- This article is about the First Nations people, the Wyandot, also known as the Huron. For other uses, see Huron (disambiguation).
The Wyandot or Wendat (also called the Huron) are a First Nations people originally from Southern Ontario, Canada. The early French explorers called the members of a four-tribe confederacy the 'Huron'. In French, a hure is the rough-haired head of wild boars. According to Jesuit Father Gabriel Lalemant, this is where the name would come from. Another possibility is that it referred to French huron peasant, because the Huron were seen growing corn and sunflowers.
When the French encountered the Hurons in the 17th century they learned their language and discovered their social organization. They were divided into various "nations" comprising the Huron Confederacy. These nations were four to six in number, and included the Arendarhonon, the Tahontaenrat, the Attigneenongnahac, the Attignawantan, of whom the Ataronchronon seem to have been a subdivision. (The Hurons were not the only Iroquoian people in the area to be organized into confederacies. The Petun nation, the tribes who lived around Georgian Bay in southern-central Ontario, were further divided into Bear, Cord, Deer, and Rock tribes. To the south, on southern Lake Huron and northern Lake Erie, were the Attiwandaronk or Neutral nations, who were less well known to the French. And of course, the Iroquois themselves were a league of five (later six) nations.)
Before the French arrived the Hurons were already at war with the Iroquois. The war was extended to the French, who allied with the Huron because they were, at the time, the most advanced trading nation. The Iroquois also tended to be allies of the English who took advantage of their hatred of the Hurons and their new French allies. The introduction of European weapons increased the severity of the war, and by about 1650 the Iroquois had almost completely destroyed the Huron tribes. The Jesuit mission of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, near modern Midland, Ontario, was one focus of Iroquois attacks; it was destroyed in 1648 and many of the Jesuit missionaries were killed (see Canadian Martyrs). After a bitter winter on Christian Island, Ontario, some Huron-Wendat relocated near Quebec City and settled in an area they call Wendake.
The western Hurons eventually established themselves in the area of Ohio and southern Michigan. It is this group that became commonly known to English speakers as "Wyandots" (notably in James Fenimore Cooper's novel Wyandotte, published in 1843). In the late 18th century, the Wyandots obtained a position of symbolic importance as the "uncles", or senior members, of the Wabash Confederacy, which waged war against the United States in the 1790s. Some Wyandot still live in southern Ontario and Michigan. However, most of the surviving people were displaced through Indian Removal in the early 19th century, and a large population of Wyandot (over 4,000) can be found in Kansas and Oklahoma.
The approximately 3,000 Huron-Wendat in Quebec are primarily Catholic and have French as their first language, although there are currently efforts afoot to promote the use and study of the Wendat language. For many decades, a leading source of income for the Huron-Wendat of Quebec has been selling pottery and other locally produced crafts.
In 1999, representatives the far-flung Wendat bands of Quebec, Kansas, Oklahoma and Michigan gathered at their historic homeland in Midland, Ontario, and formally re-established the Wendat Confederacy.
The historian Georges Sioui is a Wendat active in the local politics of Wendake; Bruce Trigger is a noted scholar in Huron-Wendat studies and has been adopted as an honorary Wendat.
The Huron lived in villages spanning from one to ten acres (40,000 mē), some of which were fortified in defense against Iroquois attack. They practised agriculture and lived in long houses similar to the Iroqouis. Villages were abandoned every few decades as the nearby forest grew thin and the soil became less fertile.
They were able to keep stores and provisions, and were comparatively wealthy. They engaged in extensive trade with neighboring tribes, and even with tribes from as far south as the lower Mississippi. They traded for tobacco with their southern neighbors, the Attiwandaron, or the Neutral Nation, so-called because they remained neutral in the conflict between Huron and Iroquois. This tobacco they then traded to the French. They forcibly prevented the Neutrals from establishing direct trade with the French, and as such were able to command huge profits as middlemen.
Hurons practiced marriage, but it was a loose form of matrimony that could be ended by divorce by either party at any time. Marriage also did not confer any degree of sexual exclusivity. Indeed, sexual restraints were few and far between. Attrative young Huron women could accumulate considerable wealth bartering sexual favors.
The Hurons were animists who believed spirits were present in just about everything, animate or inanimate. Reportedly, they would hold an annual marriage ceremony, in which two young girls of the tribe would wed the tribe's fishing nets, in the hopes that this would encourage the nets to perform their tasks more effectively.
Each modern Wendat community is a self-governing band:
- Huron-Wendat Nation just outside Quebec City, with some 3 000 members
- Wyandot Nation of Anderdon in southern Ontario and Michigan, with headquarters in Trenton, Michigan and perhaps 800 members
- Wyandot Nation of Kansas, with headquarters in Kansas City, Kansas, with perhaps 400 members
- Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, with between 3 000 and 4 000 members