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VIEL, NICOLAS, Recollet priest, missionary in the territory of the Hurons; b. near Coutances in Normandy; d. in 1625.
He had made his profession in 1598, with the Recollets of the province of Paris. Having been appointed missionary to Canada in 1623, he left Paris on 18 March with Brother Sagard and reached Quebec on 28 June. On 16 July 1623 he left Quebec, together with Father Le Caron and Brother Sagard, for the country of the Hurons. He spent two years there, studying the language and taking notes which enabled him to supplement Father Le Caron’s dictionary. In 1624 his two companions returned to Quebec, leaving him behind with nine other Frenchmen.
At the end of May 1625 Father Viel decided to go to Quebec. He set off with the Indians who were going down for the fur trade. While he was at the last rapids in the Rivière des Prairies, in a canoe occupied by three Indians, he was slaughtered by them and thrown into the water; a young man called Ahuntsic, who was following in another canoe, witnessed the crime, and suffered the same fate. The deed was committed on 25 June 1625, at the place now called Sault-au-Récollet; the body of the religious was recovered from the water a few days later and buried at Quebec.
The story of this tragedy, based on the accounts of Sagard, Brébeuf, Paul Le Jeune and Le Clercq, leaves no doubt about Father Viel’s assassination. Was it caused by hatred of the Gospels? The Catholic Church has never stated its position in this regard; however, contemporary writers have no hesitation in proclaiming Father Viel the first martyr of the faith in Canada.
ASQ, mss, 200, Mortuologe des Recolets. Le Clercq, First establishment of the faith (Shea), I, 203f., 236, et passim. Sagard, Histoire du Canada (Tross). C.-P. Beaubien, Le Sault-au-Récollet: ses rapports avec les premiers temps de la colonie (Montréal, 1898), 47–91. R. Desrochers, Le Sault-au-Récollet, paroisse la Visitation (Montréal, 1936). Archange Godbout, “Le néophyte Ahuntsic,” BRH, XLVIII (1942), 129–37. Jouve, Les Franciscains et le Canada (1615–1629). Hugolin Lemay, “L’œuvre manuscrite ou imprimée des Récollets de la mission du Canada (Province de Saint-Denis) 1615–1629,” RSCT, 3d ser., XXX (1936), sect.i, 115–26. Le père Nicolas Viel (Notes bibliographiques pour servir à l’histoire des Récollets du Canada, II, Québec, 1932).