Huron (people)

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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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Huron (hyŏŏr´än´), confederation of four Native North American groups who spoke the Wyandot language, which belongs to the Iroquoian branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). Their name for themselves was Wendat,Huron being the name applied to them by the French. In the early 17th cent. they occupied the region between Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay in Ontario and numbered some 20,000. Their culture was substantially that of the area of the Eastern woodlands. They lived in palisaded villages and cultivated tobacco.

In 1615, when Samuel Champlain visited the Huron, they were at war with the Iroquois. The long-standing enmity between the Huron and the Iroquois reached a climax in 1648, when the Iroquois, armed with Dutch firearms, invaded Huronia and subsequently disrupted (1649) the Huron confederacy. It was at this time that Father Jean de Brébeuf, who established (1626) a Roman Catholic mission among the Huron, and other Jesuit missionaries were killed by the Iroquois. The survivors of the Huron fled in all directions—southwest to the Tobacco Nation, south to the Neutral Nation, southeast to the Erie, and northeast to a French fort near Quebec. The implacable Iroquois hunted the Huron everywhere; in 1649 the Iroquois attacked the Tobacco Nation, causing the migration of these people in company with the Huron. In 1650 the Neutral Nation was invaded by the Iroquois and practically wiped out, and in 1656 the Erie were almost exterminated.

The Huron who had fled to Quebec ultimately received a small reservation at Lorette, where many still live, but the remnants of the Huron and Tobacco Nation went, under pressure from the Iroquois, first to Michigan, then to Wisconsin and Illinois, where the Sioux attacked them. The Tobacco Nation and Huron eventually settled (1750) in villages near Detroit and at Sandusky, Ohio. In Ohio they became known to the British as the Wyandot and as such fought with the British against the Americans in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. After the War of 1812 possession of their lands was confirmed by the United States, but by 1842 they had sold their tracts and moved to what is now Wyandotte co., Kans. In 1867 they were settled in NE Oklahoma, where they reside as citizens, their tribe having been terminated in 1959. There were some 2,500 Wyandot in the United States in 1990. About 1,500 Huron live in Canada.

See B. G. Trigger, The Huron Farmers of the North (1969).

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Huron Confederation of Iroquoian-speaking tribes of Native Americans who once occupied the St Lawrence Valley e of Lake Huron. In wars with the Iroquois Confederacy for control of the fur trade (1648–50), their numbers fell from 15,000 to c.500. After much wandering, they settled in Ohio, the Great Lakes area, and Kansas. Today, c.1250 Huron live on reservations in Ohio and Oklahoma, USA, and Ontario, Canada.

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Hu·ron / ˈhyoŏˌrän/ • n. (pl. same or -rons ) 1. a member of a confederation of native North American peoples formerly living in the region east of Lake Huron and now settled mainly in Oklahoma and Quebec. 2. the extinct Iroquoian language of any of these peoples. • adj. of or relating to these peoples or their language.

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Huron (hyŏŏr´än´), city (1990 pop. 12,448), seat of Beadle co., E central S.Dak., on the James River; inc. 1883. A shipping and trade center for a large livestock and grain area, it has meatpacking, lumbering, and tourism industries, and asphalt and mining equipment are manufactured. It is also the administrative center for a number of state and federal agencies. Huron was the hometown of Hubert Humphrey. The city is the seat of Si Tanka Huron Univ. The South Dakota State Fair is held annually in Huron.