Friday, August 27, 2010

Étienne Brûlé Gets Cut Up Into Pieces And Then Eaten

Étienne Brûlé Arrives At Lake Ontario
It seems that Étienne Brûlé—the man many historians think was the first European to set foot on the land that would eventually become Toronto—was more than a bit of an asshole. Samuel de Champlain, his long-time boss, called him "licentious and otherwise depraved", plus "very vicious in character, and much addicted to women". A francophone priest called him "a transgressor of the laws of God" who led a "wretched life in vile intemperance". Even worse, in 1629, he turned traitor, helping to lead the British down the St. Lawrence to capture Quebec City.

But he's also one of the most important figures in Canadian history. He arrived in New France as a teenager in the early 1600s to work for Champlain (the explorer/solider/dude who founded Quebec City). And he'd soon talked his way into becoming the first European to spend time living with the Huron and the Algonquin, learning their languages and customs. The experience made him an incredibly important interpreter and go-between. The original coureur du bois, he traveled further into the continent that anyone from the Old World ever had before—the first to see huge parts of Southern Ontario and the Northern U.S.—while exploring, trading and developing alliances with the First Nations.

It's far from clear, but many historians believe he passed through our neck of the woods in 1615, when Champlain sent him on a mission to recruit native allies for the fight against the Iroquois. He traveled south from Lake Simcoe into what would later become the Northern United States—a trip that usually meant taking a portage route down the east bank of the Humber River. That trail, called the Toronto Carrying Place, was the main route between Lake Simcoe and Lake Ontario for hundreds of years, right up until Yonge Street was built in the late 1700s.

It was on the way back from that trip that things started to go wrong. Brûlé was captured by the Seneca, one of the Iroquois nations, and tortured. He would later tell Champlain that he escaped by convincing them that a sudden storm was a supernatural omen, but it seems more likely that he promised to arrange an alliance between the Seneca and the French. Which was a lie.

Now, the last bit. I'm guessing this should probably be taken with a grain of salt since specifics about Brûlé are always fuzzy and most of the information comes from the French, who were, you know, horribly racist colonizers, but pretty much every reliable historical source I find seems to agree on at least the basic outlines of Brûlé's death: 

Years after he escaped from the Seneca, he was captured again—this time by his former friends, the Huron. The reason isn't entirely clear, but it seems they might not have trusted him anymore after his capture by—and suspiciously miraculous escape from—their Iroquois enemies. And so, in a ritualistic ceremony in 1633, Étienne Brûlé was killed, dismembered and then eaten.

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There's all sorts of contradictory information about Brûlé, since he didn't keep his own records, so if you're interested in sorting it all out for yourself, you could start by checking out his entry at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, or his Wikipedia page, or Earliest Toronto, the book I'm reading right now which prompted this post. The painting above is by C.W. Jeffreys, a Torontonian artist from the early 1900s who painted lots of events and figures from Canadian history.

5 comments:

  1. Estienne 'went native'. He assimilated to Wendat ways. Skilling's picture has a stereotype 18th-century frontiersman instead.
    Other errors: Tregottaroti's bow is way too small; the deciduous trees don't belong; the matchlock musket, compared to a bow, would have been heavy and almost useless in woodland conditions. (Even with 12 more modern arquebus Champlain and his "naked horde" lost to the Onandaga.) Also on average the corn-fed Wendat were about four inches taller than the French.

    There is a much better picture on Champlain's 1612 map showing Estienne at 18 carving an arrow. He's (un)dressed native but the d'Artagnan mustache, goatee and aquiline nose give it away. As well, he has the arrows but no bow, ergo: apprentice. The Jesuits and Victorian Brits were prudes about nudity. Even canoeing. The real Etienne story has other interesting cover-ups. Did you hear the one about the wise leader of a great country who was assassinated and the new government blamed a lone nut but many suspected a conspiracy so there was a bit of a 'truth movement' but Champlain burned the book? Ho! Ho! Learn from history or repeat it eh.

    To research Etienne in the internet age, one needn't stop with 'official' (weasel) sources like Champlain, Brebeuf and Sagard and there many regurgitators, but add Franciscans and oral traditions, native and Metis, Franco-Ontarian and Huguenot, etc. Spelling varies, Estienne Brusle, Stephen Brule, Etienne Brule with accents, "Truchment Brusle" (from Sagard)
    are all the same guy. He signed only EB on legal documents.


    Oh! (leaving the best for last:)check out the U-tube song from Peter White.

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  2. Replies
    1. Il semble que Étienne Brûlé, l'homme de nombreux historiens pensent était le premier Européen à poser le pied sur la terre qui allait devenir Toronto-était plus qu'un peu d'un trou du cul. Samuel de Champlain, son patron de longue date, l'appelait «licencieuse et autrement dépravé", plus "très vicieux dans caractère, et bien accro aux femmes". Un prêtre francophone l'a appelé "un transgresseur de la loi de Dieu" qui ont mené une «vie misérable dans l'intempérance ignoble". Pire encore, en 1629, il a trahi, en aidant à conduire les Britanniques sur le Saint-Laurent pour capturer la ville de Québec.

      Mais il est aussi l'une des figures les plus importantes de l'histoire canadienne. Il est arrivé en Nouvelle-France comme un adolescent dans le début des années 1600 pour travailler pour Champlain (l'explorateur / soldat / mec qui a fondé la ville de Québec). Et il avait parlé dès son chemin à devenir le premier Européen à passer du temps à vivre avec les Hurons et les Algonquins, apprendre leurs langues et leurs coutumes. L'expérience lui un interprète extrêmement important fait et aller entre les deux. L'original coureur du bois, il a voyagé plus loin dans le continent que quiconque de l'Ancien Monde jamais eu avant-première à voir d'énormes parties du sud de l'Ontario et du Nord des États-Unis, tout en explorant, le commerce et le développement d'alliances avec les Premières Nations.

      Il est loin d'être évident, mais beaucoup d'historiens croient qu'il traversait notre coin de pays en 1615, lorsque Champlain lui a envoyé sur une mission de recruter des alliés indigènes pour la lutte contre les Iroquois. Il a voyagé au sud du lac Simcoe dans ce qui allait devenir le nord des États-Unis-un voyage qui entend habituellement prendre une route de portage vers la rive est de la rivière Humber. Ce sentier, appelé la Place de transport de Toronto, a été la principale route entre le lac Simcoe et le lac Ontario pour des centaines d'années, à droite jusqu'à la rue Yonge a été construit à la fin des années 1700.

      Il était sur le chemin du retour de ce voyage que les choses ont commencé à aller mal. Brûlé a été capturé par le Seneca, l'une des nations iroquoises, et torturé. Il dira plus tard Champlain qu'il a échappé en les convainquant qu'une tempête soudaine était un présage surnaturels, mais il semble plus probable qu'il a promis d'organiser une alliance entre le Seneca et les Français. Ce qui était un mensonge.

      Maintenant, le dernier bit. Je devine que ce devrait probablement être pris avec un grain de sel, puisque détails sur Brûlé sont toujours floue et la plupart des informations vient du français, qui ont été, vous le savez, les colonisateurs horriblement racistes, mais à peu près toutes les sources historiques fiables je trouve semble d'accord sur au moins les grandes lignes de la mort de Brûlé:

      Ans après avoir échappé de la Seneca, il a été capturé à nouveau, cette fois par ses anciens amis, les Hurons. La raison en est pas tout à fait clair, mais il semble qu'ils pourraient ne pas avoir plus confiance en lui après sa capture par et soupçonneux miraculeuse évasion de leurs ennemis iroquois-. Et si, lors d'une cérémonie rituelle en 1633, Étienne Brûlé a été tué, démembré puis mangé.

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      Il ya toutes sortes d'informations contradictoires sur Brûlé, car il n'a pas tenu ses propres dossiers, donc si vous êtes intéressés à les trier et pour vous-même, vous pourriez commencer par vérifier son entrée au Dictionnaire biographique du Canada en ligne, ou sa page Wikipedia, ou plus tôt Toronto, le livre que je lis en ce moment ce qui a incité ce poste. Le tableau ci-dessus est de CW Jeffreys, un artiste torontois depuis le début des années 1900 qui a peint de nombreux événements et personnages de l'histoire canadienne.

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  3. For some strange reason the google search engine really likes this bizarre article! But consider, according to Brebeuf he was shown the body of Brule when the Huron were determining where most respectfully to bury it. Can you eat your Brule and still have the body? No, it is old nonsense and propaganda designed to demonize the natives. Also, contradicting a previous comment here, the signature of Etienne Brule (actually Estienne as he and Champlain spelled it) is prominently signed at the bottom of the 1623 Procuration document.

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  4. The cognitive dissonance arises from two tangling webs of official propaganda in the mid-1630s. The Vatican version of history was edited by the 'Red Pope' Cardinal Barberini in Rome and the French version by the 'Grey Eminence', Father Joseph du Tremblay in Paris. They coordinated poorly. Fortunately for inquiring minds, those Brule scholars who have been duped identify themselves upfront by making erroneous claims that the trustworthy sources are Sagard 1632, the Official Jesuit Relations beginning in 1632, and the 1632 Champlain 'summary' with its incongruous additions. Winners write the history and 1632 is the year Richelieu finally killed the former Viceroy of New France and High Admiral of old France, Duke Henri II de Montmorency, (Brule's boss to whom he reported in 1622). If the rebels had won in 1632 then France might have got some sort of Magna Carta and avoided its famous revolution. Note that the motto of that revolution--Liberty Equality Fraternity-- are precisely descriptive of the new world social and political order to which Brule (died 1632) and Joseph Le Caron (died 1632) had been exposed. Smearing these 'infected' guys or erasing them from history, even assassination may have seemed a prudent necessity to Louis XIII and Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini--better known for burning scientists).

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