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.”

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