• Voices from the Gathering PlaceSault Ste. Marie: 1622 - present day

Die Stromschnellen von St Marie (The Rapids Of St Mary), Frank Buchser, 1868

By kind permission of the Kunsthaus Art Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland

This website was created by teacher Peter White for the Algoma District School Board

The "Blackcoat priests"

There were many priests who came from Europe to New France. The ones who started a mission in Sault Ste. Marie in 1662 were Jesuit priests.


The First Nations people called them "blackcoats" and looking at these pictures it's easy to see why.


The Jesuits succeeded in giving Sault Ste. Marie its name but not in converting the First Nations people to Christianity.


One reason for this was that the Anishnaabe medicine men were, not surprisingly, against the new religion  because it required giving up all traditional native beliefs.


Another reason why the Jesuits did not succeed was that the Anishnaabe were a nomadic people who often spent each summer season in a different location which made it nearly impossible for the Jesuits to hold lasting  influence over new converts.


As Phil Jones of Garden River First Nation has related, a family might spend one summer in Sault Ste. Marie, the next summer in what is now Bruce Mines and the next in Batchewana. This meant that once the priests converted a First Nations person, they might not see them again for three years!


How would you like to spend every summer in a different place?


Jefferys, Charles W. 1942 The Picture Gallery of Canadian History Vol. 1, p. 97, Library and Archives Canada