Onontio, you are good: we are bad. But our anger is gone; I have no heart but for peace and rejoicing.”
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In the damp and freshness of a midsummer morning, when the sun had not yet risen, but when the river and the sky were red with the glory of approaching day, the inmates of the fort at Three Rivers were roused by a tumult of joyous and exultant voices. They thronged to the shore, — priests, soldiers, traders, and officers, mingled with warriors and shrill-voiced squaws from Huron and Algonquin camps in the neighboring forest. Close at hand they saw twelve or fifteen canoes slowly drifting down the current of the St. Lawrence, manned by eighty young Indians, all singing their songs of victory, and striking their paddles against the edges of their bark vessels in cadence with their voices. Among them three Iroquois prisoners stood upright, singing loud and defiantly, as men not fearing torture or death.
A few days before, these young warriors, in part Huron and in part Algonquin, had gone out on the war-path to the River Richelieu, where they had presently found themselves entangled among several bands of Iroquois. They withdrew in the night, after a battle in the dark with an Iroquois canoe, and, as they approached Fort Richelieu, had the good fortune to discover ten of their enemy ambuscaded in a clump of bushes and fallen trees, watching to waylay some of the soldiers on their morning visit to the fishing-nets in the river hard by. They captured three of them, and carried them back in triumph.
The victors landed amid screams of exultation. Two of the prisoners were assigned to the Hurons, and the third to the Algonquins, who immediately took him to their lodges near the fort at Three Rivers, and began the usual “caress,” by burning his feet with red-hot stones, and cutting off his fingers. Champfleur, the commandant, went out to them with urgent remonstrances, and at length prevailed on them to leave their victim without further injury, until Montmagny, the Governor, should arrive. He came with all dispatch, — not wholly from a motive of humanity, but partly in the hope that the three captives might be made instrumental in concluding a peace with their countrymen.
A council was held in the fort at Three Rivers. Montmagny made valuable presents to the Algonquins and the Hurons, to induce them to place the prisoners in his hands. The Algonquins complied; and the unfortunate Iroquois, gashed, maimed, and scorched, was given up to the French, who treated him with the greatest kindness. But neither the Governor’s gifts nor his eloquence could persuade the Hurons to follow the example of their allies; and they departed for their own country with their two captives, — promising, however, not to burn them, but to use them for negotiations of peace. With this pledge, scarcely worth the breath that uttered it, Montmagny was forced to content himself.
[1: Vimont, Relation, 1644, 45-49.]
Thus it appeared that the fortune of war did not always smile even on the Iroquois. Indeed, if there is faith in Indian tradition, there had been a time, scarcely half a century past, when the Mohawks, perhaps the fiercest and haughtiest of the confederate nations, had been nearly destroyed by the Algonquins, whom they now held in contempt.  This people, whose inferiority arose chiefly from the want of that compact organization in which lay the strength of the Iroquois, had not lost their ancient warlike spirit; and they had one champion of whom even the audacious confederates stood in awe. His name was Piskaret; and he dwelt on that great island in the Ottawa of which Le Borgne was chief. He had lately turned Christian, in the hope of French favor and countenance, — always useful to an ambitious Indian, — and perhaps, too, with an eye to the gun and powder-horn which formed the earthly reward of the convert.  Tradition tells marvellous stories of his exploits. Once, it is said, he entered an Iroquois town on a dark night. His first care was to seek out a hiding-place, and he soon found one in the midst of a large wood-pile.  Next he crept into a lodge, and, finding the inmates asleep, killed them with his war-club, took their scalps, and quietly withdrew to the retreat he had prepared. In the morning a howl of lamentation and fury rose from the astonished villagers. They ranged the fields and forests in vain pursuit of the mysterious enemy, who remained all day in the wood-pile, whence, at midnight, he came forth and repeated his former exploit. On the third night, every family placed its sentinels; and Piskaret, stealthily creeping from lodge to lodge, and reconnoitring each through crevices in the bark, saw watchers everywhere. At length he descried a sentinel who had fallen asleep near the entrance of a lodge, though his companion at the other end was still awake and vigilant. He pushed aside the sheet of bark that served as a door, struck the sleeper a deadly blow, yelled his war-cry, and fled like the wind. All the village swarmed out in furious chase; but Piskaret was the swiftest runner of his time, and easily kept in advance of his pursuers. When daylight came, he showed himself from time to time to lure them on, then yelled defiance, and distanced them again. At night, all but six had given over the chase; and even these, exhausted as they were, had begun to despair. Piskaret, seeing a hollow tree, crept into it like a bear, and hid himself; while the Iroquois, losing his traces in the dark, lay down to sleep near by. At midnight he emerged from his retreat, stealthily approached his slumbering enemies, nimbly brained them all with his war-club, and then, burdened with a goodly bundle of scalps, journeyed homeward in triumph. 
[2: Relation, 1660, 6 (anonymous).
Both Parrot and La Potherie recount traditions of the ancient superiority of the Algonquins over the Iroquois, who formerly, it is said, dwelt near Montreal and Three Rivers, whence the Algonquins expelled them. They withdrew, first to the neighborhood of Lake Erie, then to that of Lake Ontario, their historic seat. There is much to support the conjecture that the Indians found by Cartier at Montreal in 1535 were Iroquois (See “Pioneers of France,” 189.) That they belonged to the same family of tribes is certain. For the traditions alluded to, see Perrot, 9, 12, 79, and La Potherie, I. 288-295.]
[3: “Simon Pieskaret . . . n’estoit Chrestien qu’en apparence et par police.” — Lalemant, Relation, 1647, 68. — He afterwards became a convert in earnest.]
[4: Both the Iroquois and the Hurons collected great quantities of wood in their villages in the autumn.]
[5: This story is told by La Potherie, I. 299, and, more briefly, by Perrot, 107. La Potherie, writing more than half a century after the time in question, represents the Iroquois as habitually in awe of the Algonquins. In this all the contemporary writers contradict him.]
This is but one of several stories that tradition has preserved of his exploits; and, with all reasonable allowances, it is certain that the crafty and valiant Algonquin was the model of an Indian warrior. That which follows rests on a far safer basis.
Early in the spring of 1645, Piskaret, with six other converted Indians, some of them better Christians than he, set out on a war-party, and, after dragging their canoes over the frozen St. Lawrence, launched them on the open stream of the Richelieu. They ascended to Lake Champlain, and hid themselves in the leafless forests of a large island, watching patiently for their human prey. One day they heard a distant shot. “Come, friends,” said Piskaret, “let us get our dinner: perhaps it will be the last, for we must dine before we run.” Having dined to their contentment, the philosophic warriors prepared for action. One of them went to reconnoiter, and soon reported that two canoes full of Iroquois were approaching the island. Piskaret and his followers crouched in the bushes at the point for which the canoes were making, and, as the foremost drew near, each chose his mark, and fired with such good effect that, of seven warriors, all but one were killed. The survivor jumped overboard, and swam for the other canoe, where he was taken in. It now contained eight Iroquois, who, far from attempting to escape, paddled in haste for a distant part of the shore, in order to land, give battle, and avenge their slain comrades. But the Algonquins, running through the woods, reached the landing before them, and, as one of them rose to fire, they shot him. In his fall he overset the canoe. The water was shallow, and the submerged warriors, presently finding foothold, waded towards the shore, and made desperate fight. The Algonquins had the advantage of position, and used it so well, that they killed all but three of their enemies, and captured two of the survivors. Next they sought out the bodies, carefully scalped them, and set out in triumph on their return. To the credit of their Jesuit teachers, they treated their prisoners with a forbearance hitherto without example. One of them, who was defiant and abusive, received a blow to silence him; but no further indignity was offered to either.
[6: According to Marie de l’Incarnation, Lettre, 14 Sept., 1645, Piskaret was for torturing the captives; but a convert, named Bernard by the French, protested against it.]
As the successful warriors approached the little mission settlement of Sillery, immediately above Quebec, they raised their song of triumph, and beat time with their paddles on the edges of their canoes; while, from eleven poles raised aloft, eleven fresh scalps fluttered in the wind. The Father Jesuit and all his flock were gathered on the strand to welcome them. The Indians fired their guns, and screeched in jubilation; one Jean Baptiste, a Christian chief of Sillery, made a speech from the shore; Piskaret replied, standing upright in his canoe; and, to crown the occasion, a squad of soldiers, marching in haste from Quebec, fired a salute of musketry, to the boundless delight of the Indians. Much to the surprise of the two captives, there was no running of the gantlet, no gnawing off of finger-nails or cutting off of fingers; but the scalps were hung, like little flags, over the entrances of the lodges, and all Sillery betook itself to feasting and rejoicing.  One old woman, indeed, came to the Jesuit with a pathetic appeal: “Oh, my Father! let me caress these prisoners a little: they have killed, burned, and eaten my father, my husband, and my children.” But the missionary, answered with a lecture on the duty of forgiveness. 
[7:Vimont, Relation, 1645, 19-21.]
[8: Vimont, Relation, 1645, 21, 22.]
On the next day, Montmagny came to Sillery, and there was a grand council in the house of the Jesuits. Piskaret, in a solemn harangue, delivered his captives to the Governor, who replied with a speech of compliment and an ample gift. The two Iroquois were present, seated with a seeming imperturbability, but great anxiety of heart; and when at length they comprehended that their lives were safe, one of them, a man of great size and symmetry, rose and addressed Montmagny: —
“Onontio,  I am saved from the fire; my body is delivered from death. Onontio, you have given me my life. I thank you for it. I will never forget it. All my country will be grateful to you. The earth will be bright; the river calm and smooth; there will be peace and friendship between us. The shadow is before my eyes no longer. The spirits of my ancestors slain by the Algonquins have disappeared. Onontio, you are good: we are bad. But our anger is gone; I have no heart but for peace and rejoicing.” As he said this, he began to dance, holding his hands upraised, as if apostrophizing the sky. Suddenly he snatched a hatchet, brandished it for a moment like a madman, and then flung it into the fire, saying, as he did so, “Thus I throw down my anger! thus I cast away the weapons of blood! Farewell, war! Now I am your friend forever!” 
[9: Onontio, Great Mountain, a translation of Montmagny’s name. It was the Iroquois name ever after for the Governor of Canada. In the same manner, Onas, Feather or Quill, became the official name of William Penn, and all succeeding Governors of Pennsylvania. We have seen that the Iroquois hereditary chiefs had official names, which are the same to-day that they were at the period of this narrative.]
[10: Vimont, Relation, 1645, 22, 23. He adds, that, “if these people are barbarous in deed, they have thoughts worthy of Greeks and Romans.”]
– The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, Chapter 19 by Francis Parkman
The below is from Francis Parkman’s Introduction.
If, at times, it may seem that range has been allowed to fancy, it is so in appearance only; since the minutest details of narrative or description rest on authentic documents or on personal observation.
Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them, he must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.
With respect to that special research which, if inadequate, is still in the most emphatic sense indispensable, it has been the writer’s aim to exhaust the existing material of every subject treated. While it would be folly to claim success in such an attempt, he has reason to hope that, so far at least as relates to the present volume, nothing of much importance has escaped him. With respect to the general preparation just alluded to, he has long been too fond of his theme to neglect any means within his reach of making his conception of it distinct and true.