Transcribed by:

Gretchen Stanek
Parkland College
Anthropology 101

© 2005 by the Center For Social Research, Parkland College

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents



Secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Vol. LI
Ottawas, Lower Canada, Iroquois

The Imperial Press, Cleveland


CXXI. Relation de ce qvi s'est passé en la Novvelle France, les années mil six cens soixante six, & mil six cens soixante sept. [Second installment, concluding the document.] François le Mercier, Kebec, November 10, 1667; Claude Jean Allouez, n. p., n. d.; Thomas Morel, n. p., n. d.; Marie de S. Bonaventure, Kebec, October 20, 1667

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Chapter XI: Of the Mission to the Ilimouec, or Alimouek

THE Ilimouec speak Algonquin, but a very different dialect from those of all the other tribes. I understand them only slightly, because I have talked with them only a very little. They do not live in these regions, their country being more than sixty leagues hence toward the South, beyond a great river -- which, as well as I [106] can conjecture, empties into the Sea somewhere near Virginia. These people are hunters and warriors, using bows and arrows, rarely muskets, and never canoes. They used to be a populous nation, divided into ten large Villages; but now they are reduced to two, continual wars with the Nadouessi on one side and the Iroquois on the other having well-nigh exterminated them.

They acknowledge many spirits to whom they offer sacrifice. They practice a kind of dance, quite peculiar to themselves, which they call `the dance of the tobacco-pipe.' It is executed thus: they prepare a great pipe, which they deck with plumes, and put in the middle of the room, with a sort of veneration. One of the company rises, begins to dance, [107] and then yields his place to another, and this one to a third; and thus they dance in succession, one after another, and not together. One would take this dance for a pantomime ballet; and it is executed to the beating of a drum. The performer

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makes war in rhythmic time, preparing his arms, attiring himself, running, discovering the foe, raising the cry, slaying the enemy, removing his scalp, and returning home with a song of victory, -- and all with an astonishing exactness, promptitude and agility. After they have all danced, one after the other, around the pipe, it is taken and offered to the chief man in the whole assembly, for him to smoke; then to another, and so in succession to all. This ceremony resembles in its significance the [108] French custom of drinking, several out of the same glass; but, in addition, the pipe is left in the keeping of the most honored man, as a sacred trust, and a sure pledge of the peace and union that will ever subsist among them as long as it shall remain in that person's hands.

Of all the spirits to whom they offer sacrifice, they honor with a very special worship one who is preëminent above the others, as they maintain, because he is the maker of all things. Such a passionate desire have they to see him that they keep long fasts to that end, hoping that by this means God will be induced to appear to them in their sleep; and if they chance to see him, they deem themselves happy, and assured of a long life.

All the nations of the South have [109] this same wish to see God, which, without doubt, greatly facilitates their conversion; for it only remains to teach them how they must serve him in order to see him and be blessed.

I have proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ here to eighty people of this nation, and they have carried it and published it with approbation to the whole country of the South; consequently I can say

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that this Mission is the one where I have labored the least and accomplished the most. They honor our Lord among themselves in their own way, putting his Image, which I have given them, in the most honored place on the occasion of any important feast, while the Master of the banquet addresses it as follows: `In thy honor, O Man-God, [110] do we hold this feast; to thee do we offer these viands.

I confess that the fairest field for the Gospel appears to me to be yonder. Had I had leisure and opportunity, I would have pushed on to their country, to see with my own eyes all the good things there of which they tell me.

I find all those with whom I have mingled affable and humane; and it is said that whenever they meet a stranger, they give a cry of joy, caress him, and show him every possible evidence of affection. I have baptized but one child of this nation. The seeds of the faith which I have sown in their souls will bear fruit when it pleases the master of the vine to gather it. Their country is warm, and they raise two crops of Indian corn a year. [111] There are rattlesnakes there, which cause many deaths among them, as they do not know the antidote. They hold medicines in high esteem, offering sacrifice to them as to great spirits. They have no forests in their country, but vast prairies instead, where oxen, cows, deer, bears, and other animals feed in great numbers.