Joseph the Huron



Author:  Antoinette Bosco

Much like an unexpected buried treasure, this narrative of a young Huron man has come to light again today. “Chiwatenwa’s” story, recaptured by author Antoinette Bosco from the records of the earliest Jesuit missionaries in Canada, portrays the man (who would one day be christened “Joseph”) in the fascinating details of his tribal culture. Chiwatenwa, strong and manly, had avoided the wife-trading, idle gambling and questionable superstitions of his peers. In 1637, at the arrival of Father Jean de Brebeuf, he heard the Christian faith explained and, recognizing in it the goodness and truth he had intuitively sought, he asked for baptism. “Joseph the Believer” becomes an evangelist within his own people, interpreting the Jesuits’ message to the Hurons in language and images relatable to their traditions—and producing openness among some, anger from others. In Joseph Chiwatenwa the life of faith is on trial before his family and native people, with the verdict in the balance. Joseph’s story witnesses dramatically to the contest within human souls and even nations; it points to a goal beyond the limits of one’s own culture: the encounter of man with the fullness of truth.



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