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Document Number: AJ-129
Author: Sagard-Théodat, Gabriel, 17th cent.
Title: The Long Journey to the Country of the Hurons [excerpt]
Source: Wrong, George M. (editor) and H.H. Langton (translator). The Long Journey to the Country of the Hurons by Father Gabriel Sagard. (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1939). Pages 3-89.
Pages/Illustrations: 89 / 0
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-129/

Author Note

The origins of missionary Gabriel Sagard are obscure. He was a Recollect monk by 1604 so was presumably born in the late sixteenth century. In 1615 he expressed a desire to work among Native American peoples in New France and in 1623 received the opportunity on the trip described here. He spent a little more than a year in Canada before being recalled to France, where he wrote the account of his experiences excerpted as document AJ-129. Because his religious name was Theodat, he appears in some sources as Gabriel Sagard-Theodat. He also published a long work called History of Canada that is in fact a much elaborated version of this same work, embellished with accounts of the missionary labors of the Recollet order around the globe. Little is known about his later life. He died sometime after his Histoire du Canada appeared in 1636.

Expedition of 1623-1624

Sagard left Paris on March 18, 1623, with Father Nicolas Viel and arrived in Quebec June 28, 1623. Less than three weeks later they embarked upriver with a third missionary to the annual fur trade rendezvous. When the Indians and French had concluded their business transactions, the priests returned into the wilderness with their Indian hosts. Sagard went to Lake Huron, where he spent most of the next twelve months with the Hurons at their village called Ossossane, on the southern shore of Georgian Bay near present-day Collingwood, Ontario. Sagard kept meticulous notes on all that he saw and did, and his observations of Huron life form one of the most comprehensive written records of their culture in the early years of white contact. In the spring of 1624, when the Hurons returned to Quebec to trade the furs collected over the winter, Sagard accompanied them to bring back supplies for his mission. There he found correspondence from his superiors in France that instructed him to come home to Paris instead.

Document Note

Sagard published his account eight years after he left Canada, as Le Grand Voyage du Pays des Hurons (Paris: Denys Moreau, 1632), including a lengthy dictionary of Huron words for the use of later French missionaries. As their activities increased during the 1630s, a new edition was called for and Sagard re-wrote and expanded his book in 1636 as a more general Histoire du Canada. Both versions remained very rare until they were reprinted in Paris in 1865-1866. In 1939 the Long Voyage to the Country of the Hurons was translated into English for the first time. We have excerpted only the portion about Sagard’s out-bound trip because the entire text is online at the Champlain Society’s Web site (see below)

Other Internet and Reference Sources

The full text of Sagard’s account of his stay with the Hurons is available from the Champlain Society at http://www.champlainsociety.ca/cs_bibliography.htm along with many other excellent volumes that they have published.

For background on French missionary efforts and additional background on early Canada, see the “Virtual Museum of New France” at http://www.civilization.ca/vmnf/vmnfe.asp

Many other early Canadian primary sources are available at Early Canadiana Online: www.canadiana.org

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