A: The focus of my inquiry is to evaluate the significance of the alliance between Champlain and the Wendat people and how it paved the path for further interaction and positive/negative relationships between indigenous peoples and Europeans.
The Wendat Confederacy was a confederacy of four Iroquois-speaking bands. They were the Rock, Bear, Cord, and Deer bands. During the time of Champlain’s contact, the Wendat occupied an area known as Huronia, around Lake SImcoe and Georgian Bay, Ontario. In 1650, although they were aided by Champlain they were defeated by the Iroquois Confederacy. After the devastating loss, the Wendat Confederacy split into two major groups: the Great-Lake Wyandots and the Huron-Wendat. In 1609, Champlain arrived near the St. Lawrence River and made contact with the Wendats. He allianced with the Wendat Confederacy, aiding them in their efforts to win trade wars against the Haudenosaunee in exchange for furs to bridge France and the Canadian Shield. Primary sources from Champlain’s stories demonstrate an eagerness for First Nations culture, and how the interactions allowed both explorers and indigenous peoples to progress.
Both parties of the alliance were monumental aspects of future relations between indigenous peoples and explorers, both negative and positive. While studying the history of these relations we must ponder the intentions of both parties and recognize the true wants of both indigenous peoples and Champlain. Champlain could’ve genuinely strived to formulate a personal relationship on an intimate level, or was strictly seeking resources and an exchange of strengths to aid his own agenda. The ethics and connections between two vastly different cultures in a time of ambition is a broad, yet crucial topic to consider.
- Cause and consequence
The French observed the superior furs that the Wendat possessed. They utilized missionaries was to convert the Wendat people to Christianity. The Wendat response was initially reluctant, but when Champlain helped the Wendat raid the Mohawk, his loyalty to the Wendat was solidified and a relationship started to form. Once the Wendat began to recognize the strength and dominance Champlain would bring to their group, they formally entered an agreement and were able to access advanced technology. The root of future alliances stemmed from an acknowledgement of both side’s weaknesses and strengths. This alliance in turn raised tensions between the Wendat and other groups, which ultimately led to their death. However, it is important to consider the increasing idea of European contact and utilization of resources that benefited and shaped the development of future organizations, including the Hudson’s Bay.
On the other hand, Champlain did not fully respect the spiritual culture of the Wendat, sending missionaries to convert them into Christians. In our course of history, there is often a repeating pattern of efforts to mask or suffocate indigenous history to conform it to Western culture and beliefs. Though Champlain made efforts to encourage bonding between indigenous people and Europeans, through marriage and exchange trips, it is evident that he had somewhat ulterior motives and was ambitious in his pursuit of rather westernizing their culture to accommodate to his idea of a trade relationship. Europeans additionally brought in several diseases which created great unrest and consideration of severing all ties. The realization of these intentions may have led to the death of Huronia in 1649 and the downfall of the fur trade after its peak performance. This could have indirectly began the cycle of eradication of indigenous culture in the future, which is still evident today.
- Ethical judgement
At the time, the members of society were focused on self development and furthering their own span of control on resources and land area. Little groups rarely considered the ethics or morality of decisions, because making decisions based on morality was relatively rare. In the case of alliances between indigenous peoples and Europeans, both parties saw an opportunity to advance their dominance through obtaining materials that were exclusive to each party. Both groups had similar motives (to control the fur trade), so with needs that could be fulfilled by the other party, the agreements were obviously an advantage.
From a current perspective, sending missionaries to the Wendat without notice is considered rather invasive and disrespectful to the Wendat’s own cultures. Even in our society today, we make trade agreements for our benefits but we ensure that both parties are represented as equals and moral standards are being met. Champlain’s requests were blunt, including marriage (with Europeans), which initially contradicted traditional Wendat beliefs. In today’s society, all areas of the other party’s needs are to be discussed within a contract agreement. This includes company protocol, their values, laws, and goals. A trade or agreement must not be invasive or have one party imposing their ideas on the other.
B: Champlain’s alliance with the Wendat heightened the efficiency and power of the fur trade, growing the economical and business prowess of New France. The Wendat had access to advanced Western weapons, which would aid them in wars. The gain both parties received demonstrates a basic principle of trade and future alliance. If one party has something the other is lacking, and vice versa, a trade is the best solution for their shortcomings. The alliance with the Wendat, and Champlain’s enthusiasm to grow interest in their culture, although expressed in a blunt manner at times, showcases a bond that was a stepping stone for other alliances in the future.