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of Acadian Life:
When DeMonts received
the trade monopoly on Acadia, one of his obligations was to convert the
savages to Christianity and to educate them. The first "teacher"
was marc Lescarbot. He taught the Indians some French.
After the Treaty of St. Germain en Laye in 1632, Razlly set about colonizing the area. His tasks were to “people the said country with natural French Catholics” and “impose order on them and educate them.” Three priests had to be at each settlement. Education at this time was handled by the church. The first French seminary may have started as early as 1632/33 at La Heve. After d’Aulnay moved the settlement to Port Royal in 1635, buildings were erected ... including a chapel and a seminary. In 1641, d’Aulnay brought 20 families and 6 Capuchins to Acadia. Two new seminaries were built. One was for boys and Indians. The other, which taught more practical “courses”, was for girls and Indian girls. Missionary stations were established at: Fort Pentagouet (Castine, ME), 1632-1654; La Heve, 1632-1654; Canso & Nepisiguit, 1648-1655, Fort Saint John, N.B., 1645-1654. It seems the priests also taught in these areas. [Etudes historiques et geographiques, Father Pacifique, Restigouche, Bonaventure County, Quebec, 1935, p. 111-115]
Though some priests may have been sent away during the English period (1654-1670), teaching was till going on. Father Petit of Port Royal wrote in 1685 that “someone” was teaching lessons to the boys. Father Petit asked Mgr. de Saint Vallier of Quebec for help. A nun from the Notre Dame Order in Montreal was sent to teach girls. Sister Chausson of the Daughters of the Cross Order joined the first nun in Acadia in 1701.
After visiting Acadia in 1686, Saint Vallier sent a young Suplician (Geoffry) who built schools with his own money and “furnished them with indispensable objects.” [Pelerinage au pays d’Evangeline, H.R. Casgrain, Paris, 1889, p. 53]
Father Mandoux served Port Royal (as assistant, 1690-1696; as priest, 1695-1701). Sulpician Claude Tronson founded a seminary at Port Royal. When Longellow refers to Father Felicien, he is referring to Father Felix Pain. Recollet priest Patrice Rene built a school at Port Royal in 1703. The first 2 Acadian priests (Bernarding and Rene de Gannes de Falaise) probably graduated from there. [L’Ensignement du francais en Acadie (1604-1926), Omer Le Gresley, Gabriel Enault (printer/publisher), Mamers, 1926, p. 51-52] Vallier had also stopped at the missions in Miramichi, Restigouche, Canso, Chedabucto, Shediac, Isle St. Jean, and Isle Royale. When the churches were built at Grand Pre and Beaubassin, schools were built nearby. [Le Gresley, p. 53] The school at Beaubassin was built by Sulpician Claude Trouve (1686-1690).
The course of study for primary school included reading/writing in Latin and French, and math. The most important subject was catechism. Latin was taught before French. [Le Gresely, p. 77] One historian states that the literacy rate was higher than for other peoples. [L’Enseignement francais au Canada, V. 2, Lionel Groulx, Les Ecoles des minorites, Montreal, Granger, 1933, p. 7]
Under English rule, Father Pain continued to teach at Beaubassin. The Sulpician Breslay was also at Beaubassin in 1723 and at Port Royal from 1724 to 1730. Father Casgrain wrote of Breslay that he was interested in the Acadians spiritual well-being and also educating the youth. [Casgrain, p. 223] The Port Royal school seems to have survived till the Exile.
Source: The Acadians of the Maritimes, Daigle, ed.
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