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The Iroquois, Bressani, De Nouë

 Native American Nations | The Jesuits in North America                    

 

Two forces were battling for the mastery of Canada: on the one side, Christ, the Virgin, and the Angels, with their agents, the priests; on the other, the Devil, and his tools, the Iroquois. Such at least was the view of the case held in full faith, not by the Jesuit Fathers alone, but by most of the colonists. Never before had the fiend put forth such rage, and in the Iroquois he found instruments of a nature not uncongenial with his own.

At Quebec, Three Rivers, Montreal, and the little fort of Richelieu, that is to say, in all Canada, no man could hunt, fish, till the fields, or cut a tree in the forest, without peril to his scalp. The Iroquois were everywhere, and nowhere. A yell, a volley of bullets, a rush of screeching savages, and all was over. The soldiers hastened to the spot to find silence, solitude, and a mangled corpse.

"I had as lief," writes Father Vimont, "be beset by goblins as by the Iroquois. The one are about as invisible as the other. Our people on the Richelieu and at Montreal are kept in a closer confinement than ever were monks or nuns in our smallest convents in France."

The Confederates at this time were in a flush of unparalleled audacity. They despised white men as base poltroons, and esteemed themselves warriors and heroes, destined to conquer all mankind.1 The fire-arms with which the Dutch had rashly supplied them, joined to their united councils, their courage, and ferocity, gave them an advantage over the surrounding tribes which they fully understood. Their passions rose with their sense of power. They boasted that they would wipe the Hurons, the Algonquins, and the French from the face of the earth, and carry the "white girls," meaning the nuns, to their villages. This last event, indeed, seemed more than probable; and the Hospital nuns left their exposed station at Sillery, and withdrew to the ramparts and palisades of Quebec. The St. Lawrence and the Ottawa were so infested, that communication with the Huron country was cut off; and three times the annual packet of letters sent thither to the missionaries fell into the hands of the Iroquois.

It was towards the close of the year 1640 that the scourge of Iroquois war had begun to fall heavily on the French. At that time, a party of their warriors waylaid and captured Thomas Godefroy and François Marguerie, the latter a young man of great energy and daring, familiar with the woods, a master of the Algonquin language, and a scholar of no mean acquirements. [During his captivity, he wrote, on a beaver-skin, a letter to the Dutch in French, Latin, and English.] To the great joy of the colonists, he and his companion were brought back to Three Rivers by their captors, and given up, in the vain hope that the French would respond with a gift of fire-arms. Their demand for them being declined, they broke off the parley in a rage, fortified themselves, fired on the French, and withdrew under cover of night.

Open war now ensued, and for a time all was bewilderment and terror. How to check the inroads of an enemy so stealthy and so keen for blood was the problem that taxed the brain of Montmagny, the Governor. He thought he had found a solution, when he conceived the plan of building a fort at the mouth of the River Richelieu, by which the Iroquois always made their descents to the St. Lawrence. Happily for the perishing colony, the Cardinal de Richelieu, in 1642, sent out thirty or forty soldiers for its defence. [Faillon, Colonie Française, II. 2; Vimont, Relation, 1642, 2, 44.] Ten times the number would have been scarcely sufficient; but even this slight succor was hailed with delight, and Montmagny was enabled to carry into effect his plan of the fort, for which hitherto he had had neither builders nor garrison. He took with him, besides the new-comers, a body of soldiers and armed laborers from Quebec, and, with a force of about a hundred men in all, [Marie de l'Incarnation, Lettre, Sept. 29, 1642.] sailed for the Richelieu, in a brigantine and two or three open boats.

On the thirteenth of August he reached his destination, and landed where the town of Sorel now stands. It was but eleven days before that Jogues and his companions had been captured, and Montmagny's followers found ghastly tokens of the disaster. The heads of the slain were stuck on poles by the side of the river; and several trees, from which portions of the bark had been peeled, were daubed with the rude picture-writing in which the victors recorded their exploit.2 Among the rest, a representation of Jogues himself was clearly distinguishable. The heads were removed, the trees cut down, and a large cross planted on the spot. An altar was raised, and all heard mass; then a volley of musketry was fired; and then they fell to their work. They hewed an opening into the forest, dug up the roots, cleared the ground, and cut, shaped, and planted palisades. Thus a week passed, and their defenses were nearly completed, when suddenly the war-whoop rang in their ears, and two hundred Iroquois rushed upon them from the borders of the clearing. [The Relation of 1642 says three hundred. Jogues who had been among them to his cost, is the better authority.]

It was the party of warriors that Jogues had met on an island in Lake Champlain. But for the courage of Du Rocher, a corporal, who was on guard, they would have carried all before them. They were rushing through an opening in the palisade, when he, with a few soldiers, met them with such vigor and resolution, that they were held in check long enough for the rest to snatch their arms. Montmagny, who was on the river in his brigantine, hastened on shore, and the soldiers, encouraged by his arrival, fought with great determination.

The Iroquois, on their part, swarmed up to the palisade, thrust their guns through the loop-holes, and fired on those within; nor was it till several of them had been killed and others wounded that they learned to keep a more prudent distance. A tall savage, wearing a crest of the hair of some animal, dyed scarlet and bound with a fillet of wampum, leaped forward to the attack, and was shot dead. Another shared his fate, with seven buck-shot in his shield, and as many in his body. The French, with shouts, redoubled their fire, and the Indians at length lost heart and fell back. The wounded dropped guns, shields, and war-clubs, and the whole band withdrew to the shelter of a fort which they had built in the forest, three miles above. On the part of the French, one man was killed and four wounded. They had narrowly escaped a disaster which might have proved the ruin of the colony; and they now gained time so far to strengthen their defences as to make them reasonably secure against any attack of savages.3 The new fort, however, did not effectually answer its purpose of stopping the inroads of the Iroquois. They would land a mile or more above it, carry their canoes through the forest across an intervening tongue of land, and then launch them in the St. Lawrence, while the garrison remained in total ignorance of their movements.

While the French were thus beset, their Indian allies fared still worse. The effect of Iroquois hostilities on all the Algonquin tribes of Canada, from the Saguenay to the Lake of the Nipissings, had become frightfully apparent. Famine and pestilence had aided the ravages of war, till these wretched bands seemed in the course of rapid extermination. Their spirit was broken. They became humble and docile in the hands of the missionaries, ceased their railings against the new doctrine, and leaned on the French as their only hope in this extremity of woe. Sometimes they would appear in troops at Sillery or Three Rivers, scared out of their forests by the sight of an Iroquois footprint; then some new terror would seize them, and drive them back to seek a hiding-place in the deepest thickets of the wilderness. Their best hunting-grounds were beset by the enemy. They starved for weeks together, subsisting on the bark of trees or the thongs of raw hide which formed the net-work of their snow-shoes. The mortality among them was prodigious. "Where, eight years ago," writes Father Vimont, "one would see a hundred wigwams, one now sees scarcely five or six. A chief who once had eight hundred warriors has now but thirty or forty; and in place of fleets of three or four hundred canoes, we see less than a tenth of that number." [Relation, 1644, 8.]

These Canadian tribes were undergoing that process of extermination, absorption, or expatriation, which, as there is reason to believe, had for many generations formed the gloomy and meaningless history of the greater part of this continent. Three or four hundred Dutch guns, in the hands of the conquerors, gave an unwonted quickness and decision to the work, but in no way changed its essential character. The horrible nature of this warfare can be known only through examples; and of these one or two will suffice.

A band of Algonquins, late in the autumn of 1641, set forth from Three Rivers on their winter hunt, and, fearful of the Iroquois, made their way far northward, into the depths of the forests that border the Ottawa. Here they thought themselves safe, built their lodges, and began to hunt the moose and beaver. But a large party of their enemies, with a persistent ferocity that is truly astonishing, had penetrated even here, found the traces of the snow-shoes, followed up their human prey, and hid at nightfall among the rocks and thickets around the encampment. At midnight, their yells and the blows of their war-clubs awakened their sleeping victims. In a few minutes all were in their power. They bound the prisoners hand and foot, rekindled the fire, slung the kettles, cut the bodies of the slain to pieces, and boiled and devoured them before the eyes of the wretched survivors. "In a word," says the narrator, "they ate men with as much appetite and more pleasure than hunters eat a boar or a stag." [Vimont, Relation, 1642, 46.]

Meanwhile they amused themselves with bantering their prisoners. "Uncle," said one of them to an old Algonquin, "you are a dead man. You are going to the land of souls. Tell them to take heart: they will have good company soon, for we are going to send all the rest of your nation to join them. This will be good news for them." [Vimont, Relation, 1642, 45.]

This old man, who is described as no less malicious than his captors, and even more crafty, soon after escaped, and brought tidings of the disaster to the French. In the following spring, two women of the party also escaped; and, after suffering almost incredible hardships, reached Three Rivers, torn with briers, nearly naked, and in a deplorable state of bodily and mental exhaustion. One of them told her story to Father Buteux, who translated it into French, and gave it to Vimont to be printed in the Relation of 1642. Revolting as it is, it is necessary to recount it. Suffice it to say, that it is sustained by the whole body of contemporary evidence in regard to the practices of the Iroquois and some of the neighboring tribes.

The conquerors feasted in the lodge till nearly daybreak, and then, after a short rest, began their march homeward with their prisoners. Among these were three women, of whom the narrator was one, who had each a child of a few weeks or months old. At the first halt, their captors took the infants from them, tied them to wooden spits, placed them to die slowly before a fire, and feasted on them before the eyes of the agonized mothers, whose shrieks, supplications, and frantic efforts to break the cords that bound them were met with mockery and laughter. "They are not men, they are wolves!" sobbed the wretched woman, as she told what had befallen her to the pitying Jesuit. [Vimont, Relation, 1642, 46.] At the Fall of the Chaudière, another of the women ended her woes by leaping into the cataract. When they approached the first Iroquois town, they were met, at the distance of several leagues, by a crowd of the inhabitants, and among them a troop of women, bringing food to regale the triumphant warriors. Here they halted, and passed the night in songs of victory, mingled with the dismal chant of the prisoners, who were forced to dance for their entertainment.

On the morrow, they entered the town, leading the captive Algonquins, fast bound, and surrounded by a crowd of men, women, and children, all singing at the top of their throats. The largest lodge was ready to receive them; and as they entered, the victims read their doom in the fires that blazed on the earthen floor, and in the aspect of the attendant savages, whom the Jesuit Father calls attendant demons, that waited their coming. The torture which ensued was but preliminary, designed to cause all possible suffering without touching life. It consisted in blows with sticks and cudgels, gashing their limbs with knives, cutting off their fingers with clam-shells, scorching them with firebrands, and other indescribable torments.4 The women were stripped naked, and forced to dance to the singing of the male prisoners, amid the applause and laughter of the crowd. They then gave them food, to strengthen them for further suffering.

On the following morning, they were placed on a large scaffold, in sight of the whole population. It was a gala-day. Young and old were gathered from far and near. Some mounted the scaffold, and scorched them with torches and firebrands; while the children, standing beneath the bark platform, applied fire to the feet of the prisoners between the crevices. The Algonquin women were told to burn their husbands and companions; and one of them obeyed, vainly thinking to appease her tormentors. The stoicism of one of the warriors enraged his captors beyond measure. "Scream! why don't you scream?" they cried, thrusting their burning brands at his naked body. "Look at me," he answered; "you cannot make me wince. If you were in my place, you would screech like babies." At this they fell upon him with redoubled fury, till their knives and firebrands left in him no semblance of humanity. He was defiant to the last, and when death came to his relief, they tore out his heart and devoured it; then hacked him in pieces, and made their feast of triumph on his mangled limbs.

[The diabolical practices described above were not peculiar to the Iroquois. The Neutrals and other kindred tribes were no whit less cruel. It is a remark of Mr. Gallatin, and I think a just one, that the Indians west of the Mississippi are less ferocious than those east of it. The burning of prisoners is rare among the prairie tribes, but is not unknown. An Ogillallah chief, in whose lodge I lived for several weeks in 1846, described to me, with most expressive pantomime, how he had captured and burned a warrior of the Snake Tribe, in a valley of the Medicine Bow Mountains, near which we were then encamped.]

All the men and all the old women of the party were put to death in a similar manner, though but few displayed the same amazing fortitude. The younger women, of whom there were about thirty, after passing their ordeal of torture, were permitted to live; and, disfigured as they were, were distributed among the several villages, as concubines or slaves to the Iroquois warriors. Of this number were the narrator and her companion, who, being ordered to accompany a war-party and carry their provisions, escaped at night into the forest, and reached Three Rivers, as we have seen.

While the Indian allies of the French were wasting away beneath this atrocious warfare, the French themselves, and especially the traveling Jesuits, had their full share of the infliction. In truth, the puny and sickly colony seemed in the gasps of dissolution. The beginning of spring, particularly, was a season of terror and suspense; for with the breaking up of the ice, sure as a destiny, came the Iroquois. As soon as a canoe could float, they were on the war-path; and with the cry of the returning wild-fowl mingled the yell of these human tigers. They did not always wait for the breaking ice, but set forth on foot, and, when they came to open water, made canoes and embarked.

Well might Father Vimont call the Iroquois "the scourge of this infant church." They burned, hacked, and devoured the neophytes; exterminated whole villages at once; destroyed the nations whom the Fathers hoped to convert; and ruined that sure ally of the missions, the fur-trade. Not the most hideous nightmare of a fevered brain could transcend in horror the real and waking perils with which they beset the path of these intrepid priests.

In the spring of 1644, Joseph Bressani, an Italian Jesuit, born in Rome, and now for two years past a missionary in Canada, was ordered by his Superior to go up to the Hurons. It was so early in the season that there seemed hope that he might pass in safety; and as the Fathers in that wild mission had received no succor for three years, Bressani was charged with letters to them, and such necessaries for their use as he was able to carry. With him were six young Huron, lately converted, and a French boy in his service. The party were in three small canoes. Before setting out they all confessed and prepared for death.

They left Three Rivers on the twenty-seventh of April, and found ice still floating in the river, and patches of snow lying in the naked forests. On the first day, one of the canoes overset, nearly drowning Bressani, who could not swim. On the third day, a snow-storm began, and greatly retarded their progress. The young Indians foolishly fired their guns at the wild-fowl on the river, and the sound reached the ears of a war-party of Iroquois, one of ten that had already set forth for the St. Lawrence, the Ottawa, and the Huron towns. [Vimont, Relation, 1644, 41.] Hence it befell, that, as they crossed the mouth of a small stream entering the St. Lawrence, twenty-seven Iroquois suddenly issued from behind a point, and attacked them in canoes. One of the Huron was killed, and all the rest of the party captured without resistance.

On the fifteenth of July following, Bressani wrote from the Iroquois country to the General of the Jesuits at Rome--"I do not know if your Paternity will recognize the handwriting of one whom you once knew very well. The letter is soiled and ill-written; because the writer has only one finger of his right hand left entire, and cannot prevent the blood from his wounds, which are still open, from staining the paper. His ink is gunpowder mixed with water, and his table is the earth." [This letter is printed anonymously in the Second Part, Chap. II, of Bressani's Relation Abrégée. A comparison with Vimont's account, in the Relation of 1644, makes its authorship apparent. Vimont's narrative agrees in all essential points. His informant was "vne personne digne de foy, qui a esté tesmoin oculaire de tout ce qu'il a soufiert pendant sa captiuité."--Vimont, Relation, 1644, 43.]

Then follows a modest narrative of what be endured at the hands of his captors. First they thanked the Sun for their victory; then plundered the canoes; then cut up, roasted, and devoured the slain Huron before the eyes of the prisoners. On the next day they crossed to the southern shore, and ascended the River Richelieu as far as the rapids of Chambly, whence they pursued their march on foot among the brambles, rocks, and swamps of the trackless forest. When they reached Lake Champlain, they made new canoes and re-embarked, landed at its southern extremity six days afterwards, and thence made for the Upper Hudson. Here they found a fishing camp of four hundred Iroquois, and now Bressani's torments began in earnest. They split his hand with a knife, between the little finger and the ring finger; then beat him with sticks, till he was covered with blood; and afterwards placed him on one of their torture-scaffolds of bark, as a spectacle to the crowd. Here they stripped him, and while he shivered with cold from head to foot they forced him to sing. After about two hours they gave him up to the children, who ordered him to dance, at the same time thrusting sharpened sticks into his flesh, and pulling out his hair and beard. "Sing!" cried one; "Hold your tongue!" screamed another; and if he obeyed the first, the second burned him. "We will burn you to death; we will eat you." "I will eat one of your hands." "And I will eat one of your feet." ["Ils me répétaient sans cesse: Nous te brûlerons; nous te mangerons;--je te mangerai un pied;--et moi, une main," etc.--Bressani, in Relation Abrégée, 137.] These scenes were renewed every night for a week. Every evening a chief cried aloud through the camp, "Come, my children, come and caress our prisoners!"--and the savage crew thronged jubilant to a large hut, where the captives lay. They stripped off the torn fragment of a cassock, which was the priest's only garment; burned him with live coals and red-hot stones; forced him to walk on hot cinders; burned off now a finger-nail and now the joint of a finger,--rarely more than one at a time, however, for they economized their pleasures, and reserved the rest for another day. This torture was protracted till one or two o'clock, after which they left him on the ground, fast bound to four stakes, and covered only with a scanty fragment of deer-skin.5 The other prisoners had their share of torture; but the worst fell upon the Jesuit, as the chief man of the party. The unhappy boy who attended him, though only twelve or thirteen years old, was tormented before his eyes with a pitiless ferocity.

At length they left this encampment, and, after a march of several days,--during which Bressani, in wading a rocky stream, fell from exhaustion and was nearly drowned,--they reached an Iroquois town. It is needless to follow the revolting details of the new torments that succeeded. They hung him by the feet with chains; placed food for their dogs on his naked body, that they might lacerate him as they ate; and at last had reduced his emaciated frame to such a condition, that even they themselves stood in horror of him. "I could not have believed," he writes to his Superior, "that a man was so hard to kill." He found among them those who, from compassion, or from a refinement of cruelty, fed him, for he could not feed himself. They told him jestingly that they wished to fatten him before putting him to death.

The council that was to decide his fate met on the nineteenth of June, when, to the prisoner's amazement, and, as it seemed, to their own surprise, they resolved to spare his life. He was given, with due ceremony, to an old woman, to take the place of a deceased relative; but, since he was as repulsive, in his mangled condition, as, by the Indian standard, he was useless, she sent her son with him to Fort Orange, to sell him to the Dutch. With the same humanity which they had shown in the case of Jogues, they gave a generous ransom for him, supplied him with clothing, kept him till his strength was in some degree recruited, and then placed him on board a vessel bound for Rochelle. Here he arrived on the fifteenth of November; and in the following spring, maimed and disfigured, but with health restored, embarked to dare again the knives and firebrands of the Iroquois.

[Immediately on his return to Canada he was ordered to set out again for the Hurons. More fortunate than on his first attempt, he arrived safely, early in the autumn of 1645.--Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1646, 73.

On Bressani, besides the authorities cited, see Du Creux, Historia Canadensis, 399-403; Juchereau, Histoire de l'Hôtel-Dieu, 53; and Martin, Biographie du P. François-Joseph Bressani, prefixed to the Relation Abrégée.

He made no converts while a prisoner, but he baptized a Huron catechumen at the stake, to the great fury of the surrounding Iroquois. He has left, besides his letters, some interesting notes on his captivity, preserved in the Relation Abrégée.]


It should be noticed, in justice to the Iroquois, that, ferocious and cruel as past all denial they were, they were not so bereft of the instincts of humanity as at first sight might appear. An inexorable severity towards enemies was a very essential element, in their savage conception, of the character of the warrior. Pity was a cowardly weakness, at which their pride revolted. This, joined to their thirst for applause and their dread of ridicule, made them smother every movement of compassion,6 and conspired with their native fierceness to form a character of unrelenting cruelty rarely equaled.

The perils which beset the missionaries did not spring from the fury of the Iroquois alone, for Nature herself was armed with terror in this stern wilderness of New France. On the thirtieth of January, 1646, Father Anne de Nouë set out from Three Rivers to go to the fort built by the French at the mouth of the River Richelieu, where he was to say mass and hear confessions. De Nouë was sixty-three years old, and had come to Canada in 1625. [See "Pioneers of France," 393.] As an indifferent memory disabled him from mastering the Indian languages, he devoted himself to the spiritual charge of the French, and of the Indians about the forts, within reach of an interpreter. For the rest, he attended the sick, and, in times of scarcity, fished in the river or dug roots in the woods for the subsistence of his flock. In short, though sprung from a noble family of Champagne, he shrank from no toil, however humble, to which his idea of duty or his vow of obedience called him. [He was peculiarly sensitive as regarded the cardinal Jesuit virtue of obedience; and both Lalemant and Bressani say, that, at the age of sixty and upwards, he was sometimes seen in tears, when he imagined that he had not fulfilled to the utmost the commands of his Superior.]

The old missionary had for companions two soldiers and a Huron Indian. They were all on snow-shoes, and the soldiers dragged their baggage on small sledges. Their highway was the St. Lawrence, transformed to solid ice, and buried, like all the country, beneath two or three feet of snow, which, far and near, glared dazzling white under the clear winter sun. Before night they had walked eighteen miles, and the soldiers, unused to snow-shoes, were greatly fatigued. They made their camp in the forest, on the shore of the great expansion of the St. Lawrence called the Lake of St. Peter,--dug away the snow, heaped it around the spot as a barrier against the wind, made their fire on the frozen earth in the midst, and lay down to sleep. At two o'clock in the morning De Nouë awoke. The moon shone like daylight over the vast white desert of the frozen lake, with its bordering fir-trees bowed to the ground with snow; and the kindly thought struck the Father, that he might ease his companions by going in advance to Fort Richelieu, and sending back men to aid them in dragging their sledges. He knew the way well. He directed them to follow the tracks of his snow-shoes in the morning; and, not doubting to reach the fort before night, left behind his blanket and his flint and steel. For provisions, he put a morsel of bread and five or six prunes in his pocket, told his rosary, and set forth.

Before dawn the weather changed. The air thickened, clouds hid the moon, and a snow-storm set in. The traveler was in utter darkness. He lost the points of the compass, wandered far out on the lake, and when day appeared could see nothing but the snow beneath his feet, and the myriads of falling flakes that encompassed him like a curtain, impervious to the sight. Still he toiled on, winding hither and thither, and at times unwittingly circling back on his own footsteps. At night he dug a hole in the snow under the shore of an island, and lay down, without fire, food, or blanket.

Meanwhile the two soldiers and the Indian, unable to trace his footprints, which the snow had hidden, pursued their way for the fort; but the Indian was ignorant of the country, and the Frenchmen were unskilled. They wandered from their course, and at evening encamped on the shore of the island of St. Ignace, at no great distance from De Nouë. Here the Indian, trusting to his instinct, left them and set forth alone in search of their destination, which he soon succeeded in finding. The palisades of the feeble little fort, and the rude buildings within, were whitened with snow, and half buried in it. Here, amid the desolation, a handful of men kept watch and ward against the Iroquois. Seated by the blazing logs, the Indian asked for De Nouë, and, to his astonishment, the soldiers of the garrison told him that he had not been seen. The captain of the post was called; all was anxiety; but nothing could be done that night.

At daybreak parties went out to search. The two soldiers were readily found; but they looked in vain for the missionary. All day they were ranging the ice, firing their guns and shouting; but to no avail, and they returned disconsolate. There was a converted Indian, whom the French called Charles, at the fort, one of four who were spending the winter there. On the next morning, the second of February, he and one of his companions, together with Baron, a French soldier, resumed the search; and, guided by the slight depressions in the snow which had fallen on the wanderer's footprints, the quick-eyed savages traced him through all his windings, found his camp by the shore of the island, and thence followed him beyond the fort. He had passed near without discovering it,--perhaps weakness had dimmed his sight,--stopped to rest at a point a league above, and thence made his way about three leagues farther. Here they found him. He had dug a circular excavation in the snow, and was kneeling in it on the earth. His head was bare, his eyes open and turned upwards, and his hands clasped on his breast. His hat and his snow-shoes lay at his side. The body was leaning slightly forward, resting against the bank of snow before it, and frozen to the hardness of marble.

Thus, in an act of kindness and charity, died the first martyr of the Canadian mission.

[Lalemant, Relation, 1646, 9; Marie de l'Incarnation, Lettre, 10 Sept., 1646; Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 175.

One of the Indians who found the body of De Nouë was killed by the Iroquois at Ossossané, in the Huron country, three years after. He received the death-blow in a posture like that in which he had seen the dead missionary. His body was found with the hands still clasped on the breast.--Lettre de Chaumonot à Lalemant, 1 Juin, 1649.

The next death among the Jesuits was that of Masse, who died at Sillery, on the twelfth of May of this year, 1646, at the age of seventy-two. He had come with Biard to Acadia as early as 1611. (See "Pioneers of France," 262.) Lalemant, in the Relation of 1646, gives an account of him, and speaks of penances which he imposed on himself, some of which are to the last degree disgusting.]

1 Bressani, when a prisoner among them, writes to this effect in a letter to his Superior.--See Relation Abrégée, 131.

The anonymous author of the Relation of 1660 says, that, in their belief, if their nation were destroyed, a general confusion and overthrow of mankind must needs be the consequence.--Relation, 1660, 6.

2 Vimont, Relation, 1642, 52.
This practice was common to many tribes, and is not yet extinct. The writer has seen similar records, made by recent war-parties of Crows or Blackfeet, in the remote West. In this case, the bark was removed from the trunks of large cotton-wood trees, and the pictures traced with charcoal and vermilion. There were marks for scalps, for prisoners, and for the conquerors themselves.

3 Vimont, Relation, 1642, 50, 51.
Assaults by Indians on fortified places are rare. The Iroquois are known, however, to have made them with success in several cases, some of the most remarkable of which will appear hereafter. The courage of Indians is uncertain and spasmodic. They are capable, at times, of a furious temerity, approaching desperation; but this is liable to sudden and extreme reaction. Their courage, too, is much oftener displayed in covert than in open attacks.

4 "Cette pauure creature qui s'est sauuée, a les deux pouces couppez, ou plus tost hachez. Quand ils me les eurent couppez, disoit-elle, ils me les voulurent faire manger; mais ie les mis sur mon giron, et leur dis qu'ils me tuassent s'ils vouloient, que ie ne leur pouuois obeir."--Buteux in Relation, 1642, 47.

5 "Chaque nuit après m'avoir fait chanter, et m'avoir tourmenté comme ie l'ai dit, ils passaient environ un quart d'heure à me brûler un ongle ou un doigt. Il ne m'en reste maintenant qu'un seul entier, et encore ils en ont arraché l'ongle avec les dents. Un soir ils m'enlevaient un ongle, le lendemain la première phalange, le jour suivant la seconde. En six fois, ils en brûlèrent presque six. Aux mains seules, ils m'ont appliqué le feu et le fer plus de 18 fois, et i'étais obligé de chanter pendant ce supplice. Ils ne cessaient de me tourmenter qu'à une ou deux heures de la nuit."--Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 122.

Bressani speaks in another passage of tortures of a nature yet more excruciating. They were similar to those alluded to by the anonymous author of the Relation of 1660: "Ie ferois rougir ce papier, et les oreilles frémiroient, si ie rapportois les horribles traitemens que les Agnieronnons" (the Mohawk nation of the Iroquois) "ont faits sur quelques captifs." He adds, that past ages have never heard of such.--Relation, 1660, 7, 8.

6 Thus, when Bressani, tortured by the tightness of the cords that bound him, asked an Indian to loosen them, he would reply by mockery, if others were present; but if no one saw him, he usually complied.]


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The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, 1867

Jesuits in North America

 

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