At the beginning
of the 17th century, there were between 16,000 and 30,000
Hurons living in lands distributed in southeastern Ontario
(Georgian Bay), overlapping the actual frontiers of Quebec
and the United States.
Agriculture and trade made the Hurons one of the most prosperous
and stable nations in North America at the time. The Hurons,
called Wendat, had a monopoly on corn and tobacco, wich
they traded for furs with other Aboriginal nations. Afterwards,
the trading will be done with European groups, who will
later exploit and colonize those territories. Their trading
area took in the Great Lakes region, the Saint-Maurice Valley,
the Saguenay region and even Hudson Bay.
According to Marguerite Vincent, author of the book La Nation
Huronne, "The Hurons were very much aware of the perfection
of their trading system and very proud of the influence
they enjoyed among other Indians, to the point that they
refused to learn any dialect other than their own, forcing
the Indians that traded with them to learn Huron".
When Jacques-Cartier arrived in 1534, the Hurons were at
war with the Iroquois. The two nations were fighting over
the fur trade in the Ohio Valley and along the Mississippi.
The situation worsened once the Europeans brought in firearms.
Soon the war imported by the English and French was superimposed
on the war between the Iroquois and Hurons, adding further
violence to the hostilities.
From 1649, the Hurons were defeated many times with many
casualties, many deaths also occur from
diseases caused by contacts with the Europeans. Pursued
and harassed by the Iroquois, they live the Hurons land
and the survivors took refuge in Quebec City, where they
were welcomed by the Ursulines, Hospitalers and Jesuits.
The Hurons then moved successively seven times, (either
on conceded lands or into reductions in the Quebec area)
before settling permanently in Wendake (Village-des-Hurons)
By 1740, all that was left of what had been a stable and
populous nation at the beginning of the 17th
century was 400 to 1000 individuals living in Loretteville
and along the shore of Lake Erie. In 1829, there were 179
people in Wendake. Today, there are 2,751 Hurons, including
the 1,100 living in Wendake.
The Hurons form today a prosperous community. The economy
of Wendake provides work for most of its members during
the touristic season and to over 300 non-Native people.
The snowshoes, mocassins and canoes built by the Hurons
enjoy an international reputation. The touristic, cultural
, manufacturer and services sectors are at the heart of
the communitie's economic development.
Living in a urbanized zone for over 300 years, the Hurons
are now making efforts to revive their culture and their
Famous Hurons include Degandawida, the father of the Five
Nations Confederacy that was one of the models for the American
constitution ; Chief Kondiaronk, who was famous for
his skill as a diplomat and his role in the conclusion of
the 1701 peace treaty, to wich all the Indian nations of
New France adhered; Prosper Vincent (1842-1915), the first
Huron elected to the Quebec National Assembly and a prosperous
business man ; Oscar Bastien, the first Huron radio
announcer (1927-1942) ; and Léon Gros-Louis,
the first Huron doctor to graduate from Laval University.