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The Betrayal of Faith

The Betrayal of Faith

The Tragic Journey of a Colonial Native Convert

Emma Anderson

ISBN 9780674026087

Publication date: 10/31/2007

Emma Anderson uses one man's compelling story to explore the collision of Christianity with traditional Native religion in colonial North America.

Pierre-Anthoine Pastedechouan was born into a nomadic indigenous community of Innu living along the St. Lawrence River in present-day Quebec. At age eleven, he was sent to France by Catholic missionaries to be educated for five years, and then brought back to help Christianize his people.

Pastedechouan's youthful encounter with French Catholicism engendered in him a fatal religious ambivalence. Robbed of both his traditional religious identity and critical survival skills, he had difficulty winning the acceptance of his community upon his return. At the same time, his attempts to prove himself to his people led the Jesuits to regard him with increasing suspicion. Suspended between two worlds, Pastedechouan ultimately became estranged--with tragic results--from both his native community and his missionary mentors.

An engaging narrative of cultural negotiation and religious coercion, Betrayal of Faith documents the multiple betrayals of identity and culture caused by one young man's experiences with an inflexible French Catholicism. Pastedechouan's story illuminates key struggles to retain and impose religious identity on both sides of the seventeenth-century Atlantic, even as it has a startling relevance to the contemporary encounter between native and non-native peoples.


  • A gorgeously written and richly imagined study of the fate of the Innu Pastedechouan, caught between the ambitions of French priests and his own kin in colonial New France. Anderson's vivid portrait belongs in the company of Carlo Ginzburg's Menocchio and Natalie Zemon Davis's Martin Guerre. Like these authors, she reveals herself to be a graceful and gifted historian of the inner worlds of people in the past. This is a compelling and deeply moving work of religious history.

    —Robert A. Orsi, Northwestern University


  • 2008, Winner of the Best First Book in the History of Religions Award
  • 2008, Winner of the Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize


  • Emma Anderson is Associate Professor of North American Religious History at the University of Ottawa.

Book Details

  • 318 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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