Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Jacques Ferland

Second Committee Member

Stephen Miller

Third Committee Member

Liam Riordan


This thesis examines the Jesuit missionaries active in the region of Detroit and how their role in that region changed over the course of the eighteenth century and under different colonial regimes. Jesuits Armand de la Richardie, Pierre Potier, and Pierre du Jaunay influenced imperial decision-making and policy in the eighteenth-century pays d’en haut through their notable influence within certain indigenous communities. The priests were deeply influential during the French regime as demonstrated by their impact on several colonial crises discussed in the text. The Seven Years War and the conquest of New France by Great Britain gradually eroded Jesuit influence as the distrustful British were reluctant to utilize the French Catholic priests as imperial assets. As a result, the indigenous communities began to cut out the middlemen and deal with imperial Britain directly rather than through a proxy. Despite these changes, the Jesuits still shaped imperial realities through methods deployed under the French and new means made available by the conquest. Pontiac’s War brought about a conclusive end to Jesuit political power

in the pays d’en haut as the British, ever suspicious of the French Jesuits, completed their political ostracization.

Historians typically focus on the Jesuits of the seventeenth century when examining colonial North America and rarely examine how the role of the Jesuits changed during the eighteenth century and in different colonial contexts. This thesis seeks to demonstrate the value in examining this neglected aspect of colonial-indigenous alliance and diplomacy by examining how the Jesuits influenced several colonial crises that arose from the strategic colonial entrêpot of Detroit.