Portraits of Women

Portraits of Women

Jeanne LeBer

New France can be understood through the actions and exploits of the pioneering men and women who accomplished so much despite all the dangers and uncertainties of an adventure into the unknown. In this respect, Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain and Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve are certainly the male figures cited most often whereas, in the case of women, people often talk about Marie de l’Incarnation, Jeanne Mance and Marguerite Bourgeoys. Several other women made major contributions to the development of the new country, yet they are often relatively unknown.

With this series of chronicles, we would like to take a few moments to leaf through the pages of History and discover a few exceptional women: Catherine Tekakouitha, Marie-Madeleine Chauvigny de la Peltrie, Agathe de Saint-Père, Marie Morin, Marie Barbier and Marguerite d’Youville.

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First episode
Catherine Tekakouitha (1656-1680)
Catherine Tekakouitha (1656-1680)

© Maison Saint-Gabriel

In 1646, at Ossernenon, in the Mohawk River Valley, Jesuit missionaries Isaac Jogues and Jean Lalande were tortured by the Mohawks. Ten years later, at the same location, a child was born, Catherine Tekakwitha, whose destiny would mark the Amerindians.

«“Tekakwitha” means she who walks groping for her way in the Iroquois language. This was the name given to a child who, following a small pox epidemic that decimated Ossernenon, in 1660, was orphaned and left with poor vision and a face covered with pockmarks. Her biological mother, an Algonquin who had converted to Catholicism, was living in Trois-Rivières when she was captured by the Mohawks in 1653 to be wed to the chief of the tribe. He fathered Catherine – who was given that name when she was baptised at the age of 20.

Adopted by her uncle after her parents died, Catherine set out with all of the other survivors from the village, to settle on the other side of the river, which was named Gandaouague. As she grew older, Catherine criticized the lifestyle of the Mohawk people. She refused to marry and wanted to remain a virgin. At her request, Jesuit priest Jacques de Lamberville prepared her for baptism and she was baptized at Easter in 1676. This rite of passage, which was viewed poorly by most of her people led to numerous persecutions. People would throw rocks at her when she went to chapel and, since she refused to work on Sundays, her aunt excluded her from meals. According to legend, when an armed attacker threatened her to get her to renounce her beliefs he fled, furious, when Catherine lowered her head, prepared to receive a blow, saying, “you can take my life but you can’t take my faith.”

Acting on advice from Lamberville, Catherine set off to live at the Saint-François-Xavier mission in 1677. She arrived in the fall, after a difficult trip, and took her first communion at Christmas. The following year, she visited a convent in Ville-Marie and was so impressed by the way the sisters lived that she asked for a convent to be built at the mission. Her request was refused, but the Jesuits allowed her to take a perpetual vow of chastity on May 25, the feast of the Annunciation.

Since she did not want to stray far from the church, she stopped accompanying her people on hunts for game and imposed a life of penitence on herself. She went as far as mixing ashes in her food and sleeping on a bed covered with thorns. Suffering from headaches and stomach aches she fell seriously ill at the start of 1680 and was bedridden. On April 17, after receiving communion, she promised to watch over her people and the country and died, after uttering the names of Jesus and Mary.

Fifteen minutes after her death, Father Cholenec noticed that Catherine had become radiant and that the marks on her face had miraculously grown beautiful. Several miracles were attributed to her following this.

The writings of Jesuit missionaries Claude Chauchetière and Pierre Cholenec have enabled the story of Catherine Tekakwitha to be handed down to our time. In 1943, the Roman Catholic church recognized her exemplary life (giving her the title of Venerable) and, in 1980, acknowledged the merits and virtues of her beatitude (giving her the title Blessed). Hundreds of Amerindians went to Rome to attend the ceremonies honouring this virgin, also known as the “Lily of the Mohawks”, patron saint of orphans, exiles and people ridiculed for their religious beliefs.

We invite you to return on May 18, 2010 for a portrait of another woman...


Second episode
Marie-Madeleine Chauvigny de la Peltrie (1603-1671)
Marie-Madeleine Chauvigny de la Peltrie (1603 – 1671)

Source: BiblioBazaar, LLC Crédits: Narcisse-Eutrope Dionne, Serviteurs et Servantes de Dieu en Canada: quarante biographies, [Québec], Les Jésuites, 1904, 316 p., réédité par BiblioBazaar.

In the 17th century, the French women who settled in New France were generally nuns or girls looking for husbands. Marie-Madeleine de Gruel de la Peltrie (née Chauvigny) from Alençon was, however, an exception. In fact, she was brought to New France by the philanthropic adventure in which she invested to an exceptional extent for a woman of her time.

Married against her will to Charles de Gruel de la Peltrie, who passed away just five years later, Marie-Madeleine became a widow at the age of 22. Her father wanted her to remarry; she wanted to join an order, but did not succeed in doing this. Nevertheless, numerous influences guided her will and her deep faith into an undertaking that was unthinkable for a young woman of her time: providing the financing for the first nuns who settled in New France... and accompanying them there. Of these influences, the most significant was certainly the Relations des Jésuites published in 1636, which she read with great interest, her meeting with Marie Guyart, who became a close friend, and the inheritance she received following her husband’s death.

On May 4, 1639, Madame de La Peltrie and her servant, Charlotte Barrée, left France on board the flag ship Le Saint-Joseph, with three Ursulines nuns and three nursing Augustinian from Dieppe. After a long and difficult journey, they arrived at Quebec in August, where they were welcomed by all of the settlers. The financial support provided by Madame de La Peltrie served to build a dwelling that was used as a monastery for the Ursulines. Madame de la Peltrie lived there for one year and, after the arrival of two other nuns, she joined Monsieur de Puiseaux, an old friend of Samuel de Champlain who had made his fortune in the West Indies. There, she was close to the Amerindians, whom she instructed in French, arithmetic and the Roman Catholic faith.

During this time, her charitable work and involvement became known in France, inspiring other women, including Jeanne Mance, who desired to found a hospital. She joined the missionary project undertaken by the Société Notre-Dame-de-Montréal, for which Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve was responsible, but she arrived at Quebec before him, in the summer of 1641. The people of Quebec criticized this project harshly to her, describing it as a “crazy” undertaking, but she obtained the support and protection of Madame de la Peltrie, who became her friend.

When they arrived at Quebec, Maisonneuve and the Montrealers were welcomed in the large house owned by Monsieur de Puiseaux, at Sainte-Foy. From there they set out, accompanied by Madame de la Peltrie and Charlotte Barrée, to found Ville-Marie, in May 1642. Madame de la Peltrie spent 18 months helping to establish the colony, which did not prevent her from financing the construction of the Ursulines’ convent in Quebec. When she returned there, she attempted to be admitted as a nun, but she failed her noviciate. Working as a humble laundress, she lived in the Ursulines’ convent for 18 years, until the end of her days. She died in the fall of 1671, after suffering from pleurisy for two weeks. Her remains are buried in the Ursulines’ chapel.

Strong willed and determined, Madame de la Peltrie was, as people said in the 17th century, a veritable Amazon, namely a pioneer who went, often alone and despite the difficulties, beyond known frontiers.

We invite you to return for another chronicle on June 1, 2010.


Third episode
Agathe de Saint-Père Le Gardeur de Repentigny (1657-1748)
Agathe de Saint-Père Le Gardeur de Repentigny (1657-1748)

Nom de l'artiste: Francine Auger
Titre et date de l’oeuvre: «Agathe de Repentigny», 1996
Dimensions: 29 x 38 cm
Médium: Aquarelle sur papier d’Arches

When she landed on the Island of Montreal with her family, in 1642, Mathurine Godé was still very young. The following year, Jean de Saint-Père, her future husband, also settled there. He would become the first notary in Ville-Marie. Two children were born as a result of their marriage, which was celebrated in 1651: Claude, who died at a young age, and Agathe, who would never know her father since he was killed by the Amerindians when she was only six months old. Her mother, who married again, to Jacques Lemoyne in 1658, had ten other children.

Agathe was the oldest. She helped with the household chores and learned to use the loom which was kept in the family house, one of the few rare looms in Ville-Marie. At Marguerite Bourgeoys’ school, she made friends with some Algonquin girls who showed her techniques for weaving and basket weaving. As a teenager, she completed her education with the Ursulines in Quebec, but was sent home from the boarding school when she was caught seeing her first love, Augustin Juchereau. When she returned to Montreal, her life changed abruptly – her mother passed away, leaving her in charge of the children.

At the early age of 15, Agathe already demonstrated her strength of character. Following in the footsteps of the valiant housewives in her surroundings and serious businessmen such as the Lemoyne men, she took care of the children at home, learned to negotiate with merchants in the marketplace and was successful in her undertakings. After inheriting a piece of land in Point St. Charles, she grew hemp and flax there and dreamed of opening a weaving shop…

At the age of 28, she married Pierre Le Gardeur de Repentigny, a soldier and friend of the Lemoyne family. Since he was often away on expeditions, he left his wife to administer the seigniory inherited from his father, Jean-Baptiste de Repentigny.

While taking care of her eight children, Agathe de Repentigny notched maple trees and refined the techniques she had learned from the Algonquin women for making maple sugar candy. This candy, which was sold for a very high price in France, was in very short supply in the colony. She was the first to develop this market, which enabled her to build her fortune. Then, at the age of 47, she went to Kahnawake, where prisoners from New England were held captive. She paid the ransom to free nine of them who happened to be master weavers from Massachusetts. They built looms for her and passed their knowledge on to the Canadian apprentices who soon replaced them in her factory.

Finally, this active businesswoman was also involved in real estate transactions.
She purchased the Seigneurie de La Chesnaye at an auction in order to sell off parcels of land and build a mill there. Her husband was unable to recover from the death of their son, Jean-René, a 38-year old soldier. He died in turn, a few years later, followed by one of her daughters and Agathe’s servant and friend, Angélique. Alone, Mme de Repentigny left her dwellings on Saint-Paul St. and in Repentigny and went to live with the nursing sisters in Quebec, where one of her daughters was a superior. She died there at the age of 91.

Agathe de Saint-Père Le Gardeur de Repentigny was an innovative women with an enterprising spirit. Through her determination, she contributed to the development of the colony by creating jobs and wealth. As a result of her independence, she succeeded in a world which, at that time, was almost exclusively reserved for men. She was one of the most impressive matriarchs the new colony knew.

We invite you to return on June 22, 2010 for the portrait of another woman.


Fourth episode
Marie Morin (1649-1730)
Marie Morin (1649-1730)

Nom de l'artiste: Sœur Saint-Edmond-Martyr (Congrégation Notre-Dame)
Titre et date de l’œuvre: «Sœur Marie Morin 1649-1730», 1933
Source: Collection des Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph de Montréal: 1986.x.266

When the first settlers arrived in New France, many feats were accomplished by a single individual. This was the case of Marie Morin, who is known as the first Canadian nun in Ville-Marie, the first Canadian superior of the Hôtel-Dieu, the first writer born in New France and the first historian of Montreal.

Born in Quebec in 1649, Marie was the daughter of Hélène Desportes, who was born in Canada in about 1620, and Noël Morin, Seignior of Saint-Luc and cartwright by trade. When she was ten years old and studying with the Ursulines in Quebec, she met Jeanne Mance, who had returned from France with the first three nursing sisters hosen by Jérôme Le Royer for the Hôtel-Dieu in Montreal.

Touched by their personalities and inspired by the work to which they dedicated themselves, Marie wanted to join them, although her parents opposed this. Finally, she won her case and entered the novitiate of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph in Ville-Marie, at the age of 13 ½. From 1662 to 1666, she was the institute’s only novice.

Daughter of the “Holy founders”, Marie was instructed in the pharmacopeia and caring for patients by Sister Moreau, business by Sister Maillet, and religious life by Mother Macé (Catherine Macé was the superior of the Hôtel-Dieu in Ville-Marie from 1663 to 1669, which is why she was referred to as Mother). A skilled manager, Marie was appointed to serve as the community’s steward at the age of 23, and later as the superior, at the age of 44. She directed the work to rebuild the Hôtel-Dieu which was destroyed by fire in 1695, only three months after work had been completed.

Marie Morin, who was responsible for rebuilding the Hôtel-Dieu, started to write her Histoire simple et véritable de l'établissement des Religieuses hospitalières de Saint-Joseph en l'isle de Montreal, a 317-page manuscript, written between 1697 and 1725 in order to inform the Hospitalières de Saint-Joseph in France about the experiences of their counterparts in Ville-Marie.

More than just a simple record, her work provides information about the misery suffered by the first Montrealers (hunger, cold, disasters, illness, battles with the Iroquois) and important events, such as the earthquake that struck Ville-Marie in 1663. Her writings provide an idea of how French was spoken at the time and inform the reader about the conditions in which the nuns had to care for the ill and injured:

“... there was no shortage of unfortunate patients during this entire time from 1660 to 1666 since the war with the Iroquois was quite intense. As a result, almost all of the [patients had head injuries and suffered from serious wounds, which meant that the nuns had to keep a constant watch over them [...] Even our enemies came to our rooms to have their wounds healed and our charitable nuns and superior welcomed them charitably without considering the danger that they could be killed by their patients.”

After spending almost 68 years at the Hôtel-Dieu in Ville-Marie, Marie Morin died on April 8, 1730. Despite the three fires that occurred at the Hôtel-Dieu (1695, 1721, 1734), her manuscript was never burned. More than 200 years after the death of this pioneer, Dr. Léo Pariseau, a member of the Société Historique de Montréal, published her writings in the Journal de l’Hôtel-Dieu, ensuring the survival and dissemination of this valuable historical source.

We invite you to return on August 10, 2010 for the portrait of another woman.


Fifth episode
Marie Barbier (1663-1739)
Marie Barbier (1663 - 1739)

Nom de l'artiste: Inconnu
Titre de l’œuvre: Sœur Marie Barbier, dite de l’Assomption
Source: Tableau historique envoyé à l'exposition de Chicago de 1893
Crédits: © Archives de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame

In August 1642, Jérôme Le Royer de la Dauversière sent twelve colonists to Ville-Marie under the orders of Admiral Pierre Le Gardeur de Repentigny. That group included a sixteen-year-old carpenter named Gilbert Barbier, dit Le Minime. His job was to build the dwellings that would be used to house and protect the first settlers of Montreal. Catherine Delavaux, who helped Jeanne Mance care for the sick and injured, married him in 1653. Together they raised eight children. The youngest, Marie, was born in 1663.

Like most of the children, Marie attended the little school founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys. At the age of sixteen, she was received as a novice by the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame and, subsequently, became the first Montrealer to join that community of teaching nuns when her profession was confirmed in 1684. In addition to time spent in the classroom, she asked for permission to help the sisters with more humble chores: milking the cows, carrying bags of wheat and flour on her back from the barn to the mill, baking bread, etc. When carrying out these tasks, she called on the Baby Jesus in whom her trust and faith were boundless. According to legend, this particular devotion enabled her to stop burning her bread, heal the sick by having them eat bread “baked in the honour of the Baby Jesus” and multiply provisions in times of shortage.

An exemplary disciple of Marguerite Bourgeoys, Marie Barbier demonstrated great humility in everything. Striving for spiritual perfection, she adopted a very austere life style and scrupulously doubted herself in the face of God when she was chosen, in 1693, to succeed Mother Bourgeoys as the superior of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. During her tenure, she defended the secular nature of the community, which was essential to the missionary teaching work initiated by Marguerite Bourgeoys.

At this time, according to canon law, the existence of a religious community without the enclosed space of a cloister or a boarding school was practically unthinkable. Negotiations with the clerical authorities came to a conclusion in 1697, when a Rule was adopted, giving official status to the Congrégation de Notre-Dame and ensuring greater stability for the organization. At that time, the nuns took on religious names and took solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, while promising to educate those of their gender. Marguerite Bourgeoys became Marguerite du Saint-Sacrement and Marie Barbier was then called Marie dite de l’Assomption.

The first Canadian superior of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, Marie Barbier was also the first woman to undergo surgery for breast cancer in Canada when military physician performed a cold ablation in 1700.

After recovering from this operation, Marie Barbier continued the Congregation’s work with her colleagues by holding various administrative positions. Marguerite Le Moyne (Sister du Saint-Esprit) succeeded her as superior.

Marie Barbier, a Canadian pioneer and mystic, died on May 19, 1739, at the age of 76.

We invite you to return on August 24, 2010 for the portrait of another woman.

  • DUMONT, Micheline et al. (Collectif Clio), L'Histoire des femmes au Québec depuis quatrth centurys, [Montréal], Le jour, 1992. 646 p.
  • RUMILLY, Robert, Marie Barbier, mystique canadienne, [Montréal], Éditions Albert Lévesque, 1936.
  • Simpson, Patricia, Marguerite Bourgeoys: l'audace des commencements. Traduit de l'anglais par Albert Beaudry, [Montréal], Fides, 2009, 117 p.

Sixth episode
Marguerite d'Youville (1701-1771)
Marguerite d'Youville (1701-1771)

Nom de l'artiste: Sergio Kokis
Titre et date de l’œuvre: Marguerite d'Youville, 1998
Médium: Aquarelle sur papier

Marguerite Dufrost de la Jemmerais was born on October 15, 1701 at Varennes, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, into an important family: her father, François-Christophe, was a captain in the navy and her mother, Marie-Renée, was the daughter of René Gaultier, the first seignior of Varennes. Despite her social standing, Marguerite was made aware of poverty and the harshness of life at an early age. Her father died in 1708 and, although she was able to board with the Ursulines in Quebec for two years as a result of the influence of her great-grandfather, Pierre Boucher, as the oldest child she had to help her mother with various household chores and in bringing up the five other children in the family, which had lived in a precarious situation since the death of her father.

In 1720, Marie-Renée married a Montrealer and the family moved to Montreal. There, Marguerite met François-Madeleine d’Youville, and the couple was married in 1722. Married life was difficult: her relationship with her mother-in-law was difficult, four of her six children died at an early age, and her husband had a bad reputation as a result of his alcohol smuggling activities. Finally, after accumulating debts, Mr. d’Youville died at the age of 30 after only eight years of marriage.

Despite this, Marguerite kept her home and took care of her two sons, François and Charles, while operating a small business that ensured her survival without making her a fortune. In fact, as a result of her generous nature, she was most inclined to help out the less fortunate. At the same time, she devoted more and more time to the practice of her religion and joined several religious organizations…

In 1737, when her son François entered the seminary, she took an elderly, blind woman into her home. Her behaviour inspired three of her companions and, the following year, they moved in with her to help those in need. Marie-Louise Thaumur de La Source, Catherine Cusson, Marie-Catherine Demers and Marguerite d’Youville took simple vows together. In this way, the Sœurs de la Charité de Montréal came into being.

Seven years later, the community included five members and 14 beneficiaries when a violent fire burned the house down. Marguerite d’Youville viewed this misfortune as an opportunity to expand the scope of their activities and assist a larger number of people. At this point in time, she undertook the rescue of the Hôpital général de Montréal which had fallen into ruin. As of that time, the community, which was officially recognized by the king in 1753, played an essential role in Montreal society. In particular, she provided assistance to the victims of the smallpox epidemic in 1755 and the soldiers who were injured during the Seven Years’ War. As an administrator, Mother d’Youville found the means to generate revenue to meet the need and she identified people among those who were hospitalized who could perform various tasks. In 1765, she acquired the Châteauguay, seigniory, which became a major operation for the community. That same year, fired destroyed the general hospital which, fortunately, was re-built with the assistance of the Sulpicians. As a result, the 18 nuns, 17 boarders, 63 poor people and 16 illegitimate children found asylum.

Marguerite d’Youville died on December 23, 1771 following an attack of paralysis. A pioneer in her field, in 1990, this compassionate woman became the first person born in Canada to be canonized. Her remains were buried in her home town, ten years following this, when they were transferred to the Basilique Sainte-Anne, at Varennes in 2010.

This is the end of the series of chronicles on Portraits of Women.



Marguerite d’Youville was beatified in 1959 by John XXIII and canonized in 1990 by John Paul II.
François Charon de La Barre, born in Quebec in 1654, founded the Hôpital Général de Montréal in 1692 and the Institut des frères hospitaliers de Saint-Joseph-de-la-Croix, in 1694. He died in 1717 and his work was taken up, 30 years later, by the Sœurs de la Charité. The hospital, which had been reserved for men up to that time, became mixed.
The name Grey Nuns was given to the sisters by the people who suspected the members of the community and its superior of selling alcohol to the Native people and drinking alcohol, like Mr. d’Youville (gray meaning drunk in French in this case). The community adopted this name out of humility.
René Gaultier immigrated to New France in 1665 as an officer in the Régiment de Carignan-Salières. Governor of Trois-Rivières, he married Marie Boucher, daughter of Pierre Boucher and Jeanne Crevier in 1667. Seignior of Varennes, du Tremblay and several other places, his fortune was not great because the population was still small at that time.
François-Christophe obtained a position in the navy in 1683 and, two years later, came to Canada with Brisay de Denonville. In 1687, he was appointed to the position of ensign and served at Fort Niagara (1687-88), and then Fort Frontenac (1696-99).
A painting portraying the Baby Jesus has been attributed to Marie Barbier, although there is no proof that she created it. After hanging this canvas above her oven, Sister Barbier stopped burning her bread. Edward O. Korany restored the work in 1966 and confirmed that it had been exposed to high temperatures. Therefore, it is highly likely that this painting experienced the fires of the mother house and Marie Barbier’s oven.
Originally from Auvergne, in France, Gilbert Barbier (1622-1693) was called “le Minime” in French as a result of his small stature. He made the first large cross erected on Mont-Royal, establishing the first pilgrimage site for the colonists of Ville-Marie. When Marguerite Bourgeoys arrived in Ville-Marie, in 1653, she went to the mountain to see this cross, which was found toppled over and broken. Gilbert Barbier set it back up and surrounded it with a palisade.
That was when she became the first Canadian superior of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph in Montréal. She held that position from 1693 to 1696 and from 1708 to 1711.
These nursing sisters were Judith Moreau de Brésoles, Catherine Macé and Marie Maillet.

Judith Moreau de Brésoles was originally from the city of Bois (France). She joined the nursing sisters of Laval (France) in order to serve God and she became the mistress of the novices. Following this, she was the first superior of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph in Montreal (1659-1663).

Catherine Macé was originally from Nantes (France). She was accepted as a novice at the La Flèche convent in 1643. She was the second superior of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph in Montreal, a position she held for 18 years (1663-1669; 1672-1675; 1681-1687; 1690-1693).

Marie Maillet was originally from the city of Saumur (France). She joined the Hôtel-Dieu at La Flèche in 1645, and was later appointed a steward there. Following this she was the first steward at the Hôtel-Dieu de Laval, then at Ville-Marie.
This well-off family with 12 children produced another pioneer: Germain Morin, first priest born in Canada.
This was the first fabric factory in Canada. It was located on St. Joseph St. (Vieux-Montréal) and housed 20 looms. One hundred and twenty ells (144 metres) of fabric and coarse canvas, which were durable and inexpensive, were produced there every day. Mme de Repentigny’s investments and efforts to develop the colony were recognized by the King of France, who paid her an annual fee of 200 lbs in acknowledgement of her services.
The Augustinian order dates back to the Middle Ages and, at the beginning of the 17th century, had acquired a solid reputation and operated several hospitals in France. The Duchess of Aiguillon, niece of Cardinal Richelieu, addressed this community when she wanted to found a hospital in Canada. Marie Guenet de Saint-Ignace, Marie Forestier de Saint-Bonaventure and Anne Le Cointre de Saint-Bernard traveled with Madame de La Peltrie and Marie de l’Incarnation to Quebec. They prepared the foundations of the first hospital established north of Mexico.
The Congregation of the Ursulines, formerly called the “Company of St. Ursula” was founded in 1535 by St. Angela de Merici, in Italy, and works in the field of education. Marie de l’Incarnation, Marie de Saint-Joseph and Sister Cécile de Sainte-Croix were Ursulines who travelled with Madame de La Peltrie in 1639.
Marie de l’Incarnation (1599-1672) was the spiritual founder of the Ursulines of Quebec, whereas Madame de la Peltrie is considered the temporal or secular founder.
The Relations des Jésuites were written in the form of letters recounting the exploratory and apostolic activities of the Society of Jesus in New France and sent to the Paris Province by the superior of the Canadian missions from 1612 to 1673. The most important section concerns the period between 1632 and 1673 and Paul Lejeune was the primary writer. During this period, the Relations were published annually in Paris. They provide significant testimony concerning the lives and customs of the Amerindian people (particularly the Huron and the Iroquois), Jesuit activities, important events in New France and the weather and geographic conditions in Canada.
Alençon is a city located almost 200 kilometres west of Paris, in Normandy.
Saint-François-Xavier Mission
Certain sources designate the mission by its geographic name, namely “Saut Saint-Louis”, but this seigniory was only officially ceded to the Jesuits in 1680. To the east, as of 1647, the La Prairie de la Magdeleine seigniory, named after the low lands and tall grasses that characterized it, had been ceded to the Jesuits. They founded the Amerindian mission, Saint-François-Xavier-des-Prez, in 1667. After difficulties with the Whites, the mission moved further west in 1676, and that is where Catherine joined it. On two other occasions, the mission moved west and was definitively established, still with Saint-François-Xavier as its patron saint, at Kahnawake, in 1716. As for the name “Saut Saint-Louis”, it dates back to the exploratory maps drawn by Jacques Cartier. That is how he called the rapids where a man by the name of Louis had lost his life. Today, these rapids are known as the Lachine rapids and we know they were created by the 10-metre drop that separates the bed of Lac Saint-Louis from that of the La Prairie basin.
The name Catherine was very popular during the French regime. According to certain sources, the Kateri, which is often attributed to Catherine Tekakwitha, was the result of an effort made in the 19th century to make her name sound more Amerindian. In order to do justice to the fervour of their faith it is common to call a person by their baptismal name.
The Mohawks
The term Mohawk refers to one the tribes of the Iroquois confederacy, to which those who lived in the village of Ossernenon, where Catherine Tekakwitha was born, belonged. Since they had developed closer ties with the English and the Dutch, the Mohawks were hostile to the French and often terrorized other Native Peoples.
The Mohawk River
The Mohawk River is a navigable waterway located in what is now the state of New York. Its fertile valley attracted the Mohawks and the settlers. It was the site of many battles during the Seven Year’s War and the American Revolution.