Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:

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


Caughnawaga [Now called Kahnawake ]



[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.]



Caughnawaga (Ga-hna-wa'-ge, 'at the rapids') An Iroquois settlement on the Sault St. Louis (at the head of the Lachine rapids) on St. Lawrence r., Quebec . When the hostility of the pagan Iroquois to the missions established in their territory frustrated the object of the French to attach the former to their interests, the Jesuits determined to draw their converts from the confederacy and to establish them in a new mission village near the French settlements on the St. Lawrence. In accordance with this plan these Indians were finally induced to settle, in 1668 at Laprairie, near Montreal . These converts were usually called "French Praying Indians" or "French Mohawks" by the English settlers, in contradistinction to the Iroquois, who adhered to their own customs and to the English interests. In 1678 they were removed from this place to Sault St. Louis, where Caughnawaga and the Jesuit mission of St. François-du-Sault were founded. The village has been removed several times within a limited area. The majority of the emigrants came from the Oneida and Mohawk, and the Mohawk tongue, somewhat modified, became the speech of the whole body of this village. The Iroquois made several unsuccessful efforts to induce the converts to return to the confederacy, and finally renounced them in 1684, from which time Caughnawaga became an important auxiliary of the French in their wars with the English and the Iroquois. After the Peace of Paris, in 1763, many of them left their village on the Sault St. Louis and took up their residence in the valley of Ohio r., principally about Sandusky and Scioto rs., where they numbered 200 at the outbreak of the American Revolution. From their contact with the wilder tribes of that region, many of them relapsed into paganism, although they still retained their French allegiance and maintained connection with their brethren on the St. Lawrence. About 1755 a colony from Caughnawaga formed a new settlement at St. Regis [now called Akwesasne ], some distance farther up the St. Lawrence. As the fur traders pushed their way westward from the Great lakes they were accompanied by Caughnawaga hunters. As early as 1820 a considerable number of this tribe was incorporated with the Salish, while others found their way about the same period down to the mouth of Columbia r. in Oregon, and N, as far as Peace r. in Alberta. In the W. they are commonly known as Iroquois. Some of the Indians from St. Regis also undertook these distant wanderings. In 1884, Caughnawaga had a population of 1,485, while St. Regis (in Canada and New York ) had about 2,075, and there were besides a considerable number from the two towns who were scattered throughout the W. In 1911 there were 2,240 on the Caughnawaga res. and 1,515 at St. Regis, Que., and about 1,200 on the St. Regis reserve, N. Y.


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. 81-82. See Caughnawaga at the Catholic Encyclopedia, and the anecdote of Father Forbes (in French). On the Mohawk language, consult The Mohawk Language Standardisation Project [available also in the Mohawk language ]. See the entry under Caughnawaga at the Encyclopedia of North American Indians.

© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College