On the French Frontier 1700-1800
Teachers Level Three
  1. Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 9 - 12
  2. Voices and Choices--Father Meurin
  3. Voices and Choices--Marie Rouensa
  4. Behind the Scenes
  5. Side by Side Activity
Note: It is a good idea to print this section 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.


Think Use these questions to start class discussions.

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?


Activities for suggested activities.

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.


Voices and Choices--Marie Rouensa

Marie Rouensa is a Kaskaskia Indian woman who has become assimilated into French society and culture through her conversion to Catholicism and her two marriages, both to French men. As she lies dying, she must settle her will and decide what to do about her son Michel Accault, who has rejected French society and Catholicism to return to the Kaskaskia.


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.


Think Use these questions to start class discussions.

What role did Catholicism play in separating the French and the Kaskaskia Indians?

French institutions and laws were built upon a Judeo/Christian belief system. Their customs and traditions involved the Catholic church and expressed their belief in a God who had created an ordered world in which man was the central player. They believed that the earth was man's to cultivate and that man was superior to all other creatures, because man had a soul. The Native American belief system was much different than that of the French. The Kaskaskia believed that man had come from the earth and that the earth should be treated with respect. Animals were also treated with respect and regarded as equal to if not wiser than man. The difference between the world view of the Native Americans and the world view of the French colonists served as a communication barrier between the two peoples.

What role did Catholicism play in joining the French and the Kaskaskia?

Those of the Kaskaskia who did convert to Catholicism were quickly assimilated into French culture. There were certain advantages and disadvantages to being a part of French society on the frontier. Indian women who married French men were considered French citizens. Like Marie Rouensa, they inherited land and wealth in the form of European goods through their husbands. Children of the union between an Indian woman and French man were considered French citizens. These children could choose either culture.

Why was Marie Rouensa so determined to have her son return to the Catholic faith?

As a Catholic, Marie Rouensa was afraid for her son's soul. If he did not return to the Faith, then there was no assurance, in her mind, that Michel Accault would go to heaven in the afterlife. She had also become a prominent citizen within the French community. Her son's rejection of Catholicism was also a rejection of French society and culture. In a sense, by rejecting Catholicism, he was rejecting Marie Rouensa and her status as a French woman.

In what ways did French inheritance laws work to provide a type of social security for a widow and her children?

By assuring the widow and her children an equal share of the husband's estate, French inheritance laws protected the family from becoming destitute upon the death of the husband. Moreover, the wealth that a woman acquired made her an attractive bride. Most widows remarried on the French frontier.


Activities for suggested activities.

1. Travel Writing

Pretend to be a travel writer and describe the village of Kaskaskia.

2. The Village Plan

Develop your own French colonial village based on what you have learned from the narratives, Maps, Objects, and Side by Side.

3. Estate Inventory

Write a mock inventory for a house that you imagine as part of your village plan. For an example of estate inventories from the 1700s refer to Clues to the Past Clues to the Past


Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes:In the first activity students will learn to decode artifacts using a series of questions basic to the science of material culture studies and archaeology. They will learn that objects and artifacts can answer certain questions based on their appearance alone. Through a combination of observation, research, and comparison with like or known artifacts, students will be able to determine the aproximate age and use of an object, as well as how it was made and what it was made of. In the second activity, students will test their observation skills by examining and roughly dating three glass shards.

Lesson Plan

This has been designed to be a self-directed activity. The questions students learn to ask about objects provide the basis for organized research in both the social sciences and earth sciences.

Activity #1 is a warm-up to activity #2. Activity #2 allows students to test their new knowledge. No answer key has been provided. Students are not being tested on their answer but on the quality of their argument supporting their answer.

The answer to activity #2: the middle fragment of glass is returned because it is the kick-up of a modern wine bottle. The other two fragments or kick-ups were both found at the Cahokia site and date to the French period. They are aproximately the same age: both have the identifying circular imprint of the pontil marker; both glass fragments are thick, reflecting the crude materials that were used by the French to make wine bottles; both glass fragments have a pearly patina, which suggests they have been in the ground a long time.


Side by Side Activity

Students use Side by Side as a model for categorizing information about themselves, their classmates, and their community.

Lesson Plan

Click here for the teacher's lesson plan for the Side by Side activity.


[HOME] [1700 Home] | Level 1 | Level 2 |

© Illinois State Museum 31-Dec-96