ANNAOTAHA (Annahotaha, Anotaha), baptized Étienne, Huron chief; d. 1660 at the Long Sault.
Annaotaha was mentioned by the Jesuits as early as 1649 as “This man whose life is but one series of combats and adventures,” and furthermore, as “the most esteemed in the country for his courage and his exploits over the enemy.” On 16 March 1649, he was present at Saint-Louis when the fatal Iroquois attack took place and was heard to upbraid stoutly those Hurons who would abandon the Jesuits Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant and flee from the battle.
He was one of the group of 300 Huron families who, when the Iroquois ravaged their country, took refuge on Ahouêndoë, or Île Saint-Joseph (now Christian Island), where the Jesuits and their party of Frenchmen under Father Ragueneau joined them. The winter of 1649–50 proved disastrous for the refugees. Famine and disease brought death to hundreds of the Hurons. Others lost their lives to ambushing Iroquois who were scouring the country. At one time, a band of 30 Iroquois landed on the island and erected a fortress from which they attacked the Huron settlement, murdering the bravest warriors.
In the late autumn (1649) another Iroquois band erected a fort on the mainland opposite the island. Annaotaha was one of the Hurons who fell into their hands. He pretended to believe the Iroquois claim that they brought peace and rich presents to the hungry Hurons, and led three Iroquois as ambassadors to the Huron village. He called together the inhabitants and told them that the Iroquois’ “hearts have altered” and that “their thoughts are no longer of blood or of fires, except to change them into bonfires.” The three ambassadors were treated to “everything that was most delicious in the village.”
In the meantime Annaotaha conferred with the wisest of the Hurons, who were thoroughly suspicious of Iroquois designs. Annaotaha conceived and carried out a ruse whereby the women collected all their provisions and pounded corn as though for a three-day journey to the Iroquois country, “a land of promise.” To remove all suspicion from the minds of the Iroquois Annaotaha went himself to their village. Embassies continued on both sides “as if there never had been war between them,” until the Huron attracted over 30 of “the choicest and bravest of their [Iroquois] band” within their walls. These they seized and murdered with the exception of three who were allowed to escape for having spared the life of Annaotaha at Saint-Louis.
Annaotaha presumably accompanied, or followed, the Jesuits and the Huron remnant to Quebec in the spring of 1650. On 2 July 1652 he was at Trois-Rivières when a party of French, Hurons, and Algonkins were fired on by a band of Iroquois. In the parleys that followed, Annaotaha was one of three who met with three Iroquois representatives in mid-river. Undeceived by Iroquois talk of peace, Annaotaha, feigning to offer a loaf of bread, seized the leader, Aontarisati. The following day, Aontarisati and another Iroquois were baptized by Father Ménard and “were burned the next day.”
In April 1660 Annaotaha set out with a band of 40, “the flower of all those of importance” in the Huron settlement at Quebec, to ambush Iroquois hunting parties. At Trois-Rivières he was joined by a few Algonkins, under Metiwemig. These Indians fought with Dollard Des Ormeaux and his party of 16 Frenchmen in the battle of the Long Sault. It was on the advice of Annaotaha that the party remained at the foot of the rapids, although Iroquois scouts had discovered their position. After seven days of siege, the arrival of 500 fresh Iroquois caused Annaotaha to suggest sending two Hurons and an adopted Oneida, with rich presents, to treat with the enemy, instructing them in what to say. They were enthusiastically received especially by the Hurons already in the Iroquois camp. This influenced 24 more Hurons to defect. The impetus thus added to the Iroquois attack led the French to fire into the negotiating party whereupon Annaotaha is reported to have said, “Ah Comrades, you have spoilt everything. You ought to have awaited the result of the council our enemies were holding.”
In describing the battle, Marie de l’Incarnation [see Guyart] has said, “This captain did not reason wrongly.” The Iroquois were enraged by the unexpected attack and launched their final and most savage assault on the few French and Indians who remained in the battered fort. Annaotaha died at the Long Sault. It is said that as he lay wounded by enemy arrows, he begged that they place his head in the fire, so that he might avoid the fate of being scalped by his long-time enemies.
Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation, Lettres (Richaudeau), I, 154–61. JR (Thwaites), passim. E. R. Adair, “Dollard Des Ormeaux and the fight at the Long Sault: a re-interpretation of Dollard’s exploit,” CHR, XIII (1932), 121–38. Gustave Lanctot, “Dollard Des Ormeaux and the fight at the Long Sault: Was Dollard the saviour of New France?” CHR, XIII (1932), 138–46. See also the bibliography for Dollard Des Ormeaux.