Huron-Iroquois War

 

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Huron-Iroquois War

 

 

The Huron were the French’s closest allies and served as middlemen in the fur trade; many of them converted to Catholicism. They lived in an area which the French called Huronia, located between Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay. Their villages in the west formed a trade center where northern tribes brought their furs to trade against French goods. The Huron also exported a large part of their agricultural production to New France.

While the Huron profited greatly from the fur trade, they were also weakened by the close alliance with the French. European germs brought devastating epidemics of smallpox and measles to the French trade allies, particularly the Huron. There was also a growing hostility within the tribe between the Christian converts and those hostile to Christianity.

 

 

The traditional tension with the Iroquois was heightened by the competition for the fur trade. In the 1640s, the Iroquois launched regular attempts to destroy Huron fur expeditions, followed by direct attacks on the weakened Huron settlements. The campaign of 1648-1649 literally destroyed the Huron nation. A few Huron survivors managed to reach Montreal with the Jesuits, but most were adopted into the Iroquois nations, as was customary. The Huron-Iroquois wars and the destruction of Huronia are very precisely recorded in the Jesuits’ annual reports.

See Relations des Jésuites

 

 

The victorious Iroquois then moved on against the Algonquin and the French in the hope of finally monopolizing the fur trade, a goal they almost reached. In 1660 there was an episode which remained famous in Quebec history, when Dollard des Ormeaux and 17 Frenchmen sacrificed their lives to stop an Iroquois raid on Montreal.

 

The loss of Huronia had serious commercial, military, and agricultural consequences. The French now had no allies and no suppliers of furs and food. The colony required military reinforcements from France on a large scale to resist the hostile Iroquois. There was also a need to extend the agricultural activity and thus to import more settlers from France. The call for help reached France at a good time, when young King Louis XIV was seeking to increase his power. The Compagnie de la Nouvelle France was revoked and New France was reorganized as a royal colony, with a governor appointed by the King.