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  • 1867
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On great occasions, there was concert of action,–the various parties meeting at a rendezvous, and pursuing the march together. The leaders of war-parties, like the orators, belonged, in nearly all cases, to the class of subordinate chiefs. The Iroquois had a discipline suited to the dark and tangled forests where they fought. Here they were a terrible foe: in an open country, against a trained European force, they were, despite their ferocious valor, far less formidable.

In observing this singular organization, one is struck by the incongruity of its spirit and its form. A body of hereditary oligarchs was the head of the nation, yet the nation was essentially democratic. Not that the Iroquois were levellers. None were more prompt to acknowledge superiority and defer to it, whether established by usage and prescription, or the result of personal endowment. Yet each man, whether of high or low degree, had a voice in the conduct of affairs, and was never for a moment divorced from his wild spirit of independence. Where there was no property worthy the name, authority had no fulcrum and no hold. The constant aim of sachems and chiefs was to exercise it without seeming to do so. They had no insignia of office. They were no richer than others; indeed, they were often poorer, spending their substance in largesses and bribes to strengthen their influence. They hunted and fished for subsistence; they were as foul, greasy, and unsavory as the rest; yet in them, withal, was often seen a native dignity of bearing, which ochre and bear’s grease could not hide, and which comported well with their strong, symmetrical, and sometimes majestic proportions.

To the institutions, traditions, rites, usages, and festivals of the league the Iroquois was inseparably wedded. He clung to them with Indian tenacity; and he clings to them still. His political fabric was one of ancient ideas and practices, crystallized into regular and enduring forms. In its component parts it has nothing peculiar to itself. All its elements are found in other tribes: most of them belong to the whole Indian race. Undoubtedly there was a distinct and definite effort of legislation; but Iroquois legislation invented nothing. Like all sound legislation, it built of materials already prepared. It organized the chaotic past, and gave concrete forms to Indian nature itself. The people have dwindled and decayed; but, banded by its ties of clan and kin, the league, in feeble miniature, still subsists, and the degenerate Iroquois looks back with a mournful pride to the glory of the past.

Would the Iroquois, left undisturbed to work out their own destiny, ever have emerged from the savage state? Advanced as they were beyond most other American tribes, there is no indication whatever of a tendency to overpass the confines of a wild hunter and warrior life. They were inveterately attached to it, impracticable conservatists of barbarism, and in ferocity and cruelty they matched the worst of their race. Nor did the power of expansion apparently belonging to their system ever produce much result. Between the years 1712 and 1715, the Tuscaroras, a kindred people, were admitted into the league as a sixth nation; but they were never admitted on equal terms. Long after, in the period of their decline, several other tribes were announced as new members of the league; but these admissions never took effect. The Iroquois were always reluctant to receive other tribes, or parts of tribes, collectively, into the precincts of the “Long House.” Yet they constantly practised a system of adoptions, from which, though cruel and savage, they drew great advantages. Their prisoners of war, when they had burned and butchered as many of them as would serve to sate their own ire and that of their women, were divided, man by man, woman by woman, and child by child, adopted into different families and clans, and thus incorporated into the nation. It was by this means, and this alone, that they could offset the losses of their incessant wars. Early in the eighteenth century, and ever-long before, a vast proportion of their population consisted of adopted prisoners.

[ Relation, 1660, 7 (anonymous). The Iroquois were at the height of their prosperity about the year 1650. Morgan reckons their number at this time at 25,000 souls; but this is far too high an estimate. The author of the Relation of 1660 makes their whole number of warriors 2,200. Le Mercier, in the Relation of 1665, says 2,350. In the Journal of Greenhalgh, an Englishman who visited them in 1677, their warriors are set down at 2,150. Du Chesneau, in 1681, estimates them at 2,000; De la Barre, in 1684, at 2,600, they having been strengthened by adoptions. A memoir addressed to the Marquis de Seignelay, in 1687, again makes them 2,000. (See N. Y. Col. Docs., IX. 162, 196, 321.) These estimates imply a total population of ten or twelve thousand.

The anonymous writer of the Relation of 1660 may well remark: “It is marvellous that so few should make so great a havoc, and strike such terror into so many tribes.” ]

It remains to speak of the religious and superstitious ideas which so deeply influenced Indian life.


The religious belief of the North-American Indians seems, on a first view, anomalous and contradictory. It certainly is so, if we adopt the popular impression. Romance, Poetry, and Rhetoric point, on the one hand, to the august conception of a one all-ruling Deity, a Great Spirit, omniscient and omnipresent; and we are called to admire the untutored intellect which could conceive a thought too vast for Socrates and Plato. On the other hand, we find a chaos of degrading, ridiculous, and incoherent superstitions. A closer examination will show that the contradiction is more apparent than real. We will begin with the lowest forms of Indian belief, and thence trace it upward to the highest conceptions to which the unassisted mind of the savage attained.

To the Indian, the material world is sentient and intelligent. Birds, beasts, and reptiles have ears for human prayers, and are endowed with an influence on human destiny. A mysterious and inexplicable power resides in inanimate things. They, too, can listen to the voice of man, and influence his life for evil or for good. Lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are sometimes the dwelling-place of spirits; but more frequently they are themselves living beings, to be propitiated by prayers and offerings. The lake has a soul; and so has the river, and the cataract. Each can hear the words of men, and each can be pleased or offended. In the silence of a forest, the gloom of a deep ravine, resides a living mystery, indefinite, but redoubtable. Through all the works of Nature or of man, nothing exists, however seemingly trivial, that may not be endowed with a secret power for blessing or for bane.

Men and animals are closely akin. Each species of animal has its great archetype, its progenitor or king, who is supposed to exist somewhere, prodigious in size, though in shape and nature like his subjects. A belief prevails, vague, but perfectly apparent, that men themselves owe their first parentage to beasts, birds, or reptiles, as bears, wolves, tortoises, or cranes; and the names of the totemic clans, borrowed in nearly every case from animals, are the reflection of this idea.

[ This belief occasionally takes a perfectly definite shape. There was a tradition among Northern and Western tribes, that men were created from the carcasses of beasts, birds, and fishes, by Manabozho, a mythical personage, to be described hereafter. The Amikouas, or People of the Beaver, an Algonquin tribe of Lake Huron, claimed descent from the carcass of the great original beaver, or father of the beavers. They believed that the rapids and cataracts on the French River and the Upper Ottawa were caused by dams made by their amphibious ancestor. (See the tradition in Perrot, Mémoire sur les Mœurs, Coustumes et Relligion des Sauvages de l’Amérique Septentrionale, p. 20.) Charlevoix tells the same story. Each Indian was supposed to inherit something of the nature of the animal whence he sprung. ]

An Indian hunter was always anxious to propitiate the animals he sought to kill. He has often been known to address a wounded bear in a long harangue of apology. [ McKinney, Tour to the Lakes, 284, mentions the discomposure of a party of Indians when shown a stuffed moose. Thinking that its spirit would be offended at the indignity shown to its remains, they surrounded it, making apologetic speeches, and blowing tobacco-smoke at it as a propitiatory offering. ] The bones of the beaver were treated with especial tenderness, and carefully kept from the dogs, lest the spirit of the dead beaver, or his surviving brethren, should take offence. [ This superstition was very prevalent, and numerous examples of it occur in old and recent writers, from Father Le Jeune to Captain Carver. ] This solicitude was not confined to animals, but extended to inanimate things. A remarkable example occurred among the Hurons, a people comparatively advanced, who, to propitiate their fishing-nets, and persuade them to do their office with effect, married them every year to two young girls of the tribe, with a ceremony more formal than that observed in the case of mere human wedlock. [ 1 ] The fish, too, no less than the nets, must be propitiated; and to this end they were addressed every evening from the fishing-camp by one of the party chosen for that function, who exhorted them to take courage and be caught, assuring them that the utmost respect should be shown to their bones. The harangue, which took place after the evening meal, was made in solemn form; and while it lasted, the whole party, except the speaker, were required to lie on their backs, silent and motionless, around the fire. [ 2 ]

[ 1 There are frequent allusions to this ceremony in the early writers. The Algonquins of the Ottawa practised it, as well as the Hurons. Lalemant, in his chapter “Du Regne de Satan en ces Contrées” (Relation des Hurons, 1639), says that it took place yearly, in the middle of March. As it was indispensable that the brides should be virgins, mere children were chosen. The net was held between them; and its spirit, or oki, was harangued by one of the chiefs, who exhorted him to do his part in furnishing the tribe with food. Lalemant was told that the spirit of the net had once appeared in human form to the Algonquins, complaining that he had lost his wife, and warning them, that, unless they could find him another equally immaculate, they would catch no more fish. ]

[ 2 Sagard, Le Grand Voyage du Pays des Hurons, 257. Other old writers make a similar statement. ]

Besides ascribing life and intelligence to the material world, animate and inanimate, the Indian believes in supernatural existences, known among the Algonquins as _Manitous_, and among the Iroquois and Hurons as _Okies_ or _Otkons_. These words comprehend all forms of supernatural being, from the highest to the lowest, with the exception, possibly, of certain diminutive fairies or hobgoblins, and certain giants and anomalous monsters, which appear under various forms, grotesque and horrible, in the Indian fireside legends. [ Many tribes have tales of diminutive beings, which, in the absence of a better word, may be called fairies. In the Travels of Lewis and Clarke, there is mention of a hill on the Missouri, supposed to be haunted by them. These Western fairies correspond to the _Puck Wudj Ininee_ of Ojibwa tradition. As an example of the monsters alluded to, see the Saginaw story of the Weendigoes, in Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, II. 105. ] There are local manitous of streams, rocks, mountains, cataracts, and forests. The conception of these beings betrays, for the most part, a striking poverty of imagination. In nearly every case, when they reveal themselves to mortal sight, they bear the semblance of beasts, reptiles, or birds, in shapes unusual or distorted. [ The figure of a large bird is perhaps the most common,–as, for example, the good spirit of Rock Island: “He was white, with wings like a swan, but ten times larger.”–Autobiography of Blackhawk, 70. ] There are other manitous without local habitation, some good, some evil, countless in number and indefinite in attributes. They fill the world, and control the destinies of men,–that is to say, of Indians: for the primitive Indian holds that the white man lives under a spiritual rule distinct from that which governs his own fate. These beings, also, appear for the most part in the shape of animals. Sometimes, however, they assume human proportions; but more frequently they take the form of stones, which, being broken, are found full of living blood and flesh.

Each primitive Indian has his guardian manitou, to whom he looks for counsel, guidance, and protection. These spiritual allies are gained by the following process. At the age of fourteen or fifteen, the Indian boy blackens his face, retires to some solitary place, and remains for days without food. Superstitious expectancy and the exhaustion of abstinence rarely fail of their results. His sleep is haunted by visions, and the form which first or most often appears is that of his guardian manitou,– a beast, a bird, a fish, a serpent, or some other object, animate or inanimate. An eagle or a bear is the vision of a destined warrior; a wolf, of a successful hunter; while a serpent foreshadows the future medicine-man, or, according to others, portends disaster. [ 1 ] The young Indian thenceforth wears about his person the object revealed in his dream, or some portion of it,–as a bone, a feather, a snake-skin, or a tuft of hair. This, in the modern language of the forest and prairie, is known as his “medicine.” The Indian yields to it a sort of worship, propitiates it with offerings of tobacco, thanks it in prosperity, and upbraids it in disaster. [ 2 ] If his medicine fails to bring the desired success, he will sometimes discard it and adopt another. The superstition now becomes mere fetich-worship, since the Indian regards the mysterious object which he carries about him rather as an embodiment than as a representative of a supernatural power.

[ 1 Compare Cass, in North-American Review, Second Series, XIII. 100. A turkey-buzzard, according to him, is the vision of a medicine-man. I once knew an old Dahcotah chief, who was greatly respected, but had never been to war, though belonging to a family of peculiarly warlike propensities. The reason was, that, in his initiatory fast, he had dreamed of an antelope,–the peace-spirit of his people.

Women fast, as well as men,–always at the time of transition from childhood to maturity. In the Narrative of John Tanner, there is an account of an old woman who had fasted, in her youth, for ten days, and throughout her life placed the firmest faith in the visions which had appeared to her at that time. Among the Northern Algonquins, the practice, down to a recent day, was almost universal. ]

[ 2 The author has seen a Dahcotah warrior open his medicine-bag, talk with an air of affectionate respect to the bone, feather, or horn within, and blow tobacco-smoke upon it as an offering. “Medicines” are acquired not only by fasting, but by casual dreams, and otherwise. They are sometimes even bought and sold. For a curious account of medicine-bags and fetich-worship among the Algonquins of Gaspé, see Le Clerc, Nouvelle Relation de la Gaspésie, Chap. XIII. ]

Indian belief recognizes also another and very different class of beings. Besides the giants and monsters of legendary lore, other conceptions may be discerned, more or less distinct, and of a character partly mythical. Of these the most conspicuous is that remarkable personage of Algonquin tradition, called Manabozho, Messou, Michabou, Nanabush, or the Great Hare. As each species of animal has its archetype or king, so, among the Algonquins, Manabozho is king of all these animal kings. Tradition is diverse as to his origin. According to the most current belief, his father was the West-Wind, and his mother a great-granddaughter of the Moon. His character is worthy of such a parentage. Sometimes he is a wolf, a bird, or a gigantic hare, surrounded by a court of quadrupeds; sometimes he appears in human shape, majestic in stature and wondrous in endowment, a mighty magician, a destroyer of serpents and evil manitous; sometimes he is a vain and treacherous imp, full of childish whims and petty trickery, the butt and victim of men, beasts, and spirits. His powers of transformation are without limit; his curiosity and malice are insatiable; and of the numberless legends of which he is the hero, the greater part are as trivial as they are incoherent. [ 1 ] It does not appear that Manabozho was ever an object of worship; yet, despite his absurdity, tradition declares him to be chief among the manitous, in short, the “Great Spirit.” [ “Presque toutes les Nations Algonquines ont donné le nom de Grand Lièvre au Premier Esprit, quelques-uns l’appellent Michabou (Manabozho).”–Charlevoix, Journal Historique, 344. ] It was he who restored the world, submerged by a deluge. He was hunting in company with a certain wolf, who was his brother, or, by other accounts, his grandson, when his quadruped relative fell through the ice of a frozen lake, and was at once devoured by certain serpents lurking in the depths of the waters. Manabozho, intent on revenge, transformed himself into the stump of a tree, and by this artifice surprised and slew the king of the serpents, as he basked with his followers in the noontide sun. The serpents, who were all manitous, caused, in their rage, the waters of the lake to deluge the earth. Manabozho climbed a tree, which, in answer to his entreaties, grew as the flood rose around it, and thus saved him from the vengeance of the evil spirits. Submerged to the neck, he looked abroad on the waste of waters, and at length descried the bird known as the loon, to whom he appealed for aid in the task of restoring the world. The loon dived in search of a little mud, as material for reconstruction, but could not reach the bottom. A musk-rat made the same attempt, but soon reappeared floating on his back, and apparently dead. Manabozho, however, on searching his paws, discovered in one of them a particle of the desired mud, and of this, together with the body of the loon, created the world anew. [ 2 ]

[ 1 Mr. Schoolcraft has collected many of these tales. See his Algic Researches, Vol. I. Compare the stories of Messou, given by Le Jeune (Relations, 1633, 1634), and the account of Nanabush, by Edwin James, in his notes to Tanner’s Narrative of Captivity and Adventures during a Thirty-Years’ Residence among the Indians; also the account of the Great Hare, in the Mémoire of Nicolas Perrot, Chaps. I., II. ]

[ 2 This is a form of the story still current among the remoter Algonquins. Compare the story of Messou, in Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 16. It is substantially the same. ]

There are various forms of this tradition, in some of which Manabozho appears, not as the restorer, but as the creator of the world, forming mankind from the carcasses of beasts, birds, and fishes. [ 1 ] Other stories represent him as marrying a female musk-rat, by whom he became the progenitor of the human race. [ 2 ]

[ 1 In the beginning of all things, Manabozho, in the form of the Great Hare, was on a raft, surrounded by animals who acknowledged him as their chief. No land could be seen. Anxious to create the world, the Great Hare persuaded the beaver to dive for mud but the adventurous diver floated to the surface senseless. The otter next tried, and failed like his predecessor. The musk-rat now offered himself for the desperate task. He plunged, and, after remaining a day and night beneath the surface, reappeared, floating on his back beside the raft, apparently dead, and with all his paws fast closed. On opening them, the other animals found in one of them a grain of sand, and of this the Great Hare created the world.–Perrot, Mémoire, Chap. I. ]

[ 2 Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 16.–The musk-rat is always a conspicuous figure in Algonquin cosmogony.

It is said that Messou, or Manabozho, once gave to an Indian the gift of immortality, tied in a bundle, enjoining him never to open it. The Indian’s wife, however, impelled by curiosity, one day cut the string, the precious gift flew out, and Indians have ever since been subject to death. Le Jeune, Relation, 1634, 13. ]

Searching for some higher conception of supernatural existence, we find, among a portion of the primitive Algonquins, traces of a vague belief in a spirit dimly shadowed forth under the name of Atahocan, to whom it does not appear that any attributes were ascribed or any worship offered, and of whom the Indians professed to know nothing whatever; [ 1 ] but there is no evidence that this belief extended beyond certain tribes of the Lower St. Lawrence. Others saw a supreme manitou in the Sun. [ 2 ] The Algonquins believed also in a malignant manitou, in whom the early missionaries failed not to recognize the Devil, but who was far less dreaded than his wife. She wore a robe made of the hair of her victims, for she was the cause of death; and she it was whom, by yelling, drumming, and stamping, they sought to drive away from the sick. Sometimes, at night, she was seen by some terrified squaw in the forest, in shape like a flame of fire; and when the vision was announced to the circle crouched around the lodge-fire, they burned a fragment of meat to appease the female fiend.

[ 1 Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 16; Relation, 1634, 13. ]

[ 2 Biard, Relation, 1611, Chap. VIII.–This belief was very prevalent. The Ottawas, according to Ragueneau (Relation des Hurons, 1648, 77), were accustomed to invoke the “Maker of Heaven” at their feasts; but they recognized as distinct persons the Maker of the Earth, the Maker of Winter, the God of the Waters, and the Seven Spirits of the Wind. He says, at the same time, “The people of these countries have received from their ancestors no knowledge of a God”; and he adds, that there is no sentiment of religion in this invocation. ]

The East, the West, the North, and the South were vaguely personified as spirits or manitous. Some of the winds, too, were personal existences. The West-Wind, as we have seen, was father of Manabozho. There was a Summer-Maker and a Winter-Maker; and the Indians tried to keep the latter at bay by throwing firebrands into the air.

When we turn from the Algonquin family of tribes to that of the Iroquois, we find another cosmogony, and other conceptions of spiritual existence. While the earth was as yet a waste of waters, there was, according to Iroquois and Huron traditions, a heaven with lakes, streams, plains, and forests, inhabited by animals, by spirits, and, as some affirm, by human beings. Here a certain female spirit, named Ataentsic, was once chasing a bear, which, slipping through a hole, fell down to the earth. Ataentsic’s dog followed, when she herself, struck with despair, jumped after them. Others declare that she was kicked out of heaven by the spirit, her husband, for an amour with a man; while others, again, hold the belief that she fell in the attempt to gather for her husband the medicinal leaves of a certain tree. Be this as it may, the animals swimming in the watery waste below saw her falling, and hastily met in council to determine what should be done. The case was referred to the beaver. The beaver commended it to the judgment of the tortoise, who thereupon called on the other animals to dive, bring up mud, and place it on his back. Thus was formed a floating island, on which Ataentsic fell; and here, being pregnant, she was soon delivered of a daughter, who in turn bore two boys, whose paternity is unexplained. They were called Taouscaron and Jouskeha, and presently fell to blows, Jouskeha killing his brother with the horn of a stag. The back of the tortoise grew into a world full of verdure and life; and Jouskeha, with his grandmother, Ataentsic, ruled over its destinies.

[ The above is the version of the story given by Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 86 (Cramoisy). No two Indians told it precisely alike, though nearly all the Hurons and Iroquois agreed as to its essential points. Compare Vanderdonck, Cusick, Sagard, and other writers. According to Vanderdonck, Ataentsic became mother of a deer, a bear, and a wolf, by whom she afterwards bore all the other animals, mankind included. Brébeuf found also among the Hurons a tradition inconsistent with that of Ataentsic, and bearing a trace of Algonquin origin. It declares, that, in the beginning, a man, a fox, and a skunk found themselves together on an island, and that the man made the world out of mud brought him by the skunk.

The Delawares, an Algonquin tribe, seem to have borrowed somewhat of the Iroquois cosmogony, since they believed that the earth was formed on the back of a tortoise.

According to some, Jouskeha became the father of the human race; but, in the third generation, a deluge destroyed his posterity, so that it was necessary to transform animals into men.–Charlevoix, III. 345. ]

He is the Sun; she is the Moon. He is beneficent; but she is malignant, like the female demon of the Algonquins. They have a bark house, made like those of the Iroquois, at the end of the earth, and they often come to feasts and dances in the Indian villages. Jouskeha raises corn for himself, and makes plentiful harvests for mankind. Sometimes he is seen, thin as a skeleton, with a spike of shrivelled corn in his hand, or greedily gnawing a human limb; and then the Indians know that a grievous famine awaits them. He constantly interposes between mankind and the malice of his wicked grandmother, whom, at times, he soundly cudgels. It was he who made lakes and streams: for once the earth was parched and barren, all the water being gathered under the armpit of a colossal frog; but Jouskeha pierced the armpit, and let out the water. No prayers were offered to him, his benevolent nature rendering them superfluous.

[ Compare Brébeuf, as before cited, and Sagard, Voyage des Hurons, p. 228. ]

The early writers call Jouskeha the creator of the world, and speak of him as corresponding to the vague Algonquin deity, Atahocan. Another deity appears in Iroquois mythology, with equal claims to be regarded as supreme. He is called Areskoui, or Agreskoui, and his most prominent attributes are those of a god of war. He was often invoked, and the flesh of animals and of captive enemies was burned in his honor. [ Father Jogues saw a female prisoner burned to Areskoui, and two bears offered to him to atone for the sin of not burning more captives.–Lettre de Jogues, 6 Aug., 1643. ] Like Jouskeha, he was identified with the sun; and he is perhaps to be regarded as the same being, under different attributes. Among the Iroquois proper, or Five Nations, there was also a divinity called Tarenyowagon, or Teharonhiawagon, [ 1 ] whose place and character it is very difficult to determine. In some traditions he appears as the son of Jouskeha. He had a prodigious influence; for it was he who spoke to men in dreams. The Five Nations recognized still another superhuman personage,–plainly a deified chief or hero. This was Taounyawatha, or Hiawatha, said to be a divinely appointed messenger, who made his abode on earth for the political and social instruction of the chosen race, and whose counterpart is to be found in the traditions of the Peruvians, Mexicans, and other primitive nations. [ 2 ]

[ 1 Le Mercier, Relation, 1670, 66; Dablon, Relation, 1671, 17. Compare Cusick, Megapolensis, and Vanderdonck. Some writers identify Tarenyowagon and Hiawatha. Vanderdonck assumes that Areskoui is the Devil, and Tarenyowagon is God. Thus Indian notions are often interpreted by the light of preconceived ideas. ]

[ 2 For the tradition of Hiawatha, see Clark, History of Onondaga, I. 21. It will also be found in Schoolcraft’s Notes on the Iroquois, and in his History, Condition, and Prospects of Indian Tribes.

The Iroquois name for God is Hawenniio, sometimes written Owayneo; but this use of the word is wholly due to the missionaries. Hawenniio is an Iroquois verb, and means, “he rules, he is master”. There is no Iroquois word which, in its primitive meaning, can be interpreted, the Great Spirit, or God. On this subject, see Études Philologiques sur quelques Langues Sauvages (Montreal, 1866), where will also be found a curious exposure of a few of Schoolcraft’s ridiculous blunders in this connection. ]

Close examination makes it evident that the primitive Indian’s idea of a Supreme Being was a conception no higher than might have been expected. The moment he began to contemplate this object of his faith, and sought to clothe it with attributes, it became finite, and commonly ridiculous. The Creator of the World stood on the level of a barbarous and degraded humanity, while a natural tendency became apparent to look beyond him to other powers sharing his dominion. The Indian belief, if developed, would have developed into a system of polytheism.

[ Some of the early writers could discover no trace of belief in a supreme spirit of any kind. Perrot, after a life spent among the Indians, ignores such an idea. Allouez emphatically denies that it existed among the tribes of Lake Superior. (Relation, 1667, 11.) He adds, however, that the Sacs and Foxes believed in a great _génie_, who lived not far from the French settlements.–Ibid., 21. ]

In the primitive Indian’s conception of a God the idea of moral good has no part. His deity does not dispense justice for this world or the next, but leaves mankind under the power of subordinate spirits, who fill and control the universe. Nor is the good and evil of these inferior beings a moral good and evil. The good spirit is the spirit that gives good luck, and ministers to the necessities and desires of mankind: the evil spirit is simply a malicious agent of disease, death, and mischance.

In no Indian language could the early missionaries find a word to express the idea of God. Manitou and Oki meant anything endowed with supernatural powers, from a snake-skin, or a greasy Indian conjurer, up to Manabozho and Jouskeha. The priests were forced to use a circumlocution,–“The Great Chief of Men,” or “He who lives in the Sky.” [ See “Divers Sentimens,” appended to the Relation of 1635, § 27; and also many other passages of early missionaries. ] Yet it should seem that the idea of a supreme controlling spirit might naturally arise from the peculiar character of Indian belief. The idea that each race of animals has its archetype or chief would easily suggest the existence of a supreme chief of the spirits or of the human race,–a conception imperfectly shadowed forth in Manabozho. The Jesuit missionaries seized this advantage. “If each sort of animal has its king,” they urged, “so, too, have men; and as man is above all the animals, so is the spirit that rules over men the master of all the other spirits.” The Indian mind readily accepted the idea, and tribes in no sense Christian quickly rose to the belief in one controlling spirit. The Great Spirit became a distinct existence, a pervading power in the universe, and a dispenser of justice. Many tribes now pray to him, though still clinging obstinately to their ancient superstitions; and with some, as the heathen portion of the modern Iroquois, he is clothed with attributes of moral good.

[ In studying the writers of the last and of the present century, it is to be remembered that their observations were made upon savages who had been for generations in contact, immediate or otherwise, with the doctrines of Christianity. Many observers have interpreted the religious ideas of the Indians after preconceived ideas of their own; and it may safely be affirmed that an Indian will respond with a grunt of acquiescence to any question whatever touching his spiritual state. Loskiel and the simple-minded Heckewelder write from a missionary point of view; Adair, to support a theory of descent from the Jews; the worthy theologian, Jarvis, to maintain his dogma, that all religious ideas of the heathen world are perversions of revelation; and so, in a greater or less degree, of many others. By far the most close and accurate observers of Indian superstition were the French and Italian Jesuits of the first half of the seventeenth century. Their opportunities were unrivalled; and they used them in a spirit of faithful inquiry, accumulating facts, and leaving theory to their successors. Of recent American writers, no one has given so much attention to the subject as Mr. Schoolcraft; but, in view of his opportunities and his zeal, his results are most unsatisfactory. The work in six large quarto volumes, History, Condition, and Prospects of Indian Tribes, published by Government under his editorship, includes the substance of most of his previous writings. It is a singularly crude and illiterate production, stuffed with blunders and contradictions, giving evidence on every page of a striking unfitness either for historical or philosophical inquiry, and taxing to the utmost the patience of those who would extract what is valuable in it from its oceans of pedantic verbiage. ]

The primitive Indian believed in the immortality of the soul, [ 1 ] but he did not always believe in a state of future reward and punishment. Nor, when such a belief existed, was the good to be rewarded a moral good, or the evil to be punished a moral evil. Skilful hunters, brave warriors, men of influence and consideration, went, after death, to the happy hunting-ground; while the slothful, the cowardly, and the weak were doomed to eat serpents and ashes in dreary regions of mist and darkness. In the general belief, however, there was but one land of shades for all alike. The spirits, in form and feature as they had been in life, wended their way through dark forests to the villages of the dead, subsisting on bark and rotten wood. On arriving, they sat all day in the crouching posture of the sick, and, when night came, hunted the shades of animals, with the shades of bows and arrows, among the shades of trees and rocks: for all things, animate and inanimate, were alike immortal, and all passed together to the gloomy country of the dead.

[ 1 The exceptions are exceedingly rare. Father Gravier says that a Peoria Indian once told him that there was no future life. It would be difficult to find another instance of the kind. ]

The belief respecting the land of souls varied greatly in different tribes and different individuals. Among the Hurons there were those who held that departed spirits pursued their journey through the sky, along the Milky Way, while the souls of dogs took another route, by certain constellations, known as the “Way of the Dogs.” [ Sagard, Voyage des Hurons, 233. ]

At intervals of ten or twelve years, the Hurons, the Neutrals, and other kindred tribes, were accustomed to collect the bones of their dead, and deposit them, with great ceremony, in a common place of burial. The whole nation was sometimes assembled at this solemnity; and hundreds of corpses, brought from their temporary resting-places, were inhumed in one capacious pit. From this hour the immortality of their souls began. They took wing, as some affirmed, in the shape of pigeons; while the greater number declared that they journeyed on foot, and in their own likeness, to the land of shades, bearing with them the ghosts of the wampum-belts, beaver-skins, bows, arrows, pipes, kettles, beads, and rings buried with them in the common grave. [ The practice of burying treasures with the dead is not peculiar to the North American aborigines. Thus, the London Times of Oct. 25, 1885, describing the funeral rites of Lord Palmerston, says: “And as the words, ‘Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,’ were pronounced, the chief mourner, as a last precious offering to the dead, threw into the grave several diamond and gold rings.” ] But as the spirits of the old and of children are too feeble for the march, they are forced to stay behind, lingering near their earthly villages, where the living often hear the shutting of their invisible cabin-doors, and the weak voices of the disembodied children driving birds from their corn-fields. [ Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 99 (Cramoisy). ] An endless variety of incoherent fancies is connected with the Indian idea of a future life. They commonly owe their origin to dreams, often to the dreams of those in extreme sickness, who, on awaking, supposed that they had visited the other world, and related to the wondering bystanders what they had seen.

The Indian land of souls is not always a region of shadows and gloom. The Hurons sometimes represented the souls of their dead–those of their dogs included–as dancing joyously in the presence of Ataentsic and Jouskeha. According to some Algonquin traditions, heaven was a scene of endless festivity, the ghosts dancing to the sound of the rattle and the drum, and greeting with hospitable welcome the occasional visitor from the living world: for the spirit-land was not far off, and roving hunters sometimes passed its confines unawares.

Most of the traditions agree, however, that the spirits, on their journey heavenward, were beset with difficulties and perils. There was a swift river which must be crossed on a log that shook beneath their feet, while a ferocious dog opposed their passage, and drove many into the abyss. This river was full of sturgeon and other fish, which the ghosts speared for their subsistence. Beyond was a narrow path between moving rocks, which each instant crashed together, grinding to atoms the less nimble of the pilgrims who essayed to pass. The Hurons believed that a personage named Oscotarach, or the Head-Piercer, dwelt in a bark house beside the path, and that it was his office to remove the brains from the heads of all who went by, as a necessary preparation for immortality. This singular idea is found also in some Algonquin traditions, according to which, however, the brain is afterwards restored to its owner.

[ On Indian ideas of another life, compare Sagard, the Jesuit Relations, Perrot, Charlevoix, and Lafitau, with Tanner, James, Schoolcraft, and the Appendix to Morse’s Indian Report.

Le Clerc recounts a singular story, current in his time among the Algonquins of Gaspé and Northern New Brunswick. The favorite son of an old Indian died; whereupon the father, with a party of friends, set out for the land of souls to recover him. It was only necessary to wade through a shallow lake, several days’ journey in extent. This they did, sleeping at night on platforms of poles which supported them above the water. At length they arrived, and were met by Papkootparout, the Indian Pluto, who rushed on them in a rage, with his war-club upraised; but, presently relenting, changed his mind, and challenged them to a game of ball. They proved the victors, and won the stakes, consisting of corn, tobacco, and certain fruits, which thus became known to mankind. The bereaved father now begged hard for his son’s soul, and Papkootparout at last gave it to him, in the form and size of a nut, which, by pressing it hard between his hands, he forced into a small leather bag. The delighted parent carried it back to earth, with instructions to insert it in the body of his son, who would thereupon return to life. When the adventurers reached home, and reported the happy issue of their journey, there was a dance of rejoicing; and the father, wishing to take part in it, gave his son’s soul to the keeping of a squaw who stood by. Being curious to see it, she opened the bag; on which it escaped at once, and took flight for the realms of Papkootparout, preferring them to the abodes of the living.–Le Clerc, Nouvelle Relation de la Gaspésie, 310-328. ]

Dreams were to the Indian a universal oracle. They revealed to him his guardian spirit, taught him the cure of his diseases, warned him of the devices of sorcerers, guided him to the lurking-places of his enemy or the haunts of game, and unfolded the secrets of good and evil destiny. The dream was a mysterious and inexorable power, whose least behests must be obeyed to the letter,–a source, in every Indian town, of endless mischief and abomination. There were professed dreamers, and professed interpreters of dreams. One of the most noted festivals among the Hurons and Iroquois was the Dream Feast, a scene of frenzy, where the actors counterfeited madness, and the town was like a bedlam turned loose. Each pretended to have dreamed of something necessary to his welfare, and rushed from house to house, demanding of all he met to guess his secret requirement and satisfy it.

Believing that the whole material world was instinct with powers to influence and control his fate, that good and evil spirits, and existences nameless and indefinable, filled all Nature, that a pervading sorcery was above, below, and around him, and that issues of life and death might be controlled by instruments the most unnoticeable and seemingly the most feeble, the Indian lived in perpetual fear. The turning of a leaf, the crawling of an insect, the cry of a bird, the creaking of a bough, might be to him the mystic signal of weal or woe.

An Indian community swarmed with sorcerers, medicine-men, and diviners, whose functions were often united in the same person. The sorcerer, by charms, magic songs, magic feasts, and the beating of his drum, had power over the spirits and those occult influences inherent in animals and inanimate things. He could call to him the souls of his enemies. They appeared before him in the form of stones. He chopped and bruised them with his hatchet; blood and flesh issued forth; and the intended victim, however distant, languished and died. Like the sorcerer of the Middle Ages, he made images of those he wished to destroy, and, muttering incantations, punctured them with an awl, whereupon the persons represented sickened and pined away.

The Indian doctor relied far more on magic than on natural remedies. Dreams, beating of the drum, songs, magic feasts and dances, and howling to frighten the female demon from his patient, were his ordinary methods of cure.

The prophet, or diviner, had various means of reading the secrets of futurity, such as the flight of birds, and the movements of water and fire. There was a peculiar practice of divination very general in the Algonquin family of tribes, among some of whom it still subsists. A small, conical lodge was made by planting poles in a circle, lashing the tops together at the height of about seven feet from the ground, and closely covering them with hides. The prophet crawled in, and closed the aperture after him. He then beat his drum and sang his magic songs to summon the spirits, whose weak, shrill voices were soon heard, mingled with his lugubrious chanting, while at intervals the juggler paused to interpret their communications to the attentive crowd seated on the ground without. During the whole scene, the lodge swayed to and fro with a violence which has astonished many a civilized beholder, and which some of the Jesuits explain by the ready solution of a genuine diabolic intervention.

[ This practice was first observed by Champlain. (See “Pioneers of France in the New World.” ) From his time to the present, numerous writers have remarked upon it. Le Jeune, in the Relation of 1637, treats it at some length. The lodge was sometimes of a cylindrical, instead of a conical form. ]

The sorcerers, medicine-men, and diviners did not usually exercise the function of priests. Each man sacrificed for himself to the powers he wished to propitiate, whether his guardian spirit, the spirits of animals, or the other beings of his belief. The most common offering was tobacco, thrown into the fire or water; scraps of meat were sometimes burned to the manitous; and, on a few rare occasions of public solemnity, a white dog, the mystic animal of many tribes, was tied to the end of an upright pole, as a sacrifice to some superior spirit, or to the sun, with which the superior spirits were constantly confounded by the primitive Indian. In recent times, when Judaism and Christianity have modified his religious ideas, it has been, and still is, the practice to sacrifice dogs to the Great Spirit. On these public occasions, the sacrificial function is discharged by chiefs, or by warriors appointed for the purpose.

[ Many of the Indian feasts were feasts of sacrifice,–sometimes to the guardian spirit of the host, sometimes to an animal of which he has dreamed, sometimes to a local or other spirit. The food was first offered in a loud voice to the being to be propitiated, after which the guests proceeded to devour it for him. This unique method of sacrifice was practised at war-feasts and similar solemnities. For an excellent account of Indian religious feasts, see Perrot, Chap. V.

One of the most remarkable of Indian sacrifices was that practised by the Hurons in the case of a person drowned or frozen to death. The flesh of the deceased was cut off; and thrown into a fire made for the purpose, as an offering of propitiation to the spirits of the air or water. What remained of the body was then buried near the fire.–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 108.

The tribes of Virginia, as described by Beverly and others, not only had priests who offered sacrifice, but idols and houses of worship. ]

Among the Hurons and Iroquois, and indeed all the stationary tribes, there was an incredible number of mystic ceremonies, extravagant, puerile, and often disgusting, designed for the cure of the sick or for the general weal of the community. Most of their observances seem originally to have been dictated by dreams, and transmitted as a sacred heritage from generation to generation. They consisted in an endless variety of dances, masqueradings, and nondescript orgies; and a scrupulous adherence to all the traditional forms was held to be of the last moment, as the slightest failure in this respect might entail serious calamities. If children were seen in their play imitating any of these mysteries, they were grimly rebuked and punished. In many tribes secret magical societies existed, and still exist, into which members are initiated with peculiar ceremonies. These associations are greatly respected and feared. They have charms for love, war, and private revenge, and exert a great, and often a very mischievous influence. The societies of the Metai and the Wabeno, among the Northern Algonquins, are conspicuous examples; while other societies of similar character have, for a century, been known to exist among the Dahcotah.

[ The Friendly Society of the Spirit, of which the initiatory ceremonies were seen and described by Carver (Travels, 271), preserves to this day its existence and its rites. ]

A notice of the superstitious ideas of the Indians would be imperfect without a reference to the traditionary tales through which these ideas are handed down from father to son. Some of these tales can be traced back to the period of the earliest intercourse with Europeans. One at least of those recorded by the first missionaries, on the Lower St. Lawrence, is still current among the tribes of the Upper Lakes. Many of them are curious combinations of beliefs seriously entertained with strokes intended for humor and drollery, which never fail to awaken peals of laughter in the lodge-circle. Giants, dwarfs, cannibals, spirits, beasts, birds, and anomalous monsters, transformations, tricks, and sorcery, form the staple of the story. Some of the Iroquois tales embody conceptions which, however preposterous, are of a bold and striking character; but those of the Algonquins are, to an incredible degree, flimsy, silly, and meaningless; nor are those of the Dahcotah tribes much better. In respect to this wigwam lore, there is a curious superstition of very wide prevalence. The tales must not be told in summer; since at that season, when all Nature is full of life, the spirits are awake, and, hearing what is said of them, may take offence; whereas in winter they are fast sealed up in snow and ice, and no longer capable of listening.

[ The prevalence of this fancy among the Algonquins in the remote parts of Canada is well established. The writer found it also among the extreme western bands of the Dahcotah. He tried, in the month of July, to persuade an old chief, a noted story-teller, to tell him some of the tales; but, though abundantly loquacious in respect to his own adventures, and even his dreams, the Indian obstinately refused, saying that winter was the time for the tales, and that it was bad to tell them in summer.

Mr. Schoolcraft has published a collection of Algonquin tales, under the title of Algic Researches. Most of them were translated by his wife, an educated Ojibwa half-breed. This book is perhaps the best of Mr. Schoolcraft’s works, though its value is much impaired by the want of a literal rendering, and the introduction of decorations which savor more of a popular monthly magazine than of an Indian wigwam. Mrs. Eastman’s interesting Legends of the Sioux (Dahcotah) is not free from the same defect. Other tales are scattered throughout the works of Mr. Schoolcraft and various modern writers. Some are to be found in the works of Lafitau and the other Jesuits. But few of the Iroquois legends have been printed, though a considerable number have been written down. The singular History of the Five Nations, by the old Tuscarora Indian, Cusick, gives the substance of some of them. Others will be found in Clark’s History of Onondaga. ]

It is obvious that the Indian mind has never seriously occupied itself with any of the higher themes of thought. The beings of its belief are not impersonations of the forces of Nature, the courses of human destiny, or the movements of human intellect, will, and passion. In the midst of Nature; the Indian knew nothing of her laws. His perpetual reference of her phenomena to occult agencies forestalled inquiry and precluded inductive reasoning. If the wind blew with violence, it was because the water-lizard, which makes the wind, had crawled out of his pool; if the lightning was sharp and frequent, it was because the young of the thunder-bird were restless in their nest; if a blight fell upon the corn, it was because the Corn Spirit was angry; and if the beavers were shy and difficult to catch, it was because they had taken offence at seeing the bones of one of their race thrown to a dog. Well, and even highly developed, in a few instances,–I allude especially to the Iroquois,– with respect to certain points of material concernment, the mind of the Indian in other respects was and is almost hopelessly stagnant. The very traits that raise him above the servile races are hostile to the kind and degree of civilization which those races so easily attain. His intractable spirit of independence, and the pride which forbids him to be an imitator, reinforce but too strongly that savage lethargy of mind from which it is so hard to rouse him. No race, perhaps, ever offered greater difficulties to those laboring for its improvement.

To sum up the results of this examination, the primitive Indian was as savage in his religion as in his life. He was divided between fetich- worship and that next degree of religious development which consists in the worship of deities embodied in the human form. His conception of their attributes was such as might have been expected. His gods were no whit better than himself. Even when he borrows from Christianity the idea of a Supreme and Universal Spirit, his tendency is to reduce Him to a local habitation and a bodily shape; and this tendency disappears only in tribes that have been long in contact with civilized white men. The primitive Indian, yielding his untutored homage to One All-pervading and Omnipotent Spirit, is a dream of poets, rhetoricians, and sentimentalists.






Opposite Quebec lies the tongue of land called Point Levi. One who, in the summer of the year 1634, stood on its margin and looked northward, across the St. Lawrence, would have seen, at the distance of a mile or more, a range of lofty cliffs, rising on the left into the bold heights of Cape Diamond, and on the right sinking abruptly to the bed of the tributary river St. Charles. Beneath these cliffs, at the brink of the St. Lawrence, he would have descried a cluster of warehouses, sheds, and wooden tenements. Immediately above, along the verge of the precipice, he could have traced the outlines of a fortified work, with a flagstaff, and a few small cannon to command the river; while, at the only point where Nature had made the heights accessible, a zigzag path connected the warehouses and the fort.

Now, embarked in the canoe of some Montagnais Indian, let him cross the St. Lawrence, land at the pier, and, passing the cluster of buildings, climb the pathway up the cliff. Pausing for rest and breath, he might see, ascending and descending, the tenants of this outpost of the wilderness: a soldier of the fort, or an officer in slouched hat and plume; a factor of the fur company, owner and sovereign lord of all Canada; a party of Indians; a trader from the upper country, one of the precursors of that hardy race of _coureurs de bois_, destined to form a conspicuous and striking feature of the Canadian population: next, perhaps, would appear a figure widely different. The close, black cassock, the rosary hanging from the waist, and the wide, black hat, looped up at the sides, proclaimed the Jesuit,–Father Le Jeune, Superior of the Residence of Quebec.

And now, that we may better know the aspect and condition of the infant colony and incipient mission, we will follow the priest on his way. Mounting the steep path, he reached the top of the cliff, some two hundred feet above the river and the warehouses. On the left lay the fort built by Champlain, covering a part of the ground now forming Durham Terrace and the Place d’Armes. Its ramparts were of logs and earth, and within was a turreted building of stone, used as a barrack, as officers’ quarters, and for other purposes. [ Compare the various notices in Champlain (1632) with that of Du Creux, Historia Canadensis, 204. ] Near the fort stood a small chapel, newly built. The surrounding country was cleared and partially cultivated; yet only one dwelling-house worthy the name appeared. It was a substantial cottage, where lived Madame Hébert, widow of the first settler of Canada, with her daughter, her son-in-law Couillard, and their children, good Catholics all, who, two years before, when Quebec was evacuated by the English, [ 1 ] wept for joy at beholding Le Jeune, and his brother Jesuit, De Nouë, crossing their threshold to offer beneath their roof the long-forbidden sacrifice of the Mass. There were inclosures with cattle near at hand; and the house, with its surroundings, betokened industry and thrift.

[ 1 See “Pioneers of France in the New World.” Hébert’s cottage seems to have stood between Ste.-Famille and Couillard Streets, as appears by a contract of 1634, cited by M. Ferland. ]

Thence Le Jeune walked on, across the site of the modern market-place, and still onward, near the line of the cliffs which sank abruptly on his right. Beneath lay the mouth of the St. Charles; and, beyond, the wilderness shore of Beauport swept in a wide curve eastward, to where, far in the distance, the Gulf of Montmorenci yawned on the great river. [ The settlement of Beauport was begun this year, or the year following, by the Sieur Giffard, to whom a large tract had been granted here– Langevin, Notes sur les Archives de N. D. de Beauport, 5. ] The priest soon passed the clearings, and entered the woods which covered the site of the present suburb of St. John. Thence he descended to a lower plateau, where now lies the suburb of St. Roch, and, still advancing, reached a pleasant spot at the extremity of the Pointe-aux-Lièvres, a tract of meadow land nearly inclosed by a sudden bend of the St. Charles. Here lay a canoe or skiff; and, paddling across the narrow stream, Le Jeune saw on the meadow, two hundred yards from the bank, a square inclosure formed of palisades, like a modern picket fort of the Indian frontier. [ 1 ] Within this inclosure were two buildings, one of which had been half burned by the English, and was not yet repaired. It served as storehouse, stable, workshop, and bakery. Opposite stood the principal building, a structure of planks, plastered with mud, and thatched with long grass from the meadows. It consisted of one story, a garret, and a cellar, and contained four principal rooms, of which one served as chapel, another as refectory, another as kitchen, and the fourth as a lodging for workmen. The furniture of all was plain in the extreme. Until the preceding year, the chapel had had no other ornament than a sheet on which were glued two coarse engravings; but the priests had now decorated their altar with an image of a dove representing the Holy Ghost, an image of Loyola, another of Xavier, and three images of the Virgin. Four cells opened from the refectory, the largest of which was eight feet square. In these lodged six priests, while two lay brothers found shelter in the garret. The house had been hastily built, eight years before, and now leaked in all parts. Such was the Residence of Notre-Dame des Anges. Here was nourished the germ of a vast enterprise, and this was the cradle of the great mission of New France. [ 2 ]

[ 1 This must have been very near the point where the streamlet called the River Lairet enters the St. Charles. The place has a triple historic interest. The wintering-place of Cartier in 1535-6 (see “Pioneers of France”) seems to have been here. Here, too, in 1759, Montcalm’s bridge of boats crossed the St. Charles; and in a large intrenchment, which probably included the site of the Jesuit mission-house, the remnants of his shattered army rallied, after their defeat on the Plains of Abraham.–See the very curious Narrative of the Chevalier Johnstone, published by the Historical Society of Quebec. ]

[ 2 The above particulars are gathered from the Relations of 1626 (Lalemant), and 1632, 1633, 1634, 1635 (Le Jeune), but chiefly from a long letter of the Father Superior to the Provincial of the Jesuits at Paris, containing a curiously minute report of the state of the mission. It was sent from Quebec by the returning ships in the summer of 1634, and will be found in Carayon, Première Mission des Jésuites au Canada, 122. The original is in the archives of the Order at Rome. ]

Of the six Jesuits gathered in the refectory for the evening meal, one was conspicuous among the rest,–a tall, strong man, with features that seemed carved by Nature for a soldier, but which the mental habits of years had stamped with the visible impress of the priesthood. This was Jean de Brébeuf, descendant of a noble family of Normandy, and one of the ablest and most devoted zealots whose names stand on the missionary rolls of his Order. His companions were Masse, Daniel, Davost, De Nouë, and the Father Superior, Le Jeune. Masse was the same priest who had been the companion of Father Biard in the abortive mission of Acadia. [ See “Pioneers of France in the New World.” ] By reason of his useful qualities, Le Jeune nicknamed him “le Père Utile.” At present, his special function was the care of the pigs and cows, which he kept in the inclosure around the buildings, lest they should ravage the neighboring fields of rye, barley, wheat, and maize. [ 1 ] De Nouë had charge of the eight or ten workmen employed by the mission, who gave him at times no little trouble by their repinings and complaints. [ 2 ] They were forced to hear mass every morning and prayers every evening, besides an exhortation on Sunday. Some of them were for returning home, while two or three, of a different complexion, wished to be Jesuits themselves. The Fathers, in their intervals of leisure, worked with their men, spade in hand. For the rest, they were busied in preaching, singing vespers, saying mass and hearing confessions at the fort of Quebec, catechizing a few Indians, and striving to master the enormous difficulties of the Huron and Algonquin languages.

[ 1 “Le P. Masse, que je nomme quelquefois en riant le Père Utile, est bien cognu de V. R. Il a soin des choses domestiques et du bestail que nous avons, en quoy il a très-bien reussy.”–Lettre du P. Paul le Jeune au R. P. Provincial, in Carayon, 122.–Le Jeune does not fail to send an inventory of the “bestail” to his Superior, namely: “Deux grosses truies qui nourissent chacune quatre petits cochons, deux vaches, deux petites genisses, et un petit taureau.” ]

[ 2 The methodical Le Jeune sets down the causes of their discontent under six different heads, each duly numbered. Thus:– “1. C’est le naturel des artisans de se plaindre et de gronder.” “2. La diversité des gages les fait murmurer,” etc. ]

Well might Father Le Jeune write to his Superior, “The harvest is plentiful, and the laborers few.” These men aimed at the conversion of a continent. From their hovel on the St. Charles they surveyed a field of labor whose vastness might tire the wings of thought itself; a scene repellent and appalling, darkened with omens of peril and woe. They were an advance-guard of the great army of Loyola, strong in a discipline that controlled not alone the body and the will, but the intellect, the heart, the soul, and the inmost consciousness. The lives of these early Canadian Jesuits attest the earnestness of their faith and the intensity of their zeal; but it was a zeal bridled, curbed, and ruled by a guiding hand. Their marvellous training in equal measure kindled enthusiasm and controlled it, roused into action a mighty power, and made it as subservient as those great material forces which modern science has learned to awaken and to govern. They were drilled to a factitious humility, prone to find utterance in expressions of self-depreciation and self-scorn, which one may often judge unwisely, when he condemns them as insincere. They were devoted believers, not only in the fundamental dogmas of Rome, but in those lesser matters of faith which heresy despises as idle and puerile superstitions. One great aim engrossed their lives. “For the greater glory of God”–ad majorem Dei gloriam– they would act or wait, dare, suffer, or die, yet all in unquestioning subjection to the authority of the Superiors, in whom they recognized the agents of Divine authority itself.




It was an evil day for new-born Protestantism, when a French artilleryman fired the shot that struck down Ignatius Loyola in the breach of Pampeluna. A proud noble, an aspiring soldier, a graceful courtier, an ardent and daring gallant was metamorphosed by that stroke into the zealot whose brain engendered and brought forth the mighty Society of Jesus. His story is a familiar one: how, in the solitude of his sick-room, a change came over him, upheaving, like an earthquake, all the forces of his nature; how, in the cave of Manresa, the mysteries of Heaven were revealed to him; how he passed from agonies to transports, from transports to the calm of a determined purpose. The soldier gave himself to a new warfare. In the forge of his great intellect, heated, but not disturbed by the intense fires of his zeal, was wrought the prodigious enginery whose power has been felt to the uttermost confines of the world.

Loyola’s training had been in courts and camps: of books he knew little or nothing. He had lived in the unquestioning faith of one born and bred in the very focus of Romanism; and thus, at the age of about thirty, his conversion found him. It was a change of life and purpose, not of belief. He presumed not to inquire into the doctrines of the Church. It was for him to enforce those doctrines; and to this end he turned all the faculties of his potent intellect, and all his deep knowledge of mankind. He did not aim to build up barren communities of secluded monks, aspiring to heaven through prayer, penance, and meditation, but to subdue the world to the dominion of the dogmas which had subdued him; to organize and discipline a mighty host, controlled by one purpose and one mind, fired by a quenchless zeal or nerved by a fixed resolve, yet impelled, restrained, and directed by a single master hand. The Jesuit is no dreamer: he is emphatically a man of action; action is the end of his existence.

It was an arduous problem which Loyola undertook to solve,–to rob a man of volition, yet to preserve in him, nay, to stimulate, those energies which would make him the most efficient instrument of a great design. To this end the Jesuit novitiate and the constitutions of the Order are directed. The enthusiasm of the novice is urged to its intensest pitch; then, in the name of religion, he is summoned to the utter abnegation of intellect and will in favor of the Superior, in whom he is commanded to recognize the representative of God on earth. Thus the young zealot makes no slavish sacrifice of intellect and will; at least, so he is taught: for he sacrifices them, not to man, but to his Maker. No limit is set to his submission: if the Superior pronounces black to be white, he is bound in conscience to acquiesce.

[ Those who wish to know the nature of the Jesuit virtue of obedience will find it set forth in the famous Letter on Obedience of Loyola. ]

Loyola’s book of Spiritual Exercises is well known. In these exercises lies the hard and narrow path which is the only entrance to the Society of Jesus. The book is, to all appearance, a dry and superstitious formulary; but, in the hands of a skilful director of consciences, it has proved of terrible efficacy. The novice, in solitude and darkness, day after day and night after night, ponders its images of perdition and despair. He is taught to hear, in imagination, the howlings of the damned, to see their convulsive agonies, to feel the flames that burn without consuming, to smell the corruption of the tomb and the fumes of the infernal pit. He must picture to himself an array of adverse armies, one commanded by Satan on the plains of Babylon, one encamped under Christ about the walls of Jerusalem; and the perturbed mind, humbled by long contemplation of its own vileness, is ordered to enroll itself under one or the other banner. Then, the choice made, it is led to a region of serenity and celestial peace, and soothed with images of divine benignity and grace. These meditations last, without intermission, about a month, and, under an astute and experienced directorship, they have been found of such power, that the Manual of Spiritual Exercises boasts to have saved souls more in number than the letters it contains.

To this succeed two years of discipline and preparation, directed, above all things else, to perfecting the virtues of humility and obedience. The novice is obliged to perform the lowest menial offices, and the most repulsive duties of the sick-room and the hospital; and he is sent forth, for weeks together, to beg his bread like a common mendicant. He is required to reveal to his confessor, not only his sins, but all those hidden tendencies, instincts, and impulses which form the distinctive traits of character. He is set to watch his comrades, and his comrades are set to watch him. Each must report what he observes of the acts and dispositions of the others; and this mutual espionage does not end with the novitiate, but extends to the close of life. The characteristics of every member of the Order are minutely analyzed, and methodically put on record.

This horrible violence to the noblest qualities of manhood, joined to that equivocal system of morality which eminent casuists of the Order have inculcated, must, it may be thought, produce deplorable effects upon the characters of those under its influence. Whether this has been actually the case, the reader of history may determine. It is certain, however, that the Society of Jesus has numbered among its members men whose fervent and exalted natures have been intensified, without being abased, by the pressure to which they have been subjected.

It is not for nothing that the Society studies the character of its members so intently, and by methods so startling. It not only uses its knowledge to thrust into obscurity or cast out altogether those whom it discovers to be dull, feeble, or unwilling instruments of its purposes, but it assigns to every one the task to which his talents or his disposition may best adapt him: to one, the care of a royal conscience, whereby, unseen, his whispered word may guide the destiny of nations; to another, the instruction of children; to another, a career of letters or science; and to the fervent and the self-sacrificing, sometimes also to the restless and uncompliant, the distant missions to the heathen.

The Jesuit was, and is, everywhere,–in the school-room, in the library, in the cabinets of princes and ministers, in the huts of savages, in the tropics, in the frozen North, in India, in China, in Japan, in Africa, in America; now as a Christian priest, now as a soldier, a mathematician, an astrologer, a Brahmin, a mandarin, under countless disguises, by a thousand arts, luring, persuading, or compelling souls into the fold of Rome.

Of this vast mechanism for guiding and governing the minds of men, this mighty enginery for subduing the earth to the dominion of an idea, this harmony of contradictions, this moral Proteus, the faintest sketch must now suffice. A disquisition on the Society of Jesus would be without end. No religious order has ever united in itself so much to be admired and so much to be detested. Unmixed praise has been poured on its Canadian members. It is not for me to eulogize them, but to portray them as they were.


1632, 1633.



In another narrative, we have seen how the Jesuits, supplanting the Récollet friars, their predecessors, had adopted as their own the rugged task of Christianizing New France. We have seen, too, how a descent of the English, or rather of Huguenots fighting under English colors, had overthrown for a time the miserable little colony, with the mission to which it was wedded; and how Quebec was at length restored to France, and the broken thread of the Jesuit enterprise resumed. [ “Pioneers of France.” ]

It was then that Le Jeune had embarked for the New World. He was in his convent at Dieppe when he received the order to depart; and he set forth in haste for Havre, filled, he assures us, with inexpressible joy at the prospect of a living or a dying martyrdom. At Rouen he was joined by De Nouë, with a lay brother named Gilbert; and the three sailed together on the eighteenth of April, 1632. The sea treated them roughly; Le Jeune was wretchedly sea-sick; and the ship nearly foundered in a gale. At length they came in sight of “that miserable country,” as the missionary calls the scene of his future labors. It was in the harbor of Tadoussac that he first encountered the objects of his apostolic cares; for, as he sat in the ship’s cabin with the master, it was suddenly invaded by ten or twelve Indians, whom he compares to a party of maskers at the Carnival. Some had their cheeks painted black, their noses blue, and the rest of their faces red. Others were decorated with a broad band of black across the eyes; and others, again, with diverging rays of black, red, and blue on both cheeks. Their attire was no less uncouth. Some of them wore shaggy bear skins, reminding the priest of the pictures of St. John the Baptist.

After a vain attempt to save a number of Iroquois prisoners whom they were preparing to burn alive on shore, Le Jeune and his companions again set sail, and reached Quebec on the fifth of July. Having said mass, as already mentioned, under the roof of Madame Hébert and her delighted family, the Jesuits made their way to the two hovels built by their predecessors on the St. Charles, which had suffered woful dilapidation at the hands of the English. Here they made their abode, and applied themselves, with such skill as they could command, to repair the shattered tenements and cultivate the waste meadows around.

The beginning of Le Jeune’s missionary labors was neither imposing nor promising. He describes himself seated with a small Indian boy on one side and a small negro on the other, the latter of whom had been left by the English as a gift to Madame Hébert. As neither of the three understood the language of the others, the pupils made little progress in spiritual knowledge. The missionaries, it was clear, must learn Algonquin at any cost; and, to this end, Le Jeune resolved to visit the Indian encampments. Hearing that a band of Montagnais were fishing for eels on the St. Lawrence, between Cape Diamond and the cove which now bears the name of Wolfe, he set forth for the spot on a morning in October. As, with toil and trepidation, he scrambled around the foot of the cape,–whose precipices, with a chaos of loose rocks, thrust themselves at that day into the deep tidewater,–he dragged down upon himself the trunk of a fallen tree, which, in its descent, well nigh swept him into the river. The peril past, he presently reached his destination. Here, among the lodges of bark, were stretched innumerable strings of hide, from which hung to dry an incredible multitude of eels. A boy invited him into the lodge of a withered squaw, his grandmother, who hastened to offer him four smoked eels on a piece of birch bark, while other squaws of the household instructed him how to roast them on a forked stick over the embers. All shared the feast together, his entertainers using as napkins their own hair or that of their dogs; while Le Jeune, intent on increasing his knowledge of Algonquin, maintained an active discourse of broken words and pantomime. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 2. ]

The lesson, however, was too laborious, and of too little profit, to be often repeated, and the missionary sought anxiously for more stable instruction. To find such was not easy. The interpreters–Frenchmen, who, in the interest of the fur company, had spent years among the Indians–were averse to Jesuits, and refused their aid. There was one resource, however, of which Le Jeune would fain avail himself. An Indian, called Pierre by the French, had been carried to France by the Récollet friars, instructed, converted, and baptized. He had lately returned to Canada, where, to the scandal of the Jesuits, he had relapsed into his old ways, retaining of his French education little besides a few new vices. He still haunted the fort at Quebec, lured by the hope of an occasional gift of wine or tobacco, but shunned the Jesuits, of whose rigid way of life he stood in horror. As he spoke good French and good Indian, he would have been invaluable to the embarrassed priests at the mission. Le Jeune invoked the aid of the Saints. The effect of his prayers soon appeared, he tells us, in a direct interposition of Providence, which so disposed the heart of Pierre that he quarrelled with the French commandant, who thereupon closed the fort against him. He then repaired to his friends and relatives in the woods, but only to encounter a rebuff from a young squaw to whom he made his addresses. On this, he turned his steps towards the mission-house, and, being unfitted by his French education for supporting himself by hunting, begged food and shelter from the priests. Le Jeune gratefully accepted him as a gift vouchsafed by Heaven to his prayers, persuaded a lackey at the fort to give him a cast-off suit of clothes, promised him maintenance, and installed him as his teacher.

Seated on wooden stools by the rough table in the refectory, the priest and the Indian pursued their studies. “How thankful I am,” writes Le Jeune, “to those who gave me tobacco last year! At every difficulty I give my master a piece of it, to make him more attentive.”

[ Relation, 1633, 7. He continues: “Ie ne sçaurois assez rendre graces à Nostre Seigneur de cet heureux rencontre. . . . Que Dieu soit beny pour vn iamais, sa prouidence est adorable, et sa bonté n’a point de limites.” ]

Meanwhile, winter closed in with a severity rare even in Canada. The St. Lawrence and the St. Charles were hard frozen; rivers, forests, and rocks were mantled alike in dazzling sheets of snow. The humble mission-house of Notre-Dame des Anges was half buried in the drifts, which, heaped up in front where a path had been dug through them, rose two feet above the low eaves. The priests, sitting at night before the blazing logs of their wide-throated chimney, heard the trees in the neighboring forest cracking with frost, with a sound like the report of a pistol. Le Jeune’s ink froze, and his fingers were benumbed, as he toiled at his declensions and conjugations, or translated the Pater Noster into blundering Algonquin. The water in the cask beside the fire froze nightly, and the ice was broken every morning with hatchets. The blankets of the two priests were fringed with the icicles of their congealed breath, and the frost lay in a thick coating on the lozenge- shaped glass of their cells. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 14, 15. ]

By day, Le Jeune and his companion practised with snow-shoes, with all the mishaps which attend beginners,–the trippings, the falls, and headlong dives into the soft drifts, amid the laughter of the Indians. Their seclusion was by no means a solitude. Bands of Montagnais, with their sledges and dogs, often passed the mission-house on their way to hunt the moose. They once invited De Nouë to go with them; and he, scarcely less eager than Le Jeune to learn their language, readily consented. In two or three weeks he appeared, sick, famished, and half dead with exhaustion. “Not ten priests in a hundred,” writes Le Jeune to his Superior, “could bear this winter life with the savages.” But what of that? It was not for them to falter. They were but instruments in the hands of God, to be used, broken, and thrown aside, if such should be His will.

[ “Voila, mon Reuerend Pere, vn eschantillon de ce qu’il faut souffrir courant apres les Sauuages. . . . Il faut prendre sa vie, et tout ce qu’on a, et le ietter à l’abandon, pour ainsi dire, se contentant d’vne croix bien grosse et bien pesante pour toute richesse. Il est bien vray que Dieu ne se laisse point vaincre, et que plus on quitte, plus on trouue: plus on perd, plus on gaigne: mais Dieu se cache par fois, et alors le Calice est bien amer.”–Le Jeune, Relation 1633, 19. ]

An Indian made Le Jeune a present of two small children, greatly to the delight of the missionary, who at once set himself to teaching them to pray in Latin. As the season grew milder, the number of his scholars increased; for, when parties of Indians encamped in the neighborhood, he would take his stand at the door, and, like Xavier at Goa, ring a bell. At this, a score of children would gather around him; and he, leading them into the refectory, which served as his school-room, taught them to repeat after him the Pater, Aye, and Credo, expounded the mystery of the Trinity, showed them the sign of the cross, and made them repeat an Indian prayer, the joint composition of Pierre and himself; then followed the catechism, the lesson closing with singing the Pater Noster, translated by the missionary into Algonquin rhymes; and when all was over, he rewarded each of his pupils with a porringer of peas, to insure their attendance at his next bell-ringing.

[ “I’ay commencé à appeller quelques enfans auec vne petite clochette. La premiere fois i’en auois six, puis douze, puis quinze, puis vingt et davantage; ie leur fais dire le Pater, Aue, et Credo, etc. . . . . Nous finissons par le Pater Noster, que i’ay composé quasi en rimes en leur langue, que ie leur fais chanter: et pour derniere conclusion, ie leur fais donner chacun vne escuellée de pois, qu’ils mangent de bon appetit,” etc.–Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 23. ]

It was the end of May, when the priests one morning heard the sound of cannon from the fort, and were gladdened by the tidings that Samuel de Champlain had arrived to resume command at Quebec, bringing with him four more Jesuits,–Brébeuf, Masse, Daniel, and Davost. [ See “Pioneers of France.” ] Brébeuf, from the first, turned his eyes towards the distant land of the Hurons,–a field of labor full of peril, but rich in hope and promise. Le Jeune’s duties as Superior restrained him from wanderings so remote. His apostleship must be limited, for a time, to the vagabond hordes of Algonquins, who roamed the forests of the lower St. Lawrence, and of whose language he had been so sedulous a student. His difficulties had of late been increased by the absence of Pierre, who had run off as Lent drew near, standing in dread of that season of fasting. Masse brought tidings of him from Tadoussac, whither he had gone, and where a party of English had given him liquor, destroying the last trace of Le Jeune’s late exhortations. “God forgive those,” writes the Father, “who introduced heresy into this country! If this savage, corrupted as he is by these miserable heretics, had any wit, he would be a great hindrance to the spread of the Faith. It is plain that he was given us, not for the good of his soul, but only that we might extract from him the principles of his language.” [ Relation, 1633, 29. ]

Pierre had two brothers. One, well known as a hunter, was named Mestigoit; the other was the most noted “medicine-man,” or, as the Jesuits called him, sorcerer, in the tribe of the Montagnais. Like the rest of their people, they were accustomed to set out for their winter hunt in the autumn, after the close of their eel-fishery. Le Jeune, despite the experience of De Nouë, had long had a mind to accompany one of these roving bands, partly in the hope, that, in some hour of distress, he might touch their hearts, or, by a timely drop of baptismal water, dismiss some dying child to paradise, but chiefly with the object of mastering their language. Pierre had rejoined his brothers; and, as the hunting season drew near, they all begged the missionary to make one of their party,–not, as he thought, out of any love for him, but solely with a view to the provisions with which they doubted not he would be well supplied. Le Jeune, distrustful of the sorcerer, demurred, but at length resolved to go.


1633, 1634.



On a morning in the latter part of October, Le Jeune embarked with the Indians, twenty in all, men, women, and children. No other Frenchman was of the party. Champlain bade him an anxious farewell, and commended him to the care of his red associates, who had taken charge of his store of biscuit, flour, corn, prunes, and turnips, to which, in an evil hour, his friends had persuaded him to add a small keg of wine. The canoes glided along the wooded shore of the Island of Orleans, and the party landed, towards evening, on the small island immediately below. Le Jeune was delighted with the spot, and the wild beauties of the autumnal sunset.

His reflections, however, were soon interrupted. While the squaws were setting up their bark lodges, and Mestigoit was shooting wild-fowl for supper, Pierre returned to the canoes, tapped the keg of wine, and soon fell into the mud, helplessly drunk. Revived by the immersion, he next appeared at the camp, foaming at the mouth, threw down the lodges, overset the kettle, and chased the shrieking squaws into the woods. His brother Mestigoit rekindled the fire, and slung the kettle anew; when Pierre, who meanwhile had been raving like a madman along the shore, reeled in a fury to the spot to repeat his former exploit. Mestigoit anticipated him, snatched the kettle from the fire, and threw the scalding contents in his face. “He was never so well washed before in his life,” says Le Jeune; “he lost all the skin of his face and breast. Would to God his heart had changed also!” [ 1 ] He roared in his frenzy for a hatchet to kill the missionary, who therefore thought it prudent to spend the night in the neighboring woods. Here he stretched himself on the earth, while a charitable squaw covered him with a sheet of birch-bark. “Though my bed,” he writes, “had not been made up since the creation of the world, it was not hard enough to prevent me from sleeping.”

[ “Iamais il ne fut si bien laué, il changea de peau en la face et en tout l’estomach: pleust à Dieu que son ame eust changé aussi bien que son corps!”–Relation, 1634, 59. ]

Such was his initiation into Indian winter life. Passing over numerous adventures by water and land, we find the party, on the twelfth of November, leaving their canoes on an island, and wading ashore at low tide over the flats to the southern bank of the St. Lawrence. As two other bands had joined them, their number was increased to forty-five persons. Now, leaving the river behind, they entered those savage highlands whence issue the springs of the St. John,–a wilderness of rugged mountain-ranges, clad in dense, continuous forests, with no human tenant but this troop of miserable rovers, and here and there some kindred band, as miserable as they. Winter had set in, and already dead Nature was sheeted in funereal white. Lakes and ponds were frozen, rivulets sealed up, torrents encased with stalactites of ice; the black rocks and the black trunks of the pine-trees were beplastered with snow, and its heavy masses crushed the dull green boughs into the drifts beneath. The forest was silent as the grave.

Through this desolation the long file of Indians made its way, all on snow-shoes, each man, woman, and child bending under a heavy load, or dragging a sledge, narrow, but of prodigious length. They carried their whole wealth with them, on their backs or on their sledges,– kettles, axes, hides of meat, if such they had, and huge rolls of birch-bark for covering their wigwams. The Jesuit was loaded like the rest. The dogs alone floundered through the drifts unburdened. There was neither path nor level ground. Descending, climbing, stooping beneath half-fallen trees, clambering over piles of prostrate trunks, struggling through matted cedar-swamps, threading chill ravines, and crossing streams no longer visible, they toiled on till the day began to decline, then stopped to encamp. [ 1 ] Burdens were thrown down, and sledges unladen. The squaws, with knives and hatchets, cut long poles of birch and spruce saplings; while the men, with snow-shoes for shovels, cleared a round or square space in the snow, which formed an upright wall three or four feet high, inclosing the area of the wigwam. On one side, a passage was cut for an entrance, and the poles were planted around the top of the wall of snow, sloping and converging. On these poles were spread the sheets of birch-bark; a bear-skin was hung in the passage-way for a door; the bare ground within and the surrounding snow were covered with spruce boughs; and the work was done.

[ 1 “S’il arriuoit quelque dégel, ô Dieu quelle peine! Il me sembloit que ie marchois sur vn chemin de verre qui se cassoit à tous coups soubs mes pieds: la neige congelée venant à s’amollir, tomboit et s’enfonçoit par esquarres ou grandes pieces, et nous en auions bien souuent iusques aux genoux, quelquefois iusqu’à la ceinture. Que s’il y auoit de la peine à tomber, il y en auoit encor plus à se retirer: car nos raquettes se chargeoient de neiges et se rendoient si pesantes, que quand vous veniez à les retirer il vous sembloit qu’on vous tiroit les iambes pour vous démembrer. I’en ay veu qui glissoient tellement soubs des souches enseuelies soubs la neige, qu’ils ne pouuoient tirer ny iambes ny raquettes sans secours: or figurez vous maintenant vne personne chargée comme vn mulet, et iugez si la vie des Sauuages est douce.”–Relation, 1634, 67. ]

This usually occupied about three hours, during which Le Jeune, spent with travel, and weakened by precarious and unaccustomed fare, had the choice of shivering in idleness, or taking part in a labor which fatigued, without warming, his exhausted frame. The sorcerer’s wife was in far worse case. Though in the extremity of a mortal sickness, they left her lying in the snow till the wigwam was made,–without a word, on her part, of remonstrance or complaint. Le Jeune, to the great ire of her husband, sometimes spent the interval in trying to convert her; but she proved intractable, and soon died unbaptized.

Thus lodged, they remained so long as game could be found within a circuit of ten or twelve miles, and then, subsistence failing, removed to another spot. Early in the winter, they hunted the beaver and the Canada porcupine; and, later, in the season of deep snows, chased the moose and the caribou.

Put aside the bear-skin, and enter the hut. Here, in a space some thirteen feet square, were packed nineteen savages, men, women, and children, with their dogs, crouched, squatted, coiled like hedgehogs, or lying on their backs, with knees drawn up perpendicularly to keep their feet out of the fire. Le Jeune, always methodical, arranges the grievances inseparable from these rough quarters under four chief heads,–Cold, Heat, Smoke, and Dogs. The bark covering was full of crevices, through which the icy blasts streamed in upon him from all sides; and the hole above, at once window and chimney, was so large, that, as he lay, he could watch the stars as well as in the open air. While the fire in the midst, fed with fat pine-knots, scorched him on one side, on the other he had much ado to keep himself from freezing. At times, however, the crowded hut seemed heated to the temperature of an oven. But these evils were light, when compared to the intolerable plague of smoke. During a snow-storm, and often at other times, the wigwam was filled with fumes so dense, stifling, and acrid, that all its inmates were forced to lie flat on their faces, breathing through mouths in contact with the cold earth. Their throats and nostrils felt as if on fire; their scorched eyes streamed with tears; and when Le Jeune tried to read, the letters of his breviary seemed printed in blood. The dogs were not an unmixed evil, for, by sleeping on and around him, they kept him warm at night; but, as an offset to this good service, they walked, ran, and jumped over him as he lay, snatched the food from his birchen dish, or, in a mad rush at some bone or discarded morsel, now and then overset both dish and missionary.

Sometimes of an evening he would leave the filthy den, to read his breviary in peace by the light of the moon. In the forest around sounded the sharp crack of frost-riven trees; and from the horizon to the zenith shot up the silent meteors of the northern lights, in whose fitful flashings the awe-struck Indians beheld the dancing of the spirits of the dead. The cold gnawed him to the bone; and, his devotions over, he turned back shivering. The illumined hut, from many a chink and crevice, shot forth into the gloom long streams of light athwart the twisted boughs. He stooped and entered. All within glowed red and fiery around the blazing pine-knots where, like brutes in their kennel, were gathered the savage crew. He stepped to his place, over recumbent bodies and leggined and moccasined limbs, and seated himself on the carpet of spruce boughs. Here a tribulation awaited him, the crowning misery of his winter-quarters,–worse, as he declares, than cold, heat, and dogs.

Of the three brothers who had invited him to join the party, one, we have seen, was the hunter, Mestigoit; another, the sorcerer; and the third, Pierre, whom, by reason of his falling away from the Faith, Le Jeune always mentions as the Apostate. He was a weak-minded young Indian, wholly under the influence of his brother, the sorcerer, who, if not more vicious, was far more resolute and wily. From the antagonism of their respective professions, the sorcerer hated the priest, who lost no opportunity of denouncing his incantations, and who ridiculed his perpetual singing and drumming as puerility and folly. The former, being an indifferent hunter, and disabled by a disease which he had contracted, depended for subsistence on his credit as a magician; and, in undermining it, Le Jeune not only outraged his pride, but threatened his daily bread. [ 1 ] He used every device to retort ridicule on his rival. At the outset, he had proffered his aid to Le Jeune in his study of the Algonquin; and, like the Indian practical jokers of Acadia in the case of Father Biard, [ See “Pioneers of France,” 268. ] palmed off upon him the foulest words in the language as the equivalent of things spiritual. Thus it happened, that, while the missionary sought to explain to the assembled wigwam some point of Christian doctrine, he was interrupted by peals of laughter from men, children, and squaws. And now, as Le Jeune took his place in the circle, the sorcerer bent upon him his malignant eyes, and began that course of rude bantering which filled to overflowing the cup of the Jesuit’s woes. All took their cue from him, and made their afflicted guest the butt of their inane witticisms. “Look at him! His face is like a dog’s!”–“His head is like a pumpkin!”– “He has a beard like a rabbit’s!” The missionary bore in silence these and countless similar attacks; indeed, so sorely was he harassed, that, lest he should exasperate his tormentor, he sometimes passed whole days without uttering a word. [ 2 ]

[ 1 “Ie ne laissois perdre aucune occasion de le conuaincre de niaiserie et de puerilité, mettant au iour l’impertinence de ses superstitions: or c’estoit luy arracher l’ame du corps par violence: car comme il ne sçauroit plus chasser, il fait plus que iamais du Prophete et du Magicien pour conseruer son credit, et pour auoir les bons morceaux; si bien qu’esbranlant son authorité qui se va perdant tous les iours, ie le touchois à la prunelle de l’œil.”–Relation, 1634, 56. ]

[ 2 Relation, 1634, 207 (Cramoisy). “Ils me chargeoient incessament de mille brocards & de mille injures; je me suis veu en tel estat, que pour ne les aigrir, je passois les jours entiers sans ouvrir la bouche.” Here follows the abuse, in the original Indian, with French translations. Le Jeune’s account of his experiences is singularly graphic. The following is his summary of his annoyances:–

“Or ce miserable homme” (the sorcerer), “& la fumée m’ont esté les deux plus grands tourmens que i’aye enduré parmy ces Barbares: ny le froid, ny le chaud, ny l’incommodité des chiens, ny coucher à l’air, ny dormir sur un lict de terre, ny la posture qu’il faut tousiours tenir dans leurs cabanes, se ramassans en peloton, ou se couchans, ou s’asseans sans siege & sans mattelas, ny la faim, ny la soif, ny la pauureté & saleté de leur boucan, ny la maladie, tout cela ne m’a semblé que ieu à comparaison de la fumée & de la malice du Sorcier.”–Relation, 1634, 201 (Cramoisy). ]

Le Jeune, a man of excellent observation, already knew his red associates well enough to understand that their rudeness did not of necessity imply ill-will. The rest of the party, in their turn fared no better. They rallied and bantered each other incessantly, with as little forbearance, and as little malice, as a troop of unbridled schoolboys. [ 1 ] No one took offence. To have done so would have been to bring upon one’s self genuine contumely. This motley household was a model of harmony. True, they showed no tenderness or consideration towards the sick and disabled; but for the rest, each shared with all in weal or woe: the famine of one was the famine of the whole, and the smallest portion of food was distributed in fair and equal partition. Upbraidings and complaints were unheard; they bore each other’s foibles with wondrous equanimity; and while persecuting Le Jeune with constant importunity for tobacco, and for everything else he had, they never begged among themselves.

[ 1 “Leur vie se passe à manger, à ire, et à railler les vns des autres, et de tous les peuples qu’ils cognoissent; ils n’ont rien de serieux, sinon par fois l’exterieur, faisans parmy nous les graues et les retenus, mais entr’eux sont de vrais badins, de vrais enfans, qui ne demandent qu’à rire.”–Relation, 1634, 30. ]

When the fire burned well and food was abundant, their conversation, such as it was, was incessant. They used no oaths, for their language supplied none,–doubtless because their mythology had no beings sufficiently distinct to swear by. Their expletives were foul words, of which they had a superabundance, and which men, women, and children alike used with a frequency and hardihood that amazed and scandalized the priest. [ 1 ] Nor was he better pleased with their postures, in which they consulted nothing but their ease. Thus, of an evening when the wigwam was heated to suffocation, the sorcerer, in the closest possible approach to nudity, lay on his back, with his right knee planted upright and his left leg crossed on it, discoursing volubly to the company, who, on their part, listened in postures scarcely less remote from decency.

[ 1 “Aussi leur disois-je par fois, que si les pourceaux et les chiens sçauoient parler, ils tiendroient leur langage. . . . Les filles et les ieunes femmes sont à l’exterieur tres honnestement couuertes, mais entre elles leurs discours sont puants, comme des cloaques.”–Relation, 1634, 32.–The social manners of remote tribes of the present time correspond perfectly with Le Jeune’s account of those of the Montagnais. ]

There was one point touching which Le Jeune and his Jesuit brethren had as yet been unable to solve their doubts. Were the Indian sorcerers mere impostors, or were they in actual league with the Devil? That the fiends who possess this land of darkness make their power felt by action direct and potential upon the persons of its wretched inhabitants there is, argues Le Jeune, good reason to conclude; since it is a matter of grave notoriety, that the fiends who infest Brazil are accustomed cruelly to beat and otherwise torment the natives of that country, as many travellers attest. “A Frenchman worthy of credit,” pursues the Father, “has told me that he has heard with his own ears the voice of the Demon and the sound of the blows which he discharges upon these his miserable slaves; and in reference to this a very remarkable fact has been reported to me, namely, that, when a Catholic approaches, the Devil takes flight and beats these wretches no longer, but that in presence of a Huguenot he does not stop beating them.”

[ “Surquoy on me rapporte vne chose tres remarquable, c’est que le Diable s’enfuit, et ne frappe point ou cesse de frapper ces miserables, quand vn Catholique entre en leur compagnie, et qu’il ne laisse point de les battre en la presence d’vn Huguenot: d’où vient qu’vn iour se voyans battus en la compagnie d’vn certain François, ils luy dirent: Nous nous estonnons qua le diable nous batte, toy estant auec nous, veu qu’il n’oseroit le faire quand tes compagnons sont presents. Luy se douta incontinent que cela pouuoit prouenir de sa religion (car il estoit Caluiniste); s’addressant donc à Dieu, il luy promit de se faire Catholique si le diable cessoit de battre ces pauures peuples en sa presence. Le vœu fait, iamais plus aucun Demon ne molesta Ameriquain en sa compagnie, d’où vient qu’il se fit Catholique, selon la promesse qu’il en auoit faicte. Mais retournons à nostre discours.”–Relation, 1634, 22. ]

Thus prone to believe in the immediate presence of the nether powers, Le Jeune watched the sorcerer with an eye prepared to discover in his conjurations the signs of a genuine diabolic agency. His observations, however, led him to a different result; and he could detect in his rival nothing but a vile compound of impostor and dupe. The sorcerer believed in the efficacy of his own magic, and was continually singing and beating his drum to cure the disease from which he was suffering. Towards the close of the winter, Le Jeune fell sick, and, in his pain and weakness, nearly succumbed under the nocturnal uproar of the sorcerer, who, hour after hour, sang and drummed without mercy,–sometimes yelling at the top of his throat, then hissing like a serpent, then striking his drum on the ground as if in a frenzy, then leaping up, raving about the wigwam, and calling on the women and children to join him in singing. Now ensued a hideous din; for every throat was strained to the utmost, and all were beating with sticks or fists on the bark of the hut to increase the noise, with the charitable object of aiding the sorcerer to conjure down his malady, or drive away the evil spirit that caused it.

He had an enemy, a rival sorcerer, whom he charged with having caused by charms the disease that afflicted him. He therefore announced that he should kill him. As the rival dwelt at Gaspé, a hundred leagues off, the present execution of the threat might appear difficult; but distance was no bar to the vengeance of the sorcerer. Ordering all the children and all but one of the women to leave the wigwam, he seated himself, with the woman who remained, on the ground in the centre, while the men of the party, together with those from other wigwams in the neighborhood, sat in a ring around. Mestigoit, the sorcerer’s brother, then brought in the charm, consisting of a few small pieces of wood, some arrow-heads, a broken knife, and an iron hook, which he wrapped in a piece of hide. The woman next rose, and walked around the hut, behind the company. Mestigoit and the sorcerer now dug a large hole with two pointed stakes, the whole assembly singing, drumming, and howling meanwhile with a deafening uproar. The hole made, the charm, wrapped in the hide, was thrown into it. Pierre, the Apostate, then brought a sword and a knife to the sorcerer, who, seizing them, leaped into the hole, and, with furious gesticulation, hacked and stabbed at the charm, yelling with the whole force of his lungs. At length he ceased, displayed the knife and sword stained with blood, proclaimed that he had mortally wounded his enemy, and demanded if none present had heard his death-cry. The assembly, more occupied in making noises than in listening for them, gave no reply, till at length two young men declared that they had heard a faint scream, as if from a great distance; whereat a shout of gratulation and triumph rose from all the company.

[ “Le magicien tout glorieux dit que son homme est frappé, qu’il mourra bien tost, demande si on n’a point entendu ses cris: tout le monde dit que non, horsmis deux ieunes hommes ses parens, qui disent auoir ouy des plaintes fort sourdes, et comme de loing. O qu’ils le firent aise! Se tournant vers moy, il se mit à rire, disant: Voyez cette robe noire, qui nous vient dire qu’il ne faut tuer personne. Comme ie regardois attentiuement l’espée et le poignard, il me les fit presenter: Regarde, dit-il, qu’est cela? C’est du sang, repartis-ie. De qui? De quelque Orignac ou d’autre animal. Ils se mocquerent de moy, disants que c’estoit du sang de ce Sorcier de Gaspé. Comment, dis-je, il est à plus de cent lieuës d’icy? Il est vray, font-ils, mais c’est le Manitou, c’est à dire le Diable, qui apporte son sang pardessous la terre.”– Relation, 1634, 21. ]

There was a young prophet, or diviner, in one of the neighboring huts, of whom the sorcerer took counsel as to the prospect of his restoration to health. The divining-lodge was formed, in this instance, of five or six upright posts planted in a circle and covered with a blanket. The prophet ensconced himself within; and after a long interval of singing, the spirits declared their presence by their usual squeaking utterances from the recesses of the mystic tabernacle. Their responses were not unfavorable; and the sorcerer drew much consolation from the invocations of his brother impostor. [ See Introduction. Also, “Pioneers of France,” 315. ]

Besides his incessant endeavors to annoy Le Jeune, the sorcerer now and then tried to frighten him. On one occasion, when a period of starvation had been followed by a successful hunt, the whole party assembled for one of the gluttonous feasts usual with them at such times. While the guests sat expectant, and the squaws were about to ladle out the banquet, the sorcerer suddenly leaped up, exclaiming, that he had lost his senses, and that knives and hatchets must be kept out of his way, as he had a mind to kill somebody. Then, rolling his eyes towards Le Jeune, he began a series of frantic gestures and outcries,–then stopped abruptly and stared into vacancy, silent and motionless,–then resumed his former clamor, raged in and out of the hut, and, seizing some of its supporting poles, broke them, as if in an uncontrollable frenzy. The missionary, though alarmed, sat reading his breviary as before. When, however, on the next morning, the sorcerer began again to play the maniac, the thought occurred to him, that some stroke of fever might in truth have touched his brain. Accordingly, he approached him and felt his pulse, which he found, in his own words, “as cool as a fish.” The pretended madman looked at him with astonishment, and, giving over the attempt to frighten him, presently returned to his senses.

[ The Indians, it is well known, ascribe mysterious and supernatural powers to the insane, and respect them accordingly. The Neutral Nation (see Introduction, “The Huron-Iroquois Family” (p. xliv)) was full of pretended madmen, who raved about the villages, throwing firebrands, and making other displays of frenzy. ]

Le Jeune, robbed of his sleep by the ceaseless thumping of the sorcerer’s drum and the monotonous cadence of his medicine-songs, improved the time in attempts to convert him. “I began,” he says, “by evincing a great love for him, and by praises, which I threw to him as a bait whereby I might catch him in the net of truth.” [ 1 ] But the Indian, though pleased with the Father’s flatteries, was neither caught nor conciliated.

[ “Ie commençay par vn témoignage de grand amour en son endroit, et par des loüanges que ie luy iettay comme vne amorce pour le prendre dans les filets de la verité. Ie luy fis entendre que si vn esprit, capable des choses grandes comme le sien, cognoissoit Dieu, que tous les Sauuages induis par son exemple le voudroient aussi cognoistre.”–Relation, 1634, 71. ]

Nowhere was his magic in more requisition than in procuring a successful chase to the hunters,–a point of vital interest, since on it hung the lives of the whole party. They often, however, returned empty-handed; and, for one, two, or three successive days, no other food could be had than the bark of trees or scraps of leather. So long as tobacco lasted, they found solace in their pipes, which seldom left their lips. “Unhappy infidels,” writes Le Jeune, “who spend their lives in smoke, and their eternity in flames!”

As Christmas approached, their condition grew desperate. Beavers and porcupines were scarce, and the snow was not deep enough for hunting the moose. Night and day the medicine-drums and medicine-songs resounded from the wigwams, mingled with the wail of starving children. The hunters grew weak and emaciated; and, as after a forlorn march the wanderers encamped once more in the lifeless forest, the priest remembered that it was the eve of Christmas. “The Lord gave us for our supper a porcupine, large as a sucking pig, and also a rabbit. It was not much, it is true, for eighteen or nineteen persons; but the Holy Virgin and St. Joseph, her glorious spouse, were not so well treated, on this very day, in the stable of Bethlehem.”

[ “Pour nostre souper, N. S. nous donna vn Porc-espic gros comme vn cochon de lait, et vn liéure; c’estoit peu pour dix-huit ou vingt personnes que nous estions, il est vray, mais la saincte Vierge et son glorieux Espoux sainct Ioseph ne furent pas si bien traictez à mesme iour dans l’estable de Bethleem.”–Relation, 1634, 74. ]

On Christmas Day, the despairing hunters, again unsuccessful, came to pray succor from Le Jeune. Even the Apostate had become tractable, and the famished sorcerer was ready to try the efficacy of an appeal to the deity of his rival. A bright hope possessed the missionary. He composed two prayers, which, with the aid of the repentant Pierre, he translated into Algonquin. Then he hung against the side of the hut a napkin which he had brought with him, and against the napkin a crucifix and a reliquary, and, this done, caused all the Indians to kneel before them, with hands raised and clasped. He now read one of the prayers, and required the Indians to repeat the other after him, promising to renounce their superstitions, and obey Christ, whose image they saw before them, if he would give them food and save them from perishing. The pledge given, he dismissed the hunters with a benediction. At night they returned with game enough to relieve the immediate necessity. All was hilarity. The kettles were slung, and the feasters assembled. Le Jeune rose to speak, when Pierre, who, having killed nothing, was in ill humor, said, with a laugh, that the crucifix and the prayer had nothing to do with their good luck; while the sorcerer, his jealousy reviving as he saw his hunger about to be appeased, called out to the missionary, “Hold your tongue! You have no sense!” As usual, all took their cue from him. They fell to their repast with ravenous jubilation, and the disappointed priest sat dejected and silent.

Repeatedly, before the spring, they were thus threatened with starvation. Nor was their case exceptional. It was the ordinary winter life of all those Northern tribes who did not till the soil, but lived by hunting and fishing alone. The desertion or the killing of the aged, sick, and disabled, occasional cannibalism, and frequent death from famine, were natural incidents of an existence which, during half the year, was but a desperate pursuit of the mere necessaries of life under the worst conditions of hardship, suffering, and debasement.

At the beginning of April, after roaming for five months among forests and mountains, the party made their last march, regained the bank of the St. Lawrence, and waded to the island where they had hidden their canoes. Le Jeune was exhausted and sick, and Mestigoit offered to carry him in his canoe to Quebec. This Indian was by far the best of the three brothers, and both Pierre and the sorcerer looked to him for support. He was strong, active, and daring, a skilful hunter, and a dexterous canoeman. Le Jeune gladly accepted his offer; embarked with him and Pierre on the dreary and tempestuous river; and, after a voyage full of hardship, during which the canoe narrowly escaped being ground to atoms among the floating ice, landed on the Island of Orleans, six miles from Quebec. The afternoon was stormy and dark, and the river was covered with ice, sweeping by with the tide. They were forced to encamp. At midnight, the moon had risen, the river was comparatively unencumbered, and they embarked once more. The wind increased, and the waves tossed furiously. Nothing saved them but the skill and courage of Mestigoit. At length they could see the rock of Quebec towering through the gloom, but piles of ice lined the shore, while floating masses were drifting down on the angry current. The Indian watched his moment, shot his canoe through them, gained the fixed ice, leaped out, and shouted to his companions to follow. Pierre scrambled up, but the ice was six feet out of the water, and Le Jeune’s agility failed him. He saved himself by clutching the ankle of Mestigoit, by whose aid he gained a firm foothold at the top, and, for a moment, the three voyagers, aghast at the narrowness of their escape, stood gazing at each other in silence.

It was three o’clock in the morning when Le Jeune knocked at the door of his rude little convent on the St. Charles; and the Fathers, springing in joyful haste from their slumbers, embraced their long absent Superior with ejaculations of praise and benediction.


1633, 1634.



Le Jeune had learned the difficulties of the Algonquin mission. To imagine that he recoiled or faltered would be an injustice to his Order; but on two points he had gained convictions: first, that little progress could be made in converting these wandering hordes till they could be settled in fixed abodes; and, secondly, that their scanty numbers, their geographical position, and their slight influence in the politics of the wilderness offered no flattering promise that their conversion would be fruitful in further triumphs of the Faith. It was to another quarter that the Jesuits looked most earnestly. By the vast lakes of the West dwelt numerous stationary populations, and particularly the Hurons, on the lake which bears their name. Here was a hopeful basis of indefinite conquests; for, the Hurons won over, the Faith would spread in wider and wider circles, embracing, one by one, the kindred tribes,–the Tobacco Nation, the Neutrals, the Eries, and the Andastes. Nay, in His own time, God might lead into His fold even the potent and ferocious Iroquois.

The way was pathless and long, by rock and torrent and the gloom of savage forests. The goal was more dreary yet. Toil, hardship, famine, filth, sickness, solitude, insult,–all that is most revolting to men nurtured among arts and letters, all that is most terrific to monastic credulity: such were the promise and the reality of the Huron mission. In the eyes of the Jesuits, the Huron country was the innermost stronghold of Satan, his castle and his donjon-keep. [ “Une des principales forteresses & comme un donjon des Demons.”–Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 100 (Cramoisy). ] All the weapons of his malice were prepared against the bold invader who should assail him in this, the heart of his ancient domain. Far from shrinking, the priest’s zeal rose to tenfold ardor. He signed the cross, invoked St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, or St. Francis Borgia, kissed his reliquary, said nine masses to the Virgin, and stood prompt to battle with all the hosts of Hell.

A life sequestered from social intercourse, and remote from every prize which ambition holds worth the pursuit, or a lonely death, under forms, perhaps, the most appalling,–these were the missionaries’ alternatives. Their maligners may taunt them, if they will, with credulity, superstition, or a blind enthusiasm; but slander itself cannot accuse them of hypocrisy or ambition. Doubtless, in their propagandism, they were acting in concurrence with a mundane policy; but, for the present at least, this policy was rational and humane. They were promoting the ends of commerce and national expansion. The foundations of French dominion were to be laid deep in the heart and conscience of the savage. His stubborn neck was to be subdued to the “yoke of the Faith.” The power of the priest established, that of the temporal ruler was secure. These sanguinary hordes, weaned from intestine strife, were to unite in a common allegiance to God and the King. Mingled with French traders and French settlers, softened by French manners, guided by French priests, ruled by French officers, their now divided bands would become the constituents of a vast wilderness empire, which in time might span the continent. Spanish civilization crushed the Indian; English civilization scorned and neglected him; French civilization embraced and cherished him.

Policy and commerce, then, built their hopes on the priests. These commissioned interpreters of the Divine Will, accredited with letters patent from Heaven, and affiliated to God’s anointed on earth, would have pushed to its most unqualified application the Scripture metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep. They would have tamed the wild man of the woods to a condition of obedience, unquestioning, passive, and absolute,– repugnant to manhood, and adverse to the invigorating and expansive spirit of modern civilization. Yet, full of error and full of danger as was their system, they embraced its serene and smiling falsehoods with the sincerity of martyrs and the self-devotion of saints.

We have spoken already of the Hurons, of their populous villages on the borders of the great “Fresh Sea,” their trade, their rude agriculture, their social life, their wild and incongruous superstitions, and the sorcerers, diviners, and medicine-men who lived on their credulity. [ See Introduction. ] Iroquois hostility left open but one avenue to their country, the long and circuitous route which, eighteen years before, had been explored by Champlain, [ “Pioneers of France,” 364. ]–up the river Ottawa, across Lake Nipissing, down French River, and along the shores of the great Georgian Bay of Lake Huron,–a route as difficult as it was tedious. Midway, on Allumette Island, in the Ottawa, dwelt the Algonquin tribe visited by Champlain in 1613, and who, amazed at the apparition of the white stranger, thought that he had fallen from the clouds. [ “Pioneers of France,” 348. ] Like other tribes of this region, they were keen traders, and would gladly have secured for themselves the benefits of an intermediate traffic between the Hurons and the French, receiving the furs of the former in barter at a low rate, and exchanging them with the latter at their full value. From their position, they could at any time close the passage of the Ottawa; but, as this would have been a perilous exercise of their rights, [ 1 ] they were forced to act with discretion. An opportunity for the practice of their diplomacy had lately occurred. On or near the Ottawa, at some distance below them, dwelt a small Algonquin tribe, called _La Petite Nation_. One of this people had lately killed a Frenchman, and the murderer was now in the hands of Champlain, a prisoner at the fort of Quebec. The savage politicians of Allumette Island contrived, as will soon be seen, to turn this incident to profit.

[ 1 Nevertheless, the Hurons always passed this way as a matter of favor, and gave yearly presents to the Algonquins of the island, in acknowledgment of the privilege–Le Jeune, Relation, 1636, 70.–By the unwritten laws of the Hurons and Algonquins, every tribe had the right, even in full peace, of prohibiting the passage of every other tribe across its territory. In ordinary cases, such prohibitions were quietly submitted to.

“Ces Insulaires voudraient bien que les Hurons ne vinssent point aux François & que les François n’allassent point aux Hurons, afin d’emporter eux seuls tout le trafic,” etc.–Relation, 1633, 205 (Cramoisy),– “desirans eux-mesmes aller recueiller les marchandises des peuples circonvoisins pour les apporter aux François.” This “Nation de l’Isle” has been erroneously located at Montreal. Its true position is indicated on the map of Du Creux, and on an ancient MS. map in the Dépôt des Cartes, of which a fac-simile is before me. See also “Pioneers of France,” 347. ]

In the July that preceded Le Jeune’s wintering with the Montagnais, a Huron Indian, well known to the French, came to Quebec with the tidings, that the annual canoe-fleet of his countrymen was descending the St. Lawrence. On the twenty-eighth, the river was alive with them. A hundred and forty canoes, with six or seven hundred savages, landed at the warehouses beneath the fortified rock of Quebec, and set up their huts and camp-sheds on the strand now covered by the lower town. The greater number brought furs and tobacco for the trade; others came as sight-seers; others to gamble, and others to steal, [ 1 ] –accomplishments in which the Hurons were proficient: their gambling skill being exercised chiefly against each other, and their thieving talents against those of other nations.

[ 1 “Quelques vns d’entre eux ne viennent à la traite auec les François que pour iouër, d’autres pour voir, quelques vns pour dérober, et les plus sages et les plus riches pour trafiquer.”–Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 34. ]

The routine of these annual visits was nearly uniform. On the first day, the Indians built their huts; on the second, they held their council with the French officers at the fort; on the third and fourth, they bartered