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Champlain
Chapter VI War against the Iroquois. 1615


CHAMPLAIN had promised for some years to assist the Hurons in their wars against the Iroquois, and he found that the present time was opportune for him to fulfil his pledge. He had visited every Huron tribe, and he was aware that a general rendezvous had been fixed at Cahiagud. On August 14th, 1615, ten Frenchmen, under the command of Champlain, started from Carhagouha. On their way they stopped at the villages of the Tohontahenrats and Attignenonghacs, and found the country well watered and cultivated, and the villages populous. The people, however, were ignorant, avaricious and untruthful, and had no idea either of a divinity or of a religion.

On August 17th, Champlain came in sight of Cahiagud, where the Hurons had gathered, and after some hesitation, they decided to go to war. The departure was delayed until September 1st, pending the arrival of some of their warriors and the Andastes, who had promised five hundred men. On their journey they passed by Lake Couchiching and Lake Ouantaron or Simcoe. From there they decided to proceed by way of Sturgeon Lake, after travelling by land for a distance of ten leagues.

From Sturgeon Lake flows the river Otonabi, which discharges into Rice Lake.

They followed the river Trent to the Bay of Quinte in Lake Ontario or Entouaronons. "Here," says Champlain, "is the entrance of the grand river of St. Lawrence." They leisurely crossed Lake Ontario, and, having hidden their canoes, penetrated the woods and crossed the river Chouagen or Oswego, which flows from Lake Oneida where the Iroquois used to fish.

On October 7th the Hurons had approached within four leagues of the fortifications of their enemies, and on that day eleven Iroquois fell into the hands of Champlain's men, and were made prisoners. Iroquet, the chief of the Petite Nation, prepared to torture the prisoners, among whom were four women and four children, but Champlain strongly opposed this course. The Iroquois were engaged in reaping their corn when the Hurons and their allies appeared before them on October 10th, or five weeks after Champlain had started from Cahiagud. During this period Champlain's army had undergone much fatigue, and it was desirable to take some rest.

The first day was spent in petty skirmishes. Instead of fighting in ranks, the Hurons disbanded, and were consequently liable to be seized by the vigilance of their enemies. Champlain recognized the danger of this method of warfare, and persuaded his companions to preserve their ranks. The last combat continued for about three hours, during which Ochateguin and Orani, two of the allied chiefs, were wounded. Champlain also received two arrow wounds, one in the leg and one in the knee. There was great disorder in the ranks of the Hurons, and the chiefs had no control over their men. The result, on the whole, was not in favour of Champlain's allies, who in the absence of the Andastes were not anxious to continue the attacks against the Iroquois, and consequently determined to retreat as soon as possible.

Champlain suffered much from his wounds. "I never found myself in such a gehenna," he says, "as during this time, for the pain which I suffered in consequence of the wound in my knee was nothing in comparison with that which I endured while I was carried, bound and pinioned, on the back of one of the savages."

The retreat was very long, and on October 18th they arrived at the shore of Lake Ontario. Here Champlain requested that he might have a canoe and guides to conduct him to Quebec, and this was one of the conditions to which they had agreed before he set out for the war. The Indians were not to be trusted, however, and they refused his request. Champlain, therefore, resolved to accept the hospitality of Darontal, chief of the Arendarrhonons, or tribe de la Roche. The chief appeared kindly disposed towards Champlain, and as it was the hunting season, he accompanied him on his excursions. During one of these expeditions, Champlain lost his way in the pursuit of a strange bird, and he was not found by the savages until three days afterwards. The return journey to Cahiagud on foot was painful, and during the nineteen days thus spent, much hardship was undergone. The party arrived at Cahiagud on December 23rd, 1615.

In the course of the winter, Champlain was chosen to act as judge of a quarrel between the Algonquins of the Petite Nation, and the Hurons of the tribe de l'Ours, which had arisen over the murder of one of the Iroquois. The Attignaouantans had committed an Iroquois prisoner to the custody of Iroquet, requesting him to burn him according to their custom. Instead of carrying out this act, Iroquet had taken the young man and treated him as a son. When the Attignaouantans were aware of this, they sent one of their number to murder the young Iroquois. This barbarous conduct made the Algonquins indignant, and they killed the murderer.

Champlain returned from the Petuneux in company with Father Le Caron at the time when these crimes had just been committed. Witnesses were summoned to meet Champlain at Cahiagud, and were each examined. The trial lasted two days, during which the old men of both nations were consulted, and the majority of them were favourable to a reconciliation without conditions. Champlain exacted from them a promise that they would accept his decision as final, and he then had a full meeting of the two tribes assembled there. Addressing them^ he said:

"You Algonquins, and you Hurons, have always been friends. You have lived like brothers; you take this name in your councils. Your conduct now is unworthy of reasonable men. You are enough occupied in repelling your enemies, who have pursued you, who rout you as often as possible, pursuing you to your villages and taking you prisoners. These enemies, seeing these divisions and wars among you, will be delighted and derive great advantage therefrom. On account of the death of one man you will hazard the lives of ten thousand, and run the risk of being reduced to perpetual slavery. Although in fact one man was of great value, you ought to consider how he has been killed; it was not with deliberate purpose, nor for the sake of inciting a civil war. The Algonquins much regret all that has taken place, and if they had supposed such a thing would have happened, they would have sacrificed this Iroquois for the satisfaction of the Hurons. Forget all, never think of it again, but live good friends as before. In case you should not be pleased with my advice, I request you to come in as large numbers as possible, to our settlement, so that there, in presence of all the captains of vessels, the friendship might be ratified anew, and measures taken to secure you from your enemies."

Champlain's advice was followed, and the savages went away satisfied, except the Algonquins, who broke up and proceeded to their villages, saying that the death of these two men had cost them too dearly.

Champlain having spent the winter with Daron-tal, on May 20th left for Quebec. The journey from Cahiagud to Sault St. Louis occupied forty days. Champlain here found that Pont-Gravd had arrived from France with two vessels, and that the reverend fathers were very pleased to see him again. Darontal accompanied Champlain to Quebec, and greatly admired the habitation and the mode of living adopted by the French. Before leaving for France, Champlain enlarged the habitation by at least one-third, the additions consisting of buildings and fortifications, in the construction of which he used lime and sand which were found near at hand. Some grain was also cut, and the gardens were left in good condition.

During the winter of 1615-16, Father Le Caron had received a visit from Champlain, who was then returning from an expedition against the Iroquois. Being at a loss to know how to employ their time, Champlain and the Rdcollets resolved to pay a visit to the Tionnontatds, or people of the Petun. The missionary was not well received by these people, although Champlain was able to make an alliance, not only with the Petuneux, but also with six or seven other tribes living in the vicinity.

Father Le Caron returned to his flock, the Hurons, and remained with them until May 20th, studying 4their manners, trying to acquire their language, and to improve their morals. Father Le Clercq says that he compiled a dictionary which was seen in his own time, and which was preserved as a relic.

When the Hurons left their country to engage in fur trading with the French at Sault St. Louis, Father Le Caron took passage in one of their canoes, and arrived at Three Rivers on July 1st, 1616. Here he met Father d'Olbeau, who had spent the winter with the Indians on the north shore of the river St. Lawrence, between Tadousac and the Seven Islands.

Father d'Olbeau had visited the Bersiamites, the Papinachois and others, and he planted crosses everywhere, so that many years after, when some Frenchmen were visiting the place, they found these evidences of his labours. After two months of fatigue, Father d'Olbeau was compelled to return to Quebec, as he was suffering from sore eyes, and was unable to unclose his eyelids for several weeks. The two fathers arrived at Quebec on July 11th, 1616, and Father Jamet was pleased to learn the result of the missions of his confreres. The three missionaries had carefully studied the country during the past year, and gained a fair knowledge of the people. They realized at this time that their own resources limited their power of doing good, and they therefore requested Champlain to convoke a meeting of six inhabitants, to discuss the best means of furthering the interests of the mission. Champlain was chosen president of the meeting, and although the missionaries were present they took no part in the deliberations.

The resolutions adopted at this first council meeting in the new settlement were preserved. It was decided that the nations down the river and those of the north were, for the present, at least, incapable of civilization. These tribes included the Montagnais, Etchemins, Bersiamites, Papinachois and the great and little Esquimaux. They dwelt in an uncultivated, barren and mountainous country, whose wild game and fur-bearing animals sufficed to support them. Their habits were nomadic, and excessive superstition was their only form of religion. By the report of those who had visited the southern coasts, and had even penetrated by land to Cadie, Cape Breton and Chaleurs Bay, He Percd and Gaspd, the country there was more temperate, and susceptible of cultivation. There would be found dispositions less estranged from Christianity, as the people had more shame, docility and humanity than the others.

With regard to the upper river and the territory of the numerous tribes of Indians visited by Monsieur de Champlain and Father Joseph themselves, or by others, besides possessing an abundance of game, which might attract the French there in hopes of trade, the land was much more fertile and the climate more congenial than in the Indian country down the river. The upper river Indians, such as the AJgonquins, Iroquois, Hurons, Nipissirini, Neuters, Fire Nation, were sedentary, generally docile, susceptible of instruction, charitable, strong, robust, patient; insensible, however, and indifferent to all that concerns salvation; lascivious, and so material that when told that their soul was immortal, they would ask what they would eat after death in the next world. In general, none of the savages whom they had known had any idea of a divinity, believing, nevertheless, in another world where they hoped to enjoy the same pleasures as they took here below—a people, in short, without subordination, law or form of government or system, gross in religious matters, shrewd and crafty for trade and profit, but superstitious to excess.

It was the opinion of the council that none could ever succeed in converting them, unless they made them men before they made them Christians. To civilize them it was necessary first that the French should mingle with them and habituate them to their presence and mode of life, which could be done only by the increase of the colony, the greatest obstacle to which was on the part of the gentlemen of the company, who, to monopolize trade, did not wish the country to be settled, and did not even wish to make the Indians sedentary, which was the only condition favourable to the salvation of these heathen.

The Protestants, or Huguenots, having the best share in the trade, it was to be feared that the contempt they showed for the Catholic mysteries would greatly retard the establishment of that faith. Even the bad example of the French might be prejudicial, if those who had authority in the country did not establish order.

The mission among such numerous nations would be painful and laborious, and so could advance but little unless they obtained from the gentlemen of the company a greater number of missionaries free of expense. Even then it would require many years and great labour to humanize these utterly gross and barbarous nations, and even when this end was partially attained, the sacrament, for fear of profanation, could be administered only to an exceptional few among the adults.

It finally appears to have been decided that they could not make progress unless the colony was increased by a greater number of settlers, mechanics and farmers; that free trade with the Indians should be permitted, without distinction, to all Frenchmen; that in future Huguenots should be excluded, and that it was necessary to render the Indians sedentary, and bring them up to a knowledge of French manners and laws.

The council further agreed that by the help of zealous persons in France, a seminary ought to be established in order to bring to Christianity, young Indians, who might afterwards aid the missionaries in converting their countrymen. It was deemed necessary to maintain the missions which the fathers had established both up and down the river. This could not be done unless the associated gentlemen showed all the ardour to be expected from their zeal when informed of all things faithfully, instead of being deluded by the reports of the clerks whom they had sent the year before; the governor and the fathers having no ground to be satisfied therewith.

Champlain, who intended to return to France, desired the father commissary and Father Le Caron to accompany him, in order that the resolutions of the council might be submitted to the king for his approval, and with a view of obtaining substantial assistance. The voyage was a pleasant one, and Champlain and his party arrived at Honfleur on September 10th, 1616.

The merchants whom they interviewed at Paris were ready to promise to support the mission, but nothing was realized from-their promises, and it soon became apparent that they cared more about the fur trade than about religion. Champlain saw many people who he believed could assist the settlement, but the winter was passed in useless negotiations. He therefore prepared a greater shipment than usual from his own resources, and he was fortunate in finding that his old friend, Louis Hubert, an apothecary of Port Royal, was willing, to accompany him. Hubert took his family with him, composed of three children and his wife, named Marie Rollet. Hubert afterwards rendered very valuable assistance to the founder of Quebec.

Father Jamet did not return to Quebec, and he was therefore replaced as commissary by Father Le Caron, who appointed Father Huet as his assistant. The vessel conveying the party sailed from Honfleur on April 11th, 1617, under the command of Captain Morel. The passage was very rough, and when within sixty leagues of the Great Bank of Newfoundland, numerous icebergs bore down on the ship like huge mountains. Father Le Clercq says that in the general consternation Father Joseph, seeing that all human succour could not deliver them from shipwreck, earnestly implored the aid of heaven in the vows and prayers which he made publicly on the vessel. He confessed all, and prepared himself to appear before God. All were touched with compassion and deeply moved when Dame Hubert raised her youngest child through the hatchway to let it share with the rest the good father's blessing. They escaped only by a miracle, as they acknowledged in their letters to France.

The ship arrived at Tadousac on July 14th, and mass was said in a little chapel which Father Huet had constructed with poles and branches, and a sailor stood on either side of the altar with fir branches to drive away the cloud of mosquitoes which caused great annoyance to the celebrant. The mass was very solemn. Besides the French, there were many Indians present who assisted with devotion amid the roar of the cannon of the ship, and the muskets of the French. After the service a dinner was given by Champlain on board the vessel. On the arrival of the party at Quebec some days after, they found that the inhabitants were nearly starving, and that Father d'Olbeau was anxiously awaiting the news from France.

Both Champlain and Father Le Caron were obliged to confess that their mission had been unsuccessful. What, therefore, was to be done? To return to Old France would have been contrary to the intentions of the Rdcollets. They had been sent to Canada by their superiors, and they had no order to act contrary to their instructions. After having studied the situation they resolved that Father d'Olbeau should visit France, see the king in person, and place before him the settlers' condition and their own. During his absence Father Huet undertook the charge of the mission at Tadousac, and Brother Pacifique du Plessis was appointed to teach catechism to the Indians of Three Rivers.

It was at about this time that Father Le Caron performed the first marriage ceremony in Canada, the contracting parties being I^tienne Jonquest of Normandy, and Anne Hubert, eldest daughter of Louis Hubert.

The condition of the Rdcollets at this time was unenviable. The agents of the merchants were not better disposed towards them than the interpreters.

Some of these agents were demoralized, and the reproach that they received from the fathers caused them to avoid their presence. The conduct of some of these agents was so bad that even the Indians, who were not strict in their morals, were scandalized. When we take into consideration these circumstances, and the meagreness of the resources of the order, and the difficulties they had in acquiring the language, we can form a faint idea of the hardness of their lot, and it was not without just cause that they decided to send Father d'Olbeau to France with Champlain, in order that the true state of affairs might be urged still further before the king.

Father Le Clercq says: "Meanwhile Monsieur de Champlain employed all his address and prudence, and the intrigues of his friends to obtain what was necessary for the establishment of his new colony. Father d'Olbeau, on his side, spared nothing; both spoke frequently to the members of the company, but in vain, for these people, who always had their ears open to flattering tales of the great profit to be made in the Indian trade, closed them to the requests and entreaties made them. They therefore contented themselves with what they could get."

Father d'Olbeau at length received some consolation and compensation for all his labours, when a bull was issued by-the pope, granting a jubilee to New France, which was celebrated at Quebec on July 29th, 1618, and was the first of its kind. For the celebration of this religious festival, the Rdcollets had built some huts, which were used as stations, and French and Indians proceeded from one of-those improvised chapels to the other, singing the psalms and hymns of the church. In the year 1618, the Rdcollets in New France were only three in number: Fathers Le Caron and d'Olbeau, and Friar Modeste Guines.

During the winter of 1617-18 the missionaries were called upon to decide a difficult question. Two Frenchmen had disappeared in 1616, and the discovery of their bones proved that they had been murdered. A diligent search was instituted which led to the detection of the murderer, who acknowledged his crime. The question of punishment, however, was difficult from the fact that a clerk named Beauchesne, who had been invested with extensive civil power by Champlain, was in the habit of receiving gifts from the Indians. It was consequently considered dangerous to do anything that would displease the Indians, as they were known to be terrible in their vengeance. The Rd-collets had strongly protested against this method of receiving gifts, which placed the settlement in a false position towards the Indians. It was finally decided to release the prisoner and to accept as hostages two young Indians. When the matter was brought before Champlain, he approved of the course adopted, and stated that it was not a wise policy to be too severe.

This affair, which at one time appeared likely to produce disagreeable consequences, passed over without event, and some time after a party of Indians visited Quebec for the purpose of effecting a complete reconciliation. Thus, when Champlain left for France in 1618, the colony was secure.

Father Huet, who accompanied Champlain, was charged with many important missions, one of which related to the administration of. baptism to the Indians. They were quite willing to be baptized, but they had no idea of the nature of the sacrament, and although they promised to keep their vows before the ceremony, they soon returned to their old superstitions. Their want of sincerity was a trial to Father Huet, and he desired to have the opinion of the Doctors of the Sorbonne to guide him in his future actions.

During the winter Father Le Caron went to Tadousac in order to continue the work of Father d'Olbeau, and he remained there until the middle of July, 1619. In the interval he had built a residence upon the ground donated by the merchants, and had the satisfaction of leaving one hundred and forty neophytes as the result of the labours of the mission. Father d'Olbeau had his residence at Quebec.

On his return to Canada Father Huet was accompanied by Father Guillaume Poullain, three friars and two labourers. Champlain did not return this year. The Recollets had received authority to build a convent at Quebec, and the Prince de Condd had contributed fifteen hundred livres towards the object Charles de Boues, vicar-general of Pontoise, had also made a personal subscription, and accepted the protectorate of the convent, together with the title of syndic of Canadian missions. Other piously disposed persons had also contributed towards the maintenance of the religious institution.

The establishment of a convent in Canada was a ray of light amid the gloom which had hung over the settlement of New France during the past four years, but the rejoicing on this occasion was soon turned into mourning by the unexpected death of Friar du Plessis, who died at Three Rivers on August 23rd, 1619. There were two other deaths during this year which cast a shadow on the colonv, that of Anne Hebert, and of her husband, Etienne Jonquest, who survived his wife only a few weeks.

The mission at Three Rivers was placed under the charge of Father Le Caron, and from this date it was the object of the most pastoral solicitude of the Recollets.


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