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Ten Means Death

Joyce M. Wright When   the   Huron   and   the   French   began   to   encounter   one   another   in   the   first   half   of   the   seventeenth   century,   each noted    many    differences.    Whereas    Huron    society    was    egalitarian,    the    French    system    of    government    was hierarchical,   and   life   was   often   brutal   for   those   restricted   to   the   lower   echelons;   while   the   French   dealt   with criminal   behaviour   by   imprisoning   or   executing   the   offending   party,   the   Huron   gave   gifts   to   the   victim’s   family   to atone   for   the   deed   or   went   to   war   to   avenge   it;   and,   when   the   French   added   wild   onions   to   their   soup,   the   Huron professed   as   much   disgust   as   the   French   did   when   the   Huron   ate   green   corn   that   had   purposely   been   left   to   rot. Many   French   considered   the   Huron   to   be   unsophisticated   “savages”   in   desperate   need   of   Christian   tutoring   and European    mores.    However,    the    Huron    likewise    considered    the    French    to    be    grossly    uncivilized.    From    their perspective,   the   French   habits   of   gesticulating   wildly   during   speech,   interrupting   each   other,   and   haggling   over prices   while   trading   were   simply   uncouth.   In   addition,   the   difficulty   many   of   the   French   experienced   in   learning   the Huron   language   was   viewed   as   evidence   of   their   stupidity,   an   observation   that   was   speculated   to   be   connected   in some way to their “abnormal” excess body hair. When   the   early   European   explorers   and   missionaries   travelled   to   the   Huron   homeland   south   of   Georgian   Bay, they    found    some    thirty    thousand    individuals    living    in    villages    of    often    more    than    a    thousand    people    each. Agriculturalists,   businessmen,   and   savvy   politicians,   the   Huron   maintained   extensive   trade   networks,   gambled, warred,   created   fine   art,   and   believed   in   a   pantheon   of   supernatural   beings.   One   of   the   remarkable   things   that   the Huron   and   their   French   visitors   had   in   common   was   a   belief   in   the   active   significance   of   number   symbols.   For   the French,   and   indeed   for   all   of   those   of   European   ancestry,   number   symbols   were   an   accepted   part   of   daily   life. Today   we   retain   such   expressions   as   “good   things   come   in   threes”   and   “cats   have   nine   lives”,   but   most   of   us   have essentially   lost   the   faith   that   these   and   other   numbers   play   an   active   role   in   our   lives.   This   was   not   true   of   the seventeenth-century   Europeans.   Nor   was   the   belief   in   number   symbols   limited   to   what   we   would   today   call pseudoscience,   such   as   astrology   and   alchemy.   Johannes   Kepler,   who   is   considered   to   be   the   father   of   physical astronomy,   believed   that   there   was   an   intrinsic   association   between   numbers   and   the   cosmos;   the   inventor   of logarithms,   John   Napier,   tried   to   use   numbers   to   interpret   the   Bible;   and   Leibnitz,   who   with   Sir   Isaac   Newton   has been   described   as   one   of   the   two   most   important   thinkers   of   the   seventeenth   century,   suggested   that   the   binary code   of   zeroes   and   ones   was   preferable   to   the   decimal   system   because   1   represented   God   and   0   reflected   the void from which all was created. Number symbols literally imbued all aspects of life, and it is probable that had the French   Jesuit   missionaries   and   other   visitors   to   Huronia   not   themselves   come   from   a   culture   in   which   numbers played   such   a   prominent   role,   we   would   not   today   have   recourse   to   such   an   extensive   written   record   of   early seventeenth-century Huron number symbolism. But   while   it   is   true   that   the   Europeans   and   the   Huron   shared   a   belief   in   the   cosmological   utility   of   number symbols,   it   cannot   be   said   that   they   always   shared   precisely   the   same   ideas   concerning   the   meaning   of   individual numbers.   For   example,   Europeans   considered   the   number   10   to   be   “perfect”   because   it   was   the   sum   of   the   first four   numbers   (1+2+3+4),   and   when   the   meanings   of   each   of   these   numbers   were   considered,   they   represented the   totality   of   human   experience:   1   was   the   symbol   of   existence   and,   to   Christians,   God;   2   was   symbolic   of polarity,   such   as   good   and   evil;   3   was   symbolic   of   the   spiritual   such   as   the   Holy   Trinity;   and   4   was   symbolic   of matter.    It    is    not    surprising    then    that    Christians    believed    that    ten    commandments    governed    their    lives.    The importance    of    the    number    10,    however,    preceded    the    arrival    of    Christianity    in    Europe.    The    ancient    Greek Pythagoreans   were   so   utterly   convinced   of   the   perfection   inherent   in   the   number   10   they   claimed   that   there   were ten    heavenly    bodies.    And,    when    observation    failed    to    identify    the    tenth    body,    they    resorted    to    the    simple expedient of inventing it. They named it antichthon, the “counterearth”. To   the   Huron,   in   contrast,   the   number   10   represented   death.   When   a   person   died,   there   was   an   official   ten-day mourning   period   for   that   person’s   spouse,   which   coincided   with   the   ten   days   that   it   was   believed   it   took   the deceased   person’s   spirit   to   travel   to   the   afterworld   called   the   Village   of   Souls.   Not   everyone   made   the   journey   to the   Village   of   Souls,   but   those   who   did,   as   in   Greek   mythology,   were   thought   to   be   required   to   cross   a   river guarded   by   a   dog.   At   the   Feast   of   the   Dead,   where   all   of   those   who   had   died   since   the   preceding   Feast   were gathered   up   from   the   cemeteries   and   buried   in   a   large   communal   pit,   the   bodies   on   at   least   one   occasion   were laid   on   a   blanket   of   fur   robes,   each   of   which   was   constructed   from   ten   beaver   pelts.   The   celebration   itself   was   an elaborate   affair   sometimes   attended   by   thousands   of   guests   from   surrounding   villages   who   engaged   each   other   in competitions   of   skill   for   prizes,   exchanged   gifts,   feasted,   and   prepared   the   bodies   and   the   burial   pit   for   the   final interment   of   the   dead   at   sunrise   on   the   tenth   and   final   day   of   the   festival.   Despite   some   discrepancies   in   the historical literature, it is also likely that the Feast of the Dead was celebrated every ten years. In   Europe,   as   in   Huronia,   the   number   2   was   associated   with   genesis.   Where   the   number   1   represented   existence and,   ultimately,   God,   2   came   to   reflect   the   splitting   apart   of   the   “wholeness”   that   Europeans   assumed   was   an inherent   quality   of   divinity.   This   was   believed   to   be   a   necessary   step   in   the   act   of   creation   because   earthly existence   was   perceived   to   be   a   function   of   such   opposites   as   day   and   nigh,   birth   and   death,   and   man   and woman.   It   was,   nevertheless,   lamented   because   it   meant   that   the   purity   and   the   goodness   of   the   number   1   was now   tainted   by   evil.   It   also   suggested   the   presence   of   a   seemingly   insurmountable   division   between   heaven   and earth   and   God   and   mankind.   As   a   result,   European   and,   specifically,   Christian   symbolism   surrounding   the   number 2 was generally negative. The   Huron   meaning   of   the   number   2   did   not   have   such   negative   connotations.   In   fact,   a   belief   in   such   antithetical concepts    as    “good”    and    “evil”    was    generally    atypical    of    Huron    cosmology.    Instead,    they    tended    to    sense    a continuum   in   all   things:   death   was   not   so   much   a   cessation   of   life   as   a   transformation   to   a   new   state   of   existence and,   as   the   supernatural   and   the   natural   interacted   on   a   daily   basis   in   a   myriad   of   ways,   there   cannot   be   said   to have   been   much   of   a   division   between   the   two.   The   ironic   exception   to   this   occurred   with   the   Huron   cosmogony, where   twin   brothers   with   opposing   personalities   were   considered   to   be   responsible   for   creating   all   that   exists   on the   earth.   Iouskeha,   the   good   brother,   created   humanity   and   most   of   the   plants   and   animals,   while   his   evil   twin, Tawiscaron,   created   everything   that   is   harmful   to   humans   and   constantly   interfered   in   his   brother’s   endeavours.   A nineteenth-century   version   of   twins’   story   suggests   that    their   respective   roles   were   presaged   by   the   manner   of their   birth:   Iouskeha   was   born   in   the   normal   manner,   but   his   brother   Tawiscaron   chose   to   be   born   from   his mother’s   armpit,   thus   killing   her.   The   twins’   grandmother,   Aataentsic,   placed   her   daughter’s   body   in   the   doorway of   the   house   and   announced   that   she   would   live   again   after   the   passage   of   ten   days.   Tawiscaron,   however, prevented   this   from   occurring   by   killing   his   mother   for   a   second   time   by   putting   an   arrow   through   her   and   cutting off her head. Some of the stories say that she was later reincarnated by Iouskeha - in her third life - as the moon. At   a   somewhat   less   exalted   level,   the   Huron   also   used   the   number   2   in   ceremonial   situations.   Most   often   this meant   that   there   were   two   masters   of   ceremonies   at   feasts   and   other   public   events.   However,   in   one   ceremony,   it was   two   young   girls   of   about   five   or   six   years   of   age   who   were   the   most   significant   part   of   the   festivities.   Each   year around   mid-March   they   were   symbolically   “married”   to   their   village’s   fishing   nets.   To   the   Huron   everything   - humans,   animals,   and   even   inanimate   objects   -   was   believed   to   be   sentient   and,   therefore,   susceptible   to   both flattery   and   insult.   As   a   consequence,   ritualistic   diplomacy   was   considered   to   be   an   essential   element   of   human survival.   In   the   case   of   fish,   this   meant   that   the   nets   were   politely   asked   for   their   assistance;   they   were   never   left near   the   dead   as   it   was   known   that   fish   do   not   like   the   dead;   and   the   bones   of   the   fish   themselves   were   never thrown   into   the   fire   because   the   souls   of   the   dead   fish   might   inform   the   living   fish   of   the   insult,   and   the   living   fish, in turn, would refuse to be caught. Sometimes,   the   meaning   a   culture   attributes   to   a   number   is   a   direct   reflection   of   the   nature   of   that   number.   The number 3, as described in the sixteenth-century poem La Semaine by Du Bartas, is a good example: The eldest of odd, God’s number properly... Heaven’s dearest number, whose inclosed center Doth equally from both extremes extend, The first that hath a beginning, a midst, and an end Both    the    Huron    and    the    Europeans    believed    that    the    number    3    connoted    balance.    However,    whereas    the Europeans   generally   incorporated   this   number   into   spiritual   contexts   such   as   the   Holy   Trinity,   the   Huron   applied   it to   all   aspects   of   human   life   where   balance   needed   to   be   restored   or   maintained.   For   example,   in   Huron   society, dreams   were   believed   to   be   mere   precursors   to   reality,   so   when   a   Huron   man   dreamt   that   he   was   captured   and tortured   by   the   traditional   enemies   of   the   Huron,   the   League   of   the   Iroquois,   his   community   emulated   the   essence of   the   dream   in   a   controlled   setting   so   the   predicted   reality   would   be   averted.   This   meant   that   he   ran   through   a number   of   fires   and   around   a   longhouse   three   times   while   his   friends   ritually   burned   him   with   firebrands   to   mimic the   torture   that   he   had   endured   in   his   dream.   Eventually,   he   was   allowed   an   opening   by   which   to   “escape”,   and   a dog was offered as a sacrifice in place of his own life. A   few   scholars   have   suggested   that   the   Huron   adopted   the   use   of   the   number   3   after   meeting   Europeans   and being    introduced    to    the    Holy    Trinity.    However,    archaeological    evidence    predating    the    arrival    of    Europeans indicates   that   the   Huron   and   their   ancestors,   at   least   as   far   back   as   the   fourteenth   century   and   probably   earlier, favoured   the   number   for   their   own   reasons.   It   is   important   to   recognize   that   when   the   Huron   encountered Europeans,   they   reacted   much   as   any   other   society   would.   They   believed   that   their   own   way   of   life   was   superior and,   as   a   result,   accepted   only   what   suited   them   and   ignored   the   rest.   The   French   did   the   same   thing   when   they accepted   the   superior   utility   of   canoes   and   snowshoes   but   stopped   short   of   adopting   other   Huron   practices.   It   is no   surprise   then   that   the   Jesuit   missionaries’   efforts   to   convert   the   Huron   to   Christianity   were   not   very   successful. It’s    unlikely    that    more    than    3    percent    of    the    population    accepted    Christianity    prior    to    1649    when,    already devastated   by   European-introduced   diseases,   the   Huron   were   all   but   destroyed   by   the   League   of   the   Iroquois.   Of those   who   did,   many   did   so   for   access   to   guns   and   other   privileges   associated   with   a   close   relationship   with   the Jesuits. Illness   also   required   the   restoration   of   balance   and   justified   the   frequent   use   of   the   number   3.   In   fact,   the   Huron believed   that   there   were   three   general   types   of   diseases:   those   which   resulted   from   natural   causes,   those   which reflected   an   unconscious   desire   on   the   part   of   the   sick   person,   and   those   which   were   the   result   of   witchcraft. Treatment   of   the   first   type   of   illness   or   injury   included   the   use   of   local   plants.   All   medical   treatments,   moreover, entailed   a   significant   spiritual   aspect.   Among   other   things,   the   medicine   man   had   to   ensure   that   three   criteria were   met   before   he   attempted   a   cure:   the   sky   was   clear,   the   dogs   would   not   howl,   and   he   could   treat   the   person in   some   place   apart   from   the   general   populace.   The   historical   records   also   indicate   that   efforts   to   heal   an   ill person   could   variously   include   a   three-day   feast,   a   dance   lasting   three   hours,   or   a   gift   of   three   fish.   In   one particular   instance   described   by   the   Récollet   Gabriel   Sagard,   an   ill   woman   was   brought   to   the   third   and   final   day   of a   dance   and   led   through   three   stages:   in   the   first   stage,   she   was   carried;   in   the   second,   with   help,   she   was   able   to walk   and   even   dance   a   little;   and,   in   the   third,   she   danced   alone.   In   this   manner,   the   dance   itself   functioned   as   a metaphor   for   her   cure.   As   the   Jesuit   missionary   Jean   de   Brébeuf   observed   several   years   later,   “Metaphor   is   largely in use among these Peoples; unless you accustom yourself to it, you will understand nothing”. The   Huron   ascribed   almost   identical   meanings   to   the   numbers   6   and   9   as   they   did   for   3,   but   at   correspondingly higher   levels.   Nine,   in   particular,   as   the   sum   of   3+3+3,   was   often   applied   to   situations   in   which   restoring   balance   to the   lives   of   a   large   number   of   people   was   necessary.   As   Brébeuf   observed,   it   was   not   possible   to   offend   any   one particular   Huron   without   also   offending   everyone   from   his   village.   As   a   result,   the   crime   of   murder   always   held   the potential   to   lead   to   war   -   not   between   families,   but   between   whole   communities.   To   forestall   this   required   the reestablishment   of   balance   through   the   presentation   of   gifts   to   the   victim’s   community   and   family.   Specifically,   two categories   of   gifts   were   given.   The   only   information   available   about   the   second   category   is   that   the   gifts   were   hung from   a   pole   and   suspended   above   the   head   of   the   murderer;   however,   the   first   category   consisted   of   nine   gifts, although   the   word   gift   is   a   misnomer.   In   fact,   it   was   common   for   between   thirty   and   sixty   objects   to   exchange hands   (or   even   as   many   as   one   hundred   as   in   the   case   of   the   murder   of   the   Jesuits’   twenty-two-year-old   servant Jacques   Douart).   Instead,   gift   referred   to   the   underlying   metaphor   associated   with   the   presentation   of   discrete groups   of   objects.   In   the   case   of   murder,   these   were   as   follows:   the   first   gift   represented   the   removal   of   the murder   weapon   from   the   wound   and   prevented   those   who   sought   revenge   from   picking   it   up;   the   second   wiped away   the   blood   of   the   crime;   the   third   restored   peace   to   the   land;   the   fourth   placed   a   figurative   stone   upon   the   rift in   the   earth   caused   by   the   murder,   thus   sealing   it;   the   fifth   ensured   peace   between   the   villages   and   security   for those   moving   between   them;   the   sixth   was   an   offering   of   tobacco   to   the   relatives   of   the   victim   (aside   from   its spiritual   qualities,   tobacco   was   believed   to   have   a   calming   effect);   the   seventh   soothed   their   minds,   the   eight   was   a drink   offered   to   the   victim’s   mother   as   a   means   of   healing   her   “illness”   of   grief,   and   the   ninth   provided   for   her   a mat upon which to rest while she mourned her loss. As   with   the   number   3,   European   notions   regarding   the   number   5   arose   from   observations   concerning   the   nature of   the   number   itself.   In   the   portion   of   the   sixteenth-century   poem   Hero   and   Leander   written   by   George   Chapman, the properties of the number 5 are described as follows:  Since an even number you may disunite In two parts equal, nought in middle left To reunite each part from other reft; And five they hold in most especial prize, Since ‘tis the first odd number that doth rise From the two foremost numbers’ unity, That odd and even are: which are two and three, For one no number is, but thence doth flow The powerful race of number Since   the   Pythagoreans   had   already   decided   that   odd   and   even   numbers   respectively   represented   men   and women,   it   followed   that   the   number   5,   the   sum   of   the   first   odd   and   the   first   even   number   (ignoring   1,   since   it   was not   perceived   to   be   a   real   number),   represented   the   union   of   men   and   women   and,   therefore,   love.   The   poem continues: The odd disparent number they did choose, To show the union married loves should use, Since in two equal parts it will not sever, But the midst holds one to rejoin it ever The   Huron   likewise   were   aware   of   the   existence   of   odd   and   even   numbers   and,   like   the   Pythagoreans   and   those who   followed   them,   they   found   odd   numbers   to   be   preferable   to   even   numbers.   (The   Greeks   associated   odd numbers   with   the   limited,   men,   and   all   things   light   and   good,   and   even   numbers   with   the   unlimited,   female,   and all   things   crooked   and   dark).   Many   of   the   European   visitors   to   Huronia   witnessed,   and   attempted   to   describe,   a game   that   they   saw   the   Huron   play   called   the   Game   of   Straws.   Although   none   of   these   observers   were   ever   able to   understand   the   rules   or   the   goal   of   the   game   entirely,   they   did   discern   that   odd   numbers   scored   higher   than even   numbers.   But,   whereas   the   Europeans   felt   that   the   union   of   the   first   odd   and   the   first   even   number   reflected human love, the Huron saw it as an appropriate intermediary between the natural and the supernatural worlds. Most    spirits    in    the    Huron    pantheon    were    considered    to    be    open    to    entreaties    from    humans    and    such communication   was   facilitated   through   the   use   of   tobacco,   sweat   baths,   dog   feasts   -   and   the   number   5.   All   of these,   with   the   possible   exception   of   tobacco,   were   used   when   a   Huron   woman   baptized   Marie   became   ill.   In   an attempt   to   restore   her   to   health,   her   parents   first   implored   the   Jesuits   to   give   her   a   red   cap   since,   they   said,   the loss   of   the   hat   had   made   her   ill.   When   the   Jesuits   refused   to   conform   to   what   they   considered   a   superstition,   a   dog feast   was   held.   The   woman   seemed   to   recover   some   of   her   strength   as   the   dog’s   life   ebbed,   but   when   she succumbed   again,   a   medicine   man   was   called   in.   In   trying   to   determine   the   nature   of   the   woman’s   illness,   he   spent some   time   in   the   sweat   lodge.   When   he   emerged   he   stated   that   witchcraft   caused   the   woman’s   illness   and   that there were five charms in her body, each of which corresponded to five spirits. The woman died a few days later. While   everyone   was   thought   to   hold   a   certain   amount   of   personal   power   or   orenda   suitable   for   making   offerings and   entreaties   to   spirits   for   luck   in   battle,   for   protection   of   one’s   home   and   family,   or   to   encourage   the   season’s crops   to   grow   well,   certain   individuals   were   acknowledged   as   being   particularly   adept   in   communicating   with   the spirit   world.   Such   men   and   women   were   sometimes   given   the   respectful   title   of   Oki.   It   was   a   Huron   Oki   named Pigarouich,   for   instance,   who   told   the   Jesuit   missionary   Le   Jeune   that,   in   order   to   become   a   medicine   man,   he   had fasted for five days and nights alone in the woods. For   the   Europeans,   the   number   4   reflected   matter   and   physical   order   and,   as   such,   it   was   often   used   to   classify   the mundane   aspects   of   the   world.   For   instance,   during   the   seventeenth   century,   the   earth   was   believed   to   be comprised   of   four   elements   (fire,   air,   earth,   and   water),   existence   consisted   of   four   planes   (physical,   mental,   astral, and   buddhic),   and   health   was   a   function   of   a   balance   of   four   humours   (black   bile,   yellow   bile,   phlegm,   and   blood). One   suggested   reason   for   this   use   of   the   number   4   is   derived   from   its   3+1   aspect,   where   3   represents   the   spiritual and 1 symbolizes God, with the result that the 3 and 1 added together equal God’s created works. For   the   Huron,   however,   the   number   4   was   an   entirely   social   number.   Four   types   of   feasts   were   commonly celebrated:   the   Feast   of   Farewells,   the   Feast   of   Thanksgiving,   the   Feast   for   Singing   and   Eating,   and   the   Feast   for Deliverance   from   Illness.   Embassies,   whether   intended   to   find   out   what   was   required   to   heal   one   of   their   own people   or   to   offer   aid   to   a   neighbouring   nation,   generally   consisted   of   four   individuals.   Samuel   de   Champlain   was once   presented   with   four   wampum   belts   as   tokens   of   friendship   and   hospitality   while,   on   another   occasion,   he was   escorted   by   four   Huron   guides.   Once,   when   meeting   to   trade   with   the   French,   the   Huron   offered   four   gifts representing   words.   For   the   Huron,   a   word   had   a   metaphorical   meaning,   and   the   man   who   presented   a   word without   a   gift   was   considered   to   have   “no   voice”.   Jean   de   Brébeuf   eloquently   described   these   “words”   in   a   report that he sent to his superiors: The   first...was   but   a   salute   and   an   honor   that   they   paid   to   Monsieur   the   Governor,   and   to   all   our   French.   The second,   a   request   that   the   warehouses   be   opened   for   trade.   The   third,   a   prayer   that   the   price   of   the   goods be   reduced.   The   fourth   and   the   fifth   were   in   thanksgiving   for   the   trouble   taken   in   going   to   teach   them   in their   country   amid   so   many   dangers,   and   through   so   many   enemies   who   threaten   but   fire   and   flames.   They gave   two   presents   for   that   purpose,   because,   they   said,   that   was   of   much   greater   importance   than   anything else on earth. Even   on   fishing   trips   away   from   the   village,   it   was   customary   for   the   four   chief   men   to   sleep   in   the   four   corners   of the   lodge.   The   Récollet   Gabriel   Sagard   participated   in   one   of   these   excursions   and   was   offered   such   a   corner   in which   to   sleep.   Although   obviously   intended   as   an   honour,   as   only   the   most   respected   of   men   were   granted   such pride   of   place,   sleeping   furthest   from   the   fire   in   chilly   weather   was   the   least   comfortable.   Sagard   politely   declined the invitation, no doubt to the puzzlement of his hosts. When   Europeans   and   the   Huron   met,   so   too   did   their   number   symbols.   With   the   origins   of   their   order   and   their constitution   based   in   number   symbolism,   the   Jesuits   were   no   strangers   to   the   significance   of   numbers.   But,   while some   of   the   Jesuits   did   attempt   to   impose   their   notions   of   number   meaning   on   the   Huron,   other   Europeans recognized   their   need,   as   visitors   in   Huronia,   to   conform   to   at   least   some   small   degree   to   the   dominant   culture. Charles   Montmagny,   Samuel   de   Champlain’s   successor   as   governor   of   New   France,   learned   this   lesson   well.   On September   20,   1644,   there   was   a   final   meeting   of   the   Huron,   Algonquin,   League   of   the   Iroquois,   and   the   French   at Trois    Rivières    to    attempt    to    arrange    a    peace.    As    usual,    the    presentation    of    gifts    formed    the    core    of    the proceedings.   When   all   the   gifts   of   the   League   of   the   Iroquois   had   been   presented   with   due   ceremony,   Monsieur the Chevalier de Montmagny divided them into three portions “in accordance with the usages of these peoples”. Unfortunately,   the   peace   did   not   last,   and   by   1649   the   League   of   the   Iroquois   had   managed   to   all   but   destroy   the Huron   as   a   distinct   society.   The   survivors   were   forced   to   find   shelter   among   the   villages   of   their   allies,   some   of whom   also   eventually   fell   to   the   League.   War   and   the   massive   epidemics   of   European-introduced   diseases   led   to the   abandonment   of   at   least   fifteen   villages   and   the   destruction   of   the   Jesuit   mission,   Saint   Marie.   Among   those   to die   in   the   war   with   the   Huron   was   the   Jesuit   missionary   Jean   de   Brébeuf.   The   surviving   Huron,   who   fondly   referred to   Brébeuf   as   Echon   or   Echom,   presented   the   remaining   Jesuits   with   precisely   ten   necklaces   of   porcelain   beads, such   items   being   considered   the   ultimate   in   wealth   in   their   society.   Despite   the   attempts   of   the   Europeans   to impose   their   religion   on   the   Huron,   the   epidemics   that   had   annihilated   two-thirds   of   their   population,   and   the destruction   of   their   homes   and   way   of   life   by   the   League   of   the   Iroquois   -   all   of   which   were   succeeded   by   a   terrible famine   -   the   number   symbolism   of   the   Huron,   as   evidenced   by   their   gift   of   respect   for   the   dead   missionary, remained intact. © Joyce M. Wright Originally   published   under   the   title   “Ten   Means   Death”   in   the   June/July   2000   issue   of   The   Beaver   magazine   (pages 20-25).
© A.H.B.I. Associates Inc.

Ten Means Death

Joyce M. Wright When   the   Huron   and   the   French   began   to   encounter   one   another   in   the   first   half   of   the   seventeenth   century,   each noted    many    differences.    Whereas    Huron    society    was    egalitarian,    the    French    system    of    government    was hierarchical,   and   life   was   often   brutal   for   those   restricted   to   the   lower   echelons;   while   the   French   dealt   with criminal   behaviour   by   imprisoning   or   executing   the   offending   party,   the   Huron   gave   gifts   to   the   victim’s   family   to atone   for   the   deed   or   went   to   war   to   avenge   it;   and,   when   the   French   added   wild   onions   to   their   soup,   the   Huron professed   as   much   disgust   as   the   French   did   when   the   Huron   ate   green   corn   that   had   purposely   been   left   to   rot. Many   French   considered   the   Huron   to   be   unsophisticated   “savages”   in   desperate   need   of   Christian   tutoring   and European    mores.    However,    the    Huron    likewise    considered    the    French    to    be    grossly    uncivilized.    From    their perspective,   the   French   habits   of   gesticulating   wildly   during   speech,   interrupting   each   other,   and   haggling   over prices   while   trading   were   simply   uncouth.   In   addition,   the   difficulty   many   of   the   French   experienced   in   learning   the Huron   language   was   viewed   as   evidence   of   their   stupidity,   an   observation   that   was   speculated   to   be   connected   in some way to their “abnormal” excess body hair. When   the   early   European   explorers   and   missionaries   travelled   to   the   Huron   homeland   south   of   Georgian   Bay, they    found    some    thirty    thousand    individuals    living    in    villages    of    often    more    than    a    thousand    people    each. Agriculturalists,   businessmen,   and   savvy   politicians,   the   Huron   maintained   extensive   trade   networks,   gambled, warred,   created   fine   art,   and   believed   in   a   pantheon   of   supernatural   beings.   One   of   the   remarkable   things   that   the Huron   and   their   French   visitors   had   in   common   was   a   belief   in   the   active   significance   of   number   symbols.   For   the French,   and   indeed   for   all   of   those   of   European   ancestry,   number   symbols   were   an   accepted   part   of   daily   life. Today   we   retain   such   expressions   as   “good   things   come   in   threes”   and   “cats   have   nine   lives”,   but   most   of   us   have essentially   lost   the   faith   that   these   and   other   numbers   play   an   active   role   in   our   lives.   This   was   not   true   of   the seventeenth-century   Europeans.   Nor   was   the   belief   in   number   symbols   limited   to   what   we   would   today   call pseudoscience,   such   as   astrology   and   alchemy.   Johannes   Kepler,   who   is   considered   to   be   the   father   of   physical astronomy,   believed   that   there   was   an   intrinsic   association   between   numbers   and   the   cosmos;   the   inventor   of logarithms,   John   Napier,   tried   to   use   numbers   to   interpret   the   Bible;   and   Leibnitz,   who   with   Sir   Isaac   Newton   has been   described   as   one   of   the   two   most   important   thinkers   of   the   seventeenth   century,   suggested   that   the   binary code   of   zeroes   and   ones   was   preferable   to   the   decimal   system   because   1   represented   God   and   0   reflected   the void from which all was created. Number symbols literally imbued all aspects of life, and it is probable that had the French   Jesuit   missionaries   and   other   visitors   to   Huronia   not   themselves   come   from   a   culture   in   which   numbers played   such   a   prominent   role,   we   would   not   today   have   recourse   to   such   an   extensive   written   record   of   early seventeenth-century Huron number symbolism. But   while   it   is   true   that   the   Europeans   and   the   Huron   shared   a   belief   in   the   cosmological   utility   of   number symbols,   it   cannot   be   said   that   they   always   shared   precisely   the   same   ideas   concerning   the   meaning   of   individual numbers.   For   example,   Europeans   considered   the   number   10   to   be   “perfect”   because   it   was   the   sum   of   the   first four   numbers   (1+2+3+4),   and   when   the   meanings   of   each   of   these   numbers   were   considered,   they   represented the   totality   of   human   experience:   1   was   the   symbol   of   existence   and,   to   Christians,   God;   2   was   symbolic   of polarity,   such   as   good   and   evil;   3   was   symbolic   of   the   spiritual   such   as   the   Holy   Trinity;   and   4   was   symbolic   of matter.    It    is    not    surprising    then    that    Christians    believed    that    ten    commandments    governed    their    lives.    The importance    of    the    number    10,    however,    preceded    the    arrival    of    Christianity    in    Europe.    The    ancient    Greek Pythagoreans   were   so   utterly   convinced   of   the   perfection   inherent   in   the   number   10   they   claimed   that   there   were ten    heavenly    bodies.    And,    when    observation    failed    to    identify    the    tenth    body,    they    resorted    to    the    simple expedient of inventing it. They named it antichthon, the “counterearth”. To   the   Huron,   in   contrast,   the   number   10   represented   death.   When   a   person   died,   there   was   an   official   ten-day mourning   period   for   that   person’s   spouse,   which   coincided   with   the   ten   days   that   it   was   believed   it   took   the deceased   person’s   spirit   to   travel   to   the   afterworld   called   the   Village   of   Souls.   Not   everyone   made   the   journey   to the   Village   of   Souls,   but   those   who   did,   as   in   Greek   mythology,   were   thought   to   be   required   to   cross   a   river guarded   by   a   dog.   At   the   Feast   of   the   Dead,   where   all   of   those   who   had   died   since   the   preceding   Feast   were gathered   up   from   the   cemeteries   and   buried   in   a   large   communal   pit,   the   bodies   on   at   least   one   occasion   were laid   on   a   blanket   of   fur   robes,   each   of   which   was   constructed   from   ten   beaver   pelts.   The   celebration   itself   was   an elaborate   affair   sometimes   attended   by   thousands   of   guests   from   surrounding   villages   who   engaged   each   other   in competitions   of   skill   for   prizes,   exchanged   gifts,   feasted,   and   prepared   the   bodies   and   the   burial   pit   for   the   final interment   of   the   dead   at   sunrise   on   the   tenth   and   final   day   of   the   festival.   Despite   some   discrepancies   in   the historical literature, it is also likely that the Feast of the Dead was celebrated every ten years. In   Europe,   as   in   Huronia,   the   number   2   was   associated   with   genesis.   Where   the   number   1   represented   existence and,   ultimately,   God,   2   came   to   reflect   the   splitting   apart   of   the   “wholeness”   that   Europeans   assumed   was   an inherent   quality   of   divinity.   This   was   believed   to   be   a   necessary   step   in   the   act   of   creation   because   earthly existence   was   perceived   to   be   a   function   of   such   opposites   as   day   and   nigh,   birth   and   death,   and   man   and woman.   It   was,   nevertheless,   lamented   because   it   meant   that   the   purity   and   the   goodness   of   the   number   1   was now   tainted   by   evil.   It   also   suggested   the   presence   of   a   seemingly   insurmountable   division   between   heaven   and earth   and   God   and   mankind.   As   a   result,   European   and,   specifically,   Christian   symbolism   surrounding   the   number 2 was generally negative. The   Huron   meaning   of   the   number   2   did   not   have   such   negative   connotations.   In   fact,   a   belief   in   such   antithetical concepts    as    “good”    and    “evil”    was    generally    atypical    of    Huron    cosmology.    Instead,    they    tended    to    sense    a continuum   in   all   things:   death   was   not   so   much   a   cessation   of   life   as   a   transformation   to   a   new   state   of   existence and,   as   the   supernatural   and   the   natural   interacted   on   a   daily   basis   in   a   myriad   of   ways,   there   cannot   be   said   to have   been   much   of   a   division   between   the   two.   The   ironic   exception   to   this   occurred   with   the   Huron   cosmogony, where   twin   brothers   with   opposing   personalities   were   considered   to   be   responsible   for   creating   all   that   exists   on the   earth.   Iouskeha,   the   good   brother,   created   humanity   and   most   of   the   plants   and   animals,   while   his   evil   twin, Tawiscaron,   created   everything   that   is   harmful   to   humans   and   constantly   interfered   in   his   brother’s   endeavours.   A nineteenth-century   version   of   twins’   story   suggests   that    their   respective   roles   were   presaged   by   the   manner   of their   birth:   Iouskeha   was   born   in   the   normal   manner,   but   his   brother   Tawiscaron   chose   to   be   born   from   his mother’s   armpit,   thus   killing   her.   The   twins’   grandmother,   Aataentsic,   placed   her   daughter’s   body   in   the   doorway of   the   house   and   announced   that   she   would   live   again   after   the   passage   of   ten   days.   Tawiscaron,   however, prevented   this   from   occurring   by   killing   his   mother   for   a   second   time   by   putting   an   arrow   through   her   and   cutting off her head. Some of the stories say that she was later reincarnated by Iouskeha - in her third life - as the moon. At   a   somewhat   less   exalted   level,   the   Huron   also   used   the   number   2   in   ceremonial   situations.   Most   often   this meant   that   there   were   two   masters   of   ceremonies   at   feasts   and   other   public   events.   However,   in   one   ceremony,   it was   two   young   girls   of   about   five   or   six   years   of   age   who   were   the   most   significant   part   of   the   festivities.   Each   year around   mid-March   they   were   symbolically   “married”   to   their   village’s   fishing   nets.   To   the   Huron   everything   - humans,   animals,   and   even   inanimate   objects   -   was   believed   to   be   sentient   and,   therefore,   susceptible   to   both flattery   and   insult.   As   a   consequence,   ritualistic   diplomacy   was   considered   to   be   an   essential   element   of   human survival.   In   the   case   of   fish,   this   meant   that   the   nets   were   politely   asked   for   their   assistance;   they   were   never   left near   the   dead   as   it   was   known   that   fish   do   not   like   the   dead;   and   the   bones   of   the   fish   themselves   were   never thrown   into   the   fire   because   the   souls   of   the   dead   fish   might   inform   the   living   fish   of   the   insult,   and   the   living   fish, in turn, would refuse to be caught. Sometimes,   the   meaning   a   culture   attributes   to   a   number   is   a   direct   reflection   of   the   nature   of   that   number.   The number 3, as described in the sixteenth-century poem La Semaine by Du Bartas, is a good example: The eldest of odd, God’s number properly... Heaven’s dearest number, whose inclosed center Doth equally from both extremes extend, The first that hath a beginning, a midst, and an end Both    the    Huron    and    the    Europeans    believed    that    the    number    3    connoted    balance.    However,    whereas    the Europeans   generally   incorporated   this   number   into   spiritual   contexts   such   as   the   Holy   Trinity,   the   Huron   applied   it to   all   aspects   of   human   life   where   balance   needed   to   be   restored   or   maintained.   For   example,   in   Huron   society, dreams   were   believed   to   be   mere   precursors   to   reality,   so   when   a   Huron   man   dreamt   that   he   was   captured   and tortured   by   the   traditional   enemies   of   the   Huron,   the   League   of   the   Iroquois,   his   community   emulated   the   essence of   the   dream   in   a   controlled   setting   so   the   predicted   reality   would   be   averted.   This   meant   that   he   ran   through   a number   of   fires   and   around   a   longhouse   three   times   while   his   friends   ritually   burned   him   with   firebrands   to   mimic the   torture   that   he   had   endured   in   his   dream.   Eventually,   he   was   allowed   an   opening   by   which   to   “escape”,   and   a dog was offered as a sacrifice in place of his own life. A   few   scholars   have   suggested   that   the   Huron   adopted   the   use   of   the   number   3   after   meeting   Europeans   and being    introduced    to    the    Holy    Trinity.    However,    archaeological    evidence    predating    the    arrival    of    Europeans indicates   that   the   Huron   and   their   ancestors,   at   least   as   far   back   as   the   fourteenth   century   and   probably   earlier, favoured   the   number   for   their   own   reasons.   It   is   important   to   recognize   that   when   the   Huron   encountered Europeans,   they   reacted   much   as   any   other   society   would.   They   believed   that   their   own   way   of   life   was   superior and,   as   a   result,   accepted   only   what   suited   them   and   ignored   the   rest.   The   French   did   the   same   thing   when   they accepted   the   superior   utility   of   canoes   and   snowshoes   but   stopped   short   of   adopting   other   Huron   practices.   It   is no   surprise   then   that   the   Jesuit   missionaries’   efforts   to   convert   the   Huron   to   Christianity   were   not   very   successful. It’s    unlikely    that    more    than    3    percent    of    the    population    accepted    Christianity    prior    to    1649    when,    already devastated   by   European-introduced   diseases,   the   Huron   were   all   but   destroyed   by   the   League   of   the   Iroquois.   Of those   who   did,   many   did   so   for   access   to   guns   and   other   privileges   associated   with   a   close   relationship   with   the Jesuits. Illness   also   required   the   restoration   of   balance   and   justified   the   frequent   use   of   the   number   3.   In   fact,   the   Huron believed   that   there   were   three   general   types   of   diseases:   those   which   resulted   from   natural   causes,   those   which reflected   an   unconscious   desire   on   the   part   of   the   sick   person,   and   those   which   were   the   result   of   witchcraft. Treatment   of   the   first   type   of   illness   or   injury   included   the   use   of   local   plants.   All   medical   treatments,   moreover, entailed   a   significant   spiritual   aspect.   Among   other   things,   the   medicine   man   had   to   ensure   that   three   criteria were   met   before   he   attempted   a   cure:   the   sky   was   clear,   the   dogs   would   not   howl,   and   he   could   treat   the   person in   some   place   apart   from   the   general   populace.   The   historical   records   also   indicate   that   efforts   to   heal   an   ill person   could   variously   include   a   three-day   feast,   a   dance   lasting   three   hours,   or   a   gift   of   three   fish.   In   one particular   instance   described   by   the   Récollet   Gabriel   Sagard,   an   ill   woman   was   brought   to   the   third   and   final   day   of a   dance   and   led   through   three   stages:   in   the   first   stage,   she   was   carried;   in   the   second,   with   help,   she   was   able   to walk   and   even   dance   a   little;   and,   in   the   third,   she   danced   alone.   In   this   manner,   the   dance   itself   functioned   as   a metaphor   for   her   cure.   As   the   Jesuit   missionary   Jean   de   Brébeuf   observed   several   years   later,   “Metaphor   is   largely in use among these Peoples; unless you accustom yourself to it, you will understand nothing”. The   Huron   ascribed   almost   identical   meanings   to   the   numbers   6   and   9   as   they   did   for   3,   but   at   correspondingly higher   levels.   Nine,   in   particular,   as   the   sum   of   3+3+3,   was   often   applied   to   situations   in   which   restoring   balance   to the   lives   of   a   large   number   of   people   was   necessary.   As   Brébeuf   observed,   it   was   not   possible   to   offend   any   one particular   Huron   without   also   offending   everyone   from   his   village.   As   a   result,   the   crime   of   murder   always   held   the potential   to   lead   to   war   -   not   between   families,   but   between   whole   communities.   To   forestall   this   required   the reestablishment   of   balance   through   the   presentation   of   gifts   to   the   victim’s   community   and   family.   Specifically,   two categories   of   gifts   were   given.   The   only   information   available   about   the   second   category   is   that   the   gifts   were   hung from   a   pole   and   suspended   above   the   head   of   the   murderer;   however,   the   first   category   consisted   of   nine   gifts, although   the   word   gift   is   a   misnomer.   In   fact,   it   was   common   for   between   thirty   and   sixty   objects   to   exchange hands   (or   even   as   many   as   one   hundred   as   in   the   case   of   the   murder   of   the   Jesuits’   twenty-two-year-old   servant Jacques   Douart).   Instead,   gift   referred   to   the   underlying   metaphor   associated   with   the   presentation   of   discrete groups   of   objects.   In   the   case   of   murder,   these   were   as   follows:   the   first   gift   represented   the   removal   of   the murder   weapon   from   the   wound   and   prevented   those   who   sought   revenge   from   picking   it   up;   the   second   wiped away   the   blood   of   the   crime;   the   third   restored   peace   to   the   land;   the   fourth   placed   a   figurative   stone   upon   the   rift in   the   earth   caused   by   the   murder,   thus   sealing   it;   the   fifth   ensured   peace   between   the   villages   and   security   for those   moving   between   them;   the   sixth   was   an   offering   of   tobacco   to   the   relatives   of   the   victim   (aside   from   its spiritual   qualities,   tobacco   was   believed   to   have   a   calming   effect);   the   seventh   soothed   their   minds,   the   eight   was   a drink   offered   to   the   victim’s   mother   as   a   means   of   healing   her   “illness”   of   grief,   and   the   ninth   provided   for   her   a mat upon which to rest while she mourned her loss. As   with   the   number   3,   European   notions   regarding   the   number   5   arose   from   observations   concerning   the   nature of   the   number   itself.   In   the   portion   of   the   sixteenth-century   poem   Hero   and   Leander   written   by   George   Chapman, the properties of the number 5 are described as follows:  Since an even number you may disunite In two parts equal, nought in middle left To reunite each part from other reft; And five they hold in most especial prize, Since ‘tis the first odd number that doth rise From the two foremost numbers’ unity, That odd and even are: which are two and three, For one no number is, but thence doth flow The powerful race of number Since   the   Pythagoreans   had   already   decided   that   odd   and   even   numbers   respectively   represented   men   and women,   it   followed   that   the   number   5,   the   sum   of   the   first   odd   and   the   first   even   number   (ignoring   1,   since   it   was not   perceived   to   be   a   real   number),   represented   the   union   of   men   and   women   and,   therefore,   love.   The   poem continues: The odd disparent number they did choose, To show the union married loves should use, Since in two equal parts it will not sever, But the midst holds one to rejoin it ever The   Huron   likewise   were   aware   of   the   existence   of   odd   and   even   numbers   and,   like   the   Pythagoreans   and   those who   followed   them,   they   found   odd   numbers   to   be   preferable   to   even   numbers.   (The   Greeks   associated   odd numbers   with   the   limited,   men,   and   all   things   light   and   good,   and   even   numbers   with   the   unlimited,   female,   and all   things   crooked   and   dark).   Many   of   the   European   visitors   to   Huronia   witnessed,   and   attempted   to   describe,   a game   that   they   saw   the   Huron   play   called   the   Game   of   Straws.   Although   none   of   these   observers   were   ever   able to   understand   the   rules   or   the   goal   of   the   game   entirely,   they   did   discern   that   odd   numbers   scored   higher   than even   numbers.   But,   whereas   the   Europeans   felt   that   the   union   of   the   first   odd   and   the   first   even   number   reflected human love, the Huron saw it as an appropriate intermediary between the natural and the supernatural worlds. Most    spirits    in    the    Huron    pantheon    were    considered    to    be    open    to    entreaties    from    humans    and    such communication   was   facilitated   through   the   use   of   tobacco,   sweat   baths,   dog   feasts   -   and   the   number   5.   All   of these,   with   the   possible   exception   of   tobacco,   were   used   when   a   Huron   woman   baptized   Marie   became   ill.   In   an attempt   to   restore   her   to   health,   her   parents   first   implored   the   Jesuits   to   give   her   a   red   cap   since,   they   said,   the loss   of   the   hat   had   made   her   ill.   When   the   Jesuits   refused   to   conform   to   what   they   considered   a   superstition,   a   dog feast   was   held.   The   woman   seemed   to   recover   some   of   her   strength   as   the   dog’s   life   ebbed,   but   when   she succumbed   again,   a   medicine   man   was   called   in.   In   trying   to   determine   the   nature   of   the   woman’s   illness,   he   spent some   time   in   the   sweat   lodge.   When   he   emerged   he   stated   that   witchcraft   caused   the   woman’s   illness   and   that there were five charms in her body, each of which corresponded to five spirits. The woman died a few days later. While   everyone   was   thought   to   hold   a   certain   amount   of   personal   power   or   orenda   suitable   for   making   offerings and   entreaties   to   spirits   for   luck   in   battle,   for   protection   of   one’s   home   and   family,   or   to   encourage   the   season’s crops   to   grow   well,   certain   individuals   were   acknowledged   as   being   particularly   adept   in   communicating   with   the spirit   world.   Such   men   and   women   were   sometimes   given   the   respectful   title   of   Oki.   It   was   a   Huron   Oki   named Pigarouich,   for   instance,   who   told   the   Jesuit   missionary   Le   Jeune   that,   in   order   to   become   a   medicine   man,   he   had fasted for five days and nights alone in the woods. For   the   Europeans,   the   number   4   reflected   matter   and   physical   order   and,   as   such,   it   was   often   used   to   classify   the mundane   aspects   of   the   world.   For   instance,   during   the   seventeenth   century,   the   earth   was   believed   to   be comprised   of   four   elements   (fire,   air,   earth,   and   water),   existence   consisted   of   four   planes   (physical,   mental,   astral, and   buddhic),   and   health   was   a   function   of   a   balance   of   four   humours   (black   bile,   yellow   bile,   phlegm,   and   blood). One   suggested   reason   for   this   use   of   the   number   4   is   derived   from   its   3+1   aspect,   where   3   represents   the   spiritual and 1 symbolizes God, with the result that the 3 and 1 added together equal God’s created works. For   the   Huron,   however,   the   number   4   was   an   entirely   social   number.   Four   types   of   feasts   were   commonly celebrated:   the   Feast   of   Farewells,   the   Feast   of   Thanksgiving,   the   Feast   for   Singing   and   Eating,   and   the   Feast   for Deliverance   from   Illness.   Embassies,   whether   intended   to   find   out   what   was   required   to   heal   one   of   their   own people   or   to   offer   aid   to   a   neighbouring   nation,   generally   consisted   of   four   individuals.   Samuel   de   Champlain   was once   presented   with   four   wampum   belts   as   tokens   of   friendship   and   hospitality   while,   on   another   occasion,   he was   escorted   by   four   Huron   guides.   Once,   when   meeting   to   trade   with   the   French,   the   Huron   offered   four   gifts representing   words.   For   the   Huron,   a   word   had   a   metaphorical   meaning,   and   the   man   who   presented   a   word without   a   gift   was   considered   to   have   “no   voice”.   Jean   de   Brébeuf   eloquently   described   these   “words”   in   a   report that he sent to his superiors: The   first...was   but   a   salute   and   an   honor   that   they   paid   to   Monsieur   the   Governor,   and   to   all   our   French.   The second,   a   request   that   the   warehouses   be   opened   for   trade.   The   third,   a   prayer   that   the   price   of   the   goods be   reduced.   The   fourth   and   the   fifth   were   in   thanksgiving   for   the   trouble   taken   in   going   to   teach   them   in their   country   amid   so   many   dangers,   and   through   so   many   enemies   who   threaten   but   fire   and   flames.   They gave   two   presents   for   that   purpose,   because,   they   said,   that   was   of   much   greater   importance   than   anything else on earth. Even   on   fishing   trips   away   from   the   village,   it   was   customary   for   the   four   chief   men   to   sleep   in   the   four   corners   of the   lodge.   The   Récollet   Gabriel   Sagard   participated   in   one   of   these   excursions   and   was   offered   such   a   corner   in which   to   sleep.   Although   obviously   intended   as   an   honour,   as   only   the   most   respected   of   men   were   granted   such pride   of   place,   sleeping   furthest   from   the   fire   in   chilly   weather   was   the   least   comfortable.   Sagard   politely   declined the invitation, no doubt to the puzzlement of his hosts. When   Europeans   and   the   Huron   met,   so   too   did   their   number   symbols.   With   the   origins   of   their   order   and   their constitution   based   in   number   symbolism,   the   Jesuits   were   no   strangers   to   the   significance   of   numbers.   But,   while some   of   the   Jesuits   did   attempt   to   impose   their   notions   of   number   meaning   on   the   Huron,   other   Europeans recognized   their   need,   as   visitors   in   Huronia,   to   conform   to   at   least   some   small   degree   to   the   dominant   culture. Charles   Montmagny,   Samuel   de   Champlain’s   successor   as   governor   of   New   France,   learned   this   lesson   well.   On September   20,   1644,   there   was   a   final   meeting   of   the   Huron,   Algonquin,   League   of   the   Iroquois,   and   the   French   at Trois    Rivières    to    attempt    to    arrange    a    peace.    As    usual,    the    presentation    of    gifts    formed    the    core    of    the proceedings.   When   all   the   gifts   of   the   League   of   the   Iroquois   had   been   presented   with   due   ceremony,   Monsieur the Chevalier de Montmagny divided them into three portions “in accordance with the usages of these peoples”. Unfortunately,   the   peace   did   not   last,   and   by   1649   the   League   of   the   Iroquois   had   managed   to   all   but   destroy   the Huron   as   a   distinct   society.   The   survivors   were   forced   to   find   shelter   among   the   villages   of   their   allies,   some   of whom   also   eventually   fell   to   the   League.   War   and   the   massive   epidemics   of   European-introduced   diseases   led   to the   abandonment   of   at   least   fifteen   villages   and   the   destruction   of   the   Jesuit   mission,   Saint   Marie.   Among   those   to die   in   the   war   with   the   Huron   was   the   Jesuit   missionary   Jean   de   Brébeuf.   The   surviving   Huron,   who   fondly   referred to   Brébeuf   as   Echon   or   Echom,   presented   the   remaining   Jesuits   with   precisely   ten   necklaces   of   porcelain   beads, such   items   being   considered   the   ultimate   in   wealth   in   their   society.   Despite   the   attempts   of   the   Europeans   to impose   their   religion   on   the   Huron,   the   epidemics   that   had   annihilated   two-thirds   of   their   population,   and   the destruction   of   their   homes   and   way   of   life   by   the   League   of   the   Iroquois   -   all   of   which   were   succeeded   by   a   terrible famine   -   the   number   symbolism   of   the   Huron,   as   evidenced   by   their   gift   of   respect   for   the   dead   missionary, remained intact. © Joyce M. Wright Originally   published   under   the   title   “Ten   Means   Death”   in   the   June/July   2000   issue   of   The   Beaver   magazine   (pages 20-25).