The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume VI

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weeks, and baptized more than 100 persons. Among these was a band from Hudson's Bay, who were so impressed that they promised to visit the mission again and bring with them as many as they could induce to accompany them.1
In the same year (1675) the missions along the coast were extended by Father Nicholas, who made a short visit to Seven Islands, near the mouth of the Bersimis river, a place which he observes is “ noted on account of the large concourse of Savages who after having hunted in the forests on the mainland resort from time to time to a river quite near the islands, to trade with the French. This region is properly the country of the tribes whom we call Oumaniois.” 2
The publication of the annual Relations having been suppressed by the Pope in 1672, the account of the activities of the Jesuits in North America must be looked for in other quarters. Fortunately many manuscript copies of the later Relations, as well as numerous letters from missionaries are to be found in the archives of several libraries in Europe and America. By the enterprise of the Burrows Brothers Company of Cleveland, many of these have been unearthed and published in their monumental work “ Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France.” But some idea of the extent of what is still missing may be gathered from the fact that, in this work, 56 volumes are occupied with the Relations between 1610 and 1672, whereas all the material considered pertinent to the subject that could be gathered between that date and 1791 is contained in 15 volumes.
The consequence is that the information as to the mission work of the Jesuits after 1672 is fragmentary, that obtained from the Relations being supplemented by facts gleaned from other sources. The only complete piece of information is the list of missionaries who served on the Tadoussac mission from 1640 until 1863. This list is contained in the report of the Missions of the Diocese of Quebec published in March 1864.3 Read in connection with the Journal of Father Laure,4 it shows that, with a gap of about twenty years between 1701 and 1720, there had been, at the time the list was compiled, no break in the continuity of evangelizing effort among the Montagnais and allied nations for upwards of two centuries.
In 1677, Father Boucher made a pastoral visit to the Papinachois at Ile Jeremie and at Seven Islands. He mentions that so eager were these Indians to take advantage of his ministrations that those who were no more than twelve or fifteen leagues away came to him at once. On this occasion he spent the winter with them.5
Father Crépieul spent the winter of 1671-1672 among the Papinachois, and notes the fortunate circumstance that he “happened to be there at a time when these Indians came in large numbers from the depths of the woods to carry on their small trading with the French.6
As already intimated there was a period of about twenty years when these missions were abandoned. Various more or less obscure circumstances may have accounted for this lapse in missionary labor in the regions under consideration ; but a statement of the revenues of the Order and their sources, published by the heads of the Order in Canada in 1701 makes it

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clear that lack of means was the principal contributing cause. Out of a total revenue of 13,135 livres, 9,000 was derived from France, partly from the King, partly from the estates of the Order. It is stated that when conditions were all favorable, the revenues might rise to as much as 1000 livres beyond the figure mentioned. On the other hand, the revenues might diminish and the expenses increase, if such untoward events as bad seasons or war supervened.1
This is exactly what happened during this period. The war of the Spanish Succession had exhausted the French treasury, to the point that it could no longer make it customary contributions to the church in Canada. The consequences are reported to the Court. The Governor and Intendant state in 1700: “ Several Cures have already left, and others are preparing to do so” ; and the Intendant himself in the previous year informed the Minister that “ there are many people without religious succour, owing to the lack of priests and of funds.2
The missions with headquarters at Tadoussac were resumed in 1720 by Father Laure and continued by him until the year before his death in 1738. He was succeeded by Father Maurice who commenced his work in 1740 by a journey to Iles Jeremie in company with M. Cugnet the lessee of the King's Posts. He died in 1745, and Father Coquart followed, beginning his mission where his predecessor had left it. He served in the same region until his death in 1765. His successor Father La Brosse began at Isle aux Coudres in 1766, passed down the River St. Lawrence in 1767, and after continuous service, partly on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence and partly at Gaspé and Nova Scotia, died at Tadoussac in 1782. During the period of Father La Brosse's service, there was a missionary, M. Parent, at Mingan and St. Augustin, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Father La Brosse was the last Jesuit missionary in Canada.
Details of the voyages made and work done by these evangelists are contained in the report made by Father Laure in 1730, and the Journals of Father Maurice and Coquart, which run continuously from 1740 to 1750. Fathers Laure and La Brosse, besides their purely missionary activities, both left works of lasting usefulness to those who followed them in this particular field. Both prepared dictionaries of the Montagnais language, and of the latter it has been said : “ La Brosse, the last of his order at Tadoussac, instructed many of his flock to read and write, and left a legacy of native education, which has lasted unto the present day.” 3
After the departure of the Jesuits from the mission fields, the work among the Labrador Indians was carried on under the immediate direction of the Bishop of Quebec ; 4 and at some period not long after, if not coincidently with, the new direction, an arrangement was made by the Bishop with the lessees of the King's Posts, and of the posts at Mingan and Masquarro, by which the latter paid the salary of the missionary, and all his expenses for conveyance and maintenance during the time of the mission.5 This arrangement continued under several lessees until the termination of the ancient scheme for the leasing of the exclusive trade of these territories to companies or individuals, in 1860.5 When the North West Company secured the lease in 1802, the Bishop of

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Quebec wrote Mr. McTavish one of the members of the Company, imposing certain obligations on the Company as a condition upon which the missionary would be sent, as the Indians desired. The Company were not to permit the Indians to receive liquor in quantities sufficient to intoxicate them ; nor were the servants of the Company to be permitted to have any communication with the Indians that was not strictly necessary. It had been customary, the Bishop went on to say, for the lessees to pay the missionaries 1500 livres or 50 guineas a year ; to provide means of transportation for the missionary from Rimouski to the nearest post by canoe ; and to restore him to Rimouski at the end of July. Food and lodging were also provided by the lessees.
The posts of Mingan and Masquarro, which formed part of the mission were leased to W. Grant, who paid 16 guineas out of the total of 50 guineas, and provided transportation and maintenance while the missionary was on service east and north of Seven Islands.
The Imperial Act of 1809 having restored to the Newfoundland Government the jurisdiction it enjoyed over the whole coast from river St. John, which enters the St. Lawrence at a point adjacent to the western end of Anticosti, to Cape Chidley at the south eastern end of Hudson's Straits, the question arose as to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction over this stretch of Coast. On September 10, 1809, the Bishop of Quebec wrote to the Vicar Apostolic of Newfoundland sending him a copy of the Imperial Act, and stating that if, as he hoped, the commission of the latter extended over the whole Government of Newfoundland, it followed that the territory attached to the Government of Newfoundland by that act no longer formed part of the diocese of Quebec.1
No reply was received from the Vicar General to this communication ; and it was not until 1820, that the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Newfoundland was made to correspond with the civil jurisdiction.2 In transmitting to the Vicar Apostolic the papal brief, giving effect to this measure, the Bishop of Quebec stated that it had been his practice to send a missionary to make a pastoral visit to the Montagnais as far down as Mingan and Masquarro. He would propose continuing this practice as Vicar General of the Bishop of Newfoundland, so long as the latter deems it proper for him to do so.
This arrangement worked satisfactorily, until the advent of the Reverend Mr. Fleming who succeeded to the Vicariate Apostolic in 1830. The Bishop of Quebec on learning of the change of dignitary wrote asking Mr. Fleming to give him authority as vicar general to attend to the spiritual needs of the Indians and others dwelling within the Newfoundland jurisdiction east of river St. John, but he could obtain no reply. His first letter was written on March 19, 1832.3 This was followed by two reminders, but his letters remaining unanswered and the offices of the missionaries in relations to the Indians being seriously limited by want of power, he wrote to and obtained from, the Court of Rome an indult dated August 18, 1833, giving him all the powers he required in this part of the Newfoundland jurisdiction.4 It was under the authority of this indult and of another issued in 1834,5 that the Bishop of Quebec exercised the powers of a vicar general to the Bishop of Newfoundland until the coast between river St. John and Blanc Sablon, the eastern limits

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fixed by the Imperial Act of 1825 for Lower Canada, was re-annexed to the Diocese of Quebec in 1853.1
Of the work done by the secular priests under the direction of the Archbishop of Quebec during the period between 1782 and 1844, few particulars are to be found. A letter written by Father Durocher in 1845, when he entered the field shows that it had not been neglected by his predecessors. Writing to Father Guigues, he states that the last of those missionaries, Father Boucher, had by his indefatigable and persistent zeal brought about the regeneration of the Montagnais, by inducing them to accept total abstinence from intoxicating liquors. During the three or four years prior to the arrival of Father Durocher, there had not been an instance of an infraction of the pledge taken by these Indians.2
Father Durocher carried on the temperance work among these Indians, with an ardour apparently equal to that manifested by Father Boucher. Father Arnaud writing to the Bishop in September 1850 says : “ It is Father Durocher who has completed the work among them, so courageously began by the indefatigable and zealous M. Boucher, whose memory is so dear to all the Indians of the coast ; and they have been even more steadfast in their promises than they were formerly easy to be misled by the love of firewater.3
In 1844, the Archbishop of Quebec received important assistance in carrying on the mission work in this part of the country. On May 9 of that year he informed the President of the Propaganda of the Faith of his intention to found at Grand Bay on the Saguenay a house of priests of the congregation of the Oblates, the mother house of which was at Marseilles, to take care of the settlements which were being rapidly formed on that river ; 4 and on October 4, he confided to Father Honorat the Superior of that Order, (1) the mission of St. Alexis de la Grand Baie on the Saguenay ; (2) the Indians of the King's Posts and of Mingan Seigneury; (3) the Indians frequenting the shores of the St. Maurice ; (4) generally, all the Indians, Christian and pagan, who inhabit the northern part of the diocese beyond the parishes which have been formed there.5
The Oblate fathers entered on their work with praiseworthy zeal. They labored in every part of this difficult and extensive field, and their reports made annually or as opportunity offered, give an exact account of the Indians under their care. Taken in connection with the records of the Hudson's Bay Company, these reports enable us to construct the story of the Nascopies and other tribes so far as they emerged from the obscurity of the wilderness.
In 1845, Governor Simpson had before him a report made the year before, by the officer in charge of the post at North West River, stating that the Indians about the Bay (Esquimaux Bay or Lake Melville) were determined to go to Mingan to attend the services of the priest there.6 He was much perturbed by the news, and directed the agent to promise the Indians that if they would defer their visit to the Gulf, the Company would procure for them the services of a priest near the post in the following year. This same year, Father Durocher reported that the post at Seven Islands was occasionally visited by a few families of Naskapis, “ an infidel nation the members of which

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have for thirty years eagerly sought to be enlightened by the beacons of faith. They are too poor to stand the expense of the journey.” 1
With these two statements must be coupled a third made by Father Durocher in his report for 1853. In a letter to the Superior of the Order he says : at Mingan “ there were waiting for me our dear neophites and a large number of Indians from Esquimaux Bay. Nearly three years ago, these Indians left their country to come and be instructed in our holy religion. Most of them were still infidels and none, even those who were Christians, had ever seen the black robes.” 2
It is clear that the work began by the missionaries was being pursued by native converts—Montagnais, Naskapis or both—in regions at that time unvisited by ministers of the Church. The Jesuit Relations contain many references to the evangelizing zeal of the Indian converts. A striking instance—one of many—is recorded by Father Bailloquet on the occasion of his visit already mentioned to the mouth of the river St. Lawrence in 1661. Here he states that he was petitioned for baptism by some “ who believed that they fully deserved that happiness for having of their own accord learned the prayers, with no teacher but the Holy Ghost, through meeting with some Christian savages.” 3
The circumstances relating to the founding of the mission at Esquimaux Bay (Lake Melville) require to be told. In 1838, the Bishop of Quebec wrote to the Vicar Apostolic of Newfoundland. He first reminded the Vicar Apostolic that he had written to him several times during the preceding five years, without receiving a reply, and that, in order that the Indians and others residing beyond river St. John which was within the jurisdiction of the Vicar General, might have the full benefit of the services of his missionaries, he had been compelled to obtain vicar general's powers from the Holy See. Since obtaining these powers, merchants had informed him that other Indians belonging to the jurisdiction of Newfoundland and residing at Esquimaux Bay would be disposed to receive the seed of the faith, if a priest were sent to them. He had until that time declined to entertain the request that his priests should be sent into that distant region, partly because the pagans there did not belong to his fold, and partly because he had no priest available for this service. The Bishop of Quebec let the Vicar Apostolic know these facts in order that the latter might make provision for this part of his territory. If, however, there were no Newfoundland priests, who could undertake the mission, the Bishop would be prepared to send one or more from among his priests.4
In December of the same year, the Vicar Apostolic breaks silence for the first time, to give the Bishop the necessary powers to minister to the dwellers in that part of his jurisdiction situated on the mainland. But the Bishop found that his wishes to serve the Indians about Esquimaux Bay exceeded his resources, and on April 1847, he wrote to the Vicar Apostolic that he had not been able to take further advantage of those powers than to send missionaries to the Mingan Indians, who were nearest to his diocese.5
Father Durocher, who was importuned to send a missionary to that district, sent word by a Christian Indian telling them that as the missionaries


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