Huron Indians, Jesuits, Shamanism


In the spring and summer of 1635, a severe drought struck Huron country. Falling back on traditional means for relief, the native people appealed to the local shamans, their spiritual leaders, for aid. Tehorenhaegnon, one of the most famous of these "sorcerers," as the Jesuits called them, promised relief in return for "the value of ten hatchets" and "a multitude of feasts." However, Tehorenhaegon's "efforts were in vain-dreaming, feasting, dancing, were all to no purpose, there fell not a drop of water; so that he had to confess that he could not succeed, and he declared that the crops would not ripen." As the shamans' efforts proved less and less effective, the Jesuit priests pounced upon this opportunity to manifest the power of their God. Irritated by the willingness of the masses to resort to the shamans, the French clerics assembled their followers in a cabin to pray. Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit priest, exhorted the natives to

"address him who made everything, and who alone is the Author of all blessings .... They all replied that they put no faith in their soothsayers, and that they were deceivers; that they wished no other God than him whom we taught to them, and that they would do what we told them. I told them that they must hate their sins, and resolve in earnest to serve that God whom we announced to them."