Shannon Cooper

Reading Log: “We Are Well As We Are”

            For many years historians have portrayed missionries, known as Jesuits, as individuals who selflessly worked towards civilizing American Indians by showing them how to become good Christian people. In reality, the Jesuits attempted to force the Indian people to sacrifice all aspects of their Indian identity through ridiculous fear tactics, sin and fiery hell, and the promise of good things, Heaven and eternal happiness. This article discusses the fact that in most written history the Native American Indian voice, and their reaction to the attempted and sometimes successful conversion, is virtually absent. The main reason for this absence is the fact that “Indian speeches were filtered through white interpreters, recorded by white secretaries, and ultimately arranged in the memoirs of white missionaries”.[1] Through the use of primary and secondary sources, this article demonstrates the importance of hearing all voices as one voice fails to paint the entire picture.

This article raises the question “…how is it we know what we think we know about the past”[2]. According to the author, James P Ronda, the how and what of the American Indian history is quite inaccurate because most written articles, including newly researched articles, are extremely one sided and often favors one voice, “They (the new interpretations) continue to concentrate upon the words and actions of missionaries to the neglect of Indian responses and initiatives.”[3]

The most powerful primary source in this article, in my opinion, was the reference to the “letter written by Eliot in November 1648.”[4] This letter shows that the Indians were not barbaric savages who failed to understand Christianity, but intelligent people who were rightfully questioning Christianity in an attempt to understand. This was important as, in my experience, historical documents have a tendency to portray the American Indians as uncivilized unless converted to the European way of living. [5]

I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that history is so debatable and, at times, so misrepresented. The discoveries within our readings have forced me to question so many things that I have learned over the years be it at an academic level or personal research. I have come to the conclusion that I need to actively research Canadian History on a wider scale and seek out more primary sources. I believe that it is these sources that will allow me to listen to everyone’s voice in my pursuit of having a better understanding of Canadian History.

[1] James P Ronda, “ We Are Well As We Are”: An Indian Critique of Seventeenth-Century Christian Missions in

The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Jan., 1977) , 67

[2] John Douglas Belshaw, Canadian History: Pre-Confederation, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, February 2015, 2

[3] Ronda, We Are As Well As We Are, 67

[4] Ibid, 78

[5] Ibid, 66