ETHNONYMS: Huron of Lorette, Wendat, Wyandot

The Huron were a confederacy of Northern Iroquoian-speaking American Indians who in the early seventeenth Century were located southeast of Georgian Bay in present-day Ontario, Canada. At that time they numbered about thirty thousand, but following smallpox epidemics in the 1630s were reduced to about ten thousand by 1639.

In 1648 and 1649 the Huron confederacy was destroyed by the Iroquois in a war for control of the fur trade. After their defeat the Huron dispersed, with some joining other tribes or being adopted by the Iroquois. One group of the defeated Huron took refuge with Jesuit missionaries and were Eventually established on a reserve near Quebec, Canada, in 1697. They became known as the Huron of Lorette. In the eighteenth century a small group of Huron known as the Wyandot who had fled west after the defeat of the confederacy settled in Ohio and southeastern Michigan. Later, in the early 1840s, the Wyandot were forced to remove to Kansas. In 1857 and 1858 the Wyandot removed once again to Oklahoma and settled on land given to them by the Seneca. In the 1980s the Wyandot in Oklahoma and the Huron of Lorette numbered about two thousand.

The annual cycle of Huron subsistence activities included deer hunting, fishing, gathering, and the cultivation of maize, beans, squash, tobacco, and other crops. The Huron were strategically situated in the indigenous trade networks Connecting farming peoples to their south and hunting Peoples to their north, and thus trade was also an important part of their economy. Agriculture and gathering were the responsibility of the women; the men were responsible for trading, hunting, fishing, and warfare.

Huron society was organized into eight exogamous matrilineal clans, which cut across tribal and village boundaries. Each localized clan segment had a civil and a war chief. Village affairs were governed by independent war and civil Councils made up of the senior warriors and elderly men of the clan segments. In the village councils the civil and war chiefs of the clan segments acted as spokesmen, and decisions were made by consensus. Above the level of the village the Huron were organized into four or five tribes united by a council of clan segment chiefs from each of the villages. The tribal council met at least once every year and could be brought Together on the initiative of the clan segment chiefs on any matters involving the interests of more than one village.

The Huron believed that all animate and inanimate things had a spirit, the most powerful of which was the spirit of the sky controlling the wind, seasons, and other natural phenomena. In addition, they were greatly concerned with the interpretation of dreams, which were viewed as omens or the desires of one's soul that would result in illness if left unfulfilled. Shamans served to interpret and fulfill dreams and cure illness.


Delage, Denys (1982). "Conversion et identité: Le cas des Hurons et des Iroquois (1634-1664)." Culture 2:75-82.

Tooker, Elisabeth (1964). An Ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615-1649. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin no. 190. Washington, D.C.

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