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CHEROUOUNY (called at various times “The Murderer,” “The Reconciled”), Montagnais chief, one of the Indians implicated in the murder of two Frenchmen near Cap Tourmente in 1616; killed, on a peace mission to the Mohawks, 1627.

Though there is some uncertainty about this, Cherououny appears to be the man who instigated the 1616 murders. He frequented the French post at Quebec and that summer he had been insulted and beaten by the locksmith there. Soon after, when the locksmith and Charles Pillet, a sailor, went hunting in the vicinity of Cap Tourmente, Cherououny and a companion followed, slew them, and sank their bodies in the St. Lawrence. In 1618 the bodies were found and the French learned something about the slaying from an Indian hostile to the murderers [see Chomina]. Fearing French reprisals, the Indians of the area withdrew to Trois-Rivières, where Sagard says they plotted to attack the French. Meanwhile, they sent Erouachy, another Montagnais chief, to bargain with the French and to offer them the gifts they traditionally used to settle murders. Later, one of the murderers (Le Clercq suggests that it was Cherououny’s accomplice) was persuaded to go with some of the principal chiefs to meet with the French at Quebec. The latter, fearing the Indians and not wishing to injure trade, decided not to insist that the murderers be put to death, although they delayed a final decision until the ships returned from France. Champlain, when he arrived, agreed that it was best to avoid taking strong action. Hereafter, however, he did not allow Cherououny to return to Quebec and made a point of publicly humiliating him whenever they met.

After this, Cherououny’s people, who already regarded the French with some ambivalence, looked on him as an important man. Early in July 1623, Erouachy revealed a plan which Cherououny had fomented for attacking the French simultaneously at Tadoussac and at Quebec. He may have been incited to do this by the independent Basque traders who are accused of inciting the Indians along the lower St. Lawrence against the French at Quebec. When French defensive measures defeated any hope of success, Cherououny denied knowledge of the plot. In the hope of avoiding more trouble, Émery de Caën and others persuaded Champlain to grant him a royal pardon. This was done with considerable pomp on 31 July 1623. Champlain felt later that the Indians had interpreted this pardon as a sign of weakness.

In 1627 Cherououny was one of a number of chiefs to receive presents from the Dutch and their Indian allies, who urged them to break the peace of 1624 and attack the Mohawks. Though actively supporting this plan at first, Cherououny reversed his stand when he heard Champlain disapproved and he publicly denounced the project at Trois-Rivières. Despite the warnings of Cherououny and the French, some young warriors left for the Iroquois country and returned with two prisoners taken under the guise of friendship. Cherououny kept them alive until Champlain’s arrival in mid-July. Champlain persuaded the Indians to return one of the captives and to treat for peace with the Iroquois.

On 24 July 1627, Cherououny set out for the Mohawk country, accompanied by two Indians and Pierre Magnan, a Frenchman. In August the French learned that Cherououny and his men had been slain by the Iroquois. There are two versions of this incident. An Algonkin who had escaped from the village where it happened said that the party was well received by the Mohawks; but that some Onondagas who had come to the village slew them, since they regarded them as allies of the Algonkins whom they had been fighting. (The murderers have also been identified as Senecas, see: Handbook of American Indians north of Mexico, ed. F. W. Hodge (2v., Washington, 1910), II, 507, 1112) Later Erouachy reported that an Iroquois, held by the Mahicans, said that an Algonkin from Allumette Island, who had relatives among the Iroquois and who disliked Cherououny, had informed the Iroquois that the peace mission was merely a pretext for spying on the country. The Iroquois pretended to welcome the embassy, but then seized Cherououny and Magnan and cruelly tortured them to death, killed the third man while he was trying to escape, and adopted the last member of the party, who was of Iroquois stock and had been taken captive when he was very young.

Despite his vacillations Cherououny revealed himself as a vigorous individual who possessed notable powers of leadership. His initial injury, revenge, and reconciliation with the French at Quebec form the dominant themes of his life as we know it. Despite his co-operation with the French after 1623, it is doubtful whether he or Champlain ever regarded each other with any real friendship.

Bruce G. Trigger

Champlain, Works (Biggar), passim. Sagard, Histoire du Canada (Tross). Desrosiers, Iroquoisie, 96–102.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Bruce G. Trigger, “CHEROUOUNY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 25, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cherououny_1E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cherououny_1E.html
Author of Article:   Bruce G. Trigger
Title of Article:   CHEROUOUNY
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1966
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   February 25, 2024