As most know the story line I will paraphrase Proff. Eccles conclusion and also from Angus J. Macdougall, SJ’s excellent booklet on Brébeuf below.
Just as the fruits of the Jesuit mission to Huronia were bearing fruit, the menace of the Iroquois loomed larger again. Recall that the Iroquois Confederacy, located in western NY and allied with the English colonists in Albany, sought to take over the Huron role of middlemen in the lucrative fur trade between western tribes and the colonial powers.
In 1648 a 250 strong party of Huron paddled to Trois Rivieres and enroute, routed an attacking Iroquois war party. However while they were gone, an even stronger Iroquois war party attacked St Joseph mission and a neighbouring village in Huronia. Of a total population of 3000, about 700 Huron were killed or captured, mostly women and children. Fr. Antoine Daniel, SJ was killed too.
That winter was a cruel one. Over 6000 persons took refuge in St. Marie as starvation stared them all in the face. On March 15, 1649, a war party of some 1200 Iroquois attacked St-Ignace in complete surprise, breaching the palisade and over running the village. After two unsuccessful attacks on nearby St-Louis, the same result occurred the next day. Frs. Jean Brébeuf, SJ and Gabriel Lalemant, SJ who were visiting St. Louis at the time, baptised catachumens at the breach, urging the Huron to die bravely. They themselves refusing to flee, were captured. Both villages were burnt to the ground.
Not far away at the fortified St.-Marie mission, the French and Huron prepared for a last stand. 300 brave Huron from La Conception sortied out and inflicted severe losses on the Iroquois before being overwhelmed by much superior numbers. Fearing the arrival of other large Huron relief forces, the Iroquois then withdrew. This was on March 19 which was the Feast of St. Joseph. The French attributed their deliverance to his special protection. St Joseph is the patron saint of Canada
Frs. Brébeuf and Lalement were martyred after being gruesomely tortured. (In 1930, they along with six of their fellow Jesuit missionaries were canonized by Pope Pius XI.) In the weeks that followed, 15 additional Huron villages were abandoned out of fear of further Iroquois attacks. Two months later the missionaries would burn and abandon St.-Marie, their pride and joy. The final withdrawl of the Jesuits occurred in 1650 as the Huron nation had been destroyed. This they sadly believed was clearly part of God’s grand design. The Jesuits then moved further west and established a new mission on the southern shore of Lake Superior.
The Iroquois themselves having suffered severe losses, negotiated a peace treaty with the French in 1653. The Jesuits were then allowed to establish themselves in the villages of the Five Nations. While free to trade in both Montreal and Albany, the role of middleman eluded them, as the Ottawa Nation centered around Michilimackinac took over this role from the Huron. Remnants of the Huron survived, dispersing to the west and south
And so ends the story of the Jesuit and Huron Nation. You can see all this amazing history by visiting the Canadian Martyrs Shrine and the neighbouring St.-Marie Among the Huron restored village in Midland, Ontario. Here are a few pics from our visit there a few years back. Thank you Proff. Eccles and Fr. Macdougall, SJ for your painstaking research and analysis.