Tropical Depression: Nuns in the Pacific

Embruns

Saint-Louis mission girls, 1890. Source: Collection service des Archives de la Nouvelle-
Calédonie 1 Num 2 148, fonds de l’Archevêché de Nouvelle-Calédonie.

Women played an integral part in the “civilising mission” in New Caledonia and elsewhere in the Pacific. The Marists were in New Caledonia from 1843 and the male missionaries were followed a few years later by the Sisters of Saint-Joseph de Cluny and then the Sisters of the Tiers-Ordre. Their role was to convert the Indigenous population, principally through the creation of schools and “education centres” for children and young people who would be separated from their clan. The aim was to erase Indigenous language and culture in favour of that of the missionaries and, later, colonisers and to create local Indigenous missionaries who would convert their own people. Girls and women would be taught to cook, clean and sew (in the Western tradition and thus severing their…

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