The Great Peace of Montreal
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The Great Peace of Montreal
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The Great Peace of Montreal

At the beginning of the 18th century, New France faced hard times.
In the early 18th century, New France faced hard times as the beaver market collapsed and epidemics of disease hit the colony. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
In the early 18th century, New France faced hard times as the beaver market collapsed and epidemics of disease hit the colony. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
In France the market was flooded with beaver. The merchants of New France were going bankrupt; the western trading posts were closed and furs were rotting in the warehouses of Quebec.

These were hard years for the Indian nations too. All the tribes were weak, decimated by European diseases and wars.

In the summer of 1701, more than 1,300 Indians, from forty different nations, gathered near Montreal. They came from the Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes, and Acadia. Many were lifelong enemies but all had responded to an invitation from the French governor. Their future and the fate of the colony were at stake. Among them was the great Huron chief Kondiaronk of Michilimackinac, the most influential of France's allies. He knew Montreal was ravaged by influenza, but came anyway:

"We have found many of our brothers dead along the river...
Huron Chief Kondiaronk of Michilimackinac was the most influential of France's naitve allies. (As portrayed by Graham Greene in Canada: A People's History)
Huron Chief Kondiaronk of Michilimackinac was the most influential of France's naitve allies. (As portrayed by Graham Greene in Canada: A People's History)
word had spread that the sickness was great in Montreal. All these corpses eaten away by the birds which we found at every moment were sufficiently convincing proof of it. But we made a bridge of all these bodies on which we marched firmly."

Their goal was to negotiate a comprehensive peace, among themselves and with the French. For Governor Hector de Callires, it was the culmination of 20 years of diplomacy.

The negotiations dragged on for days and peace was far from being guaranteed. The chiefs were wary. The main stumbling block to peace was the return of prisoners who were captured during previous campaigns and enslaved or adopted.
Responding to an invitation from French governor Hector de Callires, dozens of native nations gathered near Montreal in the summer of 1701 to negotiate a peace among themselves and with New France. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Responding to an invitation from French governor Hector de Callires, dozens of native nations gathered near Montreal in the summer of 1701 to negotiate a peace among themselves and with New France. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The return of prisoners was essential for Kondiaronk.

"You absolutely insist that we bring you all the Iroquois slaves among us. We have obeyed you... let us see at the same time if the Iroquois obey you... and how many of our nephews they have brought back... if they have done so it is a mark of their sincerity. If they have not done it, they are treacherous. I know, however, that they haven't brought a single one."

Without Kondiaronk's support, peace was unattainable. On August 1, seriously ill, he spoke for two hours in favour of a peace treaty that would be guaranteed by the French. Many were moved by his speech.

The following night, Kondiaronk died, struck down by influenza at the age of 52.
He was given a magnificent funeral, as impressive as Frontenac's, who died three years earlier. All the French paid homage to him, among them the French commissioner of the marine, Bacqueville de la Potherie:

"If he had been born a Frenchman, he was the kind of man to govern the most difficult affairs of a flourishing state... He had the sentiments of a beautiful soul and was a savage in name only."

The next day, the peace treaty was signed. From now on there would be no more wars between the French and the Indians. Thirty-eight nations signed the treaty, including the Iroquois. The Iroquois promised to remain neutral in any future conflict between the French and their former allies, the English colonists of New England.


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