CARIGOUAN (Carigonan), renowned Montagnais medicine-man, hostile to the French; d. late 1634.
Carigouan was one of the band with whom the Jesuit, Paul Le Jeune, spent the winter of 1633–34, sharing their nomadic life in the mountains and valleys that lie to the south of the lower St. Lawrence. Carigouan’s brother Mestigoït, a brave hunter of good disposition, was his host. Carigouan had two other brothers over whom he had great influence, Pastedechouan and Sasousmat.
Carigouan, then the most famous of Montagnais medicine-men, was held in awe by his people, who obeyed him implicitly in performing the rites and ceremonies demanded by him, even in the night hours or cold weather.
Father Le Jeune witnessed and described their feasts, dances, prayers, and death-rites, including feasts of the Bear and of the “Leg of the Manitou,” when a crooked leather sack filled with beaver hair was hung where Carigouan was seated. Le Jeune observed tent-shaking rituals, and he saw Carigouan “kill,” by rite, a sorcerer in Gaspé over 100 leagues distant. At times Carigouan withdrew alone to a cabin a short distance from the settlement, for eight or ten days, crying, shouting, and beating his drum.
Le Jeune related conversations with Carigouan and his followers concerning the creation; the nature of the universe and all that inhabits it, which they believed was restored by Messou after a general destruction by flood; the nature of the “genii” who were acquainted with events in the future, and who were called upon in the tent-shaking ritual; the souls of men and animals (the souls being shadows with physical attributes, therefore they must eat, sleep, drink, and hunt); and the village of departed souls. He describes dreams, songs, dances, drums, sweat-baths, and the curing of sickness.
Carigouan remained hostile to the priest, who described him as “vile to the last degree.” He made heavy demands for presents, especially of tobacco, and he bitterly resented Le Jeune’s attempts to discredit him. “This was like tearing his soul out of his body,” Le Jeune wrote. Carigouan had a natural aversion to the French. He retarded Le Jeune’s study of the language, he blasphemed in his presence, and he continually led his followers in sneers and derision against the father, often threatening him with death. Only at Christmas, in a period of great want, did he join in prayers.
The following winter, 1634–35, Carigouan was burned alive when his cabin was set on fire by one of his own people to relieve himself of the burden of the then sick medicine-man. After his death, his son was brought to Le Jeune and baptized in 1636.
JR (Thwaites) passim.
Revisions based on:
Early Jesuit missions in Canada (15v., Halifax, 2001–4), 14–1 (Paul Le Jeune, s.j., Québec relations: 1635, 1636, 1637, trans. William Lonc, s.j., 2004). Originally published in French as “Documents 26, 64, 114” in Monumenta Novæ Franciæ, Lucien Campeau, s.j., édit. (9v., Rome et Quebec, 1967–2003), 3: 42–130, 182–404, 520–798.