Goals and Objectives--Grades 9 - 12
Voices and Choices--Father Meurin
Note: It is a good idea to print
Level Three for easy reference.
Father Meurin is a Jesuit priest who has just
learned that the order has been disbanded in France and that all
Jesuits must leave Illinois and return to France immediately. He
cannot bear to leave Illinois and the Kaskaskia Indians among whom
he has spent almost 25 years. He must decide what to do--obey the
French royal government or find a way to remain in
These themes can be explored with either a social studies or
language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other
resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other
cultures, students' own lives.
- The role of the Jesuit missionaries in colonial
- Politics--social upheaval in France and the war between
the French and the British.
These questions which come at the end of each story, minus "the
answer", can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as
Why didn't Father Meurin want to leave Illinois?
Father Meurin believed that his life's work was to administer to
the souls of the Kaskaskia. By leaving Illinois, he would have been
failing his duty to God.
How would you feel if you had to leave a place you had lived
for over 20 years? Do you think Father Meurin had sentimental
reasons for wanting to stay in Kaskaskia?
When Father Meurin was recalled to France he had been living in
Illinois almost 25 years. We can only imagine his sense of duty
towards the Kaskaskia Indians whom he had managed to convert to
Catholicism and who had come to rely on him as their spiritual
leader. Records show that the Kaskaskia petitioned his departure
and requested that he remain among them. To have returned to France
would have meant leaving behind a way of life and a group of people
that he had come to accept and think of as his spiritual
Why would Father Meurin's life have been increasingly difficult
under the British?
The British were Protestant. There was deep-seated enmity
between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Europe that
carried over to North America. When the British occupied what had
been French territory, they proceeded to impose their own laws and
Using Father Meurin as the measure, how do you think the
Illinois Indians were regarded by the Jesuits?
Father Meurin refers to the Kaskaskia as "my Indians," "my
flock," and he fears they will go back to their "heathen" ways when
he leaves. His language is patronizing or fatherly towards the
Native Americans. This attitude was shared by other Jesuits who
considered the Illinois Indians to be savages whose souls needed to
be saved through conversion to Catholicism. In other ways, the
Native Americans presented an enormous challenge for the
Jesuits--thousands of new souls to convert.
What was the relationship between the state and the church in
French colonial America? How does this relationship differ in our
The tie between the state and church in French colonial America
was very strong. The government paid the Jesuits a yearly sum to
cover their expenses and granted them land for their mission. For
centuries the monarchy had legitimized its power through religion.
The French people believed that the monarch was the divine
ruler--that he had been anointed by God for his role. There was no
separation of church and state as there is in our culture. Review
with your students why the founding fathers of the United States
decided to separate the church from the state. What had they
learned from European history?
These are suggested classroom activities and student projects
that you may want to use with your students or as models to create
1. Writing in Character
Write a diary entry for Father Meurin when he first arrives in
Write a diary entry for Father Meurin when he learns that he has
been ordered to return to France.
- Consider how he might feel alone in the Illinois wilderness, so
far from France and his family.
As a class, read each other's work and discuss any changes noted in
Meurin's attitude toward Illinois and the Kaskaskia Indians.
- Consider how he might feel, faced with a forced departure from
Illinois and the Kaskaskia Indians, among whom he has spent the
better part of his life.
2. Creating a dramatic letter, speech, or dialogue
Imagine how Father Meurin might break the news to other Jesuits
that he has decided to remain in Kaskaskia--write a letter, a
speech, or a dialogue to document this event.
3. Historical Essay
Choose two of the cultural groups from Side by Side and write an
essay comparing them and analyzing what habits, beliefs, food, or
clothing each group borrowed from the other.
In researching your topic, refer to the other narratives, Maps,
Objects, the Timeline, Clues to the Past, and Side by Side.
You may want to use this theme of cultural comparison and cultural
exchange as the basis for comparing colonial Illinois with Illinois
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