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Jesuit Missionaries and Native Americans lived in the New France region, perpetuated violence against one another, and participated in the healing ritual of baptism. Native Americans shared a nuanced cultural borderland with the Jesuit missionaries and this interaction contextualized the emotional performance of baptism to heal the illnesses of the Indians. An examination of the interaction between Jesuits and Indians in the Great Lakes region, including the Huron, Iroquois, Algonquin and related nations, from 1610 to 1790 challenges the historiographical tendency to treat Native American subjects as more or less rational, autonomous or important than their European counterparts. By analyzing the role of baptism in Jesuit-Indian encounters, historical accounts can better preserve the humanity of Native Americans. Regardless of what other constituent parts the category of human may include, two defining characteristics of humanity are emotion, expressed here in hateful repulsion and the feeling of cross-culture attraction, and will, expressed through agency. Both Jesuits and Indians constructed identities that alienated and demonized the other. Each expressed this hate in both physical and non-direct forms. Both Jesuits and Indians understood baptism as a healing ritual. Each group sought to use the ritual for both physical and spiritual healing. Native Americans and Jesuit missionaries shared a relationship characterized by dependence and repulsion. Through the ritual of baptism and the resulting emergence of the more inclusive Christian identity, Native Americans and Jesuits regulated and accommodated mutual hatred and the desire for healing. In New France, the ritual of baptism functioned to temper the rift of cultural tension between and reveal the humanity of Native Americans and French Jesuits.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
John Corrigan, Professor Directing Thesis; Amanda Porterfield, Committee Member; Amy Koehlinger, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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