Chapter 10: Huron and Algonquin Chiefs. First Meeting.

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Chapter 10: Huron and Algonquin Chiefs - First Meeting

On April twentieth, a forty-year-old Huron chief, who had resided in Trois-Rivieres since the Iroquois massacre of the Hurons at Sainte Marie, heard, from two Hurons who had come into the town two days earlier, a rumor of war.

He decided to edge in the battle and reduce the Iroquois population somewhat.

He had been in Huronia eleven years before when the rumors of a significant Iroquois attack turned out to be true. He had lost many friends and family members at that time. That was when the Black Robe Fr. Jean Brebeuf was tortured and killed along with other priests, religious lay brothers, and Huron.

Never again would he sit and wait on a rumor. He would go out and discover its veracity.

He organized a party of forty to investigate -- one brave for every year of his life.

He was the most feared, most cunning man in the Huron nation, and the Iroquois considered him the enemy with the 'greatest heart', the highest tribute they could pay.

His name was Annahotaha.

Annahotaha was an impressive man among the Huron and would have been so in any society. He wasn't particularly tall, and he wasn't the strongest of the Huron band, but he had a wide, powerful chest and perfectly formed legs. His legs were long, muscular tools that could be bent over a council or pumped through a forest for hours. He was perfectly balanced. The Indians played a game within a circle in which two men fought, each trying to move the other across the perimeter line drawn in the earth with a stick. He never lost.

A most impressive aspect of the man was his oblong face, centered by a long, sharp nose. His eyes were set deep in his large head so that they looked like small, dark caves. The lids were flat and hooded the pupils so that he never seemed to squint. The eyes themselves were black, intelligent, skeptical and oddly--considering what he had endured--full of good humor. When his eyes lit, like fires in caves, and he smiled, he showed white teeth and the corners of his mouth shot out in laugh lines like the whiskers of a cat. He wore his long, black hair straight back, gleaming with sunflower-seed oil, lank to his shoulders.

He wore the winter costume of the Indian of this and other tribes in this country, deer-skin breeches, leggings, moccasins of bearskin. Over his shoulders, he wore a large beaver skin and over all this he draped a robe with sleeves and girded by a piece of dried deer sinew. Like most other Indians, he carried a tobacco pouch on his hip.

Annahotaha and his men left the narrow, blowing streets of Trois-Rivieres and, taking minimal provisions, they decided to stay in the forest until they had Iroquois scalps.

In fourteen small canoes, they swiftly paddled away from the town.

On the morning of the second day, their scouts reported Indians down river-- too far to be sure what tribe.

His braves moved stealthily down the riverbank. The ground was wet, and the dead leaves from last fall made a wet and spongy carpet.

There were four Indians camped sixty yards away with one guard. The Hurons surrounded the camp in a wide circle.

The Indians were Algonquins -- their allies -- so one of Annahotaha's men indicated their presence by throwing a stone against a tree. The Algonquin guard stiffened, twisted somewhat to the sleeping three as if tossing in his sleep and said one almost inaudible word to his friends. In one swift movement, they were standing all with muskets ready.

Annahotaha spoke in Algonquin. The Hurons understood Algonquin but most of them refused to learn it or speak it. They considered this to be evidence of Huron superiority, but the Algonquins did not object. They knew knowledge of the two languages gave them the advantage in trade.