Huron-Wendat governance produced unrivalled prosperity and security until the Old World arrived

There are almost none of them incapable of conversing or reasoning very well, and in good terms, on matters within their knowledge.

The councils, too, held almost every day in the Villages, and on almost all matters, improve their capacity for talking; and, although it is the old men who have control there, and upon whose judgment depend the decisions made, yet every one who wishes may be present, and has the right to express his opinion. Father Brébeuf, 1636

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Wendake was the name that the five confederated Wendat [pronounced: “one dot” ed.] nations gave to Huronia, the Ontario territory described by the French in the 1600s. Samuel de Champlain was the first to use the disparaging term Huron in naming the Wendats,  which until recently was the most common way of referring to them. In this book, Georges Sioui, himself Wendat, redeems the original name of his people and tells their history, providing readers with a fascinating look at Wendat society and its rich legacy for Canada and the modern world.

Sioui first reviews the Wendats’ Creation mythology and explains their origins, migrations, theology, ethics, philosophy, oral literature and sociology, as well as their role in Amerindian geopolitics. He then looks at archaeology and its role in combating centuries of negative attitudes toward Amerindians. He concludes with a detailed description of Wendat society from an Amerindian viewpoint over the span of the last 1,000 years, concentrating on the period between 1615 and 1650 and drawing on traditional ethnographic documentation in the reports of missionaries and early French explorers. Underpinning this entire discussion is the Wendat notion of the Sacred Circle of Life, which forms the foundation of their world vision. The Wendats believe that there is a sacred circle of relationships among all species on earth.

Finally available in English, this remarkable book presents a vivid picture of a once vibrant, thriving, sophisticated Native culture. The compelling story it tells will appeal to anyone interested in the history and culture of Canada’s First Nations and in the Canadian Native legacy.

Huron Wendat: The Heritage of the Circle, Georges E. Sioui, UBC Press, 1999.

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