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FLEMISH BASTARD (Bâtard Flamand, Dutch Bastard, Smits Jan, Smiths John [Indian name unknown]), Mohawk chief, son of a Mohawk mother and a Dutch father, intermediary between the French, the Dutch, and the English; fl. 1650–87.

In July 1650 the Flemish Bastard led a band of 25 to 30 Mohawks in an attack on Trois-Rivières. Early in 1654 he brought letters to Quebec from Fort Orange (now Albany, N.Y.). Later, in July 1654, again at Quebec, he delivered two French hostages and complained because the Jesuit, Father Simon Le Moyne, was sent on an embassy to the Onondagas instead of to the Mohawks. The Mohawk chief asked, “Ought not one . . . to enter a house by the door, and not by the chimney or roof of the cabin, unless he be a thief, and wish to take the inmates by surprise? We, the five Iroquois Nations, compose but one cabin; we maintain but one fire; and we have, from time immemorial, dwelt under one and the same roof . . . will you not enter the cabin by the door, which is at the ground floor of the house? It is with us Anniehronnons, that you should begin; whereas you, by beginning with the Onnontaehronnons, try to enter by the roof and through the chimney. Have you no fear that the smoke may blind you, our fire not being extinguished, and that you may fall from the top to the bottom, having nothing solid on which to plant your feet?” (JR (Thwaites), XLI, 87–89.)

The Flemish Bastard again appears, 30 Aug. 1656, when he led an attack on a group of Ottawas and Hurons at the Lac des Deux-Montagnes. In the battle, the Jesuit, Father Léonard Garreau, was shot with a musket, which broke his spine. The Mohawks carried the priest to Montreal, where he died 2 Sept. 1656. According to Nicolas Perrot*, who gives a different version of the affair, the Flemish Bastard delivered the body of Father Garreau, stating that he had been murdered by a French deserter.

The Flemish Bastard was reported at Pointe Sainte-Croix (now Point Platon, N.Y.), with a party of 40 Mohawks, intent upon war. Perrot claims that he was at Corlaer (now Schenectady, N.Y.), when Rémy de Courcelle arrived there in February 1666, on his punitive expedition against the Mohawks. The governor, however, returned to Quebec on 17 March, without having accomplished his mission.

On 24 July 1666, M. de Saurel, a captain in the Carignan-Salières regiment, led a force of 300 men, which he had organized in May of that year, against the Mohawks to avenge the deaths of two officers of the regiment, Capt. de Traversy and M. de Chazy [see Agariata] and the capture of other Frenchmen, including M. Canchy de Lerole, all of whom had been stationed at Fort Sainte-Anne on Lake Champlain. But before Saurel reached the Mohawk villages, he met a peace embassy, headed by the Flemish Bastard, who was bringing back Lerole and the other French captives. M. Saurel, therefore, abandoned his march and all returned to Quebec.

On 14 Sept. 1666, Prouville de Tracy and M. de Courcelle set out for the third and actual invasion of the Mohawk country, from which they and their troops returned to Quebec 5 Nov. 1666. It was not until 8 July 1667 that a general peace was concluded with the Five Nations. On this date the Mohawks finally ratified the peace between their nation and the French, which had earlier been interrupted, perhaps by Agariata’s execution (although the facts are not certain). The Flemish Bastard, however, was sent back to his country 8 Nov. 1666 with an elder of the Mohawks and was instructed by the French to return within four moons with Huron and Algonkin captives.

In 1667 he was the bearer of letters from Col. Richard Nicolls, the first English governor of New York (1664–68). Nicolls insisted that only “Smits Jan,” should transmit certain communications which he, the commissaries at Albany, and Arent van Curler had addressed to the governor of New France. Tracy, in his turn, acknowledged receipt of the letters through the Flemish Bastard.

A final reference to this Mohawk chief (as “Smiths John”) mentions him as being among the Christian Indians during the expedition of Brisay* de Denonville against the Senecas in 1687 (“Examination of Adandidaghko, an Indian prisoner,” dated at New York, 1 Sept. 1687 (o.s.), NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), III, 435).

Thomas Grassmann

JR (Thwaites), XXXV, 211–13; XLI, 85–89; XLII, 225–39; XLV, 97; L, 197, 201–3, 205. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), III, 146, 147, 148, 151–52, 435. Perrot, “Memoir,” in Indian tribes (Blair), I, 157–58, 199, 201–3.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Thomas Grassmann, “FLEMISH BASTARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 7, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/flemish_bastard_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/flemish_bastard_1E.html
Author of Article:   Thomas Grassmann
Title of Article:   FLEMISH BASTARD
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1966
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   June 7, 2023