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Asymmetric warfare on the St. Maurice, 1640


 

“Moreover, when our Hurons go down to the Three Rivers or to Kebek to convey their Beaver skins there, although the whole length of the road is full of rapids and precipices, on which they are frequently wrecked, they nevertheless fear the dangers of water much less than those of fire. For every year the Iroquois now prepare new ambushes for them, and if they take them alive, they wreak on them all the cruelty of their tortures. And this evil is almost without remedy; for, besides the fact that when they are going to trade their furs, they are not equipped for war, the Iroquois now use firearms which they buy from the Flemings, who dwell on their Shores. A single discharge of fifty or sixty arquebuses would be sufficient to cause terror to a thousand Hurons who might be going down in company and make them the prey of a hostile Army lying in wait for them as they pass.”

— Jesuit Relations XXII (1640), 307. Quoted by Harold Innis in The Fur Trade In Canada. Reading this account of the early years of European settlement in Canada makes it harder to dismiss the central thesis of this book. As Innis wrote in 1930, “We have not yet realized that the Indian and his culture were fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions.”


 

Asymmetric warfare on the St. Maurice, 1640

  1. Saul, I think, is always worth reading. Agree or disagree, perspectives that come from an angle skewed off the prevailing mythology have an interest all their own.

    I’d throw Ronald Wright into the mix as well.

  2. Iroquois killed …other natives!?! But I thought it was this all perfect before whitey ruined it?

  3. Kick that straw man DR, kick him good!

  4. John D wrote: “Kick that straw man DR, kick him good!”

    I am sure that will be the awesome-est comment of the day, thanks John.

    DR, you think there is any nuance in the point to be made at all? or even in the quote staring you in the face itself?

    For instance one of the points that the quote makes clearly is that ‘white’ technology massively increased the capacity for violence and harm. Or is that unimportant?

  5. On your John Ralston Saul pick, I believe his thesis is “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”.

  6. I dispute that Canada has, or has ever had, a proper balance between individual and group. The ‘colonial non-intellectual business elite’ are rather Mr. Saul and why not include this magazine’s Andrew Coyne. They are the recyclers of original thought who package historical context painstakingly worked through by true intellectuals and sell it ‘free hold’ so as to bring about the economic or social changes that they desire. That Nation v.s. Notion silliness that Andrew Coyne put on this year is an example. I would say that Maclean’s should leave alone our venerable historians! MACLEANS: Hands off Donald Creighton, Desmond Morton and Harold Innis!

  7. Hello again,
    I dispute that Canada has (or has ever had) a proper balance between individual and group. The ‘colonial non-intellectual business elite’ are rather Mr. Saul and why not include this magazine. They are the recyclers of original thought who package historical context painstakingly worked through by true intellectuals and sell it ‘free hold’ so as to bring about the economic or social changes that they desire. That Nation v.s. Notion silliness that Maclean’s put on this year is an example. I would say that this magazine should leave alone our venerable historians! Hands off Donald Creighton, Desmond Morton and Harold Innis! The editorial staff don’t know enough to discuss.

  8. Karen,

    I’d argue that academics, Morton notable among them, have long entered the public sphere when they feel inclined; for a magazine of public affairs to engage and use their ideas seems only proper to me.
    I’m also unsure that you can really place JRS as ‘non-intellectual business elite’, even should you disagree quite strongly with him. Even if you wish to frame the debate as public vs academic intellectuals, figures like Morton come close to straddling the line at times.
    Surely more history, rather than less, in pages like this?

  9. comment by DR on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 2:06 pm:

    Iroquois killed …other natives!?! But I thought it was this all perfect before whitey ruined it?

    ***
    Frankly, Ms. Wente, a journalist of your stature should have the courage to post under her own name :)

  10. This book is junk history through and through, and for the most part is so glib that it is not even refutable (like the term I saw recently – “not even wrong”).

    He bashes away at various shibboleths (Conrad Black, Queen Victoria, globalism, nasty British imperialists etc.) and puts up a misty-eyed view of the aboriginal Canadians that is as much a disservice to them as his intended targets.

    FYI – I wasted good money on this book. It is now lurking on a shelf at my local Goodwill waiting for another victim.

  11. Or you could read Harold Innis.

  12. Jameson,

    Academics are in the public sphere. The research money, granting of tenure, support for publications : it all relates to public works. Academics are needed to solve the complicated problems that government faces. Yet when you hate one of them for his hackery and then you know that Maclean’s here gives him too much play and then you can feel and see how that play has worked into your daily life — you express your discontent on this blog here! John Raulston Saul is a hack! His thesis is silly. Reading Harold Innis just doesn’t put me in the mood for John Raulston Saul (though for some reason it puts Paul Wells in the mood). But then, I consider Mr. Wells to be a ‘real-time’ historian (after only one book it’s too soon to judge him a hack, though I keep checking here for clues!)

  13. Double moderated today! This truly messes up the database. The problems historians face!

  14. Truemuse,

    I don’t think that I disagree with you anywhere, save that some academics are clearly more ‘public’ than others, by virtue of their writing on issues in the public eye, or trying to influence national affairs and thinking. Most academics will never have their work noticed in a forum such as this.
    I simply disagree with Karen that there is a line to be drawn between JRS and say, Innis, with Innis being kept out of public discourse.

  15. Frankly, Ms. Wente, a journalist of your stature should have the courage to post under her own name :)

    THAT wins awesome-est comment of the day

  16. Karen and Truemuse are the same person!?

    Don’t I feel silly…

    This is like an episode of General Hospital or something.

  17. The best book on European-Indian cross-culture in early Canada is The Middle Ground by Richard White, though it stops at 1815. I haven’t read His Excellency’s book but I’m a bit dubious about how much the 18th C really influenced the 19th in Canada (except in Quebec). Perhaps HE has a thesis; but how can HE dislike Queen Victoria, HE’s own role model?

  18. You think you know Canadian history, or just how vital the role played by indigenous peoples was in the creation of Canada.I suggest reading Anthony Hall’s book “The American Empire and the Fourth World”,you will be surprised by just how much you do not know.
    Indeed Canada is a Metis civilization/nation,embrace it ,expand upon it,imagine the country we could build.I get goosebumps just thinking about it

  19. truemuse/Karen: Why do you post under both names? Are you posting using more than just the 2?

  20. Nascarfan – This is not the first time Karen/truemuse has posted on the same blog using at least the 2 names. I don’t know what the point is. Why not choose a position and run with it?

  21. I believe Karen/Truemuse has a wordpress account, as well as logging in here occasionally. I know I once didn’t notice when my wordpress name got into the name field that is usually marked as Jenn.

    Which doesn’t explain why she posts the same thing under both names.

  22. Hello friends,

    Jenn, that actually is what happened the first time I visited this site after logging into wordpress. I waver between wanting to be Karen or wanting to use a writer’s name. I have been Karen, Karen Krisfalusi, Hugs for Karen, The Veil, The Veiled Karen, and now, Truemuse.

    cheers,
    Karen

  23. OK – We can all try to keep THAT straight.
    This still doesn’t explain why you post the same thing under different names.

  24. Building consensus?

  25. A ‘collective agreement’ among the many Karens and ‘writer’s names’???

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