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Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre

I’ll start by quoting a paragraph from a letter that Governor Edward Cornwallis sent to the Lords of Trade in London, England, informing them that he had issued a proclamation offering a bounty for Mi’kmaq scalps:

"When I first arrived, I made known to these Micmac His gracious Majesty's intentions of cultivating Amity and Friendship with them, exhorting them to assemble their Tribes, that I would treat with them, and deliver the presents the King my Master had sent them, they seemed well inclined, some keeping amongst us trafficking and well pleased; no sooner was the evacuation of Louisbourg made and De Lutre the French Missionary sent among them, they vanished and have not been with us since.”

The unfounded accusation he made against the missionary Le Loutre demonstrates both his religious bigotry and White supremacist beliefs. His contention that "De Lutre [sic] the French Missionary" was the cause of the Mi'kmaq disappearance from Halifax reflects both an abiding hatred for Roman Catholics and a firm White supremacist belief that Amerindians did not have sense enough to value their territory and fight for it without being goaded on by a White man. The truth is that the missionaries did try to assist the Mi'kmaq in their hour of need, but they were not, as almost unanimously characterized by the English, religious devils who held absolute sway over every decision the Mi'kmaq made.

To refute and place in perspective this opinion, widely held by English colonial officials, which insults the intelligence of the Mi'kmaq, let's examine the role of the missionary which they hated the most, the Vicar-General of Acadia and missionary to the Mi'kmaq, Abbé Le Loutre. The following are two evaluations of his character quoted from Challenge and Survival: The History of Canada:

First “... He fed their traditional dislike of the English, and fanned their fanaticism.... Thus he contrived to use them on one hand to murder the English and on the other hand terrify the Acadians.... Le Loutre was a man of boundless egotism, a violent spirit of domination, an intense hatred of the English, and a fanaticism that stopped at nothing.

Towards the Acadians he was a despot: and this simple and superstitious people, extremely susceptible to the influence of their priests, trembled before him. He was scarcely less masterful in his dealings with the Acadian clergy; and, aided by his quality of the Bishop's Vicar General, he dragooned even the unwilling into aiding his schemes. Three successive governors of New France thought him invaluable, yet feared the impetuosity of his zeal, and vainly tried to restrain it within safe bounds.”

Second: “It is not easy at this distance of time to appraise the character of Abbe Le Loutre. Accounts of his activities have come down to us from a period when national prejudices were intensified by the bitterness of the desperate struggle for the mastery of the North American continent. It was not strange that Cornwallis thought him a scoundrel. Nor was it surprising that the French authorities esteemed him a single-minded patriot. Parkman calls him the evil genius of the Acadians.... That he used his influence over the Micmacs to oppose the power of Great Britain is indisputable; that he incited his Indians to acts of barbarity is probable. But, even when this is established beyond reasonable doubt, it remains true that he used a weapon which was employed by both British and French without scruple during the several phases of the American conflict. It is noteworthy that when he became a priest he did not cease to be a Frenchman. As a Frenchman he caught a vision of a new Acadia, secure in its allegiance to his king and firm in its fidelity to the church. Had he succeeded ... his claim to eminence would not be unacknowledged.”

Instead of the monster depicted by English colonial authorities, and many later chroniclers of history afflicted with racial and religious biases, Le Loutre was a humanitarian. He probably was affronted and appalled, as any decent human being should have been, by the inhumanities being committed against the Mi'kmaq and other Amerindians by the English. This line of thinking is confirmed by the fact that he tried in vain in future years to arrange a peace with the British that would have left the Mi'kmaq with enough land to preserve their status as a free and independent people. This, in my estimation, is probably the only unbiased conclusion one can reach when evaluating his motivations.

When trying to understand the hatred the British had for Le Loutre, another factor must be kept in mind-their unwavering resolve to dispossess the Mi'kmaq of everything and to subjugate them absolutely. Anybody with the unmitigated gall to beg to differ with them was branded everything from bandit to devil. This was Le Loutre's folly.

Contrary to what English officials thought, men such as Le Loutre assisted the Mi'kmaq in trying to deal with the impossible situation given them, but he did not think for them. To think otherwise is a racist insult. My ancestors, the Mi'kmaq, were and are intelligent human beings who survived quite well for thousands of years without a White man thinking for them, and I'm sure in this case they did their own thinking.

The other thing I wish to add here is that I believe the paternalistic and patronizing attitudes adopted by many White historians towards the Amerindian intellect is a defensive measure. If they can convince themselves that the people their ancestors brutalized, dispossessed and in many cases exterminated were little more than savage animals, then they don't have to face up to the horrors committed by these ancestors. After all, when you simply put down pests and varmints, who should complain?

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