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Kondiaronk’s Tree of Peace

For the week of Monday July 28, 2008

On August 1, 1701, Huron-Petun chief, Kondiaronk, addressed the assembly at an important peace conference in Montréal. The conference, which had begun on July 21, was meant to establish lasting peace between the French, Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy, and the other Aboriginal nations of the Great Lakes region. By the time Kondiaronk addressed the delegates, however, the outcome of the negotiations looked bleak. Although weak with fever, Kondiaronk spoke for two hours describing the need for and benefits of peace. Following his address, Kondiaronk was carried to Hôtel-Dieu Hospital, where he died at two in the morning on August 2.

Stamp commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Great Peace of Montréal
© Canada Post Corporation {2004}. Reproduced with Permission.
The next day, French authorities held a grand funeral for the chief at Notre Dame Church since Kondiaronk had been a convert of the Jesuits. The procession included 60 French soldiers, 16 Huron-Petun warriors with their faces blackened to signify mourning, members of the clergy, six war chiefs carrying the flower-covered coffin, Kondiaronk’s family, Huron and Odawa warriors and French officials. Kondiaronk’s death likely contributed to a renewed spirit of reconciliation at the conference. The peace treaty was ratified on August 4, 1701.

The 1701 settlement ended almost a century of war among the Aboriginal nations of northeastern North America. There have been various interpretations of these conflicts. While some historians attribute them to competition over fur-producing hunting grounds, others argue that they were wars of capture meant to replenish struggling populations. The wars were further complicated by European involvement and a system of alliances. The upper Great Lakes nations, allied with the French, represented one side of the conflict; the Iroquois Confederacy, allied with the British colony of New York, represented the other.

Depiction of the conflict between the French and Iroquois in the 17th century
© Library and Archives Canada / C-5750
Not everyone accepted peace readily. Kondiaronk spent years working towards the agreement that was finally solidified in 1701. Using his strong influence and gift for diplomacy, Kondiaronk dissuaded his allies from conducting hostile expeditions and convinced them to agree to prisoner exchange, an important element of most First Nations peace agreements. Although he did not live to witness the end result, Kondiaronk’s work cultivated the “Tree of Peace.” At a preliminary meeting in 1700, Kondiaronk explained, “Today the Sun dissipated all these clouds to reveal that beautiful Tree of Peace which was already planted on the highest mountain of the earth.”

The Treaty of Montréal in 1701, which brought peace to an immense geographic area and a diverse group of people, is a National Historic Event. For his influential role in the negotiations, Kondiaronk is a National Historic Person.

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