AVENEAU, CLAUDE, Jesuit, missionary; b. 25 Dec. 1650 at Laval (department of Mayenne); d. 14 Sept. 1711 at Quebec.
Claude Aveneau entered the noviciate in Paris in 1669. Two years later he was appointed to the Jesuit college in Arras, where he taught for seven years. He then studied philosophy for a year at the Collège Louis-le-Grand in Paris and did four years of theology at Bourges, where he was ordained a priest in 1683. After the third year of his noviciate at Rouen, he left for Canada in 1685.
He was first sent to the mission at Sillery. The following year he was assigned to the mission to the Ottawas of the Great Lakes. The Jesuits had also just opened a mission for the Miamis, who had taken refuge at the mission of Saint-Joseph (in Michigan). It was there that from 1689 on Father Aveneau spent the better part of his life. In 1702 he incurred the displeasure of Cadillac [Laumet], the commandant at Detroit. Cadillac had had the higher authorities approve a project of his to found at Detroit a post which would be larger than the one at Montreal, and where the whites and the various Indian tribes of the region would live in perfect harmony. It was first necessary to attract the Indians to the post And it was at this point that Cadillac’s noble plan proved unrealistic. For the most part, the Indians did not feel drawn towards Detroit. Moreover, taught by experience, the missionaries considered the Frenchifying of the Indians, their living together with the whites, and the brandy trade to be disastrous for their apostolate. Cadillac accused them of having prevented his plan from being realized. The only documents that we have concerning the matter are by Cadillac, and it is known that he was not always trustworthy. We know that Cadillac, feeling the Miamis from the St Joseph river were too slow in coming, blamed Aveneau, removed him from his post, and replaced him by a Recollet who did not speak the language and did not have the confidence of the faithful. The result was disturbances and opposition by the Miamis to the French. In 1708 Governor Vaudreuil [Rigaud] and Intendant Raudot reported Cadillac’s misuse of authority to the minister. Father Aveneau returned to the Miamis, and order was restored.
In 1711, as Father Aveneau was very ill, it was decided to send him to Quebec to recover his health. It was a deplorable necessity, to force a 300-mile trip by canoe upon a man who was already exhausted. He died at Quebec on 14 Sept. 1711. Father Joseph Germain, who wrote the account of his life, praised his patience, his fortitude, and his charity towards all, friend and foe alike.
ASJCF, 492. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 451. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), V, 239. JR (Thwaites), LXIII, 302. George Paré, The Catholic Church in Detroit, 1701–1888 (Detroit, 1951), 78–140. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIesiècle, III, 477, 512ff.; Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIIesiècle, I, 65ff.