Ceremonies of Possession

Document 1: Champlain, The Voyages of Samuel de Champlain

Original Source: Samuel de Champlain, Les Voyages de la Nouvelle France, (Paris: Pierre Le-Mur, 1632), 173-178.

Transcription Source: Samuel Champlain, Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 1604-1618, W.L. Grant, ed., (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1907), 207-212.


On the thirteenth day of the month two hundred Charioquois savages, together with the captains, Ochateguin, Iroquet, and Tregouaroti, brother of our savage, brought back my servant. 1 We were greatly pleased to see them. I went to meet them in a canoe with our savage. As they were approaching slowly and in order, our men prepared to salute them, with a discharge of arquebuses, muskets, and small pieces. When they were near at hand, they all set to shouting together, and one of the chiefs gave orders that they should make their harangue, in which they greatly praised us, commending us as truthful, inasmuch as I had kept the promise to meet them at this Fall. After they had made three more shouts, there was a discharge of musketry twice from thirteen barques or pataches that were there. This alarmed them so, that they begged me to assure them that there should be no more firing, saying that the greater part of them had never seen Christians, nor heard thunderings of that sort, and that they were afraid of its harming them, but that they were greatly pleased to see our savage in health, whom they supposed to be dead, as had been reported by some Algonquins, who had heard so from the Montagnais. The savage commended the treatment I had shown him in France, and the remarkable objects he had seen, at which all wondered, and went away quietly to their cabins, expecting that on the next day I would show them the place where I wished to have them dwell. I saw also my servant, who was dressed in the costume of the savages, who commended the treatment he had received from them. He informed me of all he had seen and learned during the winter, from the savages.

The next day I showed them a spot for their cabins, in regard to which the elders and principal ones consulted very privately. After their long consultation they sent for me alone and my servant, who had learned their language very well. They told him they desired a close alliance with me, and were sorry to see here all these shallops, and that our savage had told them he did not know them at all nor their intentions, and that it was clear that they were attracted only by their desire of gain and their avarice, and that when their assistance was needed they would refuse it, and would not act as I did in offering to go with my companions to their country and assist them, of all of which I had given them proofs in the past. They praised me for the treatment I had shown our savage, which was that of a brother, and had put them under such obligations of good will to me, that they said they would endeavor to comply with anything I might desire from them, but that they feared that the other boats would do them some harm. I assured them that they would not, and that we were all under one king, whom our savage had seen, and belonged to the same nation, though matters of business were confined to individuals, and that they had no occasion to fear, but might feel as much security as if they were in their own country. After considerable conversation, they made a present of a hundred castors. I gave them in exchange other kinds of merchandise. They told me there were more than four hundred savages of their country who had purposed to come, but had been prevented by the following representations of an Iroquois prisoner, who had belonged to me, but had escaped to his own country. He had reported, they said, that I had given him his liberty and some merchandise, and that I purposed to go to the Fall with six hundred Iroquois to meet the Algonquins and kill them all, adding that the fear aroused by this intelligence had alone prevented them from coming. I replied that the prisoner in question had escaped without my leave, that our savage knew very well how he went away, and that there was no thought of abandoning their alliance, as they had heard, since I had engaged in war with them, and sent my servant to their country to foster their friendship, which was still farther confirmed by my keeping my promise to them in so faithful a manner.

They replied that, so far as they were concerned, they had never thought of this; that they were well aware that all this talk was far from the truth, and that if they had believed the contrary they would not have come, but that the others were afraid, never having seen a Frenchman except my servant. They told me also that three hundred Algonquins would come in five or six days, if we would wait for them, to unite with themselves in war against the Iroquois; that, however, they would return without doing so unless I went. I talked a great deal with them about the source of the great river and their country, and they gave me detailed information about their rivers, falls, lakes, and lands, as also about the tribes living there, and what is to be found in the region. Four of them assured me that they had seen a sea at a great distance from their country, but that it was difficult to go there, not only on account of the wars, but of the intervening wilderness. They told me also that, the winter before, some savages had come from the direction of Florida, beyond the country of the Iroquois, who lived near our ocean, and were in alliance with these savages. In a word they made me a very exact statement, indicating by drawings all the places where they had been, and taking pleasure in talking to me about them ; and for my part I did not tire of listening to them, as they confirmed points in regard to which I had been before in doubt. After all this conversation was concluded, I told them that we would trade for the few articles they had, which was done the next day. Each one of the barques carried away its portion ; we on our side had all the hardship and venture; the others, who had not troubled themselves about any explorations, had the booty, the only thing that urges them to activity, in which they employ no capital and venture nothing.

The next day, after bartering what little they had, they made a barricade about their dwelling, partly in the direction of the wood, and partly in that of our pataches ; and this they said they did for their security, in order to avoid the surprises of their enemies, which we took for the truth. On the coming night, they called our savage, who was sleeping on my patache, and my servant, who went to them. After a great deal of conversation, about midnight they had me called also. Entering their cabins, I found them all seated in council. They had me sit down near them, saying that when they met for the purpose of considering a matter, it was their custom to do so at night, that they might not be diverted by anything from attention to the subject in hand; that at night one thought only of listening, while during the day the thoughts were distracted by other objects.

But in my opinion, confiding in me, they desired to tell me privately their purpose. Besides, they were afraid of the other pataches, as they subsequently gave me to understand. For they told me that they were uneasy at seeing so many Frenchmen, who were not especially united to one another, and that they had desired to see me alone; that some of them had been beaten; that they were as kindly disposed towards me as towards their own children, confiding so much in me that they would do whatever I told them to do, but that they greatly mistrusted the others; that if I returned I might take as many of their people as I wished, if it were under the guidance of a chief; and that they sent for me to assure me anew of their friendship, which would never be broken, and to express the hope that I might never be ill disposed towards them; and being aware that I had determined to visit their country, they said they would show it to me at the risk of their lives, giving me the assistance of a large number of men, who could go everywhere ; and that in future we should expect such treatment from them as they had received from us.

Straightway they brought fifty castors and four strings of beads, which they value as we do gold chains, saying that I should share these with my brother, referring to Pont Grav, we being present together; that these presents were sent by other captains, who had never seen me; that they desired to continue friends to me; that if any of the French wished to go with them, they should be greatly pleased to have them do so ; and that they desired more than ever to establish a firm friendship. After much conversation with them I proposed that inasmuch as they were desirous to have me visit their country, I would petition His Majesty to assist us to the extent of forty or fifty men, equipped with what was necessary for the journey, and that I would embark with them on condition that they would furnish us the necessary provisions for the journey, and that I would take presents for the chiefs of the country through which we should pass, when we would return to our settlement to spend the winter; that moreover, if I found their country favorable and fertile, we would make many settlements there, by which means we should have frequent intercourse with each other, living happily in the future in the fear of God, whom we would make known to them. They were well pleased with this proposition, and begged me to shake hands upon it, saying that they on their part would do all that was possible for its fulfilment; that, in regard to provisions, we should be as well supplied as they themselves, assuring me again that they would show me what I desired to see. Thereupon, I took leave of them at daybreak, thanking them for their willingness to carry out my wishes, and entreating them to continue to entertain the same feelings.