Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
October 2004

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


Saint Jean



[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.]



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Saint Jean . The chief town of the Wolf clan or phratry of the Tionontati in 1649, in which the Jesuit fathers had maintained a mission for some years; situated probably in the hill country of Bruce co., Ontario, on the E. frontier of the Tionontati territory, fronting their enemies, the Iroquois. According to the Jesuit Relation for 1650 (p. 8, ed. 1858) this town contained 500 or 600 families, which, following the rate of 7½ to 8 persons to a family (ibid., p. 3), would give a total population of 3,750 to 4,800, apparently a rather high estimate. In Nov. 1649 the Jesuit fathers then resident on Christian id., Georgian bay, Ontario, learned from two Huron converts who had just escaped from a band of 300 Iro­quois warriors that the enemy was undecided whether to attack the Tionontati or the Jesuit fathers and their converts on the island. This information was conveyed to the Tionon­tati, who received the news with joy, for, exulting in their prowess, they regarded the hostile troop as already conquered. Having awaited the attack of the Iroquois for some days, the Tionontati, and especially the men of St. Jean, resolved, on Dec. 5, to go against the enemy lest they escape; but the Iroquois having learned from two captives the practic­ally defenceless condition of St. Jean, hastened to attack it before the return of the warriors, whom they had failed to meet. On Dec. 7 they appeared before the town, set fire to the bark cabins, and slaughtered the defenceless inhabitants. According to the Jesuit Relation for 1650, Father Garnier refused to attempt to escape, but ran everywhere to give absolution to the Christians he met, and to seek in the burning cabins the children, the sick, and the neophytes, whom he baptized. While thus engaged he was shot twice, and later his skull was crushed by hatchet blows. In the Récit d'un Ami de l'Abbé de Gallinée (Margry, Dec., I , 366, 1875) it is said that, before being killed, Father Garnier shot 3 Iroquois with a gun. Two days later the Tionontati warriors returned to find their town in ashes, and the mutilated bodies of their people. This disaster caused them to abandon their country.

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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. 404-405.


© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College