The Eighteenth-Century Wyandot
A Clan-Based Study
Publication Year: 2014
The Wyandot were born of two Wendat peoples encountered by the French in the first half of the seventeenth century—the otherwise named Petun and Huron—and their history is fragmented by their dispersal between Quebec, Michigan, Kansas, and Oklahoma. This book weaves these fragmented histories together, with a focus on the mid-eighteenth century.
Author John Steckley claims that the key to consolidating the stories of the scattered Wyandot lies in their clan structure. Beginning with the half century of their initial diaspora, as interpreted through the political strategies of five clan leaders, and continuing through the eighteenth century and their shared residency with Jesuit missionaries—notably, the distinct relationships different clans established with them—Steckley reveals the resilience of the Wyandot clan structure. He draws upon rich but previously ignored sources—including baptismal, marriage, and mortuary records, and a detailed house-to-house census compiled in 1747, featuring a list of male and female elders—to illustrate the social structure of the people, including a study of both male and female leadership patterns. A record of the 1747 census and translated copies of letters sent between the Wyandot and the French are included in appendices.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Indigenous Studies
Title Page, Copyright Page
Early in 1974, I discovered the Huron/Wendat language. It held a fascinating paradox. It was no longer spoken, but it may have had more written in and about it than any currently spoken Aboriginal language in Canada. Further, the ideas that I could help a people recover their lost linguistic treasure...
Chapter One: Introduction
It was early in the year of 1747. The people were the Wyandot.1 They lived in the Detroit/Windsor area on Bois Blanc Island in the Detroit River. The island is about 4 kilometres long (2.5 miles), and 0.8 kilometres wide (0.5 miles). A Jesuit missionary living with them, Father Pierre Potier, had compiled...
Chapter Two: Two Questions
To address the first question, you have to look first to the early seventeenth century to see their origin from two, possibly three, different peoples.1 When the French first travelled to what is now southern Ontario, they encountered three groupings of Iroquoian people. The name Iroquoian refers to both...
Chapter Three: Five Wyandot Strategists of the Late Seventeenth Century: Sastaretsi, Kandiaronk, Sk8tache, the Baron, and Quarante Sols
In the previous chapter we looked briefly at who the founding peoples of the Wyandot were, and more extensively at the clan nature of their society. In this chapter we will look at the transitional period in the second half of the seventeenth century. The people were seeking out new lands that they...
Chapter Four: Other Nations and the Clans of the Wyandot: Missionaries and Other Strangers Enter Their Midst
A List of Requests Is Presented For the first quarter century of their time in the Detroit area, the Wyandot did not have a missionary living with them. Some were happy with that, others were not. This situation would change shortly after the people sent a delegation in 1727 to Montreal to speak to the new (since 1726) French...
Chapter Five: Wyandot Participation in “Christian” Rituals
Father Pierre Potier had a detailed mind that liked to record many different sorts of information. That makes his writing a great ethnohistorical source of both French and Wyandot cultures of his time. His recording of the Wyandot participation in at least nominally “Christian” rituals can aid...
Chapter Six: Wyandot Leadership: Male Political Roles
To get some sense of what the nature of Wyandot leadership was, you need to become familiar with one verb root that was used by Wendat speakers to describe positions of significant authority: -nda,era- “to copy, imitate” (Steckley 2007b, 136). In The Jesuit Relations, the writers often used the...
Chapter Seven: The Political Roles of Wyandot Women
So far, only men’s positions of authority, male Wyandot political roles, have been discussed. These are more clearly articulated in the primary documents and in the historical literature generally than are the political roles of women. In most of the writings of the Jesuits there are few reasons to...
Chapter Eight: A Summary
We have been looking at the history of the Wyandot people, from their formation from two Wendat peoples (called by the French Petun and Huron), or possibly three (including the Neutre or Neutral), in the mid-seventeenth century, into the eighteenth century, with some references to the people in...
Appendix A: The Census
Jesuit Father Pierre Potier compiled his census sometime early in 1747, before the 20 May raid by Orontondi’s war party. It incorporates two villages, which Potier terms “Le petit village” and “Le grand village” (hereafter referred to as PV and GV, respectively), as well as two outlying settlements...
Appendix B: Wyandot Correspondence
Appendix C: N’endi
Located just after the correspondence are two passages named simply “n’endi,” which means “we, us” (also “I” as it is a first-person particle). It matches the particle pronouns of sa for second person and ondaie for third person. It might have been some kind of in-house newsletter in Wendat...
Appendix D: Festin des Noces
In Potier’s collection of religious writings in the Wendat language, there is a passage entitled Festin des Noces, or Wedding Ceremony (Potier 1920, 570–71). It is an important passage in relating what I would call the Jesuits’ soft-sell approach to this sacrament. It begins with a reference to the seven...