The Calumet Ceremony in the Mississippi Valley
Mississippi Valley Indians used the calumet ceremony to greet European visitors. This ceremony extended a kinship connection to the visiting group. In doing so, the calumet ceremony created bonds of reciprocity and mutual obligation between hosts and visitors. Some Europeans didn’t realize this, believing instead that the ceremony was used simply to arrange a temporary truce or to serve as a pretext for gift exchanges. This often led to misunderstandings concerning social expectations.
In this exercise, you’ll examine a set of documents from the Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, edited by R. G. Thwaites (Cleveland, 1896-1901). Accounts written by three missionaries describe calumet ceremonies performed to welcome them into the Quapaw community. Your task is to outline the cultural views and objectives of the Quapaw hosts and the visiting missionaries.
The first account was written in 1673 by Father Jacques Marquette. He was the first French missionary to participate in a Quapaw calumet ceremony. Marquette and his companion Louis Jolliet were on a voyage of exploration with no plans to remain permanently in the Mississippi Valley.
Next is the 1701 account by Father Jacques Gravier. It was written during Gravier’s exploration of the Mississippi Valley conducted to choose locations for future Jesuit missions. This account provides the most complete description of the ceremony.
Last is the 1727 account by Father Paul du Poisson. He actually served for nearly a year in a mission established in a Quapaw village.
Your task is to identify Quapaw objectives in performing these ceremonies, and evaluate the responses of Marquette, Gravier, and du Poisson. What “message” did the priests give to the Quapaws through their responses?