Wordcarpenter Books
The Life of Radisson
Chapter Seven

Their first care was to feed him meat. He hadn't eaten anything all that third day that caused him to have a good stomach so that he ate with urgency. His mother began at once to heal his wounds, which caused his injuries to break out in pain anew. She cleaned them and scraped them with her knife and often thrust a stick into them, and then took water from her mouth and spit on his cuts to make them clean. His father went into the forest to get roots that were chewed by his daughter, which his mother applied like plaster to his injuries. The next day all the swelling was gone but the pain was worse. In a fortnight all his wounds were healed except his feet, which took a whole month to get better. During this time his nails began to grow back too. Only his middle finger was left lame after it had been squeezed between two stones. And during his recovery, there were many who were friendly to him now, but Radisson did not want the friendly attention.

He spent the winter with his adopted family in the village, his family loving and embracing him as before his flight. He spent his time, after he healed, hunting. One of his sisters took good care of him by grooming him and feeding him, and his mother kept him brave. Every month his father sent for a new white shirt from a village where there were Flemish living there, but he wasn't allowed to go to the Flemish village with his brother. He persevered however in his current situation as his family cared for him and he hunted and learned the language and learned their ways. He took part in the feasting and singing and dancing that accompanied war victories over the Algonquins and French, which celebrated the murdering and slaughtering of his own people. During these feasts his father shook his hatchet in the air against the Hurons, encouraging and instructing the young to revenge the deaths of so many Iroquois. Radisson was inclined to show he wanted to help with these revengeful outings against their mortal enemy in order to make himself loved and embraced further by the Mohawks, but he stopped short of this for fear they might mistrust him.

There came a time when his brother was bestowed the honor of being allowed to go out to these foreign nations and vanquish the enemy of the Iroquois nation. It was then that Radisson asked his father if he too could fight on behalf of the tribe.

"What am I?" he asked.

"You are Mohawk as I am Mohawk," his father answered.

"Then let me revenge my kindred," said Radisson. "I love my brother. Let me die with him. I would die with you. But you will not let me because I will have to go against the French. Let me go with my brother. The prisoners and the heads that I shall bring back will bring joy to my mother and sisters, and at my return will make me take up the hatchet against those in Quebec, Three Rivers and Montreal. In declaring to them that it is I who kills them, you shall know that I am your son, worthy to bear that title that you gave me when you adopted me." At hearing these words, his father let out a great cry.

"You have great courage Orinha. Your brother died in war, not in the cabin. He had the courage of a man, not of a woman. I will go to avenge his death. If I die, then you can avenge my death." With these last words, it was his cue to leave. Radisson left with great hope that if he were granted the chance to war with the French then he might have the chance to escape. If not then he would still have the chance to explore the great country of the Iroquois that was north of New Amsterdam and south of the St. Lawrence River.

So for the rest of the winter he prepared for his journey to war against the enemies of the Iroquois nation, despite the opposition of his mother. But it was not her decision because her husband had the authority to decide such matters. He was a great commander of the tribe in war, and had suffered two gunshot wounds and had taken seven arrows from battle. He was about sixty years old, tall and with a fine wit for a man his age. He had fathered nine children: four males and five females. Two girls had died and three sons had died in war. One of these sons had spent three years at war with thirteen warriors battling against the fiery nation of the Huron that lay beyond the great lakes. The father had killed nineteen men with his own hands, showing marks on his right thigh for as many as he had killed.

Finally, when the snows started to melt, his father invited a number of people to a feast where he announced that he would go fight against the Algonquins and the French, but that his two sons would go to war against their enemy in the west. He asked a captain in the tribe to take care of them both but especially Orinha, so that he would always be by his side. Radisson was not at the feast as he was with his brother and sisters fishing, but was told about it by his mother when he returned. His bags were all packed and he was ready to leave to war, but he was also saddened to take leave of his mother and sisters. Two days later, there was a great military banquet given to the ten who would leave on the voyage. They feasted as was their custom, and sang songs of valor. The next day his sisters carried his bags a long way until they finally bid him and their brother adieu, the sisters telling him to be of stout heart.


Chapter Eight
Going On the Warpath

They embarked on their journey with Huron slaves carrying their bags for seven days through great snows and through dense forests wearing snowshoes. The rivers were still frozen so crossing them was easy. They arrived in an Oneida village where they stayed two days. A young man joined them and they ventured to a village of the Onondaga where they stayed four days. Being given invitations to eat nine or ten times a day, they still hadn't touched their own provisions that they carried because their bellies were full of deer meat, corn meal and eels. Radisson brought with him six pounds of gunpowder, fifteen pounds of shot, two shirts, a hat, eight pairs of moccasins, cloth to make breeches and about a thousand beads of wampum for necklaces and jewelry to barter. His brother carried the same amount of goods. He wore a new tunic that hung off him like a mantle. Each wore a wampum necklace and a collar with a thread of nettles that were to be used to tie up prisoners they captured. He also carried a gun, a hatchet and a dagger.

From the Onondaga village they journeyed three days until they came to a Seneca village where they stayed a night. After another day's walk they arrived at the last village of their confederates: the Cayuga nation. Here the group of eleven men stayed two days and got rid of the Huron slaves who carried their bundles. They found themselves in a great plain where there were no trees, and where they saw many deer but did not kill them. They went through three more villages of the Cayuga where many were surprised to see a Frenchman among the group, which Radisson understood by their exclamations. He grew lean from the voyage and persevered with the snowshoes, which required great effort for him to master. After ten days march they came to the eastern shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where there were also mountains and plains. There was a river that was a mile wide where they camped for ten days, making a skiff out of walnut trees. In four days they came to a lake that was partially frozen and windy, where they stayed for two weeks. The southerly winds warmed and melted the ice so that brooks turned to rivers and the ice cleared the way for a six-day journey across the lake, staying on the shores at night.

Coming to a river, they paddled and portaged about ninety miles until they came to a lake some nine miles in length. Storing their boats in the woods, they went into the forest for three days, crossing rivers and creeks until they reached a violent river. Here they made a bridge using trees and crossed it, keeping their weapons on their backs to keep them dry. They went up this river for two days where they found and killed deer. It was here at the mouth of this river where the captain of the group ordered them to build a small fort and to keep silent. They then embarked on a reconnaissance mission of the area, as the captain knew the enemy was near and their village was close by.

The following day they had a council, decided two of them to look for tracks that led in the direction of their fort, and the other nine to scout the village. Radisson and the youngest of the group were to look for tracks so they took a skiff and went down a small, muddy river that was difficult going. After the better part of a day they found themselves at the mouth of a small lake where they spotted two women. His companion suggested that they kill them but Radisson objected.

"Since they are women it is likely men are not far away and therefore we will be forced to shoot," he said. "We are alone so why risk being discovered for the risk of two women? Moreover it's almost night so what do we do when it turns dark?"

"You speak well," his companion replied. "Let us hide ourselves in the woods for the night for we cannot go down the river at night. At break of day we return to the fort."

That night, without any provisions, they were forced to lie under a rotten tree. It rained heavily but with all the rain the water level of the river was much higher and thus better to travel back to their fort.

The entire company left the fort in the morning, following the way Radisson had taken the day before. They found one woman carrying wood, and tracked her finding five men and four women fishing on a nearby river. Then, like starved wolves, the eleven Iroquois massacred the Huron. They plundered booty from the dead that included fish, deerskins and girdles made of goat hair, the last two of which Radisson's companions held in very high esteem. Two from the group found the Hurons' cabin made of rushes where they found an old woman and two children. They thought it charity to send them into the other world and thus killed them, pushing their bodies into the lake for the fish. Thence they all left carrying their booty and reached a lakeside where they found a trail leading to a village. The company went deep into the woods where they ate the stolen fish and slept secure and hidden in the forest.

In the morning they laid an ambush on the village but no one appeared so the warriors waited in the woods for the Hurons to return from the fields. Soon there were twenty men and women who returned to the Huron camp passing very close to them hiding in the brush. Still undetected until four men and three women noticed them. In the ambush the eleven Iroquois killed them and captured three women and killed two men from the group, with the remainder escaping. News of this ambush spread throughout the area so they ran away with four prisoners and four heads. Because swift running was imperative to stay safe from the revenging enemy, the women were killed because they weren't fast enough. Their corpses were thrown into a river and left in haste. For two days they fled until finally, having seen no one following them, they rested on an open field and questioned their prisoners. Despite a large number of Huron words in their language, they could not understand what they said.

Traveling back to their makeshift fort by the river, they spotted two men hunting but decided against attacking them for fear that there were more around. Moving east for three days they found a great open space all burnt and windblown where they could see ten miles all around them. Being secure there, they forced the prisoners to sing their death song as they lit a fire and feasted on the turkeys that had killed en route and the other food they carried with them. Now, without anyone following them, the group resolved to remain there to seek more booty but after two weeks they didn't see anyone. Since they had only killed two deer for victuals, they were forced to gather the dung of the stags and boil it with the meat, which made it all very bitter. Since good stomachs make good favor, they were forced to kill their prisoners and eat their flesh. In this act, Radisson became a cannibal, crossing a line he could never erase.


Table of Contents


          1 - Radisson's Capture by the Iroquois

          2 - How Radisson Earned Respect

          3 - Adoption into a Mohawk Family

          4 - His Escape

          5 - Recapture and Torture

          6 - Endurance

          7 - Acceptance

          8 - Going On the Warpath

          9 - The War Continues

          10 - The Hollanders

          11 - Escape to Fort Orange


          12 - Becoming an Interpreter for the Jesuits

          13 - "Mistrust is the Mother of Safety"

          14 - Meeting Old Friends

          15 - Reaching Onondaga

          16 - Conspiracy to Kill the French

          17 - Fleeing the Fort


          18 - Becoming a Les Voyageurs

          19 - Huronia Jesuit Mission and Brebeuf

          20 - Radisson and Groseilliers Go West

          21 - Reaching the Gateway to Lake Superior

          22 - Exploring Lake Superior





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