Native Americans Discover Europeans
Digital History ID 630
Chrestien Le Clercq
A French missionary relates the response of a Micmac chief to French criticisms of his peoples' way of life.
...I am greatly astonished that the French have so little cleverness, as they seem to exhibit in the matter of which thou hast just told me on their behalf, in the effort to persuade us to convert our poles, our barks, and our wigwam into those houses of stone and of wood which are tall and lofty, according to their account, as these trees. Very well! But why now do men of five to six feet in height need houses which are sixty to eighty?...hast thou as much ingenuity and cleverness as the Indians, who carry their houses and their wigwams with them so they may lodge wheresoever they please, independently of any seignior whatsoever?...Thou sayest of us also that we are the most miserable and unhappy of all men, living without religion, without manners, without honour, without social order, and, in a word, without any rules, like the beasts in our woods and our forests, lacking bread, wine, and a thousand other comforts which thou hast in superfluity in Europe....I beg thee now to believe that, all miserable as we seem in thine eyes, we consider ourselves nevertheless much happier than thou in this, that we are very content with the little that we have; and believe also once for all, I pray, that thou deceivest thyself greatly if thou thinkest to persuade us that thy country is better than ours. For if France, as thou sayest, is a little terrestrial paradise, art thou sensible to leave it?...Now tell me this one thing, if thou hast any sense: Which of these two is the wisest and happiest--he who labours without ceasing and only obtains, and that with great trouble, enough to live on, or he who rests in comfort and finds all that he needs in the pleasure of hunting and fishing?
Source: Chrestien Le Clercq, New Relations of Gaspesia, with the Customs and Religion of the Gaspesian Indians (1691), translated and edited by William F. Ganong (Toronto, 1910), 103-6.
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