Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lurking in the woods, fall upon the Onondagas who are escorting the French to their country; but they pretend that this attack was due to a mistake on their part. Again dissembling, these same Mohawks slyly return down the river to Quebec, and, at early morning, fall unexpectedly upon the Hurons of the colony on Orléans Island, killing or capturing many. Some of these captives are burned to death; another, who escapes after being tormented, recounts the sad tale at Quebec. Among the Huron prisoners are many young women, and several of the most fervent Christians, “the flower of the Huron congregation;" they are carried away in the very sight of Quebec, and the French are too weak to prevent this seizure of their allies and dependents. They are held by the Iroquois, for several days, in an encampment near Three Rivers, where one of the Jesuits visits them several times; “ never have they been more fervent or bold in manifesting their devotion, which, in many, would appear extraordinary even in a cloister."

The journey of the Jesuits and French soldiers to Onondaga is described at length, in the journal kept by one of the party, doubtless Father Dablon. This is preceded by a rehearsal of the considerations which induced the missionaries to go thither, despite their long experience of Iroquois treachery and cruelty. A captive Huron, escaped from the Onondagas, tells at Quebec their plot to massacre all the French and Hurons, after they shall have lured these into the Iroquois country. The Mohawks, although pretending to be at peace with the French, may become hostile at any moment, owing to their wild jealousy of the Onondagas, and their desire to compel the latter to trade with them and the Dutch, instead of the French. These dangers, with the difficulties and expenses of the enterprise, make the Fathers hesitate; but not for long. Their decision to make the effort is based not only upon their desire to convert the heathen, but upon their perception that it is necessary to pacify the Iroquois at this critical time, lest these begin — as they have already threatened a war of extermination against the French and their allies. Accordingly, Le Mercier takes with him on this errand Fathers Ménard, Dablon, and Frémin, and two brethren; they are accompanied by some forty Frenchmen. While traveling through the wilderness east of Lake Ontario, they encounter the Huron captive before mentioned, who had escaped from the tortures of the Mohawks; they aid him, and give him a canoe with which to reach Montreal. Their provisions being consumed, they suffer from hunger, but having sent ahead a courier to Onondaga, relief is despatched thence. Before this comes, however, all but five of their savage escort have deserted them. At last, thirty-four days after leaving Montreal, they reach (July 11) the place appointed for the mission, on the shore of Onondaga Lake. The writer mentions some notable characteristics of this locality,--the salt springs, the vast flocks of wild pigeons, and the numerous rattlesnakes. The Indians eat these snakes, and find them as well flavored as eels. The spot chosen by the Fathers is not infested by these reptiles, which haunt the vicinity of the salt springs.

At the spot chosen for their residence, they find awaiting them a great crowd of savages, who give them cordial welcome. After a little rest, the French erect cabins for their dwellings, and a fortification for the soldiers. They visit the chief village of the tribe, where they are flattered, caressed, and feasted to the utmost. Envoys from the other Iroquois tribes are attending a great council at Onondaga; and the Fathers devote themselves to conciliating and winning these men.

In this council, Le Mercier is chosen arbiter of the difficulty between the Senecas and Mohawks. The Fathers adapt themselves to the customs of the tribes, and make both speeches and presents in all important matters; these, with Chaumonot's fluency in their language, delight the Iroquois. Having won their approval and good will, he preaches to them the gospel, with great eloquence and power. The Mohawks claim to be most friendly to the French; but the latter are warned by their hosts not to trust the Mohawks, who are deceitful and treacherous.

The Fathers build a chapel at Onondaga, and a residence on the shore of the lake, which latter they call Ste. Marie of Gannentaa. They preach, teach, and baptize, at every opportunity, while the Frenchmen who have come with them are erecting the buildings. All this is done in the heat of midsummer, with insufficient food and lodging, and many other privations. They suffer from the sudden change of climate, and the harassing attacks of mosquitoes, both day and night. The result is, that the entire party become ill, “ with no other succor than that of Heaven." This help is theirs, however; for God sends them abundance of game and fish, and the Indians bring them fresh vegetables. In consequence, they soon recover health. Soon afterward, Ménard and two Frenchmen are sent to the Cayugas, at the urgent request of that tribe; and Chaumonot proceeds to the Senecas, to begin, as the Fathers hope, a mission among those people.

It is apparently a part of De Quen's report which proceeds to describe the manner in which part of the Hurons were carried away from Orléans Island by the Iroquois, in the spring of 1657. The Bear clan go with the Mohawks; that of the Rock, with the Onondagas; while the “ nation of the Cord,” as they are known to the French, refuse to leave Quebec. An account is given also of Le Moyne's second voyage to the Mohawks, on an errand partly political, partly evangelistic

At Sillery, a great misfortune has befallen the infant church. In June, 1657, fire destroys there the Jesuit residence, the chapel, and some of the dwellings. The Fathers desire to rebuild this mission; but they have not means to do so unless they receive aid therefor. Various incidents of piety and virtue among the Sillery neophytes are related.

A letter from one of the Fathers on Orléans Island gives an account of the Huron colony before its removal thence,- consisting mainly of instances showing the fidelity and devotion of those converts. One of them" manifested a zeal which I have never observed in any Savage, in informing me of faults in the members of the Congregation, without sparing his own relatives; this greatly assisted me in applying a remedy.” The Congregation (“ of our Lady") numbers eighty members, and is highly useful in training the Indian disciples in piety and morality.

The Iroquois country, its physical characteristics, and resources, are described. The trees and fruits of the country are mentioned. The springs of salt, sulphur, and petroleum excite the wonder of the French visitors to that region,-as also do the fertility of the soil, and the abundance of fish in the streams and lakes. The five Iroquois tribes who dwell in that land are characterized. Their ferocity and cruelty are extreme, and, in their thirst for blood, they have so devoted themselves to war that their own losses are enormous; “they have so depopulated their own Villages that these now contain more Foreigners than natives of the country.” The Senecas comprise people from as many as eleven different tribes. Some account is given of the Iroquois customs in marriage, sickness, mourning, and burial; their domestic relations; their superstitions, especially as connected with dreams; etc. Their hospitality, and kindness to their own poor, are highly praised. They show the utmost kindness to the Frenchmen who have settled at Onondaga, and Le Mercier has been adopted by the leading chief there. The Senecas offer an excellent and advantageous residence for the “ black robes,” if they will live among them.

The Iroquois mission indicates great promise of success. “More Iroquois have become Christians in two months than there were Hurons converted in several years.

Their fervor would cause this nascent Church to be taken for a Church already formed and established for many years,— nay, for several centuries." Nevertheless, the labors of the missionaries are hindered by the superstition and vice of the people; and the usual slanders against the Fathers and their religious practices are repeated in this new field. Many incidents are related of their experiences in preaching the gospel, especially at

« AnteriorContinuar »