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But the Jesuits were to discover that learning and coercion did not mix in the wilderness classroom - Indian children subjected to European methods of correction, however mild, often rebelled. At the same time, Indian parents, because of their love for their children coupled with the fear that they would be maltreated by the French, were sometimes reluctant to release them to the missionaries for care and instruction. 9 The Jesuits and the Wilderness School The foregoing is not intended to suggest that all deliberate instruction was absent among the tribes of early Canada.
Frequently the tribal shamans led the protests, for they regarded the missionaries as competitors for the hearts and minds of the villagers. 32 The community approach to the teaching of religion had its drawbacks. The missionaries discovered that it was no easy task to bring together the inhabitants of an entire village, what with the tribe's nomadic ways and its general indifference to the Christian religion. For sustained periods of time, particularly during the summer months, most of the tribe was off hunting, fishing, and trading.
If the tribal peoples expressed bewilderment with and indifference to Christian doctrine, they could be excused. The mysteries of the faith were sometimes inscrutable to Christian minds as well. It cannot be forgotten that it had taken centuries and the church's best minds to settle on official doctrine. "18 Both the Hurons and the Iroquois put great stock in dreams, interpreting them as messages from the spirits to take a particular course of action. The missionaries were not distrustful of dreams as such, for they were also a part of the Christian experience.