The Great Peace of 1701


An international gathering: In August 1701, French officials and delegates from 40 Native groups gathered to conclude a radical, far-reaching peace treaty. Flotillas of canoes from the Great Lakes region across Iroquoia traveled up the St. Lawrence River toward Montreal, while other delegates journeyed in from Wôbanakia in the east. In all, some 1,300 representatives converged on this small French town where they were greeted by the Governor of New France. For two weeks, participants exchanged gifts, traded goods, and feasted against the backdrop of delicate and complex negotiations.

Treaty goals: The goal of this ambitious gathering was to establish a general peace among the participating groups. Other crucial terms included shared access to northern hunting grounds and an agreement to stay neutral or support the French in disputes with the English.

Different motivations: Each group had different reasons for supporting a general peace. The French wanted the Iroquois, politically allied with the English, to become a neutral buffer between the English colony of New York and New France. The Iroquois had suffered heavy losses from attacks by French and their Native allies. Unable to count on English assistance, they reluctantly made concessions for peace. Concerns among France's Native allies that the French might undercut their trading relationship by concluding a separate peace with the Iroquois, made them willing to negotiate.

How did this peace agreement impact future conflicts between the French and English?


Treaty goals: Months of diplomatic overtures bore fruit when Governor de Callière of New France convened his Native allies and the Iroquois Confederacy in the summer of 1701. This brilliant diplomatic move would, he hoped, produce a treaty assuring New France's safety and prosperity. The French anticipated renewed hostilities with England; Iroquois alliance—or at the very least, neutrality—was an important diplomatic and strategic goal for de Callière. Additionally, the French sought to prevent the English—who viewed the Iroquois as subjects—from claiming Iroquois territory.

A dominant power: French interests in the west centered on the fur trade. Maintaining Native alliances was crucial to sustaining that trade. The French accomplished this by promising assistance in wars against the Iroquois, even as they encouraged war among these peoples. This strategy kept the French allies from uniting with the Iroquois against the French and from trading with France's English rivals in Albany. By the second half of the 1600s, the French and their allies wore down the Iroquois by burning villages and destroying food supplies, thus rendering New France a dominant power, able to call the Iroquois into peace with itself and its Native allies.

Unexpected consequence: The Great Peace initiated a new alliance between the Iroquois and western Native people, opening the door for France's Native allies to trade and possibly make alliances with the English at Albany. This unexpected consequence of the peace undercut France's military, political and economic alliances with western peoples and weakened the allies' need for the French. Thus, the French focused their allies' attention on their common mutual enemy, turning to New England—and Deerfield in 1704—as a convenient and strategic target.


Noteworthy absence: The Wendat (Huron) from Lorette were surprisingly absent from the Great Peace event. In the past, they had taken part in negotiations with the Iroquois Confederacy, along with the Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) of Kahnawake and La Montagne and the Wôbanakiak, who were present at the Montreal peace negotiations. Their interests may have been represented by the chiefs of their allies at Kahnawake as part of the federation that became known as the Seven Fires Confederacy, or by the other Wendat from the Great Lakes region who attended.

Committed to alliance: The Wendat from the Great Lakes region were derived from the several hundred Wendat who fled west after their alliance with the French fragmented the Wendat confederacy, precipitating its fall to the Iroquois in 1649. Still another group of about 300 had gone east to the Quebec area and at this time were known as the Lorrettans. Both groups nurtured close ties with each other and remained staunchly pro-French and committed to their alliances.

Treaty goals: The benefit the Lorrettans' received in the peace negotiations was very much like that of other Native villages in New France: less fighting. Renewed relations among former friends and family members taken captive and adopted into Iroquois villages in the course of previous decades of warfare between the Wendat and the Iroquois, was another hoped-for outcome of a general peace.

Epidemic: At the time of the Great Peace in Montreal, a deadly epidemic took many Native lives. Among those lost was the great Wendat chief from the west, Kondiaronk, after delivering what turned out to be a deathbed speech supporting the peace. Two days later the delegates signed the treaty.


Treaty goals: The Nine Years War ended for the French in 1697, but their Wôbanaki allies in New England continued fighting the English until 1699, due to continued English invasion of their homelands. From 1699-1702, both the French and English tried to negotiate with the Wôbanaki and Pennacook peoples to secure their alliance; the French were more successful. Years of conflict over English settlements expanding into their territories made Wôbanaki groups in New England keen to strengthen their position against the English, and to begin re-establishing their traditional village sites on the middle Connecticut River. They also joined in the Great Peace to ensure against further Iroquois attacks.

Preparation: In preparation for the peace negotiations, a large number of people gathered at Lake Winnipesaukee in the Pennacook homeland. This group included members of what would eventually evolve into the Seven Fires Confederacy, incorporating Wôbanakiak from St. Francis and Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) from Kahnawake, along with other Algonkian and Iroquoian peoples in the north.

Active ambassadors and allies: In the years prior to the Great Peace, many Wôbanakiak took periodic refuge from English hostility in French mission villages. The Wôbanakiak had joined the French and other northern Native peoples in resisting Iroquois incursions into Wôbanakia. The Wôbanakiak of St. Francis, however, eventually formed a lasting alliance with the Kanienkehaka of Kahnawake, and worked with them to negotiate directly with the Iroquois Confederacy. These proceedings led up to the final agreement signed at the Great Peace.


Wars of survival: The Iroquois had been at war with the Native trading partners of New France for generations. They fought to protect their territory, for revenge, or to acquire captives. Fighting, including mourning wars, intensified as the French fueled hostilities between these groups and death from European diseases escalated. After 1650, the French began freely trading guns with enemies of the Iroquois. They and their allies waged war until the Iroquois agreed to negotiate a truce resulting in the Great Peace of 1701.

Curious position: Meanwhile, pro-English, pro-French, and neutralist factions within the Iroquois Confederacy struggled over where their alliance should lie. Pro-French factions, including many Kanienkehaka (Mohawk), were influenced by Jesuits, a factor in settling Kahnawake and La Montagne, in northern Kanienkeh—in land also claimed by New France. These settlements were in a curious position. Living and trading with the French, these Kanienkehaka integrated elements of French Catholicism with traditional Kanienkehaka beliefs and were expected to participate in French-led attacks on Iroquoia. At the same time, they maintained ties to Kanienkehaka family—English allies—in the southern part of their homeland. Though sometimes obliging the French, they often avoided attacking the Confederacy. The people of Kahnawake and La Montagne encouraged their kin to relocate north and brought Iroquois captives there, often reuniting families.

Treaty goals: The Kanienkehaka in Kahnawake signed the treaty to avert attacks on their brethren in Iroquoia. The Kanienkehaka still living in southern Iroquoia were conveniently late and did not sign the treaty; another Iroquois nation signed for them. They didn't want to spurn the treaty, but they also didn't wish to alienate their English neighbors and allies.

Captions for rollovers in the interactive scene illustrations.

Wampum belts are often exchanged in the making of treaties to demonstrate the sincerity of the participants and to serve as representations of the agreement.

The calumet—a ceremonial pipe—was the great token of peace among Western Algonkians. Once it was given and accepted, it opened the way for further negotiations.

Native representatives wear elaborate ceremonial accessories—like this deer antler headdress—to important diplomatic meetings.

The carefully recorded terms of the Great Peace of 1701 treaty confirms for the French the commitment of their Native allies.

Outagami (Fox) chief, Miskouasouath, wears an ornamented French coat, a gift from Governor Callière in gratitude for the chief's dedication to the Great Peace.

The royal crest symbolizes the power and authority of the French King, Louis XIV, on whose behalf his French officials are negotiating.

Eloquent oratory like that delivered by Chief Hassaki of the Kiskakon Ottawa nation is a key element of the treaty negotiations.

The Kiskakon Ottawa have brought these four Iroquois captives for exchange; the Iroquois have not reciprocated by bringing their Algonkian captives, angering the other delegates.

A Kahnawake delegate, Aronhiatekha has worked hard to secure this peace between his brothers from Iroquoia and his French allies.

Father Jacques Bruyas, a Jesuit missionary, plays a key role as an interpreter, along with several other French translators who specialize in other Native languages.

Governor Louis-Hector de Callière sits center stage, the highest-ranking representative of the French Crown and the orchestrator of the conference.

As Governor of Montreal, Phillipe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil is responsible for hosting the hundreds of delegates that have doubled the population of his small town.

The soldiers in this well-equipped company of Troupes de la Marine were recruited from French cities for duty abroad.

French women are relegated to the role of spectators; Native women, in contrast, actively participated in the decision-making that led up to this conference.

This flag is intended to convey the military might and territorial authority of the French empire.

The French hosts prepare enormous quantities of food for the thousands of delegates and spectators in attendance.

The body paint these Algonkian delegates wear testifies to the ceremonial significance of this event.

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