On the French Frontier 1700-1800

Teachers Level Three

Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 9 - 12

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

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.


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.

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.



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. 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

© Illinois State Museum 31-Dec-96