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Forged in war

Iroquois Confederacy

By the early 1640s epidemics had decimated both the Nipissing and the Huron. At the same time Iroquois looting raids became better organized and more frequent. When a brief peace between the natives allied to the French and the Mohawk collapsed in 1646, patterns of warfare altered radically. The eastern Iroquois blocked trade routes, harassed French settlements, and scattered Ottawa valley bands. The western Iroquois began a series of well-organized campaigns to destroy the Huron. From 1640 to 1648 there were only four years of successful trading.

Coordinated planning and the effective use of muskets enabled the Iroquois confederacy to disperse the Huron tribes in 1647-9, the Petun in 1649-50, the Nipissing in 1649-51, and the Neutral in 1651-2. Fearing a similar fate, most of the eastern Great Lakes native groups, together with some Huron, Petun, and Nipissing refugees, fled west and north. Other refugees, mainly Christian converts, settled near Québec (Huron) and Trois-Rivières (Algonquin and Nipissing). The bulk of the surviving Huron, Petun, and Neutral joined the Iroquois and were gradually absorbed.

The Ottawa, Wyandot, and Saulteaux of Lake Superior and the Potawatomi at Green Bay, although harassed by the Dakota, consolidated their positions as principal native traders. The Nipissing and Amikwa who had fled to Lake Nipigon in 1650-3 began a new carrying trade between Montréal and interior Cree groups.

From 1654 to 1658 peace between the French and all the Iroquois except the Mohawk gave the Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga the opportunity to disperse the Erie and the refugee Petun and Neutral and to carry the war south to the Shawnee. In the upper Mississippi a group of westward-migrating Ottawa and Wyandot initiated a protracted conflict when they tried to take hunting territory from the Dakota.

The Iroquois war resumed in 1658. Despite a smallpox epidemic in 1662 and defeats suffered at the hands of the Saulteaux, Susquehannock, and Huron, the Iroquois managed to disperse the Attikamek by 1665 and to disrupt the Montagnais trade. In 1664 the French court sent troops to New France to destroy the Iroquois. Late in 1666 this force of 1,200 soldiers, led by Prouville de Tracy, burned the four principal villages of their most implacable foe, the Mohawk, and forced a peace on the Iroquois confederacy.


This piece outlines the disruptions that occurred in 1640 of the Iroquois tribe. Looting raids, massive attacks, and forced population movement are all exhibited in this interactive map and legend.


On the next page:

French Expansion

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Quiz :

Which tribe did Champlain help make a raid on the Mohawk in the early 1600s?

The Ottawa
The Petun
The Huron