Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sainte-Marie among the Huron

The boys and I are going to spend some time this summer exploring Aboriginal culture, and visiting Sainte-Marie Among The Huron, a Jesuit mission from the 1600s located in Wendat territory, has been on our list of places to visit. Granted, it is a fair bit backwards to visit this site at the beginning of our exploration instead of the end, but the weather was fine, and Jim was sleeping so the kids and I had to be quiet or gone for the day. Off we went.

The mission was built in the early 1600s, by Jesuit Priests whose goal was to convert the Wendat(Huron) people to Christianity. They were active for only 10 years, when a combination of disease, warfare with the Iroquois, and division within the Wendat community led the Jesuits to set fire to the village and move on. They established another mission in the same region and continued their work for one more winter, before returning to Quebec with about 600 Christian Wendat people.

The village has been reconstructed on the site of the original village, with the buildings placed over top of the ruins. We spent time exploring the sleeping and eating quarters, the canals, chapel, long houses, and tee pees. We tried our hands at making clay amulets, dipping candles, grinding corn, and writing with quills. We listened to aboriginal stories by the fire, and hymns sung by a choir.

This trip was a real eye-opener for me. The village itself was incredible to see, but I was really taken aback by the conversations that William and I had on the drive to and from. I don't know how it happened, but somehow my little baby has grown into a boy capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation about colonialism, racial supremacy, diversity and tolerance. Not his words, of course, but the point was there. We spent a great deal of time talking about how important history is not only so that we can know where we come from, but more importantly so that we can avoid making again the mistakes of the past.

I know that kids go on this type of field trip with their school classes, but somehow I doubt that the conversations on the school bus were anything like this...

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