Friday, June 3, 2011

The French, continued...

Although the previous post is titled "The French in Mainland North America", it was primarily about the first and second voyages of Jacque Cartier and there is so much more to information about the French in mainland North America to be provided. This blog post will briefly discuss the French cultural adaptation, the significance of the fur trade, religious development, and the founding of Quebec by Samuel de Champlain.

French Cultural Adaptation

Coureur des bois was a term meaning "Runners in the Woods". They acted as field representatives to deliver French-made goods to the Indian villages and to take back packs of fur to the French villages. The Coureur des bois adopted indigenous dress, learned the different languages, sought cultural knowledge, and entered into long-term relationships with the women. This kind of relationship was called marriage a la facon du and was absolutely essential to develop kin networks. The Coureur des bois embraced intercultural marriage and raised bi-racial children. Both males and females who were born from such intercultural marriages rose to positions of importance in the fur trade in the 17th century.

Significance of the Fur Trade

~~Allowed cultural integration--trade was part of a network of kinship and social obligations; trade gave French a foothold in this world, otherwise they would have been outsiders.
~~Gave the French influence without the expense of an army.
~~The fur trade was perceived as mutually beneficial by hosts--swapping technology for by-products of teh hunt; both sides think they're getting the better end of the deal.
~~Labor-saving from French--hunting done by Indian men, hide prep and transport done by Indian women.
~~However, in conjunction with pandemics, touches of a contest for territory and population will shake Northeastern America.

Religious Development

Jesuit priests arrived in New France inspired by the success of the Spanish Franciscan monks; they wanted to convert North American Indians to Catholicism, but realized that they would have to do it without the benefit or an army or, often, the support of the other Frenchmen in the colony, especially the coureurs des bois who saw the Jesuits as prissy nuisances.

The Jesuits abandoned the idea early on that the Native Americans will flock to them or that they can gather everyone together in agricultural peasant communities because in coastal New France, most of the Indians were light and mobile farmers.

The Jesuits went with the Indians and with the coureurs des bois into the woods and would preach to them along the way. By doing this, the Jesuits tried to create a feeling of shared suffering and sacrifice.

"Flying Missions", or the set of letters written by these Jesuit missionaries produced historians' most important body of knowledge about Northern Woodland Indians and was published in Jesuit Relations.

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