GARNIER, JULIEN, priest, Jesuit, missionary, superior of the mission in New France; b. 6 Jan. 1643 in the diocese of Saint-Brieuc in the province of Brittany; d. 30 Jan. 1730 at Quebec.
Julien Garnier entered the Society of Jesus in Paris on 25 Sept. 1660. Two years later, on 27 Oct. 1662, he arrived at Quebec, – where for three years he taught at the Jesuit college while preparing for the missions by studying the Indian languages. On 10 April 1666 he received the priesthood from Bishop Laval. He was the first Jesuit to be ordained a priest in Canada. Of his first mass, which was celebrated on 12 April, one may read in the Journal des Jésuites: “. . . we gave a dinner in our reception-room, as on the feast of St. Ignatius, to all the authorities, and to the six [Indian] captains who were at Quebec.” Under Father Jérôme Lalemant*’s guidance Garnier continued his theological studies, which were approved in an examination “on the whole of theology, in keeping with the custom of the Society” on 12 April 1668.
At the end of that month he went to join Father Jacques Bruyas among the Oneidas, and a few months later he went to live with the Onondagas. In his mind the latter was a temporary mission, but when he wanted to rejoin his post the Indians objected. As he argued that he could not remain at Onontagué without a chapel and without a companion, the great chieftain Garakontié*, who was still a heathen, did not hesitate to take up the challenge. Some days later the chapel was up, and Garakontié was on his way to Quebec to obtain some companions for Father Garnier; it was in this way that the Iroquois missions acquired Fathers Pierre Millet and Étienne de Carheil.
Father Garnier toiled in the Iroquois country until 1685, not without some merit, for he encountered a great deal of hostility. He wrote of the problems of converting the Iroquois: “One of the great obstacles encountered is found in dreams, which seem to constitute this country’s sole Divinity, to which [the Iroquois] defer in all things.” In his relation for 1672 Garnier recounts that the Iroquois believe that “the black-gowned men are here only as spies, and convey all information to Onnontio – that is, to Monsieur the governor.” Also, more than one attempt was made upon his life; Garnier affirms that “humanly speaking, my life depends on that little girl’s health . . . [or] on the march of a French army to this country.” In a letter addressed to Le Febvre* de La Barre and dated 23 April 1684 Garnier opposed military action against the Iroquois, which would have compromised the missions. After Brisay de Denonville’s expedition in 1687 missionary work in the Iroquois country did become impossible, and Garnier then exercised his ministry at Sault-Saint-Louis until he was appointed superior of the mission at Lorette, near Quebec, in 1691. In 1694, however, he returned to Sault-Saint-Louis.
At the discussions preceding the great peace treaty concluded in 1701 at Montreal, Garnier translated Callière’s speech into Huron. This peace treaty permitted the reopening of the Iroquois missions, and in 1702 Garnier, accompanied by Vaillant de Gueslis, went back to his missionary field, devoting himself this time particularly to the Senecas. In 1709, at the instigation of Peter Schuyler, four of the Five Cantons denounced the treaty of 1701, and Garnier again returned to Sault-Saint-Louis. In 1716 he became superior of all the missions in New France; he held this office for three years. In a short, unpublished account devoted to him, Father Félix Martin* wrote: “During his administration the accusation of engaging in trade was revived against the missionaries and complaints were carried as far as Rome. The archives of the Gesù contain a letter by Father Garnier, dated 21 Oct. 1718 and addressed to his general, in which he explains what had given rise to this calumny. Pelts were, so to speak, the country’s currency. Farmers used them to pay their rent. They were given in particular to the church to pay for masses. This was money which after a certain period had to be converted into coin.”
Father Garnier had known Father Joseph Lafitau* intimately from 1712 till 1716. The latter, in a famous work, bore this witness to Garnier: “Above all I have profited from the knowledge of a former Jesuit missionary named Father Julien Garnier, who had devoted himself to the missions from the time of his noviciate and who spent more than 60 years in them . . . . He knew the Algonkian language fairly well, but he was master particularly of the Huron language and the five Iroquois dialects . . . ; it was, I say, in my dealings with this virtuous missionary, with whom I was intimately acquainted, that I derived all that I have to say here about the Indians.”
When his three years as superior were at an end, Father Garnier returned to Sault-Saint-Louis, where he worked until 1728. He died on 31 Jan. 1730 at the college, in Quebec, after 67 years and 3 months of missionary work. Of all the Jesuits who came from France in the 17th century, he was the one who worked and lived longest in Canada.
ASJCF, 269. JR (Thwaites). Joseph Lafitau, Mœurs des sauvages amériquains comparées aux mœurs des premiers temps (2v., Paris, 1724). Campbell, Pioneer priests, 1, 312–33. Eccles, Canada under Louis XIV, 133. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIe siècle, III, 383ff.