Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"The Betrayal of Faith"

Emma Anderson is Assistant Professor of North American Religious History, University of Ottawa.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new book, The Betrayal of Faith: The Tragic Journey of a Colonial Native Convert, and reported the following:
My book doesn’t pass the p. 69 test at all, in that its contents aren’t at all indicative of the larger contours or themes of the work.

This book focuses on the experiences of a young indigenous boy, Pierre-Anthoine Pastedechouan, who in 1620, at the age of eleven, was taken to France by Catholic missionaries. The product of an animist, oral culture, Pastedechouan, during his five years abroad was indoctrinated into an antagonistic French Catholicism, the product of bloody decades of confessional warfare in Europe. His schooling in Latin, French and theology in the austere cloisters of an Angers convent, his visual education using the jewel-toned tapestries of the nearby Cathedral, and his lavish baptism, which celebrated the excision of his native cultural and religious identity, all profoundly impacted this native child’s sense of himself. Requested, at the end of his five year stay to return as a missionary to his family and community, Pastedechouan reacted with horror, reportedly replying: "My fathers, how could you send me back to those beasts who know not God?"

Pastedechouan’s distaste for his people, however, was fully reciprocated. Disappointed by his inability to meet Innu expectations for adult male behavior or to disclose strategically useful military or economic information regarding their inscrutable French allies, his Innu people regarded the returned Pastedechouan with confusion and derision. Despite his increasingly desperate attempts, in the latter years of his life, to reconcile the conceptual gaps which divided the worldview of his native community from that of his missionary mentors, Pastedechouan was eventually abandoned by both groups, dying alone of starvation and exposure in 1636, at the age of 28.

By focusing on Pastedechouan’s experiences, the book presents a unique, aboriginal perspective on religious contact between European and aboriginal cultures in seventeenth century North America, telling an old story in a wholly new way. Yet, if you read simply page 69, it would initially appear to be history as usual, as the page introduces individual Recollet missionaries, setting the scene for their fateful encounter with Pastedechouan’s people.
Read about The Betrayal of Faith at the Harvard University Press website. Learn more about Emma Anderson's teaching, research, and other publications at her faculty webpage.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue