The Catholic and Protestant churches made many efforts in order to spread their beliefs in the New World and to convert the Native Americans. The most successful were the French Jesuits and the Spanish Franciscans.
The Spanish converted thousands of Indians in South and Central America: Mexico, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, while the French settled in New France that included modern Canadian and US territory: Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Main, New York, Louisiana and Illinois. Historically, both orders had the same religious pursuits; however the methods used by them were different.
The Franciscans converted more people than Jesuits due to the use of their methods of mass compulsion with the help of power and weapons.
After Columbus discovery, Queen Isabella and Pope Alexander VI claimed the importance of converting the Native Americans to Christianity. Franciscans arrived to the New Spain in 1524 and got the success, spreading their religion.
However, although they converted many thousands of people, it is important to notice that the faith of the population of New World was weak and, moreover, they created a new religion combining the local beliefs with elements of Christianity (Hannon, 2010). Sanctioned by Queen and Pope, the Spanish Franciscans used all possible methods, including the use of power, weapons, and executions.
According to the article Native American Voices, in Mexico, the Central and South America, the Spanish Franciscans used Native Americans as a free labor material (“Native American Voices”). Obviously, such measures led to the fear and submission of Indians. The French Jesuits, known as the Soldiers of Christ, arrived to the New World one century after Spanish, in 1625. They used methods of persuasion and negotiation instead of force.
Thereby, although a number of converted by Jesuits Indians was not huge, but their faith was real and deep. Indians were astonished by the ability of the French to read and write and step by step adopted the new culture. At the same time, the Spanish tortured Indians and destroyed their cultural objects, persecuting those people who did not want to adopt the new traditions. The French tried to find the similarities between the Christian and Indian traditions, for instance, the wear of black robes during the ceremony.
For both orders, education of the Native Americans was an important issue that could help spreading Christianity. Jesuits and Franciscans taught Indians sciences, culture and ethic. However, the Native Americans, and especially the population of the Central and South America, had a long history and original and unique culture and traditions. Therefore, the way of combination of the European and Indian traditions chosen by the French Jesuits was much more appropriate and adequate.
The outcome of the work of French Jesuits and the Spanish Franciscans was different. The Spanish wanted to convert as more as possible Indians in spite of the real quality of their faith. For the Native Americans, Christianity had not been viewed as an inviting religion due to the force and tortures.
The French missionaries did not use power and weapons, trying to convince Indians. For Jesuits, the main idea of Christianity as the peaceful religion was major power and argument into the process of converting. Jesuits used all possible methods in order to integrate Christianity, not to separate it and replace the traditional beliefs. Therefore, their work was more effective.
Hannon, Sharon M. “Birth of a New World Religion.” When Words Collide: The Untold Story of the Americas after Columbus. 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.
Native American Voices n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.