Sainte Marie among the Hurons–Maranatha bus trip– Part 1

September 26, 2014 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

Recently, I had the opportunity and privilege to join Maranatha Lutheran Church on their yearly bus trip—this time to Midland and the Martyr’s Shrine. The Sunday was Holy Cross Day, which their pastor, Peter Kuhnert, said was a fitting trip on such a day.

We left St. Philip parking lot only a few minutes after our proposed departure time, and with a prayer for safe travel and thoughts to ponder if we had been living at the time of the Jesuit missionaries to the Wendat people, whom the priests came to call the Hurons.


On the way there, for the first while, we watched the scenery go by and chatted with our seat mates. Mine was Marilyn from St. Philip, whom I got to know a little better as she knit away on a prayer shawl. I was beginning to think that was a good way to pass the time but two of us knitting in the same seat might not have worked so well.

Tradition on their bus trips includes singing their way to the destination and so we sang favourites of Maranatha members. As well as those songs, we sang the Huron Carol, written by Father Jean de Brébeuf in the 1600s. Pastor Peter Kuhnert also gave us some history on the settlement.



We’ve arrived at the site. Now for the bus driver to park and for all of us to get off the bus and embark on this adventure.




Here we are at the welcome centre where we watched a video about  the work of the Jesuits among the Wendat people. Coming to this place in the 1600s meant travelling by ship across the oceans, then by canoe and portage until the group reached the settlement.






Our tour guides Emily, dressed as a French worker who would have come along with the priests, and Autumn (behind the desk), clothed in typical garb of a native woman at the time (mid 1640s).

Having toured the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough this past summer, I recognized that canoeing and portaging at that time would have been quite the journey for priests who probably weren’t used to such rustic conditions, unlike the Wendat people. We learned that Brebeuf lived with a native family for months to learn their language. He desired to present the story of Jesus to the people in a way they could understand.

Wikipedia says, of the Huron carol that Brebeuf wrote:

the song’s original Huron title is “Jesous Ahatonhia” (“Jesus, he is born“).

He wrote the song in the

The original words of the carol in the Wyandot language (Huron).

Ehstehn yayau deh tsaun we yisus ahattonnia
O na wateh wado:kwi nonnwa ‘ndasqua entai
ehnau sherskwa trivota nonnwa ‘ndi yaun rashata
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.


and in 1926, the English version was transcribed or translated by Jesse Edgar Middleton.

‘Twas in the moon of winter-time
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;

Go here to see the rest of the song in both Wyandot and English. This is one of my favourite Christmas carols that I look forward to singing each Christmas season.


At the end of the video, the screen magically rolled up and we had an open door to the mission.




DSCF8158Emily is not just a tour guide; she’s an amazing historian and so thorough in her explanations that we had few questions. Well. maybe more later.




DSCF8159Can anyone who was on the bus trip refresh my memory what this structure was?




Sitting at the mission table with our guide.

Emily tells us how the French were not so delighted to eat the fare of the Hurons, but grateful that they could learn from the natives of the land how to live in this rugged land. She told us of the French bringing in animals and that they would bring a cow. Rather a striking and humorous image of a cow riding along in one of their very large canoes so that the missionaries and workers could eat more than corn and squash.


DSCF8164The sort of squash the people would have lived on.



DSCF8165Dried food hanging from the ceiling.

We learned that the Wendat people ate their food plain whereas the Jesuits used spices to flavour their food. The Huron people did not see why the French would use spices in their food. To them, spices were medicine.



DSCF8166Emily telling us about the building where the priests held their silent retreats and prayed. The rooms would have been dark except for the light of candles.




The spaces were small and the beds not so long either, apparently too short for Pastor Peter.

By the way this is a working museum. We could try out chairs and beds and sit on benches.



DSCF8176Entering another courtyard from the retreat building


DSCF8178Rather ornate altar in the working chapel where the priests came very early in the morning to stand and pray to God.



DSCF8180Not serious as the priests would be. A woman in our group offered to take my picture there so I smiled for the picture.





DSCF8181Rather colourful vestments that the priests wore.




DSCF8182Our guide showing us how to make cedar shingles for the roof.




DSCF8183Tools of the tin smith. The Wendat were impressed with the iron that the French workers brought and that they could shape and use for tools. They often traded goods for pieces they could use. Each man carried a certain weight of iron as they came on the trails. Heavy trudging, I think.





A bit of glare on the  picture, but you can still read most of the information about the double fireplace (shown below).


There’s much more but I’ll stop here for today and continue my post on the trip in a few days. Stay tuned for Part 2

Photos by C. Wilker. Use by permission, please.



Entry filed under: artists, authors, Christmas, church, community, culture, faith, friendship. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

A Homer Watson Tradition and a New Display Sainte Marie among the Hurons–Maranatha bus trip– Part 2

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