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1.6.1: From The Voyages and Explorations of Sieur de Champlain

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    (1613)

    VOLUME I BOOK I

    Chapter I

    Extent of New France and the excellence of its soil. Reasons for establishing Colonies in the New France of the West. Rivers, lakes, ponds, woods, meadows and islands of New France. Its fertility. Its peoples.

    The labors that Sieur de Champlain has endured in discovering several countries, lakes, rivers, and islands of New France, during the last twenty-seven years, have not made him lose courage because of the difficulties that have been encountered; but, on the contrary, the dangers and risks that he has met with, instead of lessening, have redoubled his courage. And two very strong reasons in particular have decided him to make new voyages there. The first is that under the reign of King Louis the Just, France should become enriched and increased by a country of which the extent exceeds sixteen hundred leagues in length and nearly five hundred in breadth; the second, that the richness of the soil and the useful things that can be derived from it, whether for commerce or to make life pleasant in that country, are such that one cannot estimate the advantage that the French would gain from it some day, if the French colonies that may be established there should be protected by the favor and authority of His Majesty.

    The new discoveries led to the purpose of establishing colonies, which, though at first of little account, have nevertheless in course of time, by means of commerce, become equal to the states of the greatest Icings. One may put in this class several cities that the Spaniards have founded in Peru and other parts of the world within the last hundred and twenty years, which were nothing to begin with. Europe can offer the example of the city of Venice, which was originally a refuge for poor fishermen. Genoa, one of the most superb cities of the world, was built in a region surrounded by mountains, very wild, and so sterile that the inhabitants were obliged to have soil brought from outside to cultivate their garden plots, and their sea is without fish. The city of Marseilles, which formerly was nothing but a great marsh, surrounded by rugged hills and mountains, nevertheless in the course of time made its land fertile, and has become famous and an important seat of commerce. Similarly, many small colonies which had the convenience of ports and harbors have increased in wealth and in reputation.

    It must be said also that the country of New France is a new world, and not a kingdom; perfectly beautiful, with very convenient locations, both on the banks of the great river St. Lawrence (the ornament of the country) and on other rivers, lakes, ponds and brooks. It has, too, an infinite number of beautiful islands, and they contain very pleasant and delightful meadows and groves where, during the spring and the summer, may be seen a great number of birds which come there in their time and season. The soil is very fertile for all kinds of grain; the pasturage is abundant; and a network of great rivers and lakes, which are like seas lying across the countries, lend great facility to all the explorations of the interior, whence one could get access to the oceans on the west, the east, the north, and even on the south.

    The country is filled with immense tall forests composed of the same kinds of trees that we have in France. The air is salubrious and the water excellent in the latitudes corresponding to ours. The benefit that can be derived from this country, according to what Sieur de Champlain hopes to demonstrate, is sufficient to make the enterprise worth considering, since this country can supply for the service of the King the same advantages that we have in France, as will appear from the following account.

    In New France there are a great many savage peoples; some of whom are sedentary, fond of cultivating the soil, and having cities and villages enclosed with palisades; others are roving tribes which live by hunting and fishing, and have no knowledge of God. But there is hope that the clergy who have been sent there and who are beginning to establish themselves and to found seminaries will be able in a few years to make great progress in the conversion of these peoples. This is the first care of His Majesty, who, turning his eyes toward Heaven rather than toward the earth, will support, if it is his good pleasure, such founders as engage to transport clergy to work at this sacred harvest, and propose to establish a Colony as being the only way of making the name of the true God recognized, and of establishing the Christian religion there: such founders, too, as would oblige the French who go there to work, first of all, at tilling the soil, in order to have the necessaries of life on the spot, without being forced to bring them from France. That done, the country will furnish in abundance all that can be wished in life, whether to satisfy needs or pleasures, as will be shown hereafter.

    If one cares for hawking, one can find in these places all sorts of birds of prey in as great numbers as one could wish: falcons, gerfalcons, sakers, tassels, sparhawks, goshawks, marlins, muskets, two kinds of eagles, little and big owls, great horned owls of exceptional size, pyes, woodpeckers. And there are other kinds of birds of prey, less common than those named, with grey plumage on the back and white on the belly, as fat and large as a hen, with one foot like the talon of a bird of prey, with which it catches fish; the other like that of a duck. The latter serves for swimming in the water when he dives for fish. This bird is not supposed to be found except in New France.

    For hunting with setters, there are three kinds of partridges: some are true pheasants, others are black, and still others white. These last come in winter and have flesh like wood-pigeons, of a very excellent flavor.

    As for hunting for other game, river birds abound there; all sorts of ducks, teal, white and grey geese, bustards, little geese, woodcock, snipe, little and big larks, plover, herons, cranes, swans, divers of two or three kinds, coots, ospreys, curlews, thrushes, white and grey sea gulls; and on the coasts and shores of the sea, cormorants, sea parrots, sea pyes, and others in infinite numbers which come there in their season.

    In the woods and in the country which is inhabited by the Iroquois, a people of New France, there are many wild turkeys, and at Quebec a quantity of turtledoves throughout the summer; also blackbirds, linnets, sky larks, and other kinds of birds of varied plumage, which in their season sing very sweetly.

    After this kind of hunting may be mentioned another not less pleasant and agreeable, but more difficult. There are in this same country, foxes, common wolves and spotted lynxes, wild cats, porcupines, beavers, muskrats, otters, sables, martens, varieties of badgers, hares, bears, moose, stags, deer, caribous as big as wild asses, kids, flying squirrels, and other kinds of animals which we do not have in France. They can be caught either by lying in wait or with a trap, or, if one suddenly shouts on the islands where they resort most often, one can kill them easily as they throw themselves in the water when they hear the noise; or they can be caught in any other way that the ingenuity of those who take pleasure in it may suggest.

    If one is fond of fishing, whether with the line, nets, warrens, weels or other inventions, there are rivers, brooks, lakes and ponds in as great number as one could desire, with an abundance of salmon; very beautiful trout, fine and large, of every kind; sturgeon of three sizes; shad; very good bass, some of which weigh twenty pounds. There are carp of all kinds and some of them are very large; and pike, some of them five feet long; turbot without scales, two or three kinds, big and little; white fish a foot long; gold fish, smelts, tench, perch, tortoises, seal, of which the oil is very good even for frying; white porpoises, and many others that we do not have and that are not found in our rivers and ponds. All these varieties of fish are found in the great river St. Lawrence; besides, cod and whales are caught on the coasts of New France in nearly all seasons. Thus one can judge of the pleasure that the French will have when once they are settled in these places; living a sweet, quiet life, with perfect freedom to hunt, fish, and make homes for themselves according to their desires; with occupation for the mind in building, clearing the ground, working gardens, planting them, grafting, making nurseries, planting all kinds of grains, roots, vegetables, salad greens and other potherbs, over as much land and in as great quantity as they wish. The vines there bear pretty good grapes, even though they are wild. If these are transplanted and cultivated they will yield fruit in abundance. And he who will have thirty acres of cleared land in that country, with the help of a few cattle, and of hunting and fishing, and trading with the savages in conformity to the regulations of the company of New France, will be able to live there with a family of ten as well as those in France who have an income of fifteen or twenty thousand livres.

    Chapter II

    That Kings and great Princes ought to take more pains to spread the knowledge of the true God and magnify His glory among barbarians than to multiply their states. Voyages of the French to the New World since the year 1504.

    THE most illustrious palms and laurels that kings and princes can win in this world are contempt for temporal blessings and the desire to gain the spiritual. They cannot do this more profitably than by converting, through their labor and piety, to the catholic, apostolic and Roman religion, an infinite number of savages, who live without faith, without law, with no knowledge of the true God. For the taking of forts, the winning of battles, and the conquests of countries, are nothing in comparison with the reward of those who prepare for themselves crowns in heaven, unless it be fighting against infidels. In that case, war is not only necessary, but just and holy, since the safety of Christianity, the glory of God and the defence of the faith are at stake. These labors are, in themselves, praiseworthy and very commendable, besides being in conformity to the commandment of God, which says, That the conversion of an infidel is of more value than the conquest of a kingdom. And if all this cannot move us to seek after heavenly blessings at least as passionately as after those of the earth, it is because men’s covetousness for this world’s blessings is so great that most of them do not care for the conversion of infidels so long as their fortune corresponds to their desires, and everything conforms to their wishes. Moreover, it is this covetousness that has ruined and is wholly ruining the progress and advancement of this enterprise, which is not yet well under way, and is in danger of collapsing, unless His Majesty establishes there conditions as righteous, charitable and just as he is himself; and unless he himself takes pleasure in learning what can be done to increase the glory of God and to benefit his state, repelling the envy of those who should support this enterprise, but who seek its ruin rather than its success.

    It is nothing new for the French to make sea voyages for conquest. We know very well that the discovery of new countries and noble enterprises on the sea were begun by our forefathers.

    discover the grand bank of the Codfish and the islands of the New World, as is noted in the histories of Niflet and of Antoine Maginus. It is also very certain that in the time of King Francis I, in the year 1523, he sent Verazzano, a Florentine, to discover the lands, coasts and harbors of Florida, as the accounts of his voyages bear testimony; where, after having explored the coast from latitude 33 to latitude 47, just as he was thinking of making a home there, death put an end to his life and his plans. After that, the same King Francis, persuaded by Messire Philip Chabot, Admiral of France, sent Jacques Cartier to discover new lands, and for this purpose he made two voyages in the years 1534 and 1535. In the first he discovered the Island of Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, with several other islands in this gulf, and he would have gone farther had not the severe season hastened his return. This Jacques Cartier was from the city of St. Malo. He was thoroughly versed and experienced in seamanship; the equal of any one of his times. And St. Malo is under obligation to preserve his memory, for it was his greatest desire to discover new lands. At the request of Charles de Mouy, Sieur de la Mailleres, at that time Vice-Admiral, he undertook the same voyage for the second time; and in order to compass his purpose and to have His Majesty lay the foundation of a colony to increase the honor of God and his royal authority, he gave his commissions with that of the aforesaid Sieur Admiral, who had the direction of this embarkation and contributed all he could to it. When the commissions had been prepared, His Majesty put this same Cartier in charge, and he set sail with two vessels on May 16, 1535. His voyage was so successful that he arrived at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, entered the river with his ships of 800 tons burden, and even got as far as an island a hundred and twenty leagues up the river, which he called the Isle of Orleans. From there he went some ten leagues farther up the same stream to winter on a small river which is almost dry at low tide. This he named St. Croix, because he arrived there on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The place is now called the St. Charles River and at present the Recollect fathers and the Jesuit fathers are stationed there to found a seminary for the instruction of youth. From there Cartier went up the river some sixty leagues, as far as a place which was called Ochelaga in his time and is now called Grand Sault St. Louis. It was inhabited by savages who were sedentary and cultivated the soil. This they no longer do, because of the wars that have made them withdraw into the interior. When Cartier, according to his account, perceived the difficulty of passing up the rapids and that it was impossible, he returned where his vessels were; and the weather and the season were so urgent that he was obliged to winter on the St. Croix River, in the place where the Jesuits live now, on the border of another little river which empties into the St. Croix, called the Jacques Cartier River, as his narratives testify.

    Cartier was made so unhappy in this voyage, particularly by the ravages of scurvy, of which the larger part of his men died, that when spring came he returned to France, saddened and disturbed enough at this loss and at the little progress that he thought he had made. He came to the conclusion, as a result of his winter’s experience with the scurvy, which he called the disease of the country, that the climate was so different from our own that we could not live in it without great difficulty.

    So when he had made his report to the King and to the Sieur Admiral and De Mailleres, who did not go deeply into the matter, the enterprise bore no fruit. But if Cartier could have understood the cause of his sickness, and the beneficial and certain remedy for its prevention, although he and his men did receive some relief from an herb called aneda? just as we did when we were in the same plight, there is no doubt that the King from that time would not have neglected to forward the plan, as he had already done: for at that time the country was more peopled with sedentary tribes than now. It was this last fact that led His Majesty to have this second voyage made and the undertaking carried on, for he had a holy desire to send colonists there. This was what came of it.

    This affair might well have been undertaken by some others than Cartier, who would not have been so soon daunted and would not, on that account, have abandoned an enterprise so well begun. For, to tell the truth, those who are the leaders of explorations are oftentimes those who can put an end to the execution of a praiseworthy project, if people stop to consider their reports. For, if they are believed, it is thought that the enterprise is impossible or so involved in difficulties that it cannot be brought to completion without almost unendurable outlay and trouble. This is the reason why this enterprise did not achieve success. Besides, there are sometimes affairs of so much importance in a state as to cause others to be neglected for awhile; or it may be that those who would gladly have gone on with them, die, and so the years pass with nothing done.

    BOOK III

    Chapter V

    Arrival of the author at Quebec, where he made his place of abode. Habits of the savages of that country.

    From the Island of Orleans to Quebec it is one league. When I arrived there on July 3, I looked for a suitable place for our buildings, but I could not find any more convenient or better situated than the point of Quebec, so called by the savages, which is filled with nut trees and vines. I immediately employed some of our workmen in cutting them down, in order to put our buildings there. Some I set to sawing boards, some to digging a cellar and making ditches, and others I sent to Tadoussac with the boat to get our supplies. The first thing that we made was the storehouse in which to put our provisions under cover, which was promptly finished through the diligence of each one and the care that I had of it. Near this place is a pleasant river, where formerly Jacques Cartier passed the winter.

    While the ship-carpenters, the woodsawers and other workmen, worked on our lodging I set all the others at clearing the land about the building, in order to make the garden-plots in which to sow grain and seeds, to see how they would all turn out, for the soil appeared very good.

    Meanwhile a great many savages were in cabins near us, fishing for eels, which begin to come about September 15 and go away on October 15. At this time all the savages live on this manna and dry enough of it to last through the winter to the month of February, when the snow is about two and a half feet deep, or three at the most. And when the eels and other things that they collect have been prepared they go to hunt the beaver, which they do until the beginning of January. They were not very successful in the beaver hunt, for the water was too high and the rivers had overflowed, as they told us. When their eels give out they have recourse to hunting the elk and other wild beasts, which they can find, while waiting for the spring. At that time I was able to supply them with several things. I made a special study of their customs.

    All these people are so much in want that sometimes they are driven to live on certain kinds of shellfish and to eat their dogs and the skins with which they protect themselves against the cold. If some one should show them how to live and teach them how to till the soil, and other things, they would learn very easily, for there are a good many of them who have good judgment and reply intelligently to what is asked of them. There is an evil tendency among them to be revengeful, and to be great liars, and one cannot rely upon them, except with caution and when one is armed. They make promises enough, but keep few of them, most of them being without law, as far as I could see, and, besides, full of false beliefs. I asked them what ceremonies they employed in praying to their god; they told me that they made use of none, except that each prayed in his heart as he wished. This is why they have no law, and do not know what it is to worship God and pray to Him, but live like brute beasts; but I think that they would soon be converted to Christianity if some people would settle among them and cultivate their soil, which is what most of them wish. They have among them some savages whom they call Pilotois, who, they believe, talk with the devil face to face, who tells them what they must do, whether in case of war or in regard to other matters; and if he should command them to carry out a certain enterprise they would obey his command at once. They believe, also, that all the dreams that they have are true; and, in fact, there are a great many of them who say that they have seen and dreamed things which have come to pass or will take place. But, to tell the truth about the matter, these are diabolical visions, which deceive them and lead them astray. This is all that I have been able to learn about their brutish belief.

    All these people are well-built, without deformity, and are active. The women are equally well-formed, plump, and of a tawny complexion, because of certain pigments which they put on which make them look olive-colored. They are dressed in skins; a part of the body is covered, the rest is naked; but in winter they make up for it, for they are dressed in good furs, like elk, otter, beaver, bear, seal, deer and roe, which they have in great quantity. In winter, when there is a great deal of snow, they make a sort of racquets, which are three or four times as large as those in France, which they attach to their feet, and in this way they can go in the snow without sinking in; without them they could not hunt or go in many places. They have an odd sort of marriage, namely: when a girl is fourteen or fifteen years old, and she has several suitors, she may associate with all of them that she likes. Then at the end of five or six years she makes her own choice from them of a husband, and they live together to the end of their lives. But if, after living some time together, there are no children, then the man may unmarry himself and take another wife, saying that his own is good for nothing. Thus the girls are freer thar the women.

    After marriage they are chaste, and the husbands are, for the most part, jealous. They give presents to the fathers or relatives of the girls whom they have married. These are the ceremonies and ways that they employ in their marriages.

    As for their burials, when a man or a woman dies, they dig a big grave, where they put all the possessions that they had, such as kettles, furs, axes, bows, arrows, robes and other things; then they put the body in the grave and cover it with earth, and put a great many large pieces of wood on top, and one piece erect This they paint red on the upper part They believe in the immortality of the soul, and say that they will be happy in other lands with their relatives and friends who are dead. In the case of captains and others in positions of authority, they come, after the death, three times a year for a celebration and dance, and sing on the grave.

    They are very timid and constantly fear their enemies, and scarcely sleep at all wherever they are, although I reassured them every day as much as I could and advised them to do as we do, namely: let some watch while others sleep, and let each one have his arms ready, like him who was on guard; and that they should not take dreams for the truth, on which to rely. But these teachings were of little use, and they said that we understood better than they how to protect ourselves against these things, and that in time, if we should come to live in their country, they would learn.

    Chapter VII

    Journey from Quebec to the Island of St. Eloi, and the meeting that I had with some Algonquin and Ochtaiguin savages.

    With this purpose I departed on the eighteenth of the month. The river begins to widen here, sometimes to a league and even a league and a half in some places. The country becomes more and more beautiful. The banks of the river are partly hills and partly level land without rocks, except a very few. As for the river, it is dangerous in many places, because of sandbars and rocks, and is not good to sail in without the lead in hand. The river is very abundantly supplied with several sorts of fish, not only such as we have on this side of the sea, but others that we have not. The country is all covered with large, high forests of the same kinds of trees that we have about our settlement. There are also many vines and nut trees on the bank of the river and a great many little brooks and rivers which are navigable only with canoes. We passed near Point St. Croix. This point is sandy. It projects a little into the river, and is exposed to the northwest wind, which beats upon it. There are some meadows, but they are submerged every time the tide is high. The tide falls nearly two and a half fathoms. This passage is very dangerous to go through, on account of the quantity of rocks that lie across the river, although there is a good channel which is very crooked, where the river runs like a mill-race, and one must take plenty of time for the passage. This place has deceived a great many people, who thought that they could not go through it except at high tide for lack of a channel, but we have found the contrary. As for going down, one can do it at low tide; but to go up would be very difficult, unless there should be a high wind, because of the great current; and so it is necessary to wait until the tide is one-third flood to pass, when the current in the channel is 6, 8, 10, 12 and 15 fathoms deep.

    Continuing our course we came to a river which is very pleasant. It is nine leagues from St. Croix and twenty-four from Quebec. We named it St. Mary’s River. The whole length of this river from St. Croix is very beautiful.

    Continuing our route I met two or three hundred savages, who were in cabins near a little island called St. Eloi, a league and a half from St. Mary. We investigated and found that they were some tribes of savages called Ochateguins and Algonquins, who were going to Quebec, to assist us in exploration of the countries of the Iroquois, against whom they carry on mortal combat, sparing nothing that belongs to them.

    After having recognized them I went ashore to see them and asked who their chief was. They told me that they had two of them one named Iroquet and the other Ochasteguin, whom they pointed out to me and I went to their cabin, where they received me well, according to their custom. I began to explain to them the purpose of my journey, with which they were very much pleased; and, after talking of several things, I withdrew. Some time afterward they came to my shallop, where they made me accept some skins, showing a good many signs of pleasure, and then they returned to land.

    The next day the two chiefs came to find me. Then they remained some time without saying a word, meditating and smoking constantly. After having thought it all over, they began to harangue in a loud voice all their companions who were on the river bank, their arms in their hands, listening very attentively to what their chiefs said to them, namely: that nearly ten moons ago, as they reckoned, Iroquet’s son had seen me, and that I had given him a kind reception, and that we desired to assist them against their enemies, with whom they had been at war for a long time, because of a great deal of cruelty that the enemy had shown toward their tribe, on the pretext of friendship; and that, having always desired vengeance since that time, they had asked all the savages on the bank of the river to come to us, to form an alliance with us, and that they never had seen Christians, which had also induced them to come to see us, and that I might do as I wished with them and their companions; that they had no children with them, but men who knew how to fight and were full of courage, and who were familiar with the country and the rivers in the country of the Iroquois; and that now they begged me to return to our settlement, that they might see our houses; that after three days we should return all together to the war, and that for a sign of great friendship and joy I should have muskets and arquebuses fired, and that they would be very much pleased; which I did. They gave great cries of astonishment, and especially those who never had heard nor seen them before.

    After I had heard them I replied to them that to please them I should be very glad to go back to our settlement, to give them more pleasure, and that they might infer that I had no other intention than to engage in war, since I carried with me nothing but arms, and not merchandise for barter, as they had been led to understand; that my desire was only to accomplish that which I had promised them; and that if I had known of any one who had made evil reports to them, I should regard such as enemies more than they themselves did. They told me that they did not believe any of it, and that they had heard nothing said; but the contrary was true, for there were some savages who told ours. I contented myself in waiting for an opportunity to be able to show them in reality something different from what they could have expected of me.

    Chapter IX

    Departure from the rapids of the Iroquois River. Description of a large lake. Of tke encounter with the enemy that we had at this lake, and of the manner in which they attacked the Iroquois.

    I left these rapids of the Iroquois River on July 2. All the savages began to carry their canoes, arms and baggage by land about half a league, in order to get by the swiftness and force of the rapids. This was quickly accomplished.

    Then they put them all in the water, and two men in each boat, with their baggage; and they made one of the men from each canoe go by land about a league and a half, the length of the rapid, which is not so violent as at its mouth, except in certain places where rocks obstruct the river, which is not more than 300 or 400 paces wide. After we had passed the rapid, which was not without difficulty, all the savages who had gone by land by a pretty good path and level country, although there were a great many trees, re-embarked in their canoes. My men went by land, too, and I by water, in a canoe. They had a review of all their men and found that they had twenty-four canoes, with sixty men in them. When they had had their review, we continued on our way as far as an island three leagues long, covered with the most beautiful pines that I had ever seen. They hunted, and caught some wild animals there. Going on farther, about three leagues from there, we encamped, to rest that night.

    Immediately they all began, some to cut wood, others to strip off the bark of trees to cover their cabins, to provide shelter for themselves; others began to fell big trees for a barricade on the bank of the river about their cabins. They know so well how to do this that in less than two hours five hundred of their enemy would have had a good deal of trouble to attack them without losing a great many of their number. They do not barricade the side toward the river, where their canoes are drawn up, so as to be able to embark, if occasion requires.

    When they were lodged they sent three canoes with nine good men, as is their custom in all their encampments, to reconnoitre for two or three leagues, to see if they can discover anything. Later these come back. They sleep all night, relying upon the exploration of these scouts, which is a very bad custom among them; for sometimes they are surprised while asleep by their enemies, who knock them in the head before they have a chance to get up to defend themselves.

    Being aware of that, I explained to them the mistake that they were making, and told them that they ought to watch, as they had seen us do every night, and have men on the lookout, to listen and see if they saw anything; and that they should not live like beasts. They told me that they could not keep watch, and that they worked enough by day in hunting; and, above all, when they go to war, they divide their bands into three parts, viz., one part to hunt, distributed in various places; one to constitute the main body, who are always under arms; and the other part as scouts, to explore along the rivers, to see if there is any mark or sign to indicate that their enemies have passed, or their friends. This they recognize by certain marks that the chiefs of different tribes exchange. These are not always alike, and they inform themselves from time to time when they are changed. In this way they recognize whether those who have passed are friends or enemies. The hunters never hunt in advance of the main body, or of the scouts, in order not to cause alarm or disorder, but in the rear, and in the direction where they do not expect their enemies; and they continue thus until they are two or three days journey from their enemies, when they go at night by stealth, all in a body, except the scouts. And by day they retire within the thickest part of the woods, where they rest, without wandering off, or making any noise, or lighting any fire, even when necessary for food, during this time, in order not to be noticed if, by chance, their enemies should pass. They do not make any fire, except for smoking; and they eat Indian meal cooked, which they soak in water, like porridge. They preserve this meal for times of need, and when they are near their enemies, or when they are retreating after an attack, they do not care to hunt, but retreat at once.

    In all their encampments they have their Pilotois, or Ostemoy, a kind of persons who act as soothsayers, in whom these people believe. The soothsayer builds a cabin surrounded by sticks of wood, and covers it with his robe. When it is done he ensconces himself inside in such a way that he cannot be seen at all; then he takes hold of one of the posts of his cabin and shakes it, muttering some words between his teeth, by which he says he invokes the devil, who appears to him in the form of a stone and tells him whether they will find their enemies and kill many of them. This Pilotois lies flat on the ground, motionless, only making believe to speak to the devil; then suddenly he rises to his feet, talking and writhing in such a way that, although he is naked, he is all in a perspiration. All the people are about the cabin, seated on their buttocks like monkeys. They told me often that the shaking of the cabin that I saw was caused by the devil and not by the man who was inside, although I observed the contrary; for it was (as I have already said) the Pilotois who seized one of the props of the cabin and made it move so. They also told me that I should see fire come out of the top, which I did not see at all. These rogues also disguise their voices and make them sound big and clear and speak in a language that is unfamiliar to the other savages; and when they make it sound broken the savages believe that it is the devil who speaks, and that he is saying what is to happen in their war, and what they must do. Nevertheless, all these rascals who play soothsayer do not speak two true words out of a hundred and impose upon these poor folk, like plenty of others in the world, in order to get their living from the people. I often admonished them that all that they did was sheer folly, and that they ought not to put faith in it.

    Now, after they have learned from their soothsayers what is to happen to them, they take as many sticks, a foot long, as they themselves number, and represent their chiefs by others a little longer. Then they go into the woods and clear a place five or six feet square, where the chief, as field sergeant, arranges all the sticks in the order that seems good to him; then he calls all his companions, who all come armed, and shows them the rank and order that they are to keep when they fight with their enemies. All the savages watch this attentively, noticing the figure which their chief has made with these sticks, and afterward they retire and begin to arrange themselves as they have seen these sticks, and then mingle with one another, and return directly to their order; continuing this two or three times, and doing it at all their encampments, without needing a sergeant to make them keep in their ranks, which they know well how to keep, without getting into confusion. This is the rule that they abide by in their warfare.

    We left the next day, continuing our course in the river as far as the entrance to the lake. In this there are many pretty islands, which are low, covered with very beautiful woods and meadows, where there is a quantity of game, and animals for hunting, such as stags, fallow-deer, fawns, roebucks, bears and other animals which come from the mainland to these islands. We caught a great many of them. There are also many beavers, not only in this river, but in many other little ones which empty into it. These places, although they are pleasant, are not inhabited by any savages, on account of their wars. They withdraw as far as possible from the river into the interior, in order not to be suddenly surprised. The next day we entered the lake, which is of great extent, perhaps 50 or 60 leagues long. There I saw four beautiful islands 10, 12 and 15 leagues long, which formerly had been inhabited by savages, like the River of the Iroquois; but they had been abandoned since they had been at war with one another. There are also several rivers which flow into the lake that are bordered by many fine trees, of the same sorts that we have in France, with a quantity of vines more beautiful than any I had seen in any other place; many chestnut trees, and I have not seen any at all before, except on the shores of the lake, where there is a great abundance of fish of a good many varieties. Among other kinds there is one called by the savages Chaousarou, which is of various lengths; but the longest, as these people told me, is eight or ten feet. I saw some of them five feet long, as big as a man’s thigh, with a head as large as two fists, a snout two and a half feet long, and a double row of very sharp and dangerous teeth. Its body is, in all respects, like that of the pike, but it is armed with scales so strong that a dagger could not pierce them, and it is silver grey in color. And the end of its snout is like that of a pig. This fish fights all the others in the lakes and rivers, and is wonderfully cunning, to judge from what the people have assured me, which is, that when it wishes to catch certain birds, it goes into the rushes or weeds which border the lake in several places, and puts its snout out of the water without moving at all, so that when the birds come to light on its snout, thinking that it is the trunk of a tree, the fish is so skillful in closing its snout, which had been half open, that it draws the birds under the water by the feet. The savages gave me a head of one of them. They set great store by them, saying that when they have a headache they Weed themselves with the teeth of this fish where the pain is, and it passes off at once.

    Continuing our course in this lake on the west side I saw, as I was observing the country, some very high mountains on the east side, with snow on the top of them. I inquired of the savages if these places were inhabited. They told me that they were by the Iroquois and that in these places there were beautiful valleys and open stretches fertile in grain, such as I had eaten in this country, with a great many other fruits; and that the lake went near some mountains, which were perhaps, as it seemed to me, about fifteen leagues from us. I saw on the south others not less high than the first, but they had no snow at all. The savages told me that it was there that we were to go to find their enemies, and that these mountains were thickly peopled. They also said it was necessary to pass a rapid, which I saw afterward, and from there to enter another lake, three or four leagues long; and that when we had reached the end of that it would be necessary to follow a trail for four leagues, and to pass over a river which empties on the coast of the Almouchiquois, near the coast of Norumbegue; and that it was only two days journey by their canoes, as I have [also] learned since from some prisoners that we took, who described to me very much in detail all that they had found out themselves about the matter through some Algonquin interpreters who knew the Iroquois language.

    Now, as we began to approach within two or three days’ journey of the home of their enemies, we did not advance more, except at night, and by day we rested. Nevertheless, they did not omit, at any time, the practice of their customary superstitions, to find out how much of their undertakings would succeed, and they often came to me to ask if I had dreamed, and if I had seen their enemies. I answered them “no,” and told them to be of good courage and to keep up hope. When night came we pursued our journey until daylight, when we withdrew into the thickest part of the woods and passed the rest of the day there. About ten or eleven o’clock, after having taken a little walk around our encampment, I went to rest; and I dreamed that I saw the Iroquois, our enemies, in the lake, near a mountain, drowning within our sight; and when I wished to help them our savage allies told me that we must let them all die, and that they were worthless. When I woke up they did not fail to ask me, as is their custom, if I had dreamed anything. I told them the substance of what I had dreamed. This gave them so much faith that they no longer doubted that good was to befall them.

    When evening came we embarked in our canoes to continue on our way; and, as we were going along very quietly, and without making any noise, on the twentyninth of the month, we met the Iroquois at ten o’clock at night at the end of a cape that projects into the lake on the west side, and they were coming to war. We both began to make loud cries, each getting his arms ready. We withdrew toward the water and the Iroquois went ashore and arranged their canoes in line, and began to cut down trees with poor axes, which they get in war sometimes, and also with others of stone; and they barricaded themselves very well.

    Our men also passed the whole night with their canoes drawn up close together, fastened to poles, so that they might not get scattered, and might fight all together, if there were need of it; we were on the water within arrow range of the side where their barricades were.

    When they were armed and in array, they sent two canoes set apart from the others to learn from their enemies if they wanted to fight. They replied that they desired nothing else; but that, at the moment, there was not much light and that they must wait for the daylight to recognize each other, and that as soon as the sun rose they would open the battle. This was accepted by our men; and while we waited, the whole night was passed in dances and songs, as much on one side as on the other, with endless insults, and other talk, such as the little courage they had, their feebleness and inability to make resistance against their arms, and that when day came they should feel it to their ruin. Our men also were not lacking in retort, telling them that they should see such power of arms as never before; and much other talk, as is customary in the siege of a city. After plenty of singing, dancing, and parleying with one another, daylight came. My companions and I remained concealed for fear that the enemy should see us, preparing our arms the best that we could, separated, however, each in one of the canoes of the Montagnais savages. After arming ourselves with light armor, each of us took an arquebuse and went ashore. I saw the enemy come out of their barricade, nearly 200 men, strong and robust to look at, coming slowly toward us with a dignity and assurance that pleased me very much. At their head there were three chiefs. Our men also went forth in the same order, and they told me that those who wore three large plumes were the chiefs; and that there were only three of them; and that they were recognizable by these plumes, which were a great deal larger than those of their companions; and that I should do all I could to kill them. I promised them to do all in my power, and said that I was very sorry that they could not understand me well, so that I might give order and system to their attack of the enemy, in which case we should undoubtedly destroy them all; but that this could not be remedied; that I was very glad to encourage them and to show them the good-will that I felt, when we should engage in battle.

    As soon as we were ashore they began to run about 200 paces toward their enemy, who were standing firmly and had not yet noticed my companions, who went into the woods with some savages. Our men began to call me with loud cries; and, to give me a passageway, they divided into two parts a;ul put me at their head, where I marched about twenty paces in front of them until I was thirty paces from the enemy. They at once saw me and halted, looking at me, and I at them. When I saw them making a move to shoot at us, I rested my arquebuse against my cheek and aimed directly at one of the three chiefs. With the same shot two of them fell to the ground, and one of their companions, who was wounded and afterward died. I put four balls into my arquebuse. When our men saw this shot so favorable for them, they began to make cries so loud that one could not have heard it thunder. Meanwhile the arrows did not fail to fly from both sides. The Iroquois were much astonished that two men had been so quickly killed, although they were provided with armor woven from cotton thread and from wood, proof against their arrows. This alarmed them greatly. As I was loading again, one of my companions fired a shot from the woods, which astonished them again to such a degree that, seeing their chiefs dead, they lost courage, took to flight and abandoned the field and their fort, fleeing into the depths of the woods. Pursuing them thither I killed some more of them. Our savages also killed several of them and took ten or twelve of them prisoners. The rest escaped with the wounded. There were fifteen or sixteen of our men wounded by arrow shots, who were soon healed.

    After we had gained the victory they amused themselves by taking a great quantity of Indian corn and meal from their enemies, and also their arms, which they had left in order to run better. And having made good cheer, danced and sung, we returned three hours afterward with the prisoners.

    This place, where this charge was made, is in latitude 43 degrees and some minutes, and I named the lake Lake Champlain.

    Chapter X

    Return from the battle, and what happened on the way.

    After going eight leagues, toward evening they took one of the prisoners and harangued him about the cruelties that he and his people had inflicted on them, without having any consideration for them; and said that similarly he ought to make up his mind to receive as much. They commanded him to sing, if he had any courage; which he did, but it was a song very sad to hear.

    Meanwhile our men lighted a fire, and when it was blazing well, each one took a brand and burned this poor wretch little by little, to make him suffer greater torment. Sometimes they stopped and threw water on his back. Then they tore out his nails and put the fire on the ends of his fingers and on his privy member. Afterward they flayed the top of his head and dripped on top of it a kind of gum all hot; then they pierced his arms near the wrists, and with sticks pulled the sinews, and tore them out by force; and when they saw that they could not get them, they cut them. This poor wretch uttered strange cries, and I pitied him when I saw him treated in this way; and yet he showed such endurance that one would have said that, at times, he did not feel any pain.

    They strongly urged me to take some fire and do as they were doing, but I explained to them that we did not use such cruelties at all, and that we killed them at once, and that if they wished me to fire a musket shot at him I would do it gladly. They said “no,” and that he would not feel any pain. I went away from them, distressed to see so much cruelty as they were practising upon this body. When they saw that I was not pleased at it, they called me and told me to fire a musket shot at him; which I did without his seeing it at all. After he was dead they were not satisfied, for they opened his belly and threw his entrails into the lake; then they cut off his head, his arms, and his legs, which they scattered in different directions, and kept the scalp, which they had skinned off, as they had done with all the others that they had killed in the battle.

    They committed also another wickedness, which was to take the heart, which they cut into several pieces and gave to a brother of his and others of his companions, who were prisoners, to eat. They put it into their mouths, but would not swallow it. Some Algonquin savages, who were guarding them, made some of them spit it out and threw it into the water. This is how these people treat those whom they capture in war; and it would be better for them to die in fighting, or to kill themselves on the spur of the moment, as there are many who do, rather than fall into the hands of their enemies. After this execution we resumed our march to return with the rest of the prisoners, who always went along singing, without any hope of being better treated than the other. When we arrived at the rapids of the River of the Iroquois, the Algonquins returned to their country, and also the Ochateguins with some of the prisoners. They were well pleased with what had taken place in the war, and that I had gone with them readily. So we separated with great protestations of friendship, and they asked me if I did not wish to go into their country to aid them always as a brother. I promised that I would do so, and I returned with the Montagnais.

    After informing myself, through the prisoners, about their country, and about how large it might be, we packed up the baggage to return; which we did with such speed that every day we made 25 or 30 leagues in their canoes, which is the ordinary rate. When we were at the mouth of the River Iroquois, there were some of the savages who dreamed that their enemies were pursuing them. This dream at once led them to move the camp, although the night was very bad on account of winds and rain; and they went to pass the night among some high reeds, which are in Lake St. Peter, until the next day. Two days afterward we reached our settlement, where I had them given bread, peas and beads, which they asked me for to ornament the heads of their enemies, in order to make merry on their arrival. The next day I went with them in their canoes to Tadoussac, to see their ceremonies. As they approached the shore each one took a stick with the heads of their enemies hung on the ends, with these beads on them, singing one and all. When they were near the shore the women undressed entirely naked and threw themselves into the water, going in front of the canoes, to take the heads to hang afterward to their necks, like a precious chain. Some days afterward they made me a present of one of these heads and of two sets of their enemies’ weapons, to preserve, in order to show them to the King; which I promised to do, to give them pleasure.


    This page titled 1.6.1: From The Voyages and Explorations of Sieur de Champlain is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Wendy Kurant (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) .

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