Hardy Jesuit missionaries had success in 17th century mission work among the Canadian Indians where Recollect priests failed. One reason consisted of the Jesuit decision to evangelize the “more prosperous and stable Hurons.” The Jesuits believed that any of them martyred while serving God would be immediately welcome in Heaven. They also saw evangelism as a long-term effort. They also focused on their work, not getting involved in land speculation or furs. They also proved capable of suffering torture. One Jesuit returned to the Hurons after being captured by Iroquois. Under torture he lost four fingers. Huron braves immediately valued the priest. He couldn’t read or write, the brave said, but seeing the priest survive the torture of losing his fingers removed doubt about his religious zeal.
However, Jesuit or Protestant, missionaries fought a losing battle in bridging the cultural divide between Europeans and Indians. Indians had no use for Jesus as the Single way to God. They also disliked any absolutism in belief and behavior. To them, Indian belief offered an equal choice. If warned that their belief was false, they shrugged nonchalantly.
Nor did they accept a divide in the after-life. They imagined a kind of “happy hunting...living... continuous existence doing what they had been doing here....” That’s why they had chosen items put in the grave with them. They envisioned fields of corn for them and acres of grass for their ponies in the after-life...and bartering among friends and fishing to their heart’s content.
Many Hurons, glad to build a chapel for study and worship, resisted living a new way, such as avoiding ritual cannibalism, premarital sex and gambling. One chief lamented that he didn’t expect God to expect so much of him. American Colonies, 107-111
All this sounds similar in the 21st century. –End Part I-