Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'année 1634 (Relation of what occurred in New France in the year 1634) is without doubt the finest of the Jesuit Relations published in Paris between 1632 and 1673. Written by the French missionary Paul Le Jeune (1592−1664), the work is known for its literary quality as well as its observations on the Montagnais Indians. Born near the city of Châlons-sur-Marne, in the region of Champagne, Le Jeune spent two years, between 1613 and 1615, as a Jesuit novice. He then studied philosophy at the Collège Henri IV de La Flèche where he met Father Énemond Massé (1575−1646), who had returned from Acadia. Massé sparked in Le Jeune an interest in faraway missions. Ordained a priest in 1624 and named superior of the Jesuit mission in Canada in 1631, Le Jeune arrived in Quebec the following year and kindled a great missionary spirit in the colony. Eager to learn Indian languages, he decided, in the winter of 1633−34, to follow a group of Montagnais on a trek across their hunting grounds. For nearly six months, he endured cold, hunger, and exhaustion from long marches on snowshoes. During the journey, he faced mockery and at times outright hostility from the principal shaman of the Montagnais, Carigonan, which some historians have argued that Le Jeune helped to provoke. The journey convinced Le Jeune that permanent settlement of the Indians was indispensable to their conversion. Upon conclusion of the voyage, Le Jeune wrote the magnificent Relation of 1634. In addition to displaying his talent as a writer, Le Jeune offered an account of Montagnais society in the 17th century of exceptional ethnographic interest. The author of many other Relations, Le Jeune remained superior of the Jesuit mission at Quebec from 1632 to 1639. He returned to France in 1649 to take up the position of mission procurator for New France, an office that he occupied until 1662.
References: Kenneth M. Morrison, The Solidarity of Kin: Ethnohistory, Religious Studies, and the Algonkian-French Religious Encounter (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2002).
Place: North America; Canada; Quebec
Institution: National Library of France
Physical description: 342 pages