Learning to Listen: A New Approach to Teaching Early Modern Encounters in the Americas

Charlotte Daniels and Katherine Dauge-Roth

[print edition page number: 319]
In 2016, at Bowdoin College, the “French” program became “Francophone Studies,” reflecting a collective desire to work toward transcending within our curriculum persistent and problematic disciplinary boundaries between the study of continental France and of other French-speaking regions of the world. Following the lead of our colleagues whose research and teaching focus most directly on postcolonial issues, we made this shift from our elementary language courses forward so that our students at every level of the curriculum would experience more fully and in a more integrated way the issues, histories, traditions, and questions raised in different parts of the broad French-speaking world. Our new introductory survey course, “Spoken Word and Written Text,” reflects a more global understanding not only of literature, that is the written tradition, but of the oral tradition as well. Spanning the period from the Middle Ages through the 1848 abolition of slavery in the French Antilles, the course is one of two chronologically organized “Introduction to Francophone Studies” surveys required to complete the major. Taught in French, it is designed for students who have had five semesters of college-level language or the equivalent, mostly first-years and sophomores. In this course, we have put into practice for earlier periods what our colleagues in postcolonial studies have long understood: that French-speaking regions and people across the globe are not independent but rather exist, and have existed for centuries, in dynamic relationship to each other.[1] In the following pages, we share one unit of the course, “Indigenous People [320] and French Colonizers in North America,” to present a new approach to teaching the (long) Renaissance period that considers perspectives and traditions excluded from more Eurocentric narratives of the period. We show how by widening our corpus to include texts not typically assigned in a literature survey as well as oral sources where Native American voices both past and present come to the fore, we and our students have learned to listen and subsequently to tell a more complete story of the Renaissance that has poignant resonances today.[2] From the outset, the authors would like to emphasize that the course and the unit we present here would not have been possible without our colleague Hanétha Vété-Congolo’s tireless visible and invisible work over the course of many years to bring about an epistemic shift in our department’s curriculum. We are deeply grateful to both her and to our colleague Meryem Belkaïd for their leadership and crucial contributions to enriching and complicating ours and our students’ understanding of the French-speaking world, without which this article and the perspective it promotes would not exist.

Until quite recently, the Renaissance, both in France and in Europe at large, has been presented as a period of scientific innovation and artistic genius, a very European and very white affair. France’s Renaissance has been most celebrated for innovations in the realm of literature, especially poetry. The French poets of the Pléiade, whose principal members were Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585), Joachim Du Bellay (c. 1522–1560), and Antoine de Baïf (1532–1589), made of the sonnet and other poetic forms such as the ode, a literary expression of French style and beauty. The poems of La Pléiade are taught in almost every survey class, usually alongside Du Bellay’s Defense and Illustration of the French Language (1549). This classic work explicitly links poetic innovation to political power and the [321] formation of a proud national identity, indeed, of Frenchness itself.[3] The French language, Du Bellay argued, if properly tended and nurtured by its poet-stewards, would become as magnificent as had been ancient Greek and Latin. Typically, beyond a short paragraph entitled something like “The Great Discoveries,” students learn little about how this new notion of Frenchness tied in with social and political changes across the globe. After all, like the Ancients whom they claimed as their illustrious ancestors, the French were ambitious colonizers. In the sixteenth century, at the same time as King François I cultivated the arts at home and promoted French as the kingdom’s official language, he sent forth multiple transatlantic expeditions as part of a colonial enterprise that would expand significantly in the seventeenth century with the establishment of French settlements in what would become known as North America. As Sara Melzer reminds us in Colonizer or Colonized, the inclusion of this “second France” deserves attention, pushing us to interrogate established narratives.[4] The unit we created to introduce students to this period follows Melzer’s lead, drawing on several non-canonical sources, both written and oral, to tell a more interconnected and more accurate story. Students still read the familiar carpe diem sonnets of Ronsard and Du Bellay’s Defense, but they make connections between the cultural renewal taking place on French soil and what was happening simultaneously in the territories inhabited by the Wabanaki, Algonquin, Huron, Iroquois, and Innu.[5]

After reading poems and excerpts from Du Bellay’s Defense, students consider images and texts created by Frenchmen in Native American territories that have not usually figured in literature surveys. They thus gain access to on-the-ground interactions between First Nations people and [322] new European arrivals, first from a European perspective. Even if French readers of the period never set foot on land in the Americas, their voracious consumption of narratives and images created by travelers and missionaries provided a sense of being there, of becoming part of the action among a community of “savages” who were a source of both fascination and fear. Safe in France, armchair travelers internalized ideas about far-away cultures that bolstered their own sense of belonging to a “civilized” world that existed in relation to this newly discovered “uncivilized” one. Students see the development of racist tropes just as they are emerging in the French imaginary. Then, in a rather dramatic shift, they engage with Native American legends and oral histories already in existence for millennia by the time European colonization began. This venerable oral archive, transmitted from generation to generation across time, continues to play an essential and vibrant role in tribal life today.[6] At Bowdoin, a small liberal arts college in Maine, we are fortunate to have as a frequent guest Maria Girouard, a member of the Penobscot nation, former tribal leader, Penobscot historian, author, educator, and environmental activist, who is an expert on the oral tradition. Through their interactions with Girouard, students see the oral tradition as something vibrant, an essential part of who the Penobscot are today in deep relation to who they were in the past. While students are at first surprised to find in “a French class” the inclusion of Native American tales and oral histories, they quickly see the intersections between the European texts discussed and this other part of the story, so close to home. Through their readings and discussions of both the written and the oral tradition, students come to think in exciting new ways about the early modern period.

Beyond the Literary Canon: The Written Archive

The first half of this unit invites students to experience the vision of the “New World” provided by print culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth [323] centuries. Students are introduced to European perceptions of the Americas and its Native people through a series of engravings by the Fleming Theodor de Bry (1528–1598) depicting Native life, published and widely circulated in 1590 and 1591 in two volumes known as America, parts I and II.[7] The engravings are based on the work of the Frenchman Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533–1588) and the Englishman John White (c. 1540–c. 1593) who, as artists, accompanied the first European travelers to North America and inaugurated a European iconography of the “New World.” Students study these images to make initial observations about how Europeans perceive themselves and how they perceive the Indigenous people they encounter.[8] They note the interest in daily activities and rituals, the use of Christian symbols, and the obsessive attention paid by Europeans to Native Americans’ bodies. Their preliminary analyses set up a series of themes and questions that they explore further in their readings of short passages from the three French voyages sent forth by King François I: Giovanni da Verrazzano’s 1524 coastal expedition from Florida to the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River; Jacques Cartier’s three expeditions (1534, 1535–1536, 1541–1542) to the areas that are today Montreal and Quebec; and Jean Ribault and René de Goulaine de Laudonnière’s 1562 attempt to establish a Huguenot colony in today’s Florida.[9] Our students, already [324] savvy readers of race and gender, find much to discuss. In Verrazzano’s remarkable descriptions of the Native Americans’ and European travelers’ mutual fascination, students immediately note the central role that bodily ornamentation and skin color play in the establishment of difference. The Native Americans “walk around completely naked, except for covering their shameful parts with the skins of small animals like weasels or mink, and a narrow belt made of reeds, to which are knotted the tails of animals that hang from their bodies, all the way to their knees; … they are black, not unlike Ethiopians.”[10] According to Verrazzano, the Native Americans, for their part, are welcoming and curious about the European strangers in their midst. He reports that they first ran away but “reassured by our gestures, some of them approached us, showing great joy upon seeing us, amazed by our clothing, our appearance and our whiteness, indicating by gestures where the boat could land most easily and offering us some of their food.”[11] Students see here, as they have in visual form through their analysis of the De Bry images, descriptions that highlight racial difference, while also suggesting a gendered and sexualized relationship between the cultures, this encounter representing a seduction scene in which the Native Americans must be coaxed but are ultimately willing. This tendency is even more marked in Jean Ribault’s text, written forty years later. He describes the coastal lands of Florida in manifestly feminized terms, the sailors “enjoying [jouissant] with an unspeakable pleasure the suave perfumes she breathed and her beauties.”[12] Ribault’s word choice, suggesting sexual climax, underscores conquest as ravishment, [325] an apt metaphor, as we will see, for the uniquely French colonial enterprise more broadly. As nineteenth-century historian Francis Parkman wrote, “Spanish civilization crushed the Indian. English civilization scorned and neglected him. French civilization embraced and cherished him.”[13]

Our students next move on to consider the French assimilationist project in Jesuit travel narratives known as relations, focusing on excerpts of the most famous of these, missionary Paul Le Jeune’s (1591–1664) Relation of 1634.[14] By the seventeenth century, relations had become a well-known and widely read genre, surpassing even novels in their popularity. The Jesuits, who led the monarch’s “civilizing mission” in “New France,” converting Native Americans to the Catholic fold, were key players in the development of this new literary form, sending lengthy narratives of their experiences among “the savages” back to France for publication and distribution. These eagerly anticipated volumes appeared every year from 1632 to 1673.[15] Unlike the sixteenth-century explorers whose observations were based on limited contact with the Indigenous people of the Americas, Jesuits became part of local communities and remained with them for extended periods of time, learning their customs and languages. As such, they exemplify the distinctly French approach to colonization that sought to dominate the Native people and lands of the Americas not by extermination but by assimilation into the French state — conquest by a gentler name.[16] [326]

Paul Le Jeune spent seventeen years living among First Nations people, arriving in Tadoussac in 1632 as a forty-two-year-old man and returning to France in 1649. His Relation of 1634 recounts his first winter among people whom he refers to as “the Montagnais” in what would become the French-speaking province of Quebec. As part of his project “for the conversion of these savages,” he studies their belief system and cultural practices in depth, bringing alive and preserving in the written archive the cultural practices, beliefs, and day-to-day realities of a whole world that had existed long before contact with the French, when what was not yet known as the Americas belonged to Indigenous people.[17]

Even faced with the challenges of Le Jeune’s seventeenth-century French prose, our students, like the French three hundred years earlier, find it a fascinating read. However, they are also quick to see in his work an extension of the troubling treatment of Native Americans already glimpsed in the artistic and written representations of sixteenth-century French travelers. At first, they are puzzled by Le Jeune’s hyper-valorization of Native Americans combined with a systematic denigration of their behaviors and their culture more broadly. Le Jeune’s chapters 5 and 6, for example, juxtapose what he sees as the “good” and then the “bad” traits of the Montagnais. During class discussions, students begin to see that this is part of a strategy. In Chapter 5, “Of the Good Things One Finds in the Savages,” Le Jeune extolls their numerous qualities that show they are, so to speak, conversion-ready. The men are “tall, with good posture, strong, well-proportioned, agile,” the reincarnation of the greats of the Roman Empire, so admired by the French of the period: “I see on the shoulders of this people, the heads of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Augustus.”[18] “They are like us and we share a common ancestry,” Le Jeune seems to be telling the French. Or, as King Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, would affirm some thirty years later, we are “one people [327] and one blood.”[19] Le Jeune connects the Montagnais’s well-formed bodies with bright souls and minds, no different from those of the French: “Having a well-formed body and well-arranged organs, their minds must operate with ease. The only things missing are education and instruction.”[20] Le Jeune’s positive assessment of the Montagnais’s intellectual abilities reassures the French public that the people they are reading about have the potential to become French Catholics. Le Jeune goes on to share a list of the Montagnais’s other positive traits: they do not anger easily, they are not stingy but instead generous and mutually supportive, forgiving, and patient, a long list of Christian virtues. Indeed, Native Americans often surpass Christians in these attributes: “The savages exceed us so much in this regard that we should feel ashamed.”[21] These passages serve as a humoristic scolding of the readers themselves, who would do well to use these “savages” as models.[22]

Our students often wonder: if the Montagnais are so heroic, so virtuous, and indeed, in certain domains, worthy of emulation, what then justifies “Frenchifying” them? In keeping with the doctrine of Catholic universalism, Le Jeune has shown they have what it takes to see the light (i.e., be converted to the French religion and culture).[23] This is where the negative spin comes into play. Throughout his Relation, Le Jeune underlines the need for conversion by devaluing and denigrating Montagnais practices. He does so with a jocular tone that invites his readers to share in a humorous [328] camaraderie that views the Native Americans as distinctly other. As in Du Bellay’s call in his Defense for poets to cultivate the French language, which has been neglected for too long, so that it might “flower” and “bear fruit,” Le Jeune, too, uses an agricultural metaphor to incite French support of the Jesuit project: “Their soul is fertile soil, but full of all the evils that a land abandoned since the beginning of time may bear.”[24] In his chapter devoted to “their vices and imperfections,” Le Jeune underlines what he sees as the numerous faults of the “savages” who, despite their good qualities, are “ignorant,” and “barbaric,” rationalizing the need for the French to come to their rescue. He invites his readers to share his disgust at their laziness, their gluttony, and especially their lust, exclaiming, “My God, what blindness!”[25] Le Jeune infantilizes the Montagnais as “real jokesters, real children who wish only to laugh.”[26] As “children,” who live only for the present, without the missionaries’ help they are not yet capable of participating in the “civilized” French culture of which Le Jeune is so proud.[27]

In his chapter on the Montagnais religion, Le Jeune again invites his readers to laugh at and thereby dismiss the validity of “their religion or, more appropriately, their superstition.”[28] He mocks the Montagnais’s animism — the belief that all parts of the interconnected natural world have souls — ridiculing their prayers to porcupines, beavers, and moose. He invites his readers to be both mystified and astonished by their seemingly endless hours of repetitive “massive, … somber and unpleasant” chanting.[29] He takes literally and then attempts to disprove the Montagnais belief that souls migrate across the waters in the afterlife to a “country where the sun sets” by invoking the European cartographic mastery of the globe.[30] Through their reading and discussion, Le Jeune’s strategy becomes clearer to students: he at once reinforces the idea that this is [329] a gifted people with whom the French share traits and ancestry — and is therefore susceptible to successful assimilation — and degrades their beliefs and practices to affirm their need of the French to become truly civilized, arguments that together function once again as a seductive justification for the French colonial enterprise.

For Lejeune, bringing “the beautiful light of truth” to the Montagnais links with a series of concrete actions. His Relation lays out three proposals intended to disrupt the Montagnais way of life: 1. suppressing the Iroquois, whose warring ways are interfering with the conversion enterprise; 2. persuading the Montagnais to leave their itinerant life and settle down to an agrarian lifestyle; and 3. establishing seminary schools for Indigenous children. The second and third of these evoke a great deal of discussion among our students. According to Le Jeune, the Montagnais are “so busy scrambling for sustenance in the woods, they do not have time to save themselves.”[31] The challenge for the French missionaries lies in inciting the Montagnais to give up their migrant hunting habits and to adopt instead a French agrarian model that would tie them to the land and facilitate sustained contact with French priests who could complete their catechism.[32] Seminary schools have a similar mission through a focus on young people. Le Jeune explains that seminaries will keep children away from their parents, a distance necessary because of what in Le Jeune’s view is an unreasonable protectiveness: “These barbarians cannot abide by our punishing their children, not even with words, being completely unable to refuse anything to a crying child.”[33] His words belie the brutal treatment that Native children will experience at the hands of priests in residential schools for centuries thereafter. As an added “benefit” of this project, Le Jeune believes that by effectively holding children hostage, their parents will treat the French with more respect and not resist their colonial efforts. By stealing children and placing them in schools free from parental interference, the Jesuits imagine the creation of a future generation of Christians, a vision that comes at a frightening cost. While [330] Le Jeune’s vision of residential boarding schools did not see the light of day in his lifetime, his model led to the later creation of Canadian schools that exploded into the news early in the summer of 2021 with the discovery of the remains of hundreds of First Nations children near what had been residential boarding schools in British Columbia, as we examine further in depth later in the unit.[34]

Though Le Jeune’s first-person text asks readers to identify with the author’s perspective, our students rebel against his invitation. They become what Judith Fetterly calls “resisting readers” who, as the term suggests, refuse the generic call of the text by a kind of “reading against the grain.”[35] Many students, especially those who have experienced being “othered” themselves, are quick to imagine perspectives that radically challenge the authority of Le Jeune’s text. More broadly, students are deeply uncomfortable with Le Jeune’s efforts to force assimilation on a people at the cost of their centuries-old way of life. Thinking about why these texts exist and whose interests they serve gives students the language to pursue these questions in increasingly sophisticated ways, especially as we turn towards oral versions of the story.

Beyond the Literary Canon: The Oral Archive

In May 2001, Christiane Taubira, while deputy of French Guyana in the National Assembly, successfully introduced legislation calling for official French-government recognition of the slave trade as a crime against humanity. Among other measures, the proposal, passed into law unanimously, funded the development of new school curricula, scholarly research, and the establishment of a national day of remembrance. It underlined the importance of a new kind of history that included the perspectives [331] of those whose voices had not been heard in the history taught in schools. This involves reading written texts in new ways, from the position of those whose histories cross with European history, but who have very different stakes in that history. The Taubira law proposed a formal recognition of sources beyond the scope of the written archive. In particular, Article 2 emphasizes the value of “coordination to allow dialogue between the written archives available in Europe and oral sources and archeological knowledge gathered in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, and all the other territories where slavery had taken place.”[36] Since the law’s passage in 2001, more visibility has been given to what a broad variety of African and Caribbean sources — many of them oral — contribute to a more global history and to the dynamic potential that emerges when written and oral archives are placed into dialogue, each both questioning and serving as a source of knowledge for the other. The resulting scholarship, much of it carried out by scholars whose ancestors personally bore the brunt of enslavement and colonial violence during the early modern period, is changing the way we tell the story of both France and the broader world. What Taubira encouraged for rethinking the role of enslavement and the slave trade in this history is just as apt as we think about the role of the contemporaneous conquest of land inhabited by Indigenous people of the Americas.[37] Given the oral nature of their collective heritage, the only way that the voices of Native Americans have found a place in the historical archive has been through the highly subjective eyes and pens of writers like Le Jeune. Historian Olive Patricia Dickason underlines the limitations of a notion of history in which only documents “count” as history, one that excludes anything that has not been inscribed as letters on paper:

[H]istory has been described as a document-bound discipline. If something was not written, preferably in an official document, it [332] was not historical. Thus were pre-literate societies excluded from history and labeled pre-historic, or perhaps proto-historic. The best [founding nations] could hope for was to become historic by extension, when they came into contact with literate societies.[38]

Despite their racist lens of European superiority, written sources such as Le Jeune’s Relation allow important glimpses into Native American culture and society of the period, including their oral tradition. Le Jeune recounts and glosses numerous stories told by the Montagnais and provides a wealth of ethnographic detail used by First Nations historians today. Yet, as Dickason points out, becoming historic through texts like Le Jeune’s is problematic, to say the least. First, suggesting that the written archive be the unique authoritative source for Native American actions, beliefs, and practices of earlier periods perpetuates a Eurocentric idea of history that refuses to acknowledge that Native Americans did not come into existence when Europeans encountered them, but had a thriving culture for millennia before the arrival of white seamen in search of a new route to India.[39] Second, as we have seen, Le Jeune’s text and other contemporary written narratives are riddled with biases central to France’s colonial efforts, which leave them sorely lacking in their ability to represent with accuracy and cultural sensitivity the views and values of the ancestors of today’s First Nations communities. However closely Le Jeune observed Montagnais practices and beliefs during his time living among them, reporting everything he “saw with [his] own eyes … while following them through the woods to learn their language,” his ultimate goal in seeking to understand their culture was to eradicate it through replacement with French social and religious customs.[40] The systematic exclusion of the oral tradition — the only kind of “archive” created from the First People’s point of view for their sixteenth- and seventeenth-century [333] encounters with the French — is, then, indefensible. Taubira’s call to incorporate the oral archive when telling the story of the Atlantic world challenges us as early modernists to rethink how we construct our syllabi.

Given the concerns about reliability and anachronism that have been ingrained in us by our academic training, the incorporation of oral sources poses challenges. For those of us steeped in the written tradition, accepting the validity of oral sources, to which we gain access through persons, recordings, and transcriptions rather than through period documents, sometimes inspires skepticism. Colleagues may question whether the tales and oral histories shared by First Nations people today are reliable sources for earlier periods: “Why do you use modern Native American sources to tell a seventeenth-century story?” These concerns reveal how conditioned we early modernists are to think with what Walter Ong calls “a literate mind,” a mindset that privileges the written and makes certain assumptions about its superiority over the oral. As Ong highlights, it is symptomatic that we still often talk about oral sources as “oral literature”: “This strictly preposterous term remains in circulation today even among scholars now more and more acutely aware how embarrassingly it reveals our inability to represent to our own minds a heritage of verbally organized materials except as some variant of writing, even when they have nothing to do with writing at all.”[41] Inclusion of oral sources demands a kind of listening to what many of us have not been trained to hear. In our course, the quest for this kind of listening starts close to home when our course shifts to the point of view of Indigenous people, heard through the words of living Native Americans and Indigenous Canadians, carriers of the stories and histories of past generations. While the descendants of [334] the Montagnais studied by Le Jeune live in the nearby Quebec region, we begin even more locally, in the state of Maine where we teach.

It is at this point in the semester that students meet author, educator, and environmentalist Maria Girouard whose contribution to our course cannot be overstated. Executive Director of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, she is a member of the Penobscot nation, one of five tribes in Maine — the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot — who together make up the Wabanaki people from “the land first touched by the light of dawn.” By the time Girouard visits our class, students have read her article, “Penobscots and the Sacred Mountain,” in which she shares the story of the origin and sacred significance of Maine’s tallest mountain, K’taadn, that rises up in the heart of the Wabanaki homeland, the source of the Penobscot River.[42] In addition, they have watched the lecture “Genocide and Maine: Shining the Light of Truth” that she delivered at the University of Southern Maine Portland Campus on November 20, 2014, available on YouTube.[43] They also have viewed a series of recorded testimonials from Indigenous Canadians living in Quebec, to which we will return after considering Girouard’s contributions. In her article on K’taadn, Girouard discusses and describes a series of legends, beliefs and practices associated with the mountain — including an annual pilgrimage to its base participated in by hundreds of Wabanaki men, women, and children. Our students, many of whom have climbed K’taadn during pre-orientation or outing club trips, are amazed to learn of a vast and living Wabanaki tradition surrounding a mountain that they have until now seen simply as a beautiful landmark, the endpoint of the Appalachian Trail.[44] But it is Girouard’s presence with them that brings the stories to life. When she enters the classroom her first words are “Kwai kwai,” “hello” in her ancestral Penobscot language. Students have read transcriptions [335] of the Montagnais language in Le Jeune, and Girouard’s greeting connects the languages spoken by First Nations people long ago with the here and now. From the beginning, Girouard listens carefully to the students and wants to hear about their readings. She emphasizes that they are with her in this project of learning and sharing, that what they are learning from Le Jeune and what she brings to them are the means to arrive together at a broader base of knowledge. Throughout her conversation she shares bits of tales that she adopted after hearing them told in her youth by elders in the home and at tribal gatherings. Girouard, a passionate advocate for environmental protection, uses legends to tell us about her work to protect the Penobscot, a waterway that has been inseparable for centuries from Wabanaki livelihood and identity. She cites Wabanaki hero Gluskape’s victory over the giant water monster Aglebemu, who had dammed up the great river and let it go dry.[45] She shows rather than explains how the spoken word functions, the historical and the present blending in a kind of sharing with its own rules. Students see the powerful role of storytelling in supporting a collective knowledge and protecting a way of life under grave threat. Through their experience with Girouard, our students, many of whom are active in the fight for sound environmental policy, feel grateful for the contributions of Native Americans, environmentalists long before others took up the cause. The inclusion of this material immediately links their awareness of the continued fight for the rights and recognition of First Nations people today to their study of francophone literatures and cultures. They are moved by the experience of Native Americans here in Maine and note how important having a broad sense of history is to understanding the problems around race and exclusion that live on in both American and French culture today.

The consideration of sources drawn from Native American oral tradition brings students face to face with a lot of pain. Girouard’s lecture on “Genocide and Maine” graphically depicts the horrific violence and racism of the English and French colonization of Wabanaki lands, where ninety-five [336] percent of the Native population was decimated, twenty tribes were reduced to five, and voting and religious rights were severely restricted until late in the twentieth century. As they listen to Penobscot versions of events that took place in Maine and recognize the names of nearby towns and regions, the violent history of colonial conquest becomes all the more real. Girouard shares with students Governor Phipp’s 1755 proclamation that encouraged scalping Native Americans and her knowledge that inhabitants in nearby Woolwich, Maine, took up the offer of a bounty for this chilling practice, each scalp serving as proof of the capture and murder of a local tribe member.[46] The combination of Girouard’s orally transmitted knowledge of tribal history and this document from the written archive is powerful. What students learn from Girouard deepens and challenges their understanding and their own relationship to the land and to the people that make up their adopted state. Indeed, Girouard’s public lecture at Bowdoin in October 2018, “Our Story: Traversing the Homelands,” explicitly called on her largely non-Native American audience to make Wabanaki history part of their own history by acknowledging the role each of us plays in what is a complexly interconnected story.[47]

Learning with a member of the local Native American community heightens the stakes of the encounters between First Nations people and Europeans in ways that written texts alone cannot.[48] Students connect with Girouard, and through her, with a larger group of descendants of the very area in which they are living. When the signs go up on campus [337] each fall, their white letters on a green background declaring “You are on Indigenous land,” it reverberates more for them. Girouard’s testimony also brings alive a vision that goes far beyond the Penobscot. The values she shares traverse First Nations cultures, countering a European mindset that since the sixteenth century has placed “man” at the center. As Dickason underlines,

[The] dazzling variety of cultural particularities [of different tribes] has tended to obscure the underlying unity of the Amerindian world view, which saw humans as part of a cosmological order depending on a balance of reciprocating forces to keep the universe functioning in harmony. This contrasts with the Judeo-Christian view of a cosmos dominated by a God in the image of man. In this perspective man is in the privileged position, as up to a certain point he can control nature for his own benefit.[49]

Her words remind us that the kinds of partnership we have forged here in Maine can be forged anywhere across the United States. American universities are all built on Indigenous land. We encourage our colleagues to reach out to members of local tribal communities to share in the telling of a more complete and more vibrant story of the early modern period.

Videos of testimonials from First Nations people living in the province of Quebec, who are closer descendants of those Le Jeune refers to as “les Montagnais,” have been a useful complement to our partnership with Girouard. Students are moved by the horrific history of so-called “Indian Schools.” Le Jeune’s seminary schools, though initially unsuccessful, were brought to fruition with the advent of greater state control — still hand in hand with the church — in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[50] [338] These schools, established to “kill the Indian, and save the man” vividly show the costs of the assimilationist project as it unfolds over time.[51]

Our students listen to oral histories told in French by older Canadians who as children were forced to enroll in schools far from their families and tribes, where traditional braids were sliced away and tribal languages banished. They watch a short Radio-Canada news report produced in 2013, just as the Canadian Commission on Truth and Reconciliation was preparing to hold public meetings in Québec, part of a six-year series of events in cities across the country to reeducate citizens through finally hearing and honoring the testimonies of survivors.[52] Our students listen to the testimony of Marcel Petiquay, first sent at the age of six to a boarding school for Indigenous Canadian children. He describes his rape by a priest at the age of seven, the beginning of a long series of sexual aggressions that would be the source of enduring self-hatred, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and recurrent suicidal thoughts. He makes plain the heartbreaking cycle of violence that sweeps up the next generation, and his concerns for his children. Students recognize in Petiquay’s lived experience of state-sanctioned cultural denial and violence the modern-day persistence of the very schooling project advanced by Le Jeune in the seventeenth century. As through conversations with Girouard, who recounts her memories of Penobscot mothers’ terror at the approach of an unknown car, hiding their children from social workers for fear they would be taken away to boarding schools, students see in these testimonies the long-term costs of European-style progress. At the same time, students observe the remarkable resilience of tribal heritage and rituals that, in Petiquay’s words, “a century of internment did not succeed in destroying.”

As noted by Washington Post journalist Brenda J. Child, herself a grandchild of Native American grandparents, “for many in the United States, [339] the conversation is, perhaps, just beginning.”[53] She reminds us that the question of Indigenous schools is an American tragedy as much as it is a Canadian one, calling attention to the mass deaths of children in similar boarding schools right here in the United States, “beginning with Carlisle in Pennsylvania in 1879 and ending with the Sherman Institute in California in 1903.” These stories go a long way toward connecting Le Jeune’s colonial ambitions in the “time of encounters” to the here and now, a time when many non-Native students have had little to no contact with Native Americans. First Nations youth attend college at rates much lower than the average for Americans overall and they often face enormous obstacles to attending prestigious schools like Bowdoin.[54] This unit is a reminder of the importance of learning to listen for Native American history in the past but also in the present.

When considered together, oral and written sources enrich and complicate each other. Students see how the textual accounts they have read have provided them a context that helps them better understand the stakes of First Nations stories and testimonials. At the same time, reading, listening to, and interacting with Girouard in person and with the oral testimonials of Indigenous Canadians indirectly changes and enriches their understanding of the texts they have studied, making for some insightful essays. Students note the remarkable consistency between the themes and characterizations of First Nations people that fill Le Jeune’s seventeenth-century written account and those of Penobscot oral tradition as shared by Girouard. Yet despite similarities, Girouard’s Penobscot account has a very different tone from Le Jeune’s. What was scorned in Le Jeune’s Relation, is treated with respect and veneration. While Le Jeune denigrates the Montagnais’s intimate relationship with the earth, Girouard deeply values the Wabanaki’s sacred connection with the land. While Le Jeune mocks Montagnais belief in the presence of a spirit in all [340] elements of the natural world, the Penobscot assert the intrinsic value and sacredness of all creation. They see the earth as an interconnected web of which human beings are just a part and affirm their role as its sacred stewards.[55] The two taken together go a long way towards fulfilling Christiane Taubira’s wish (and ours) to arrive at a truer and richer story through collaboration.

Following their work with oral tales and testimonials, students return to Le Jeune with new eyes, reading between the lines and against the grain with greater sophistication. Having read and heard the story of Gluskape, who, “furious at the betrayal by those newly arrived in Wabanaki lands,” spends his time making arrowheads “in anticipation of the future when the Indians will need him once again,” they are even more aware than they had been of perspective and genre.[56] They highlight how Le Jeune’s inclusion of quotations of the Montagnais’s negative reactions to him destabilize his narrative. When his hosts respond with irony or with statements such as “[y]ou are ignorant,” “you are stupid,” students see that whatever Le Jeune wishes to communicate, his hosts do not seem to be buying it.[57] Some note that Le Jeune’s juxtaposition of what he casts as the First Nations people’s fantastical beliefs with equally incredible beliefs espoused within Catholicism undermines the authority of his critique. Others find evidence of resistance to the French project that differs markedly from the joy portrayed in the De Bry engravings or Verrazzano narrative that students first considered. What they have learned in this unit deeply informs their approach to sources considered later in the semester, in particular those regarding the French participation in enslavement and the experience of African captives in the Atlantic colonies.[58] [341]


We began our unit, and this piece, with a consideration of the Renaissance through the poetics of La Pléiade. In his Defense and Illustration of the French Language, with chapter titles like “That the French language must not be called barbarous” and “Call to the French to write in their own language, including praise for France,” Du Bellay defends the value of French. He champions the dignity and potential of a language that had long been considered “savage,” an oral and unworthy bastardization of Latin. Two generations later, with French well established as the language of the kingdom, Le Jeune, in the name of God and country, associates Montagnais oral tradition with barbarity. The French language, writing, and print become signs of civilization, while the oral languages of the Indigenous people of New France mark them as uncivilized. Drawing a direct parallel between writing and cultural superiority, Le Jeune reports that the Native people he frequents “think only of living” and do not recognize the value of the text. They should therefore be considered inferior beings, stuck in a more primitive world of base concerns: “This people does not believe that there is any science in the world other than living and eating. This is their whole philosophy. They are astonished at the importance we give our books, because the knowledge they contain does nothing at all to lessen their hunger.”[59] For Le Jeune, Montagnais language itself betrays a lack of civilization, devoid of all the terms that make Europe Europe. It is missing “the language of theologians, of philosophers, mathematicians, doctors, in short, of all educated men, all the words that concern the administration and governance of a town, a province, an empire, everything having to do with justice, reward and punishment, the names of an infinity of arts that we have in our Europe … of thousands upon thousands of inventions, of a thousand beauties and a thousand riches.”[60] Le Jeune’s effusive celebration of the glories of “our Europe” are linked by way of [342] contrast to all that is missing among the supposedly less advanced people of what he calls New France: “None of these things is found in the thought or the words of the savages who have neither true religion nor knowledge of virtues, nor order, nor governance, nor kingdom, nor republic, nor sciences, or anything else mentioned previously …. What an enormous deficiency.” Le Jeune suggests that the French are thus doing the Native Americans a great service, helping them move out of an eternal childhood characterized exclusively by “primitive” preoccupations so that they can enter (French) history and, with it, civilization and progress.[61]

This clash of world views is not something we left behind as we moved into more modern times. Our university system, like Le Jeune some four hundred years ago, privileges a kind of knowledge associated almost exclusively with the written tradition. Earlier we considered Dickason’s distinction between, on the one hand, the Judeo-Christian view “of a cosmos dominated by a God in the image of man” with “man … in the privileged position … controll[ing] nature for his own benefit” and, on the other hand, a Native American world view that “saw humans as part of a cosmological order depending on a balance of reciprocating forces to keep the universe functioning in harmony.”[62] In Teaching Cultural Strengths, Alicia Fedelina Chávez and Susan D. Longerbeam similarly distinguish two broad cultural epistemologies in today’s classrooms. On the one hand is a “culturally individuated worldview” that values privacy, compartmentalization and abstraction, and, on the other, a “culturally integrated worldview” in which interconnectedness and mutual dependence [343] matter.[63] Western institutions, including American and European universities, have traditionally given overwhelming preference to the “individuated” model, often leading students from “integrated” cultures to feel self-doubt and a sense of not belonging. Our focus on the value of Native American “integrated” cultures in this unit offers a helpful counterpoint. As Chávez and Longerbeam have shown, greater emphasis on the “integrated worldview” in the classroom encourages students from more “integrated” cultures to feel more included and to find their perspectives legitimized. For many of these students, the oral tradition has played an important role in their own cultures and upbringing. Witnessing the spoken word valued in an academic setting transforms the playing field and invites different kinds of knowledge to take center stage for all students, even in a course like ours that introduces the early modern period. Including the oral thus not only helps us tell a more complete story of the period we are studying but also makes our classroom more inclusive.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does the adoption of more “global” perspectives and the consideration of a wider range of sources change the way we read and think about European texts and, in particular, how we tell the story of the Renaissance?
  2. What concrete steps can we take to include a more diverse set of voices in telling the tale of the long Renaissance period?
  3. In what ways can the approach taken in the unit presented here be applied to other early modern sources and contexts?
  4. What shifts in our thinking and our course structures are required to include the study of oral sources as well as written ones?
  5. How do our academic institutions participate in the exclusion of certain voices, values, and approaches to learning and sharing knowledge? [344]
  6. What changes must we consider in our curricular structures, course materials, and assignments to create more inclusive courses that welcome and engage a more diverse student population?
  7. Studying the colonial context necessarily means witnessing other people’s trauma. How do we prepare students to create a community that honors the subjectivity and truth shared by the speaker and allows us to welcome their testimony without judgement or voyeurism?[64] How do we increase solidarity through bearing witness to another’s pain rather than reinforce the speaker’s otherness?
  8. What can the field of early modern studies learn from the fields of postcolonial studies and what has been called “Francophone” studies?
  9. Who has the right to tell these stories? For those of us trained in earlier periods, engaging with this work means reaching outside our specialty, and therefore entering the specialty of other scholars. How do we do this and at the same time avoid a sort of academic neo-colonialism?

Suggestions for Further Reading

Chávez, Alicia Fedelina and Susan D. Longerbeam. Teaching Across Cultural Strengths: A Guide to Balancing Integrated and Individuated Culture Frameworks in College Teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2016.

Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. “Unbearable Witness: Toward a Politics of Listening.” In Extremities: Trauma Testimony and Community, edited by Nancy K. Miller and Jason Tougaw, 143–165. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

Daniels, Charlotte and Katherine Dauge-Roth. “Globalizing the Early Literature Survey: Challenges and Rewards.” French Review 93, no. 1 (2019): 92–107, and accompanying pedagogical dossier: frenchreview.frenchteachers.org/Dossiers.html [345]

Dickason, Olive Patricia with David T. McNab. Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times. 4th ed. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Girouard, Maria. “Penobscots et la montagne sacrée: K’taadn.” De L’Ossau à Katahdin, La revue de l’Association de L’Ossau à Katahdin 7 (décembre-janvier, 2017): 3–11.

Melzer, Sara. “Une ‘Seconde France’? Re-penser le paradigme ‘classique’ à partir de l’histoire oubliée de la colonisation française.” In La littérature, le XVIIe siècle et nous: dialogue transatlantique, edited by Hélène Merlin-Kajman, 75–85. Paris: Presse Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2008.

———. Colonizer or Colonized: The Hidden Stories of Early Modern French Culture. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

Sayre, Gorden M. Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature. Chapel Hill, NC, and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Taiaiakie, Alfred. Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

True, Micah. Masters and Students: Jesuit Mission Ethnography in Seventeenth-Century New France. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Canada’s Residential Schools: The History. Part 1: Origins to 1939, vol. 1 of The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015.

Williard, Ashley. “Ventriloquizing Blackness: Citing Enslaved Africans in the French Caribbean, c.1650 to 1685.” In Early Modern Black Diaspora Studies: A Critical Anthology, edited by Cassander L. Smith, Nicholas Jones, and Miles P. Grier, 83–105. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Yaeger, Patricia. “Consuming Trauma: or, The Pleasures of Merely Circulating.” In Extremities: Trauma Testimony and Community, edited by Nancy K. Miller and Jason Tougaw, 25–51. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

Wiseman, Frederick Matthew. The Voice of the Dawn: An Autohistory of the Abenaki Nation. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2001.

  1. Please see our “Globalizing the Early Literature Survey: Challenges and Rewards,” French Review 93.1 (2019): 92–107 and its accompanying dossier pédagogique at frenchreview.frenchteachers.org/Dossiers.html.
  2. Henceforth, we use the terms “Native American” and “First Nations,” as well as the adjectives “Indigenous” and “Native” to describe, in what are today the United States and Canada, those whose ancestors first inhabited these territories. See more detailed discussion of these terms and others in Olive Patricia Dickason with David T. McNab, “Introduction,” Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times, 4th ed. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2009), xii–xiii.
  3. Joachim Du Bellay, Deffence et illustration de la langue françoise, in Œuvres choisies, ed. Adrien Cart and M.-Th. Beyret (Paris: Larousse, 1934).
  4. Sara Melzer, Colonizer or Colonized: The Hidden Stories of Early Modern French Culture (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) and “Une ‘Seconde France’? Re-penser le paradigme ‘classique’ à partir de l’histoire oubliée de la colonisation française,” in La littérature, le XVIIe siècle et nous: dialogue transatlantique, ed. Hélène Merlin-Kajman (Paris: Presse Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2008), 75–85.
  5. For a consideration of the difficulties around accurate naming of North American tribes, see Dickason with McNab, Canada’s First Nations, xii.
  6. We are particularly lucky to have access to sources written and spoken in French in Maine and nearby Québec. However, we do not limit ourselves to French in our interactions with members of the Native American community.
  7. De Bry’s first volume reproduced Thomas Harriot’s narrative, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, adding engravings made from the drawings by the expedition’s artist John White, Admiranda narratio, fida tamen, de commodis et incolorum ritibus Virginiae (Frankfurt: Johann Wechel, 1590). The second contained relations by René de Laudonnière and his artist, Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, of their expedition in Florida, featuring engravings of the Timucua made from Le Moyne’s watercolors, Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americae provicia Gallis acciderunt (Frankfurt: Johann Wechel, 1591).
  8. Travel narratives of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries read and quote each other frequently, perpetuating stereotypes that influence their perceptions of those they encounter and become part of the permanent record. Moreover, printed versions often differ from their manuscript originals, thanks to publishers’ modifications intended to make them better correspond to readers’ expectations.
  9. Ribault’s voyages were documented in drawings by artist Le Moyne de Morgues, the engravings of which students have already considered. We thank Nicolas Hebbinckuys for having generously shared with us selections from these texts.
  10. Giovanni da Verrazano, Relation [1524] in Jacques Habert and Michel Mollat du Jourdin, Giovanni et Girolamo Verrazano Navigateurs de François Ier. Dossiers de voyages (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1982), 15–16. All translations are our own.
  11. Habert and Mollat du Jourdin, Giovanni et Girolamo. Elsewhere Verrazzano uses the word race in referring to a tribe and their skin tones: “This race is the most beautiful and the most civilized of those that we have met during this campaign. They are taller than we are; they have a bronze complexion, some of them are lighter colored, others more so;” Habert and Mollat du Jourdin, Giovanni et Girolamo, 27–28.
  12. Ribault, Jean. La Complète et Véridique Découverte de la Terra Florida … in Les Français en Amérique pendant la deuxième moitié du xvie siècle, ed. Charles-André Julien (Paris: PUF, 1958), 1–26, at 7.
  13. Francis Parkman, France and England in North America, vol. 2, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, 3rd ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1868), 44.
  14. Paul Le Jeune, Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la Nouvelle-France en l’année 1634 [Sébastien Cramoisy, 1635], in Monumenta Novae Franciæ, vol. 2, Établissement à Québec, 1616–1634, ed. Lucien Campeau (Rome and Québec: Monumenta Hist. Soc. Jesus, 1979), 531–740. We are grateful to Sara Melzer, Micah True, and Ellen Welch for having shared sources and provided helpful recommendations regarding teaching the Relation.
  15. Melzer, “Une ‘Seconde France,’” 79.
  16. On the French assimilationist model, see Melzer, Colonizer or Colonized and “Une ‘Seconde France,’” and Gorden M. Sayre, Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature (Chapel Hill, NC, and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 3 and 7.
  17. Le Jeune, Letter to his superior, Berthélémy Jacquinot, in Relation de 1634, 538.
  18. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 595 and 597.
  19. Letter from Colbert to Talon, April 5, 1667, in Rapport de l’Archiviste de la Province de Québec, Redempti Paradis Imprimeur de Sa Majesté le Roi, 1930, 58, original cited in Melzer, “Une ‘Seconde France,’” 77.
  20. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 596.
  21. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 597.
  22. They foreshadow the genre of spy tales from abroad that the French will devour during the eighteenth century, most notably with Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes, Voltaire’s Ingénue, Graffigny’s Lettres d’une Péruvienne, in which the foreigners have a thing or two to teach the French about themselves.
  23. The Greek roots of the word “Catholic” combine κατά (kata) meaning “concerning,” with ὅλος (holos), “the whole”; “Catholic, adj. and n.,” OED Online, June 2019 (Oxford: Oxford University Press), https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.bowdoin.edu/view/Entry/28967 (accessed June 29, 2019).
  24. Du Bellay, Deffence et illustration, 18. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 596.
  25. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 606; see also 604–7.
  26. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 602.
  27. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 585.
  28. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 585 and 595.
  29. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 576; see also 576–77.
  30. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 572–75.
  31. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 560.
  32. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 559–62.
  33. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 563.
  34. Ian Austin, “With Discovery of Unmarked Graves, Canada’s Indigenous Seek Reckoning,” New York Times, June 26, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/26/world/canada/indigenous-residential-schools-grave.html.
  35. Judith Fetterly, The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Literature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978). The phrase “reading against the grain,” is taken from Ways of Reading, 3rd. ed., edited by David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky (Boston, MA: St. Martins Press, 2003).
  36. “La loi Taubira du 21 mai 2001” in Les routes de l’esclavage: histoire d’un très grand “dérangement,” eds. Claude Fauque and Marie-Josée Thiel (Paris: Hermé, 2004), 186.
  37. Article 1 of the Taubira law includes Indigenous people in the law without accounting for the specifics of their situation.
  38. Dickason with McNab, Canada’s First Nations, viii.
  39. Dickason notes that, rather than face this fact, Canadian historians have “found it much easier to ignore the earlier period; hence the blinkered view of Canada as a ‘young’ country;” Canada’s First Nations, ix.
  40. Le Jeune, Letter, in Relation de 1634, 539.
  41. Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word ([Methuen, 1982] London: Routledge, 2002), 11. Indeed, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century missionaries were keen to find written traditions among Native Americans because they saw these as a sign of civilization. For example, Jesuit Joseph-François Lafitau (1681–1746) saw tattoos and carvings on trees as participating in a signifying system that uses symbols “that serve them as Hieroglyphics, writings, and memoirs,” a substitute for “the missing Alphabet;” Joseph-François Lafitau, Mœurs des sauvages amériquains comparées aux mœurs des premiers temps, 2 vols. (Paris: Saugrain l’ainé and Charles Estienne Hochereau, 1724), 2:43–44.
  42. Maria Girouard, “Penobscots et la montagne sacrée: K’taadn,” De L'Ossau à Katahdin, La revue de l’Association de L’Ossau à Katahdin 7 (décembre-janvier 2017), 3–11, at 4–5. Girouard published the article discussed below in French as part of a transatlantic scholarly project.
  43. Maria Girouard, “Genocide and Maine: Shining the Light of Truth,” Maine-Wabanaki REACH, posted February 16, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1DRIzt0Zgc.
  44. Girouard’s spelling; also transliterated as “Katahdin.”
  45. For more on the Penobscot River Restoration Project, see the website created by the National Resources Council of Maine in collaboration with the Penobscot Nation: https://www.nrcm.org/projects/waters/penobscot-river-restoration-project/.
  46. In 2009, the offer for sale on the internet of Native American scalps and bones was investigated by the FBI. Patricia Erikson, “Bones and Scalps coming out of the Closet,” September 3, 2009, Heritage in Maine blog: https://heritageinmaine.blogspot.com/2009/09/bones-and-scalps-coming-out-of-closet.html.
  47. Maria Girouard, “Our Story: Traversing the Homelands,” October 25, 2018, Bowdoin College.
  48. In some ways, we are catching up at the university level with what is happening at the elementary and secondary levels. Since 2001, a Wabanaki Studies curriculum has been mandated in all Maine schools, though not all have put it into practice: Robbie Feinberg, “A 2001 Law Says Maine Schools Must Teach Native American History, But Many Still Don’t,” February 7, 2019, npr.org, https://www.mainepublic.org/post/2001-law-says-maine-schools-must-teach-native-american-history-many-still-don-t.
  49. Dickason with McNab, Canada’s First Nations, ix–x.
  50. For a detailed account of the history of “Indian Schools” in Canada, see The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Canada’s Residential Schools: The History, Part 1: Origins to 1939, vol. 1 of The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015).
  51. Richard H. Pratt’s 1892 speech, quoted by Maria Girouard, in-class discussion at Bowdoin College, April 2, 2019. One hundred and thirty such residential schools existed across Canada during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; “Les pensionnats de la honte,” YouTube, Radio-Canada, January 21, 2013. “Indian Schools” in the United States, were even more numerous, with a few off-reservation schools still operating today.
  52. “Les pensionnats de la honte.”
  53. Brenda J. Child, “U.S. Boarding Schools for Indians Had a Hidden Agenda: Stealing Land,” Washington Post, August 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/08/27/indian-boarding-schools-united-states/.
  54. Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI), “Factsheets: Native American Students,” last modified November 20, 2020, https://pnpi.org/native-american-students/#.
  55. Girouard, “Penobscots et la montagne sacrée,” 5.
  56. Girouard, “Penobscots et la montagne sacrée,” 6.
  57. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 573 and 589.
  58. For further details, see our “Globalizing the Early Literature Survey.” Ashley Williard provides a helpful model for this approach to reading missionary texts in the context of the French Caribbean, “Ventriloquizing Blackness: Citing Enslaved Africans in the French Caribbean, c.1650 to 1685,” in Early Modern Black Diaspora Studies: A Critical Anthology, ed. Cassander L. Smith, Nicholas Jones, and Miles P. Grier (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 83–105.
  59. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 637.
  60. Le Jeune, Relation de 1634, 645.
  61. This vision of the non-French other lives on today, as was made clear by Nicolas Sarkozy’s infamous “Discours de Dakar,” delivered on July 26, 2007, at the Cheikh-Anta-Diop University in Dakar, Sénégal, where the then French president declared that “Africans have not sufficiently come into History …. The problem with Africa is that she lives the present through a nostalgia for the lost paradise of childhood …. Within this imaginary where everything is always rebeginning, there is room for neither the human adventure nor the idea of progress;” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k9tgDABYvw.
  62. Dickason with McNab, Canada’s First Nations, ix–x.
  63. Alicia Fedelina Chávez and Susan D. Longerbeam, Teaching Across Cultural Strengths: A Guide to Balancing Integrated and Individuated Culture Frameworks in College Teaching (Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2016).
  64. On creating an effective and respectful “listening community,” see Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, “Unbearable Witness: Toward a Politics of Listening,” in Extremities: Trauma Testimony and Community, edited by Nancy K. Miller and Jason Tougaw (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 143–65.


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