On the French Frontier 1700-1800

Teachers Level Three

Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 9 - 12

Voices and Choices--Father Meurin
Note: It is a good idea to print Level Three for easy reference.

Voices and Choices--Father Meurin

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 Illinois.


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.


What do you think?

These questions which come at the end of each story, minus "the answer", can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as homework.

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 family.

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 customs.

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 society?

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 your own.

1. Writing in Character

Write a diary entry for Father Meurin when he first arrives in Kaskaskia. Write a diary entry for Father Meurin when he learns that he has been ordered to return to France. As a class, read each other's work and discuss any changes noted in Meurin's attitude toward Illinois and the Kaskaskia Indians.

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 today.



© Illinois State Museum 31-Dec-96