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Antoine Daniel

 Native American Nations | The Jesuits in North America                   

 

In the summer of 1647 the Huron dared not go down to the French settlements, but in the following year they took heart, and resolved at all risks to make the attempt; for the kettles, hatchets, and knives of the traders had become necessaries of life. Two hundred and fifty of their best warriors therefore embarked, under five valiant chiefs. They made the voyage in safety, approached Three Rivers on the seventeenth of July, and, running their canoes ashore among the bulrushes, began to grease their hair, paint their faces, and otherwise adorn themselves, that they might appear after a befitting fashion at the fort. While they were thus engaged, the alarm was sounded. Some of their warriors had discovered a large body of Iroquois, who for several days had been lurking in the forest, unknown to the French garrison, watching their opportunity to strike a blow. The Huron snatched their arms, and, half-greased and painted, ran to meet them. The Iroquois received them with a volley. They fell flat to avoid the shot, then leaped up with a furious yell, and sent back a shower of arrows and bullets. The Iroquois, who were outnumbered, gave way and fled, excepting a few who for a time made fight with their knives. The Huron pursued. Many prisoners were taken, and many dead left on the field. [Lalemant, Relation, 1648, 11. The Jesuit Bressani had come down with the Huron, and was with them in the fight.] The rout of the enemy was complete; and when their trade was ended, the Huron returned home in triumph, decorated with the laurels and the scalps of victory. As it proved, it would have been well, had they remained there to defend their families and firesides.

The oft-mentioned town of Teanaustayé, or St. Joseph, lay on the south-eastern frontier of the Huron country, near the foot of a range of forest-covered hills, and about fifteen miles from Sainte Marie. It had been the chief town of the nation, and its population, by the Indian standard, was still large; for it had four hundred families, and at least two thousand inhabitants. It was well fortified with palisades, after the Huron manner, and was esteemed the chief bulwark of the country. Here countless Iroquois had been burned and devoured. Its people had been truculent and intractable heathen, but many of them had surrendered to the Faith, and for four years past Father Daniel had preached among them with excellent results.

On the morning of the fourth of July, when the forest around basked lazily in the early sun, you might have mounted the rising ground on which the town stood, and passed unchallenged through the opening in the palisade. Within, you would have seen the crowded dwellings of bark, shaped like the arched coverings of huge baggage-wagons, and decorated with the totems or armorial devices of their owners daubed on the outside with paint. Here some squalid wolfish dog lay sleeping in the sun, a group of Huron girls chatted together in the shade, old squaws pounded corn in large wooden mortars, idle youths gambled with cherry stones on a wooden platter, and naked infants crawled in the dust. Scarcely a warrior was to be seen. Some were absent in quest of game or of Iroquois scalps, and some had gone with the trading-party to the French settlements. You followed the foul passage-ways among the houses, and at length came to the church. It was full to the door. Daniel had just finished the mass, and his flock still knelt at their devotions. It was but the day before that he had returned to them, warmed with new fervor, from his meditations in retreat at Sainte Marie. Suddenly an uproar of voices, shrill with terror, burst upon the languid silence of the town. "The Iroquois! the Iroquois!" A crowd of hostile warriors had issued from the forest, and were rushing across the clearing, towards the opening in the palisade. Daniel ran out of the church, and hurried to the point of danger. Some snatched weapons; some rushed to and fro in the madness of a blind panic. The priest rallied the defenders; promised Heaven to those who died for their homes and their faith; then hastened from house to house, calling on unbelievers to repent and receive baptism, to snatch them from the Hell that yawned to ingulf them. They crowded around him, imploring to be saved; and, immersing his handkerchief in a bowl of water, he shook it over them, and baptized them by aspersion. They pursued him, as he ran again to the church, where he found a throng of women, children, and old men, gathered as in a sanctuary. Some cried for baptism, some held out their children to receive it, some begged for absolution, and some wailed in terror and despair. "Brothers," he exclaimed again and again, as he shook the baptismal drops from his handkerchief,--"brothers, to-day we shall be in Heaven."

The fierce yell of the war-whoop now rose close at hand. The palisade was forced, and the enemy was in the town. The air quivered with the infernal din. "Fly!" screamed the priest, driving his flock before him. "I will stay here. We shall meet again in Heaven." Many of them escaped through an opening in the palisade opposite to that by which the Iroquois had entered; but Daniel would not follow, for there still might be souls to rescue from perdition. The hour had come for which he had long prepared himself. In a moment he saw the Iroquois, and came forth from the church to meet them. When they saw him in turn, radiant in the vestments of his office, confronting them with a look kindled with the inspiration of martyrdom, they stopped and stared in amazement; then recovering themselves, bent their bows, and showered him with a volley of arrows, that tore through his robes and his flesh. A gun shot followed; the ball pierced his heart, and he fell dead, gasping the name of Jesus. They rushed upon him with yells of triumph, stripped him naked, gashed and hacked his lifeless body, and, scooping his blood in their hands, bathed their faces in it to make them brave. The town was in a blaze; when the flames reached the church, they flung the priest into it, and both were consumed together.

[Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1649, 3-5; Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 247; Du Creux, Historia Canadensis, 524; Tanner, Societas Jesu Militans, 531; Marie de l'Incarnation, Lettre aux Ursulines de Tours, Quebec, 1649.

Daniel was born at Dieppe, and was forty-eight years old at the time of his death. He had been a Jesuit from the age of twenty.]

Teanaustayé was a heap of ashes, and the victors took up their march with a train of nearly seven hundred prisoners, many of whom they killed on the way. Many more had been slain in the town and the neighboring forest, where the pursuers hunted them down, and where women, crouching for refuge among thickets, were betrayed by the cries and wailing of their infants.

The triumph of the Iroquois did not end here; for a neighboring fortified town, included within the circle of Daniel's mission, shared the fate of Teanaustayé. Never had the Huron nation received such a blow.


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