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Huron and Algonkin joined Champlain on Expedition

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The Huron, and their Algonkin allies who dwelt on the Ottawa, being at that time engaged in a sanguinary war with the confederated Iroquois tribes south of Lake Ontario, persuaded Champlain to join them in an expedition which they were projecting into the territories of their enemy. The combined forces set out from Ca-i-ha-gué, the chief town of the Huron, situated between the river Severn and Matchedash Bay, on the first day of September 1615.

Crossing Lake Simcoe in their bark canoes, they made a short portage to the headquarters of the River Trent, and descended in its zigzag channel into Lake Ontario. Passing from island to island in the group, which lies in the eastern extremity of that Lake, they safely reached its southern shore, and landed in the present State of New York. Concealing their canoes in the adjacent woods, they started overland for their Iroquois enemies.1

In an account of this expedition, read before the New York Historical Society in March, 1849, and published in its Proceedings for that year,2 I endeavored to establish the precise point where the invaders landed, the route which they pursued, and the position of the Iroquois fort which they besieged. The fact that Champlain had, at that early day, visited the central part of the State of New York, seemed to have been overlooked by all previous writers, and was deemed to be an interesting topic for historical investigation. Taking for my guide the edition of Champlain’s works published in 1632, the only one then accessible, I became satisfied on a careful study of the text alone, the map being lost, that the expedition landed at or near Pointe de Traverse, now called ” Stony Point,” in Jefferson County, and from thence proceeded in a southerly direction, and after crossing the Big and Little Sandy creeks and Salmon and Oneida rivers, reached the Iroquois fort on Onondaga Lake. I fully stated these conclusions in the communication above referred to, and they were approved and adopted by several of our American historians.3 Other writers, however, of equal note and authority, locate the fort as far west as Canandaigua Lake.”4

In view of these considerations, I have been led to reexamine the subject, aided by additional sources of information, particularly by the late Abbé Laverdière’s recent edition of all of Champlain’s works. My present purpose is to state, briefly, the result of that re-examination, and the additional grounds upon which I adhere to my former conclusions, I will first, for convenient reference, give a literal translation of that part of Champlain’s narrative which relates to the question. It is taken from the edition of 1619, which differs in a few unimportant particulars from that of 1632. After describing the voyage until their embarkation near the eastern end of Lake Ontario, a synopsis of which has already been given, our historian says

” We made about fourteen leagues in crossing to the other side of the Lake, in a southerly direction, towards the territories of the enemy. The Indians concealed all their canoes in the woods near the shore. We made by land about four leagues, over a sandy beach, where I noticed a very agreeable and beautiful country, traversed by many small streams, and two small rivers which empty into the said Lake. Also many ponds and meadows, abounding in an infinite variety of game, numerous vines, and fine woods, a great number of chestnut trees, the fruit of which was yet in its covering. Although very small, it was of good flavor. All the canoes being thus concealed, we left the shore of the Lake, which is about eighty leagues long and twenty-five wide, the greater part of it being inhabited by Indians along its banks, and continued our way by land about twenty-five or thirty leagues. During four days we crossed numerous streams and a river issuing from a Lake, which empties into that of the Entouhonorons. This Lake, which is about twenty-five or thirty leagues in circumference, contains several beautiful islands, and is the place where our Iroquois enemies catch their fish, which are there in great abundance. On the 9th of October, our people being on a scout, encountered eleven Indians whom they took prisoners, namely, four women, three boys, a girl, and three men, who were going to the fishery, distant four leagues from the enemies’ fort. The next day, about three o’clock in the afternoon, we arrived before the fort. Their village was enclosed with four strong rows of interlaced palisades, composed of large pieces of wood, thirty feet high, not more than half a foot apart and near an unfailing body of water.  We were encamped until the 16th of the month. As the five hundred men did not arrive,’ the Indians decided to leave by an immediate retreat, and began to make baskets in which to carry the wounded, who were placed in them doubled in a heap, and so bent and tied as to render it impossible for them to stir, any more than an infant in its swaddling clothes, and not without great suffering, as I can testify, having been carried several days on the back of one of our Indians, thus tied and imprisoned, which made me lose all patience. As soon as I had strength to sustain myself, I escaped from this prison, or to speak plainly, from this hell.

“The enemy pursued us about half a league, in order to capture some of our rear guard, but their efforts were useless and they withdrew.5 The retreat was very tedious, being from twenty-five to thirty leagues, and greatly fatigued the wounded, and those who carried them, though they relieved each other from time to time. On the 8th considerable snow fell which lasted but a short time. It was accompanied with a violent wind, which greatly incommoded us.

Nevertheless we made such progress, that we reached the banks of the Lake of the Entouhonorons, at the place where we had concealed our canoes, and which were found all whole. We were apprehensive that the enemy had broken them up.6

I will now proceed to examine the reasons, which have been assigned in favor of locating the Iroquois fort on or west of Canandaigua Lake. They are three-fold, and founded on the following assumptions:

1st. That the Entouhonorons, whose territory was invaded, were the Seneca, then residing on and west of Canandaigua Lake7

2d. That the route, as laid down on the map of Champlain, which is annexed to the edition of 1632, indicates that the fort was on Canandaigua Lake, or on a tributary of the Genesee river, and consequently in the Seneca country.8

3d. That the distances traveled by the expedition, as stated by Champlain, prove that the extreme point he reached must have been in the Seneca country.9

I will notice these propositions in their order. 1st. In regard to the identity of the Entouhonorons with the Seneca. One of the arguments urged in favor of this identity is based on the similarity of name, the Seneca being called ” Sonontoerrhonon ” by the Huron. But the latter called the Onondagas ” Onontaerrhonon,” which bears quite as strong a resemblance to Entouhonorons as the name they applied to the Seneca. It may be stated here that O’Callaghan, Parkman, Ferland, and Laverdière, each called the tribe in question ” Entouhoronon,” whereas, Champlain, in all the editions of his works, refers to them invariably as ” Entouhonorons.” He never calls them ” Entouhoronon ” in his text. On the map annexed to the edition of 1632, they are named ” A ntouoronons,” but in the index to the map, ” Antouhonorons.10 It must, therefore, have been from the map, and not from the text, that the word ” Entouhoronon ” was derived. The other name, as uniformly given by Champlain in his text, we must assume to he correct, in preference to the solitary entry on the map.11


  1. Champlain’s Voyages. Edition of 1632, p. 251. 

  2. Proceeding for 1849, p. 96. 

  3. The first account of the expedition was published in 1619. 

  4. Brodhead’s History of New York, Vol. I., p. 69; Clark’s History of Onondaga, Vol. I., p. 253; Shea’s edition of Charlevoix’s New France, Vol. II., p. 28, note. 

  5. A reinforcement they were expecting from the Carantouanais, who lived on the sources of the Susquehanna. 

  6. Laverdière’s Champlain, Vol. I, p. 521, n. 

  7. O’Callaghan, in Doc. Hist. N. V., Vol. 1, p. 

  8. Laverdière’s Champlain, Vol. I, p. 518, n. 

  9. Laverdière’s Champlain, Vol. 2, p. 1392. 

  10. If it be assumed that the terminations “ronons ” and “norons” are identical, and mere suffixes, signifying, in the Huron language, ” people,” see Father Bruya’s Mohawk Dictionary, p. 18, then, if those terminations are dropped from each of the three words, they will respectively become “sonontoe,” onontae,” and “entouho,” and represent the names of the places where those nations resided. Now it cannot be said that there is any stronger resemblance between sonontoe and entouho, then between onontae and entouho. 

  11. Parkman’s Pioneers, p. 373. 

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