French Influence on the Indian

French influence. The influence of the French colonists on the Indians began very early. The use of glass beads in barter gave an impetus to the fur trade, and the speedy introduction of other commodities of trade led to long-continued associations with the Iroquoian tribes in particular. The influence of the French missionaries on many of the Indian tribes was marked; for example, the Montagnais and the Huron in the early days. The supply of peltries was increased by furnishing the Indians with firearms, which enabled them to travel with impunity and gave them a superiority over the neighboring tribes which they were not slow to take advantage of; hence al most from the beginning the French settlers and the government of New France came into more or less sympathetic con tact with several tribes of the country. This state of affairs arose both from the peaceful efforts of the missionaries and from the desire of the authorities to use the aborigines as a bulwark against the power of the English in North America. To her alliances with the Algonquian tribes of the great lakes and the region s. and E. of them, including New France and Acadia, France owed in great part her strength on this continent, while on the other hand the confederacy of the Iroquois, the natural enemies of the Algonquian peoples, contributed largely to her overthrow. The French character impelled the colonists to see in the Indian a fellow human being, and it is no wonder that the greatest intermixture between the Indian and the European, x. of the Mexican boundary, is represented by the mixed-bloods of Canada and the N. W. and their descendants, who form no small element in the population of these regions of civilized America. The French recognized the Indian s pride and prejudices, and won his confidence by respecting his institutions and often sharing in his ceremonies. They ruled while seeming to yield. Least of all did they despise the languages of the aborigines, as the rich records of the missionaries abundantly prove. The existence of a large number of mixed-bloods able to speak both their own tongue and French was a distinct advantage to the colonists. The relations between the French and the Acadian Indians, as pictured by Lescarbot, were, to use the word of Friederici, “idyllic,” though there is doubtless some exaggeration in these old accounts.

Several words of French origin crept very early into the eastern Algonquian tongues, such as Montagnais, Nascapi, and Micmac, and later a corresponding French element is to be found in the Algonquian languages of the region beyond Montreal (Chamberlain in Canad. Indian, Feb., 1891). The Chippewa vocabulary (Carver, Trav., 421, 1778) contains the word kapotewian, coat, which is the French capote, with the Chippewa radical suffix –waian, skin. In a Missisauga vocabulary of 1801 appears napané, flour. The French bon jour! in the form boju! is now the salutation in several Algonquian dialects. From (les) anglais is supposed to be derived the word for English in a number of these languages: Micmac aglasedāoo, Montagnais agaleshu, Nipissing aganesha, formerly angalesha, Chippewa shaganash, Cree akaydâsiw, etc. Another example of French influence is the contribution of Canadian French to the Chinook jargon (q. v.). There is also a French element in the modern tales and legends of the Indians of the Canadian Northwest and British Columbia, partly due to missionary teaching, partly to the campfires of the trappers, voyageurs, coureurs de bois, etc. In tales of the N. Pacific coast appears Shishé Tié (i. e., Jésus Christ), and in some of those of Indians on the E. side of the Rocky mts., Mani’ (i. e., the Virgin Mary). The French are also the subject of many Indian stories from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Among the Abnaki intermixture began very early. With them the term for mixed-blood is malouidit, of (St) Malo,’ indicative of the source of the fathers in most of these marriages. The wheat introduced from France was termed maloumenal, grains of (St Malo. In the 17th century the Abnaki called peas wenutsiminar, French seeds. The Micmac term for apple is wenjoosoon, French cranberry. In the Iroquoian languages an example of French influence is seen in Onontiio (Big Mountain ), the term applied by the Mohawk to the kings of France, which seems to translate Montmagny, the name of Champlain s successor as governor of Canada. Another example, noted by Hewitt, is that the Mohawk of Caughnawaga and other settlements on St Lawrence r. speak far more rapidly than do their brethren on Grand River res., Ontario, and they also have a more copious lexicon of modern terms.

Under the leadership of Mgr. de Laval the clergy of New France made strenuous opposition to the sale of liquor to the Indians, and succeeded in getting Colbert to prohibit the traffic; but the necessities of the political schemes of Frontenac and the fact that the Indians turned to the English and Dutch, from whom they could easily procure rum ad brandy, caused the reversal of this policy, against the pro tests of missionaries and the church. To salve their feelings the matter was referred to the Sorbonne and the University of Toulouse, the former pronouncing against the sale of liquor to the Indians, the latter declaring it permissible. Finally a sort of theoretical prohibition but actual toleration of liquor selling resulted. Consult Parkman (1) Jesuits in North America, (2) Conspiracy of Pontiac, (3) Pioneers of France in the New World, and other works; Jesuit Relations, Thwaitesed., I-LXXIII, 1896-1901.

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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