Catholic Schooling is a significant issue in early American history. After Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, the English people, French, and Spaniard extended their territories and assimilated Indian by assigning missionaries and governors to develop Catholic schools in the New World. The Catholic schools in European colonies were established not only for educating European¡¦s own Catholic descents but also for making Saint Mary and Jesus Chris was known by Indians. Spanish priests had accomplished better missionary tasks than the other European colonial empires like France and England. Their Catholic preaches arrived the in southern parts of the Mississippi River before 1700, and the west and south area of the Mississippi after 1700.
I believe the reason why the Spanish accomplished the missionary job more successfully than the others is that they paid enough reverence to Indian¡¦s tribe traditions and customs. Spanish missionaries understood that the tribe people have to retain their habits like complex cosmology worship, hunting game, and defending practice; therefore, they preserved Indian¡¦s traditional activities when converting them into Catholics. Spanish bishops transformed Indian¡¦s superstitions into Christianity step by step gently and gradually. At the same time, the Spanish missionaries travelled and fight together with tribe military soldiers from hostile attacks and introduced new industrialization techniques to improve Indian¡¦s agriculture. This apparently revealed Spanish¡¦s determination to assimilate Indian and to transfer Spanish civilization to improve Indian¡¦s daily lives.
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Compared with the French, Spanish missionaries were more effective and lucky because they encountered stronger and bigger tribes like the Mayans, the Incas, the Aztec, and the Sioux. Bigger tribes were more stable and their people were willing to learn and assimilate. They arrived in these stronger tribe areas in the US from Mexico and West Indies and transmitted the grace and love of God to settled communities such as the Pueblo of New Mexico. On the contrary, the French missionaries came across weaker nomadic tribes like the Mi’kmaq the Algonquian in Maine, New York, Illinois and Louisiana from Canada and finally did not Christianized them aggressively and effectively.
In 1694, a French explorer, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac took control of the area around Detroit and urged that the northern tribes come to live in the settlement, mingle with the French settlers, learn the language, and intermarry. He wished to lead a mixed force of White and Indians to defend the fort against the English, the Iroquois, and the Sioux; however, he did not achieve this goal. In fact, French priests were unfortunately accused by Jesuits that they gave the Indian brandy, turned the women into prostitutes, and did not founded enough Catholic schools in their regions.
Unlike the Spanish missionaries, the French did not interfere with the Indian¡¦s cultures. In other words, they did not try to enhance their life quality or transfer French modernization to them. French let the converted Native Americans lived outside the forts, followed their own ways of life, and allow them to enter the palisade in times of danger. Actually, French people did better in educating their own settlers. For example, the Ursuline Sisters from France introduced models of Catholic schooling of women by establishing a French young woman Catholic School.
Many events illustrated that French missionaries did not use reasonable ways to Christianize Indians. For example, a French explorer, Jacques Cartier returned to France to tell Francis I about the New World. He brought back two original Americans to show that these people deserved the opportunity to be converted to Catholics. The ridiculous thing was that only two Indian people brought to France made Francis I enthusiastically accepted the idea of converting a whole tribe to Christianity without a perfect plan. Their failure derived from the mistake of stereotyping. From the perspectives of positivism, two Indians do not reflect the true intention and inclination of a whole tribe population.
Even though these two Indians expressed that they really have a strong motivation to believe in Catholicism, Francis I should not easily made religion joined his economic and political motives to explore his new lands in America. Without a complete and careful preparation and arrangement, French missionaries merely imitated and traced the Spanish steps of avoiding the Indians contaminated by traders, and defending the fort against the English and the other tribes. France missionaries did not develop enough Catholic schools for Indians because they neither gained enough trust from Indians and nor transmit their France civilization, industrialization, and modernization to them. They made the ¡§converted¡¨ Native Americans follow their own original ways of living. French people failed because, under their control, the Indian people¡¦s lifestyles were not updated or improved by supports from France.
I believe that both Spanish and French missionaries aimed to make Catholic schooling a part of what¡¦s called Americanism by Pope Leo XIII on their land. Besides trying to improve the material lives of the Native Americans, Spanish missionaries centred their concerns on the spiritual gifts they sought to share with the Indians and established sufficient Catholic schools for both Spanish and Indians. However, the French people tend to build Catholic schools in tribe areas to meet the needs of their own settlers. For example, a young female Catholic School was built by Ursuline Sisters in New Orleans in 1718.
Indeed, converting Indians or immigrants to accept Christianity and be baptized as a Catholic is not a painless task. As I see it, the Spanish governors and missionaries had devoted themselves to their missionary works by offering abundant budgets and powerful militaries. Nowadays in the US, I think that for achieving a goal of Christianizing new immigrants and inviting them to go to Catholic schools, the missionaries, administrators and teachers in Catholic schools should refer to the Spanish model, in which Catholic schools established as cultural melting pots and improved better learning environments.
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