THE IROQUOIS PERSPECTIVE
For the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Montréal 375 is no cause for celebration.
Imagine strangers suddenly arriving at your home and claiming it as their own. Pushing you aside, they use violence to make you accept this new reality. And now imagine having this dark moment publicly celebrated and commemorated.
Such is the reality for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy when it comes to marking the 375th anniversary of the founding of Ville-Marie, now Montréal.
“To me it’s the colonizers’ way of celebrating something that is very atrocious, in what I see as the theft of land, the theft of culture, and dignity, and humanity of the [Haudenosaunee peoples],” said Hazel King, director of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, the official voice of the confederacy on matters of land jurisdiction and development.
Early history books often portrayed the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois, as the villains in the story of New France — a constant threat to the French colonists and their Huron and Algonquin allies. Indeed, one of the first things Samuel de Champlain did after founding Québec in 1608 was to join his new Indigenous partners in 1609 in an attack on the Iroquois at Lake Champlain.
King says this stereotype of “Iroquois-as-villains” ignores the complexity of the relationships that existed between Indigenous peoples prior to contact with Europeans. And it doesn’t address the ulterior motives of the colonizers, who benefitted from pitting various Indigenous peoples against each other.
“That’s what the French were after — it was the land and it was the resources,” she said. “It’s always been the land and the resources. And if they can have the Indians fighting each other — and if they can incite wars between the Hurons and the Iroquois and so on — to me, the settlers have always been able to manipulate our people.”
King encourages Canadians to use Montréal 375 as an opportunity to learn the history of the Indigenous peoples who lived in the region before the founding of Ville-Marie.
“We know the history of the land in a different perspective than is being taught in schools,” she said. “There will be many, many children in schools that will be … looking at the history of Montréal for 375 years. But what do they know of the history before that time?”
Hazel King, director of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute.