Quebec History Marianopolis College

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L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Huron Indians



[This text was originally published in 1907 by the Bureau of American Ethnology as part of its Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. It was later reproduced, in 1913, by the Geographic Board of Canada. The work done by the American Bureau was monumental, well informed and incorporated the most advanced scholarship available at the time. In many respects, the information is still useful today, although prudence should be exercised and the reader should consult some of the contemporary texts on the history and the anthropology of the North American Indians suggested in the bibliographic introduction to this section. The articles were not completely devoid of the paternalism and the prejudices prevalent at the time. While some of the terminology used would not pass the test of our "politically correct" era, most terms have been left unchanged by the editor. If a change in the original text has been effected it will be found between brackets [.] The original work contained long bibliographies that have not been reproduced for this web edition. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]


[Further information on the Hurons may be found in the Canadian Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of North American Indians and at the Native American Languages' site]



Huron (lexically from French huré, ' bristly', 'bristled'; from hure, ' rough hair' (of the head), head of man or beast, wild boar's head; old French, 'muzzle of the wolf, lion,' etc., 'the scalp,' 'a wig'; Norman French, huré, ' rugged'; Roumanian, hurée, ' rough earth,' and the suffix -on, expressive of depreciation and employed to form nouns referring to persona). The name Huron, frequently with an added epithet, like vilain, ' base,' was in use in France as early as 1358 (La Curne de Sainte-Palaye in Dict. Hist. de l'Ancien Langage Françoise , 1880) as a name expressive of contumely, contempt, and insult, signifying approximately an unkempt person, knave, ruffian, lout, wretch. The peasants who rebelled against the nobility during the captivity of King John in England in 1358 were called both Hurons and Jacques or Jacques bons hommes, the latter signifying approximately 'simpleton Jacks,' and so the term Jacquerie was applied to this revolt of the peasants. But Father Lalemant (Jes. Rel. for 1639, 51, 1858), in attempting to give the origin of the name Huron, says that about 40 years previous to his time, i. e., about 1600, when these people first reached the French trading posts on the St. Lawrence, a French soldier or sailor, seeing some of these barbarians wearing their hair cropped and roached, gave them the name Hurons, their heads suggesting those of wild boars. Lalemant declares that while what he had advanced concerning the origin of the name was the most authentic, "others attribute it to some other though similar origin." But it certainly does not appear that the rebellious French peasants in 1358, mentioned above, were called Hurons because they had a similar or an identical manner of wearing the hair; for, as has been stated, the name had, long previous to the arrival of the French in America , a well-known derogatory signification in France . So it is quite probable that the name was applied to the Indians in the sense of 'an unkempt person,' 'a bristly savage,' 'a wretch or lout,' 'a ruffian.'


A confederation of 4 highly organized Iroquoian tribes with several small dependent communities, which, when first known in 1615, occupied a limited territory, sometimes called Huronia, around lake Simcoe and S. and E. of Georgian bay, Ontario. According to the Jesuit Relation for 1639 the names of these tribes, which were independent in local affairs only, were the Attignaouantan (Bear people), the Attigneenongnahac (Cord people), the Arendahronon (Rock people), and the Tohonta-'enrat ( Atahonta'enrat or Tohonta'enrat , White-eared or Deer people). Two of the dependent peoples were the Bowl people and the Ataronchronon. Later, to escape destruction by the Iroquois, the Wenrohronon, an Iroquoian tribe, in 1639, and the Atontrataronnon, an Algonquian people, in 1644, sought asylum with the Huron confederation. In the Huron tongue the common and general name of this confederation of tribes and dependent peoples was Wendat (8endat), a designation of doubtful analysis and signification, the most obvious meaning being 'the islanders' or 'dwellers on a peninsula,' According to a definite tradition recorded in the Jesuit Relation for 1639, the era of the formation of this confederation was at that period comparatively recent, at least in so far as the date of membership of the last two tribes mentioned therein is concerned. According to the same authority the Rock people were adopted about 50 years and the Deer people about 30 years (traditional time) previous to 1639, thus carrying back to about 1590 the date of the immigration of the Rock people into the Huron country. The first two principal tribes in 1639, regarding themselves as the original inhabitants of the land, claimed that they knew with certainty the dwelling places and village sites of their ancestors in the country for a period exceeding 200 years. Having received and adopted the other two into their country and state, they were the more important. Officially and in their councils they addressed each other by the formal political terms 'brother' and 'sister'; they were also the more populous, having incorporated many persons, families, clans, and peoples, who, preserving the name and memory of their own founders, lived among the tribes which adopted them as small dependent communities, maintaining the general name and having the community of certain local rights, and enjoyed the powerful protection and shared with it the community of certain other rights, interests, and obligations of the great Wendat commonwealth.


The provenience and the course of migration of the Rock and Deer tribes to the Huron country appear to furnish a reason for the prevalent but erroneous belief that all the Iroquoian tribes came into this continent from the valley of the lower St. Lawrence. There is presumptive evidence that the Rock and the Deer tribes came into Huronia from the middle and upper St. Lawrence valley, and they appear to have been expelled therefrom by the Iroquois, hence the expulsion of the Rock and the Deer people from lower St. Lawrence valley has been mistaken for the migration of the entire stock from that region.


In his voyages to the St. Lawrence in 1534-43, Jacques Cartier found on the present sites of Quebec and Montreal, and along both banks of this river above the Saguenay on the N. and above Gaspe peninsula on the S. bank, tribes speaking Iroquoian tongues, for there were at least two dialects, a fact well established by the vocabularies which Cartier recorded. Lexical comparison with known Iroquoian dialects indicates that those spoken on the St. Lawrence at that early date were Huron or Wendat. Cartier further learned that these St. Lawrence tribes were in fierce combat with peoples dwelling southward from them, and his hosts complained bitterly of the cruel attacks made on them by their southern foes, whom they called Toudamani (Trudamans or Trudamani) and Agouionda (Oñkhiio n 'tha' is an Onondaga form), the latter signifying 'those who attack us.' Although he may have recorded the native names as nearly phonetically as he was able, yet the former is not a distant approach to the well-known Tsonnontowanen of the early French writers, a name which Champlain printed Chouontouaroüon (probably written Chonontouaroñon), the name of the Seneca, which was sometimes extended to include the Cayuga and Onondaga as a geographical group. Lescarbot, failing to find in Canada in his time the tongues recorded by Cartier, concluded that "the change of language in Canada" was due "to a destruction of people," and in 1603 he declared (Nova Francia, 170, 1609): "For it is some 8 years since the Iroquois did assemble themselves to the number of 8,000 men, and discomfited all their enemies, whom they surprised in their enclosures;" and (p. 290) "by such surprises the Iroquois, being in number 8,000 men, have heretofore exterminated the Algoumequins, them of Hochelaga, and others bordering upon the great river." So it is probable that the southern foes of the tribes along the St. Lawrence in Cartier's time were the Iroquois tribes anterior to the formation of their historical league, for he was also informed that these Agouionda "doe continually warre one against another" - a condition of affairs which ceased with the formation of the league. Between the time of the last voyage of Cartier to the St. Lawrence, in 1543, and the arrival of Champlain on this river in 1603, nothing definite is known of these tribes and their wars. Champlain found the dwelling places of the tribes discovered by Cartier on the St. Lawrence deserted and the region traversed only rarely by war parties from extra-limital Algonquian tribes which dwelt on the borders of the former territory of the expelled Iroquoian tribes. Against the aforesaid Iroquoian tribes the Iroquois were still waging relentless warfare, which Champlain learned in 1622 had then lasted more than 50 years.


Such was the origin of the confederation of tribes strictly called Hurons by the French and Wendat (8endat) in their own tongue. But the name Hurons was applied in a general way to the Tionontati, or Tobacco tribe, under the form "Huron du Pétun," and also, although rarely, to the Attiwendaronk in the form "Huron de la Nation Neutre." After the destruction of the Huron or Wendat confederation and the more or less thorough dispersal of the several tribes composing it, the people who, as political units, were originally called Huron and Wendat, ceased to exist. The Tionontati, or Tobacco Tribe, with the few Huron fugitives, received the name "Huron du Pétun" from the French, but they became known to the English as Wendat, corrupted to Yendat, Guyandotte, and finally to Wyandot. The Jesuit Relation for 1667 says: "The Tionnontateheronnons of to-day are the same people who heretofore were called the Hurons de la nation du pétun." These were the so-called Tobacco nation, and not the Wendat tribes of the Huron confederation. So the name Huron was employed only after these Laurentian tribes became settled in the region around lake Simcoe and Georgian bay . Champlain and his French contemporaries, after becoming acquainted with the Iroquois tribes of New York, called the Hurons les bons Iroquois, ' the good Iroquois,' to distinguish them from the hostile Iroquois tribes. The Algonquian allies of the French called the Hurons and the Iroquois tribes Nadowek, 'adders,' and Iri n khowek, ' real serpents', hence 'bitter enemies.' The singular Iri n kowi, with the French suffix - oia , has become the familiar "Iroquois." The term Nadowe in various forms (e. g., Nottaway ) was applied by the Algonquian tribes generally to all alien and hostile peoples. Champlain also called the Hurons Ochateguin and Charioquois, from the names of prominent chiefs. The Delawares called them Talamatan, while the peoples of the "Neutral Nation" and of the Huron tribes applied to each other the term Attiwendaronk, literally, 'their speech is awry', but freely, 'they are stammerers,' referring facetiously to the dialectic difference between the tongues of the two peoples.


In 1615 Champlain found all the tribes which he later called Hurons, with the exception of the Wenrohronon and the Atontrataronon, dwelling in Huronia and waging war against the Iroquois tribes in New York . When Cartier explored the St. Lawrence valley, in 1534-43, Iroquoian tribes occupied the N. bank of the river indefinitely northward and from Saguenay r. westward to Georgian bay, with no intrusive alien bands (despite the subsequent but doubtful claim of the Onontchataronon to a former possession of the island of Montreal), and also the S. watershed from Gaspe basin W. to the contiguous territory of the Iroquois confederation on the line of the E. watershed of lake Champlain.


The known names of towns of these Laurentian Iroquois are Araste, Hagonchenda, Hochelaga, Hochelay, Satadin, Stadacona, Starnatan, Tailla, Teguenondahi, and Tutonaguy. But Cartier, in speaking of the people of Hochelaga, remarks: "Notwithstanding, the said Canadians are subject to them with eight or nine other peoples who are on the said river." All these towns and villages were abandoned previous to the arrival of Champlain on the St. Lawrence in 1603. Of the towns of the Hurons, Sagard says: "There are about 20 or 25 towns and villages, of which some are not at all shut, nor closed [palisaded], and others are fortified with long pieces of timber in triple ranks, interlaced one with another to the height of a long pike [16 ft.], and re-enforced on the inside with broad, coarse strips of bark, 8 or 9 ft. in height; below there are large trees, with their branches lopped off, laid lengthwise on very short trunks of trees, forked at one end, to keep them in place; then above these stakes and bulwarks there are galleries or platforms, called ondaqua ('box'), which are furnished with stones to be hurled against an enemy in time of war, and with water to extinguish any fire which might be kindled against them. Persons ascend to these by means of ladders quite poorly made and difficult, which are made of long pieces of timber wrought by many hatchet strokes to hold the foot firm in ascending." Champlain says that these palisades were 35 ft. in height. In accord with the latter authority, Sagard says that these towns were in a measure permanent, and were removed to new sites only when they became too distant from fuel and when their fields, for lack of manuring, became worn out, which occurred every 10, 20, 30, or 40 years, more or less, according to the situation of the country, the richness of the soil, and the distance of the forest, in the middle of which they always built their towns and villages. Champlain says the Hurons planted large quantities of several kinds of corn, which grew finely, squashes, tobacco, many varieties of beans, and sunflowers, and that from the seeds of the last they extracted an oil with which they anointed their heads and employed for various other purposes.


The government of these tribes was vested by law in a definite number of executive officers, called "chiefs" in English, who were chosen by the suffrage of the child-bearing women and organized by law or council decree into councils for legislative and judicial purposes. There were five units in the social and political organisation of these tribes, namely, the family, clan, phratry, tribe, and confederation, which severally expressed their will through councils co-ordinate with their several jurisdictions and which made necessary various grades of chiefs in civil affairs. In these communities the civil affairs of government were entirely differentiated from the military, the former being exercised by civil officers, the latter by military officers. It sometimes happened that the same person performed the one or the other kind of function, but to do so he must temporarily resign his civil authority should it be incumbent on him to engage in military affairs, and when this emergency was past he would resume his civil function or authority.


In almost every family one or more chiefship, titles, known by particular names, were hereditary, and there might even be two or three different grades of chiefs therein. But the candidate for the. incumbency of any of these dignities was chosen only by the suffrage of the mothers among the women of his family. The selection of the candidate thus made was then submitted for confirmation to the clan council, then to the tribal council, and lastly to the great federal council composed of the accredited delegates from the various allied tribes.


The tribes composing the Hurons recognised and enforced, among others, the rights of ownership and inheritance of property and dignities, of liberty and security of person, in names, of marriage, in personal adornment, of hunting and fishing in specified territory, of precedence in migration and encampment and in the council room, and rights of religion and of the blood feud. They regarded theft, adultery, maiming, sorcery with evil intent, treason, and the murder of a kinsman or a co-tribesman as crimes which consisted solely in the violation of the rights of a kinsman by blood or adoption, for the alien had no rights which Indian justice and equity recognized, unless by treaty or solemn compact. If an assassination were committed or a solemnly sworn peace with another people violated by the caprice of an individual, it was not the rule to punish directly the guilty person, for this would have been to assume over him a jurisdiction which no one would think of claiming; on the contrary, presents designed to "cover the death" or to restore peace were offered to the aggrieved party by the offender and his kindred. The greatest punishment that could be inflicted on a guilty person by his kindred was to refuse to defend him, thus placing him outside the rights of the blood feud and allowing those whom he had offended the liberty to take vengeance on him, but at their own risk and peril.


The religion of these tribes consisted in the worship of all material objects, the elements and bodies of nature, and many creatures of a teeming fancy, which in their view directly or remotely affected or controlled their well-being. These objects of their faith and worship were regarded as man-beings or anthropic persons possessed of life, volition, and orenda or magic power of different kind and degree peculiar to each. In this religion, ethics or morals as such received only a secondary, if any, consideration. The status and interrelations of the persons of their pantheon one to another were fixed and governed by rules and customs assumed to be similar to those of the social and the political organization of the people, and so there was, therefore, at least among the principal gods, a kinship system patterned after that of the people themselves. They expressed their public religious worship in elaborate ceremonies performed at stated annual festivals, lasting from a day to fifteen days, and governed by the change of seasons, Besides the stated gatherings there were many minor meetings, in all of which there were dancing and thanksgiving for the blessings of life. They believed in a life hereafter, which was but a reflex of the present life, but their ideas regarding it were not very definite. The bodies of the dead were wrapped in furs, neatly covered with flexible bark, and then placed on a platform resting on four pillars, which was then entirely covered with bark; or the body, after being prepared for burial, was placed in a grave and over it were laid small pieces of timber, covered with strong pieces of bark and then with earth. Over the grave a cabin was usually erected. At the great feast of the dead, which occurred at intervals of 8 or 10 years, the bodies of those who had died in the interim, from all the villages participating in the feast, were brought together and buried in a common grave with elaborate and solemn public ceremonies.


In 1615, when the Hurons were first visited by the French under Champlain, he estimated from the statements of the Indians themselves that they numbered 30,000, distributed in 18 towns and villages, of which 8 were palisaded; but in a subsequent edition of his work Champlain reduces this estimate to 20,000. A little later Sagard estimated their population at 30,000, while Breboeuf gave their number as 35,000. But these figures are evidently only guesses and perhaps much above rather than below the actual population, which, in 1648. was probably not far from 20,000.


When the French established trading posts on the St. Lawrence at Three Rivers and elsewhere, the Hurons and neighbouring tribes made annual trips down the Ottawa r. or down the Trent to these posts for the purpose of trading both with the Europeans and with the Montagnais of the lower St. Lawrence who came up to meet them. The chief place of trade at this time was, according to Sagard (Histoire, I, 170, 1866), in the harbour of cape Victory, in lake St. Peter of St. Lawrence r., about 50 miles below Montreal, just above the outlet of the lake, where, on Sagard's arrival, there were "already lodged a great number of savages of various nations for the trade of beavers with the French". The Indians who were not sectarians in religion invited the missionaries into their country. In 1615 the Récollect fathers accepted the invitation, and Father Le Caron spent the year 1615-16 in Huronia, and was again there in 1623-24. Father Poulain was among the Hurons in 1622, Father Viel from 1623 to 1625, and Father De La Roche Daillion 1626-28. The labours of the Jesuits began with the advent of Father Breboeuf [sic] in Huronia in 1628, but their missions ended in 1650 with the destruction of the Huron commonwealth by the Iroquois. In all, 4 Récollet and 25 Jesuit fathers had laboured in the Huron mission during its existence, which at its prime was the most important in the French dominions in North America . As the first historian of the mission, Fr. Sagard, though not a priest, deserves honourable mention.

From the Jesuit Relation for 1640 it is learned that the Hurons had had cruel wars with the Tionontati, but at the date given they had recently made peace, renewed their former friendship, and entered into an alliance against their common enemies. Sagard is authority for the statement that the Hurons were in the habit of sending large war parties to ravage the country of the Iroquois. The well-known hostility and intermittent warfare between the Iroquois and the Huron tribes date from prehistoric times, so that the invasion and destruction of the Huron country and confederation in 1648-50 by the Iroquois were not a sudden, unprovoked attack, but the final blow in a struggle which was already in progress in 1535, when the French under Cartier first explored the St. Lawrence. The acquirement of firearms by the Iroquois from the Dutch was an important factor in their subsequent successes. By 1643 they had obtained about 400 guns, while, on the other hand, as late as the final invasion of their country the Hurons had but very few guns, a lack that was the direct cause of their feeble resistance and the final conquest by the Iroquois confederation of half of the country E. of the Mississippi and N. of the Ohio. In July, 1648, having perfected their plans for the final struggle for supremacy with the Huron the Iroquois began open hostility by sacking two or three frontier towns and Teanaustayaé (St. Joseph), the major portion of the invading warriors wintering in the Huron country unknown to the Hurons; and in March, 1649, these Iroquois warriors destroyed Taenhatentaron (St. Ignace) and St. Louis, and carried into captivity hundreds of Hurons. These disasters completely demoralized and disorganized the Huron tribes, for the greater portion of their people were killed or led into captivity among the several Iroquoian tribes, or perished from hunger and exposure in their precipitate flight in all directions, while of the remainder some escaped to the Neutral Nation, or "Hurons de la Nation Neutre," some to the Tobacco or Tionontati tribe, some to the Erie, and others to the French settlements on the island of Orleans, near Quebec. The Tohontaenrat, forming the populous town of Scanonaenrat , and a portion of the Arendahronon of the town of St.-Jean-Baptiste surrendered to the Seneca and were adopted by them with the privilege of occupying a village by themselves, which was named Gandougarae (St. Michel). As soon as the Iroquois learned of the Huron colony on Orleans id., they at once sought to persuade these Hurons to migrate to their country. Of these the Bear people, together with the Bowl band and the Rock people, having in an evil day promised to remove thither, were finally, in 1656, compelled to choose between fighting and migrating to the Iroquois country. They chose the latter course, the Bear people going to the Mohawk and the Rock people to the Onondaga. The Cord people alone had the courage to remain with the French.


The adopted inhabitants of the new town of St. Michel (Gandougarae) were mostly Christian Hurons who preserved their faith under adverse conditions, as did a large number of other Huron captives who were adopted into other Iroquois tribes. In 1653 Father Le Moine found more than 1,000 Christian Hurons among the Onondaga. The number of Hurons then among the Mohawk, Oneida, and Cayuga is not known.


Among the most unfortunate of the Huron fugitives were those who sought asylum among the Erie , where their presence excited the jealousy and perhaps the fear of their neighbours, the Iroquois, with whom the Erie did not fraternize. It is also claimed that the Huron fugitives strove to foment war between their protectors and the Iroquois, with the result that, notwithstanding the reputed 4,000 warriors of the Erie and their skill in the use of the bow and arrow (permitting them dextrously to shoot 8 or 9 arrows while the enemy could fire an arquebus but once), the Erie and the unfortunate Huron fugitives were entirely defeated in 1653-56 and dispersed or carried away into captivity. But most pathetic and cruel was the fate of those unfortunate Hurons who, trusting in the long-standing neutrality of the Neutral Nation which the Iroquois had not theretofore violated, fled to that tribe, only to be, with the other portion of the Huron people still remaining in their country, held in harsh captivity (Jes. Rel. 1659-60).


A portion of the defeated Hurons escaped to the Tionontati or "Huron du Pétun," then dwelling directly westward from them. But in 1649, when the Iroquois had sacked one of the Tionontati palisaded towns, the remainder of the tribe, in company with the refugee Hurons, sought an asylum on the island of St. Joseph, the present Charity or Christian id., in Georgian bay . It is this group of refugees who became the Wyandots of later history. Finding that this place did not secure them from the Iroquois, the majority fled to Michilimakinac, Mich., near which place they found fertile lands, good hunting, and abundant fishing. But even here the Iroquois would not permit them to rest, so they retreated eastward to Manitoulin island called Ekaentoton by the Hurons. Thence they were driven to ile Huronne (Potawatomi id., because formerly occupied by that tribe), at the entrance to Green bay, Wis., where the Ottawa and their allies from Saginaw bay and Thunder bay, Manitoulin, and Michilimakinac, sought shelter with them. From this point the fugitive Hurons, with some of the Ottawa and their allies, moved farther westward 7 or 8 leagues to the Potawatomi, while most of the Ottawa went into what is now Wisconsin and N. W. Michigan among the Winnebago and the Menominee. Here, in 1657, in the Potawatomi country, the Hurons, numbering about 500 persons, erected a stout palisade. The Potawatomi received the fugitives the more readily since they themselves spoke a language cognate with that of the Ottawa and also were animated by a bitter hatred of the Iroquois who had in former times driven them from their native country, the N. peninsula of Michigan. This first flight of the Potawatomi must have taken place anterior to the visit by Nicollet in 1634.


Having murdered a party of Iroquois scouts through a plot devised by their chief Anahotaha, and fearing the vengeance of the Iroquois, the Hurons remained here only a few months longer. Some migrated to their compatriots on Orleans id., near Quebec, and the others, in 1659-60, fled farther W. to the Illinois country, on the Mississippi, where they were well received. Anahotaha was killed in 1659 in a fight at the Long Sault of Ottawa r., above Montreal, in which a party of 17 French militia under Sieur Dollard, 6 Algonkin under Mitameg, and 40 Huron warriors under Anahotaha (the last being the flower of the Huron colony then remaining on Orleans id.) were surrounded by 700 Iroquois and all killed with the exception of 5 Frenchmen and 4 Hurons, who were captured. It was not long before the Hurons found new enemies in the Illinois country. The Sioux brooked no rivals, much less meddlesome, weak neighbours; and as the Hurons numbered fewer than 500, whose native spirit and energy had been shaken by their many misfortunes, they could not maintain their position against these new foes, and therefore withdrew to the source of Black r., Wis., where they were found in 1660. At last they decided to join the Ottawa , their companions in their first removals, who were then settled at Chequamigon bay, on the S. shore of lake Superior , and chose a site opposite the Ottawa village. In 1665 Father Allouez, the founder of the principal western missions, met them here and established the mission of La Pointe du Saint Esprit between the Huron and the Ottawa villages. He laboured among them 3 years, but his success was not marked, for these Tionontati Hurons, never fully converted, had relapsed into paganism. The Ottawa and the Hurons fraternized the more readily here since the two peoples dwelt in contiguous areas S. of Georgian bay before the Iroquois invasion in 1648-49. Father Marquette succeeded Father Allouez in 1669 and founded the missions of the Sault Ste. Marie and St. François-Xavier-de-la Baie-des-Puants. The Sioux, however, sought every possible pretext to assail the settlements of the Hurons and the Ottawa, and their numbers and known cruelty caused them to be so feared that the latter tribes during Marquette's régime withdrew to the French settlements, since the treaty of peace between the French and the Iroquois in 1666 had delivered them from their chief enemies. The Ottawa , however, returned to Manitoulin id., where the mission of St. Simon was founded, while the Hurons, who had not forgotten the advantageous situation which Michilimakinac had previously afforded them, removed about 1670 to a point opposite the island, where they built a palisaded village and where Marquette established the mission of St. Ignace. Later, some of the Hurons here settled moved to Sandusky, Ohio , others to Detroit , and still others to Sandwich, Ontario. The last probably became what was latterly known as the Anderdon band of Wyandots, but which is now entirely dissipated, with the possible exception of a very few persons.


In 1745 a considerable party of Hurons under the leadership of the war chief Orontony, or Nicholas, removed from Detroit r. to the marsh lands of Sandusky bay. Orontony was a wily savage whose enmity was greatly to be feared, and he commanded men who formed an alert, unscrupulous, and powerful body. The French having provoked the bitter hatred of Nicholas, which was fomented by English agents, he conspired to destroy the French, not only at Detroit but at the upper posts, and by Aug., 1747, the "Iroquois of the West," the Hurons, Ottawa, Abnaki, Potawatomi, "Ouabash," Sauteurs, Missisauga, Foxes, Sioux, Sauk, "Sarastau," Loups, Shawnee, and Miami, indeed all the tribes of the middle W., with the exception of those of the Illinois country, had entered into the conspiracy; but through the treachery of a Huron woman the plot was revealed to a Jesuit priest, who communicated the information to Longueuil, the French commandant at Detroit, who in turn notified all the other French posts, and although a desultory warfare broke out, resulting in a number of murders, there was no concerted action. Orontony, finding that he had been deserted by his allies, and seeing the activity and determination of the French not to suffer English encroachments on what they called French territory, finally, in Apr., 1748, destroyed his villages and palisade at Sandusky, and removed, with 119 warriors and their families, to White r., Ind. Not long after he withdrew to the Illinois country on Ohio r., near the Indiana line, where he died in the autumn of 1748. The inflexible and determined conduct of Longueuil toward most of the conspiring tribes brought the coalition to an end by May, 1748.


After this trouble the Hurons seem to have returned to Detroit and Sandusky, where they became known as Wyandots and gradually acquired a paramount influence in the Ohio valley and the lake region. They laid claim to the greater part of Ohio, and the settlement of the Shawnee and Delawares within that area was with their consent; they exercised the right to light the council fire at all intertribal councils, and although few in number they joined all the Indian movements in the Ohio valley and the lake region and supported the British against the Americans. After the peace of 1815 a large tract in Ohio and Michigan was confirmed to them, but they sold a large part of it in 1819, under treaty provisions, reserving a small portion near Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and a smaller area on Huron r., near Detroit, until 1842, when these tracts also were sold and the tribe removed to Wyandotte co., Kans. By the Terms of the treaty of 1855 they were declared to be citizens, but by the treaty of 1867 their tribal organization was restored and they were placed on a small tract, still occupied by them, in the N. E. corner of Oklahoma,


That portion of the Hurons who withdrew in 1650 and later to the French colony, were accompanied by their missionaries. The mission of La Conception, which was founded by them, although often changed in name and situation, has survived to the present time. The Hurons who wintered in Quebec in 1649 did not return to their country after learning of its desolation by the Iroquois, but were placed on land belonging to the Jesuits at Beauport, and when the Huron fugitives came down to Quebec to seek protection, the others followed these in May, 1651, to Orleans id., settling on the lands of Mademoiselle de Grandmaison that had been bought for them. Here a mission house was erected near their stockaded bark lodges. In 1654 they numbered between 500 and 600 persons. But again the Iroquois followed them, seeking through every misrepresentation to draw the Hurons into their own country to take the place of those who had fallen in their various wars. By this means a large number of the Hurons, remnants of the Bear, Rock, and Bowl tribes, were persuaded in 1656 to migrate to the Iroquois country, a movement that met with such success that the Iroquois even ventured to show themselves under the guns of Quebec . In the same year they mortally wounded Father Garreau, near Montreal, and captured and put to death 71 Hurons on Orleans id. These misfortunes caused the Hurons to draw nearer to Quebec , wherein they were given asylum until peace was concluded between the French and the Iroquois in 1666. The Hurons then withdrew from the town about 5 m., where in the following year the mission of Notre-Dame-de-Ste. Foye was founded. In 1693 the Hurons moved 5 m. farther away on account of the lack of wood and the need of richer lands; here the missionaries arranged the lodges around a square and built in the middle of it a church, to which Father Chaumonot added a chapel, patterned after the Casa Sancta of Lorette in Italy, and now known as Ancienne Lorette. Some years later the mission was transferred a short distance away, where a new village, Younger Lorette, or Jeune Lorette, was built. About the remains of this mission still dwell the so-called Hurons of Lorette.


The old estimates of Huron population have been previously given. After the dispersal of the Huron tribes in 1649-50, the Hurons who fled W. never seem to have exceeded 500 persons in one body. Later estimates are 1,000, with 300 more at Lorette (1736), 500 (1748), 850 (1748), 1,250 (1765), 1,500 (1794-95), 1,000 (1812), 1,250 (1812). Only the first of these estimates is inclusive of the "Hurons of Lorette," Quebec, who were estimated at 300 in 1736, but at 487, officially, in 1911. In 1885 those in Indian Ter. (Oklahoma) numbered 251, and in 1905, 378, making a total of 865 in Canada and the United States .


Nothing definite was known of the clans of the Hurons until the appearance of Morgan's Ancient Society in 1877, Powell's Wyandot Government (1st Rep. B.A.E., 1881). and Connolley's The Wyandots (Archaeol. Rep. Ontario, 92, 1899). From the last writer, who corrects the work of the former authorities, the following list of Huron clans is taken: Great Turtle, Little Water Turtle, Mud Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Deer, Porcupine, Striped Turtle, Highland Turtle, Snake, and Hawk. These, according to Powell, were organized into four phratries or clan brotherhoods, but Connolley denies that four pbratries ever existed. The evidence appears to indicate, however, that the four-phratry organization was merged into one of three, of which the Wolf clan constituted one and acted as executive and presiding officer.


The Huron villages were Andiata, Angoutenc, Anonatea, Arendaonatia, Arente, Arontaen, Brownstown, Cahiague, Carhagouha, Carmaron, Cranetown (2 villages), Ekhiondatsaan, Endarahy, Iaenhouton, Ihonatiria (St. Joseph II), Jeune Lorette, Junqusindundeh (?), Junundat, Khioetoa, Karenhassa, Khinonascarant, (3 small villages so called), Lorette, Onentisati, Ossossané, Ouenrio, Sandusky, Ste. Agnes, Ste. Anne, St. Antoine, Ste. Barbe, Ste. Catherine, Ste. Cécile, St. Charles (2 villages), St. Denys, St. Etienne, St. François-Xavier, St. Geneviève, St. Joachim, St. Louis, St. Martin, Ste. Marie (2 villages), Ste. Térèse [sic], Scanonaenrat, Taenhatentaron (St. Ignace I, II), Teanaustayaé (St. Joseph I), Teandewiata, Toanche, Touaguainchain (Sts. Madeleine), and Tondakhra.


Source: James WHITE, ed., Handbook of Indians of Canada, Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, Ottawa, 1913, 632p., pp. 205-213.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College