbourhood dispersed the Indians guiding the party, and they got no further. But the journey was far from fruitless. Nekouba was also a gathering place for the exchange of furs between the Indians of the far interior, and those who visited Tadoussac and other points on the St. Lawrence. “ Nekouba ” in the language of the report, “ is a place noted for a market which is held there every year, to which all the Savages of the surrounding country resort for the purpose of conducting their petty traffic.” 1 “ Furthermore, we saw people from eight or ten nations, some of whom had never beheld a Frenchman, or heard of God.”
So far, the expeditions inland had been up the Saguenay to the country to the North and northwest. The height of land on the way to Hudson's Bay was the farthest point reached in any direction.
In the same Relation, the Provincial of the Order in Paris is informed of a journey made by Father Bailloquet as far to the north-eastward as the mouth of the river St. Lawrence. He visited seven or eight different nations—the Papinachiois, the Bersiamites, the Mont Pelés, the Oumamiowek, and others allied to these.2 Two years later—in 1663—Father Nouvel paid a pastoral visit to the Papinachois in their territory in the interior. He accompanied a French merchant and a number of coast-dwelling Papinachois, who were engaged in the exchange of European commodities for the furs taken by their kinsmen of the interior. This procedure for the procuring of furs is mentioned by Father Coquart, who, in the course of a memorandum written in 1750 on the King's Posts, states that “ at the beginning of June the Agent at Jeremi Islets departs for Manicouagan and goes up the river to a certain place, where he meets the savages who inhabit these lands; he trades with them and brings back their peltries.” 3
The region towards which the party made their way was in the neighborhood of lake Manicouagan, at the head of Manicouagan river.4 The usual route inwards was along the Outardes River which runs roughly parallel to the Manicouagan. When the party reached their destination at the head-waters of the Manicouagan river, Father Nouvel was greeted as the first European who had ever appeared in that country. He found there sixty-four Papinachiois who had just returned from the remote interior and were awaiting the arrival of compatriots in order that they might dispose of their furs.
Father Nouvel remained at lake Manicouagan two weeks, ministering in the meantime to a large party of Ouchestigoetch, a nation whose habitations were farther north than those of the Papinachois. Among those baptized was an Oumaniois captain with his wife and children. This zealous captain expressed his determination to visit the tribes on the shores of Hudson's Bay, and carry the good news to them. From him Father Nouvel obtained so
precise an account of the people, who dwelt on the shores of Hudson's Bay that he was resolved to make a journey thither, in the following year.
The wide range of the contact established by these early fathers with the Indians of the Labrador peninsula is evident from a view of a map of New France, published in Historia Canadensis, a volume which appeared in 1664. On this map are shown the position and names of villages, tribes and lakes as far north as Hudson's Straits. That it is incorrect in many particulars is not to the point. These names and details could have been obtained from one source only, apart from the Jesuits themselves, that is, the Indians, who ranged over the remoter parts of the peninsula, and who attended the annual fairs or other places where trading between the interior and coast Indians took place.
The decision of the Jesuit Father to make an expedition to Hudson's Bay was confirmed by news received from Father Albanel, who was in charge of the Tadoussac mission. Albanel was making a pastoral visit to the Papinachois, and among those who attended his service, was an Indian from Hudson's Bay, who told him that a French vessel had been seen in the Bay. Its crew had pillaged and grievously maltreated the natives, and the captain of the vessel told him that he would be in the Bay on the following year, and that the people must all be directed to bring their peltries to him.1
This was a piece of news of consequence to others besides the missionaries. Talon, the Intendant of Canada, determined to send an expedition to the Bay, which would be under the charge of Paul Denis de St. Simon, one of his officers, and the Jesuit Father Albanel.2 In the party was a Canadian merchant, M. Couture. The expedition set out in August 1671. On reaching the upper waters of the Chamouchouan river, they met a party of Indians from the far north, who told them of trading ships anchored in Hudson's Bay, and of hostilities between those on the vessels and the natives. Believing it necessary to obtain credentials from the government, they despatched messengers to Quebec, and were thus delayed until the following Spring. On June 10, 1672, they resumed their journey, but on passing over the height of land were challenged by a chief, whose consent was held to be necessary to their further progress. Albanel took a high tone with the chief. He denied the right of any person to prevent Frenchmen from travelling where he pleased in Indian country. The French had driven their enemies the Iroquois from the country and it was due to them to have a free passage where they would. The Indian assented, and the party again moved forward. They reached lake Mistassini on June 18, lake Nemiskau, an expansion of the Rupert river on the 25th, and on the 28th came upon a small vessel of 10 or 12 tons flying an English flag. From the Rupert the party pushed on up the shore of Hudson's Bay till they reached the Eastmain river, which was the end of their journey. On the return journey Albanel planted the French standard on the shore of lake Nemiskau, and another at Minahigouskat river.
The hold obtained by Albanel over the Indians at lake Mistassini was strengthened by a visit made by Father Crépieul, in charge of the Lake St. John's mission, to the lake in 1674. He remained at Mistassini several