TONSAHOTEN (Tonsanhoten, Tonsohoten), François-Xavier (Pierre), a Huron, the first Christian Indian at the Saint-François-Xavier mission at Prairie-de-la-Magdelaine.
Tonsahoten had been baptized by Father Léonard Garreau, a companion of the Canadian martyrs. He was adopted by the Oneidas after the destruction of Huronia. A valiant warrior, he was of a rather difficult temperament.
Towards 1656 he married Catherine Gandeacteua at Oneida. In November 1667 Father Jacques Bruyas*, a Jesuit, visited their village. It was just the right moment, for François-Xavier and his wife were to set out for Montreal and Quebec, where they hoped to find some Black Robes. The Indian enjoined his wife to treat the missionary well and to have him teach her the Christians’ prayers. A little later, at Catherine’s suggestion, he decided to go to Montreal to have himself treated at the Hôtel-Dieu for a leg ailment. According to Father Claude Chauchetière*, a Jesuit, Tonsahoten was probably accompanying Charles Boquet, Father Bruyas’s interpreter, when he left Oneida with his wife, his mother-in-law, his father, and two or three acquaintances. As soon as he was cured, he left the Hôtel-Dieu to go to Quebec. There his wife and his friends were baptized and confirmed, and Bishop Laval* blessed the marriage of François-Xavier and Catherine.
Towards the end of 1668, upon their return to Quebec, Father Pierre Raffeix*, a Jesuit, invited Tonsahoten and his people to settle at Prairie-de-la-Magdelaine. The following spring François-Xavier built his lodge there. Shortly afterwards, with his wife, he took several Oneidas to Quebec. They were converted to Christianity and wanted to remain near him. Thus was started the Saint-François-Xavier mission.
In the summer of 1671 the neophytes elected two leaders: François-Xavier was the first chieftain. In agreement with the lay religious leader, who was called the dogique, he decided that, to be a member of the Christian village, one had to give up idolatry, polygamy, and drunkenness. He became a member of the Confrérie de la Sainte-Famille, along with his wife.
Shortly before his wife’s death in 1673 it was reported that François-Xavier was dead. The news was false, and on his return he presented to the chapel in thanksgiving a big porcelain necklace with which he decked himself out when he went to war. When his wife passed away, he wanted nothing that was not Christian at her funeral. In addition he distributed all the deceased’s possessions to the poor.
In 1678, when the village moved from Prairie-de-la-Magdelaine to the Saint-Louis rapids, François-Xavier Tonsahoten gave his field for the new chapel to be built upon. In token of his affection for the faith, he went to war when he was 60 years of age. He died like a good Christian at the Saint-Louis rapids during the winter of 1688: he was called “the father of the believers,” because he had been the first Christian Indian at the Saint-François-Xavier mission.
Charlevoix, Histoire. JR (Thwaites), LXIII, 154–82. Félix Martin, Relation des années 1673–1674 pour faire suite aux anciennes relations avec deux cartes géographiques (Paris, 1861). The Positio on Katharine Tekakwitha. Positio super virtutibus servae Dei, Catharinae Tekakwitha. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la Nouvelle-France au XVIIe siècle. J. G. Shea, History of the Catholic missions among the Indian tribes of the United States, 1529–1854 (New York, 1855).