New France on the Brink of the Abyss

On September 20, 1645, a peace treaty was agreed to at Trois-Rivieres between the Algonquin, the French and the Huron on one side and the Iroquois on the other.

The negotiations were punctuated by exchanges of gifts featuring wampum, necklaces and beaver skins, were conducted in four languages.

The signature was celebrated with a feast offered to 200 guests, most of them natives. The Iroquois acknowledges the peace in a symbolic way: It is going well. We are all eating together and have the same dish. Unfortunately, it would only be a temporary truce, but the French took advantage of the period of calm to reinforce defences of their settlements.

Actually, during the winter of 1646, the Iroquois burned Fort Richelieu at the mouth of the Richelieu River. This fort stood on their way to St. Lawrence and was seen as their principal obstacle. In fact, the fort was empty at the moment of the attack, because the French might have thought that the war was over.

In the spring, the Iroquois sent bands to harass the Huron and the Algonquin, who were fishing and hunting. The two peoples suffered heavy casualties and this was the beginning of their destruction by the Iroquois, even though all three peoples had been par of the same nation in the past. “There was such a fright throughout Canada, that hears were frozen by the excess of fear…”, - reports Dollier de Casson, the Sulpicians superior.

New France was in a critical situation. The Iroquois had decided to annihilate the enemies. They burned St. Joseph mission, which housed 400 Huron families and killed it missionary Antoine Daniel, the first Jesuit murdered in Huronia. Then they destroyed St. Ignace mission, killing Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Gabriel Lalemant. The turn of St. Jean mission came, where the Father Charles Garnier was killed.

The whole colony teetered on the brink of the abyss.

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