MIRISTOU (Mahigan Aticq Ouche, meaning “Wolf,” “Stag,” “Canoe”), Montagnais chief; d. 1628.
Miristou, a son of Anadabijou with whom Champlain had first allied himself in 1603, received his chieftainship in 1622 through the influence of Champlain. He had protested great friendship to the French, and Champlain, after some delay, had agreed to influence his tribe to this end if Miristou, with his 30 companions, would promise to settle and cultivate land near Quebec. Miristou fulfilled this obligation admirably and although there were other claimants, Champlain effected his election. Thus Champlain planned to establish friendly groups of natives near Quebec who could be trusted to aid in exploration and the fur trade. Also he wished to set an example for other tribes who, by seeking aid from the French in the election of their chiefs, would gradually come under French control. At this time, Miristou changed his name to Mahigan Aticq or Mahigan Aticq Ouche, meaning “Stag” and “Wolf,” indicating that he could be equally gentle or cruel.
To give special distinction to Mahigan Aticq’s installation as chief, Champlain presented him with two swords, explaining that by accepting them a chief “entered into an obligation” to bear arms against those who might harm the French. Although Mahigan Aticq had assisted in driving off the Iroquois in an attack on the St. Charles River earlier that year, he was never called upon to show his loyalty. Rather, Mahigan Aticq’s efforts were directed toward peace with the Iroquois. He was a leader of those natives who were “sick and tired” of the wars that had lasted over 50 years and who wished to ensure safe hunting in areas from which they had been prevented from travelling because of these wars. In June 1622 a peace council was held with Iroquois representatives in Mahigan’s cabin. Negotiations with the enemy continued in 1623. During these parlays Mahigan sought and relied on the advice of Champlain. In 1624, a council representing more nations than had hitherto been assembled, including Iroquois, met at Trois-Rivières. Mahigan Aticq arrived with Champlain. The peace that resulted from this meeting was maintained for three years.
Early in 1627, however, it was threatened by a request of the Dutch, and the Indians of their region, to certain Montagnais to join in war against the Mahicans. Again Mahigan Aticq, wishing to avoid war, sought the advice of Champlain who consulted fully with him in the matter. He and Champlain’s brother-in-law, Eustache Boullé, were dispatched by Champlain to dissuade the Indians from going to war. When on the action of “nine or ten young hot-heads,” however, the peace was broken, Mahigan Aticq and Champlain again travelled together to attend a council where they continued to assert their influence for peace. On Champlain’s advice envoys, including a Frenchman, Pierre Magnan, were sent to the Iroquois but these were murdered in an Iroquois village, thus terminating hope of peace. Throughout this period it would appear that Mahigan Aticq and Champlain were mutually interdependent for prestige and for influence among both friendly tribes and enemies.
According to Sagard, Mahigan Aticq was the murderer of two Frenchmen, Dumoulin and Henri, Mme Hebert’s [see Rollet] servant, at Quebec in October 1627. Le Clercq repeats this version of the crime. Champlain, however, suspected another Montagnais whom he held under arrest. There is no indication that Champlain entertained any suspicions of Mahigan Aticq’s guilt, although Sagard states that Chomina informed Champlain that Mahigan Aticq was guilty. Sagard may have been confused, for his version of Mahigan Aticq’s subsequent fate is essentially the same as Champlain’s account of his “suspected murderer.” Champlain says that news of Mahigan Aticq’s death was brought to him in late April 1628, and that the trial of the suspected murderer continued in May. It was only in the spring of 1629, faced with a serious food shortage in Quebec, that Champlain released the prisoner into the custody of Chomina and Erouachy.