Corporal Punishment as Religious Colonialism

R.L. Stollar

In her essay “‘Wonderful Affection’: Seventeenth-Century Missionaries to New France on Children and Childhood,”  Harvard University’s Clarissa W. Atkinson examines how Jesuit missionaries to Canada interacted with the Huron (or Wyandot), indigenous peoples of North America. These missionaries from France brought Roman Catholicism across the ocean “with the single, burning intention to bring souls to Christ”; however, they soon realized that it was “necessary for them to deal with children” as the Huron parents were not particularly convinced by Christianity (p. 227).

Understandably, working with children created conflict since the French had dramatically different perspectives on child rearing and discipline than the Huron (and of course the French believe their ways superior and enlightened, and the Hurons’ ways “Savage”). Jesuit education of the Huron became the primary vehicle for the French to religiously manipulate, subdue, and colonize the natives, and the most important component of that vehicle was strict and unforgiving corporal punishment.

The following excerpt is…

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