The Soldier's of Charity Early Contacts
In Native America

When Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, he thought he had landed in the East Indies in Asia, so he called the people there ' Indians '. In fact, they were Native Tainos of the Bahamas, who had arrived in the Caribbean hundreds of years before him. Columbus reported, "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone...."

The contacts of the Order of the Hospitallers and the American Indians more than one hundred years later. The Séminaire de St-Sulpice, sent out a group of priests, who arrived in Montreal in 1657 under the direction of the Abbé of Queylus, their vicar-general. In 1668 a considerable body of Christian Cayuga and other Iroquois, together with some adopted Hurons, crossed lake Ontario from New York and settled on the North shore in the neighbourhood of Quinte bay. At their request Sulpician priests were sent to minister to them. In 1676 the Catholic Iroquois mission town of La Montagne was founded by the Sulpician fathers on the island of Montreal , with a well-organized industrial school in charge of the Congregation sisters of the Hospitallers. They served as curés of the city and its environs, superiors of female congregation of the Hospitallers and the sisters of the Congrégation Notre-Dame, teachers, priests, missionaries and explorers.

In the meantime, in France on January 8, 1666, the Institute of the Daughters of Saint Joseph became a congregation with solemn vows, the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph. Informed that their companions in France were pronouncing solemn vows, the Canadian missionaries followed. In the name of the Church, Bishop Laval then officially recognized the community of the Religious Hospitallers of Montreal. From then on, vocations are more numerous: toward 1684 there were 20 sisters living in Hotel Dieu, and for nearly 200 years, the Hospitallers of St. Joseph maintained their apostolate in the America's to Hotel Dieu of Montreal.

In New France and the Americas, the christianization of the native Indian populations was an conspicuous motive for European occupation. The actual work was left largely to the religious orders. The JESUITS entered Acadia in 1611, RÉCOLLETS the St Lawrence Valley and the Huron country in 1615, while Capuchins, SULPICIANS, HOSPITALLERS OF ST. JOHN, and priests of the Society of Foreign Missions became active. Missions were eventually established in all areas penetrated by the French, including the Iroquois country and extending to James Bay, the western Great Lakes and beyond.

The cultural exchanges between the Christians and Indians however, was not one way. The missionaries were learning aggressively many forms of Indian medicine, especially their herbal knowledge. Many traditional Native Indian medicines were entered into the 'white man's' pharmacopeia. The active agents of many important drugs in use today, such as cascara sagrada - presently the most widely used cathartic in the world - is still widely used in the U.S. Pharmacopeia since so synthetic substite has ever been found to replace it. Cascara sagrada is derived from the bark of the buckthorn tree. This tree was given the name of the 'sacred bark' by Europeans who were impressed by it's mild laxative properties and efficacy. It is well known that eclectic medicine of America, as well as homeopathy, gained much of their herbal materia medica from knowledge gained from American Native Medicine men, women, and folklore. Such herbs as indian coccle (Cocculus), indian tobacco (Lobelia), indian nettle (Acalypha), Vitex trifolia.--Indian Arnica, and indian hemp (Apocynum), are well known:

• Horsetail family - The whole plant was used to make a tea to cure dropsy. The tender buds were boiled for food, the stems used for cleaning.
• Dandelion - Used as a bitter and mild laxative. The root was used by Indians in a tea for heartburn.
• Burdock - The Otos used the roots for pleursy, the Flambeaus for stomach pain, and the Potawatomis made a burdock tea of the roots and took it as a general tonic and blook purifier.
• Black Spruce - The bark was used as a medicinal salt.
• Blue Flax - The root was used as a hot compress for sores, burns, and inflammation. As a quick physic, a half inch of root was boiled in water.

It is only in comparatively modern times that some of the most astonishing Indian early medical knowlege has been uncovered by scientific investigators. For example, Dr. Frederick Banting, discoverer of insulin, credited Indian healers with the 'pharmaceutical' spade work which lead to his discovery. With regard to patient-comfort, the aboriginal surgeon knew a great deal about pain-allaying medicines to put him patient "under". Their knowledge of anesthetics were far in advance of the European 'conquerors'.

In the treatment of wounds, one of the most remarkable aspects of Indian practice was the use of aseptic technique. It was not until the late 19th centure before European doctors learned the necessity of keeping wounds clean. One historical report indicates that when an Indian of the Illinois tribe was wounded by shot or arrow, a quantity of warm water with diluted drugs was poured into the lesion. As a bone setter, the North American Indian dexterously set fractures with care. Splints of cedar were applied, padded with leaves or herbs and then bound with soft, pliable branches of the young birch.


Members of the Order have made contacts and meetings in the province of the Colorados de la Tsachilas.


To prepare our members for missionary works in the Caribbean and Ecuador, the PanAml School has organized an online course of study. It is vital our physician members have knowledge of native American healing methods. The use of such powers is central to all Native American healing. Despite centuries of missionary work and other acculturative forces such as state imposed mandatory education, these mystery powers remain very active to this day, though they are secreted away on Native American reservations spread across this Americas. Recently it has been made clear that Native American healing practices cannot be separated from Native American religious beliefs. That is, for Native American healers and members, spirituality is a necessary aspect of medicinal treatments. Native American ethnobotany (the study of plant use) includes their medicinal uses of plants. As such, this "rational" aspect of Native American healing is more frequently utilized today and is one of the core therapies of the Medical Hospitallers.

Interested parties may inquire.


Our Work

Until recently, the Taíno have been peripheral to the study of pre-Columbian societies. Scholars focused on the high cultures of the mainland, such as the Inka, the Aztec, and the Maya because they were organized into political states.  The chiefdoms (cacicazgos) and chiefs (caciques) of the Taíno seemed less worthy of attention.  Archaeologists now realize, however, that by the time of the conquest these chiefdoms had evolved into complex political entities that resembled true states. As throughout the Americas, the struggle for freedom dates back to the clash between two peoples and cultures, the European and the Indian, the latter ill equipped to match the economic and military strength of the former. The Church took a deep interest in the fate of the Antillean Arawaks.  The Hieronymites, and later, the Dominicans defended their cause and propagated Christianity among them.  They also carefully studied their customs and religious beliefs. Taíno culture as documented is believed to have developed in the Caribbean. The Taíno creation story says that they emerged from caves in a sacred mountain on present-day Hispaniola. In Puerto Rico, 21st century studies have shown a high proportion of people having Amerindian MtDNA. Of the two major haplotypes found, one does not exist in the Taíno ancestral group, so other Amerindian people are also part of this genetic ancestry.

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