The recent election of the new Pope got me pondering Canadian history and the lack of attention it receives in our education systems. How does anyone get to that bizarre connection?
Pope Francis is a Jesuit priest, the first from the Society of Jesus to reach that exalted position. The Jesuits helped shape the early development of North America, Canada and the northern U.S. in particular. They came to Christianize the Indians soon after Canada was discovered.
Jesuits are not ordinary parish priests. They are highly-educated, famous for their education methods and travel a higher intellectual road than most of us.
The most important thing the Jesuits did for Canada was to leave written observations of the New World and its people. The Jesuits in New France sent written annual reports to their superiors in Paris. The reports were called Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la Nouvelle France and were mainly narratives describing in detail the country, its people and how it was developing.
The Jesuit Relations are a rich source of information on events that shaped Canada into the nation we know today. Anyone spending time reading the Relations will gain a better understanding of what Canada is and why it developed so differently from the United States. The Relations should be part of the curricula of every Canadian education system.
American historical writer-editor Reuben Gold Thwaites compiled the Relations into 73 volumes early in the 1900s. These English translations can be found at http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/relations/. Also, Canadian scholar Allan Greer has compiled a small selection of the Jesuit Relations that gives readers a peek into this vast storeroom of Canadian history. It is titled The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America (Bedford/St. Martin’s 2000).
Canadians generally are not very knowledgeable about their country’s history and often know more U.S. history than their own. And, that’s a shame considering the vast history resources available to us.