Antoine Daniel / 1601 - 1648


     Father Rene Menard, missionary in Huronia, recalled having heard Father Antoine Daniel say that, when he was among the Hurons, the more he saw himself abandoned and removed from human comforts, the more God took possession of his heart. This memorial is of a man who gave all that he had to preach the word of God and give witness to christian ideals among the native peoples of North America, and especially the Huron nation.

     Antoine Daniel, born in the Norman sea-coast town of Dieppe on May 27, 1601, was encouraged by his parents to study law and he began to take the necessary courses. After about a year, however, he decided to enter the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), which he did on October 1, 1621 at the novitiate in Rouen.

     Two years later he took his religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and was then sent by his religious superiors to teach at the Jesuit College in Rouen. It was during his last year at this college, 1626-1627, that he first came into contact with the Huron nation. A boy, named Amantacha, had been sent from New France to be educated in the mother country. There the Huron was baptized with the name of Louis de Sainte Foy, and Daniel was entrusted with his in-struction and education.

     At the end of the school year, Antoine Daniel was sent to the Col-lege of Clermont in Paris to study theology in preparation for ordina-tion to the priesthood. During his first year in Paris, Charles Lalemant, the first Superior of the Jesuits in Quebec, arrived and, no doubt, there was much talk among the young Jesuits at the College of Clermont about the mission field of New France. This helped to foster Antoine's desire to go to New France to preach the word of God. After threeyears of studying theology, in 1630, Daniel was ordained to the priest-hood.

     Although he requested to be sent to the missions of New France, Father Daniel had to wait, for, in 1629, the English captured Quebec and it was not until 1632 that France regained her territory in North America. During this period, after his ordination, Father Daniel taught at the College at Eu.

     Finally, in 1632, Antoine Daniel and Father Ambroise Davost set sail for New France with Antoine's brother, Charles Daniel, a sea-captain in the charge of the De Caen Company of France representing Protes-tant-Huguenot interests. They arrived at St. Anne's Bay, Cape Breton, where the two Jesuits remained for a year administering to the French who had settled there.

     In the spring of 1633, Daniel and Davost travelled towards Quebec with Champlain, who had stopped off at Cape Breton on his way to Quebec. Daniel arrived at Quebec on June 24th, while Davost arrived later having stopped off at Tadoussac on the way.

     Although Daniel wished to set off immediately for Huronia, he did not leave that summer. The reason given in the Relations was that rela-tives of an Indian prisoner, who had killed a Frenchman, were waiting along the river route to kill the Jesuits unless the prisoner was released. For this reason, Champlain decided that the Fathers should not make the journey.

     At Quebec, Daniel ministered to the French and used the time to study the Huron Indian language under the direction of Father Brebeuf. Father Le Jeune, writing to the Provincial in France in 1634, noted: "Father Daniel and Father Davost are quiet men. They have studied the Huron language thoroughly, and I have taken care that they should not be diverted from this work, which I believe to be of great importance." Brebeuf, the veteran of Huronia, praised the work of learning the language by the Jesuits and the Frenchmen destined for Huronia:

All the French who are here have eagerly applied themselves to it, reviving the ancient usage of writing on birch-bark, for want of paper. Fathers Davost and Daniel have worked at it, beyond all; they know as many words as I, and perhaps more; but they have not yet had practice in forming and join-ing them promptly, although Father Daniel already explains himself passably well (Thwaites, VIII, 131-133).
     Having spent this year of preparation in learning the rudiments of the Huron language, Daniel was ready to begin the journey to Huronia. Once again difficulties cropped up, and it seemed as if the missionaries would be left at Three Rivers when the Hurons began the return jour-ney. The first difficulty was that the Hurons did not arrive in large numbers at Three Rivers as expected because of an Iroquois attack on the Hurons which "caused the Hurons to come in small bands, only seven canoes coming down, at first."

     The second difficulty was that the Algonquins, especially an Algon-quin captain called "The Partridge," were anxious about the survival of the Jesuits on their journey to Huronia. Most important to them were the possible repercussions should any of the Jesuit Fathers meet a violent death or a natural one along the perilous water route or in the land of the Hurons. Therefore, "The Partridge" persuaded the Hurons not to take any of the Frenchmen with them on the return trip. It was only through the reassurances of Monsieur du Plessis, Commander of the Fleet, that the Hurons finally agreed to transport all the Frenchmen  both Jesuits and laymen.

     No sooner had the Hurons agreed, than they backed down because of the lack of room in the small canoes and the presence of sickness among the Hurons. After more negotiations, the Hurons finally agreed to take Father Brebeuf, Father Daniel, and a young man named Le Baron, leaving behind Father Davost and five other Frenchmen, who secured transportation later.
Just as they were about to leave Three Rivers on July 7, 1634, Father Daniel noticed that the Hurons who were transporting him did not have cloaks like the others, he stepped out of the canoe and told Brebeuf about it. He then had some given to them. Brebeuf recorded the moment of departure:

     At last, then, after having briefly thanked Monsieur du Plessis I embarked with Father Antoine Daniel and one of our men. . . . Monsieur da Plessis honored our departure with several volleys, to recommend us still more to our Indians. It was the seventh of July (Thwaites, VIII, 75).

     The journey was very difficult. The Hurons were sick, thus Brebeuf, Daniel and Le Baron paddled all the time - from sunrise to sunset. Along the route to Allumette Island, the Hurons in his canoe decided to abandon Daniel among the Algonquins. However, a friendly Huron captain from ossossane took Daniel into his canoe for the rest of the journey. The news that reached Three Rivers was not encouraging either for the Jesuits there or for those who were contemplating to follow on a similar journey. A French interpreter among the Algonquin nation had brought news that Father Brebeuf was suffering greatly, that the Indians were sick, and that Father Daniel had died of starva-tion or was in imminent danger of dying. Father Paul le Jeune, writing to France in 1634, ends the Relation of that year by asking: "Who knows whether Father Daniel is still living?"

     At the beginning of August, Father Brebeuf landed at Toanche I. A few days later Father Antoine Daniel arrived, followed by Father Davost, who eventually did acquire transportation from the Hurons out of Three Rivers. After settling for a while at Toanche II, which was not far from Toanche I, the Jesuits made their home at Ihonatiria, or St. Joseph I. At St. Joseph, Daniel met an old friend, Amantacha or Louis de Sainte Foy, the Huron boy he had instructed in France at the Col-lege of Rouen. Upon his return to New France the Huron lad had rejected not only the French culture but also the faith into which he had been baptized. This was a great disappointment to Daniel.

     From the village of St. Joseph, the Jesuits would go out to teach and instruct the Hurons in the surrounding villages. The instruction in-cluded the Our Father, which Daniel had translated into the Huron language for this purpose. There was a difficulty, however, of trans-lating prayers into the Huron tongue; for example, Brebeuf writes:

 we find ourselves hindered from getting them to say properly in their language, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Would you judge it fitting, while wait-ing for a better expression to substitute instead, In the name of our Father, and of his Son, and of their Holy Spirit? (Thwaites,X, 119).

     Most of the instruction was given during the winter months when the Hurons were in their long-houses. During the summer months, since the Hurons were busy farming and trading, the Jesuit Fathers made the Spiritual Exercises or their annual eight days of silent prayer, for as Brebeuf observes: "We had the more need of these exercises, as the high duties we are called upon to perform need more union with God, and because we are compelled to live in a continual bustle." Also during the summer months the Jesuits worked on a Huron dictionary and grammar. For two years Daniel labored at St. Joseph I among the Hurons who called him "Antwen," which seems to be a corruption of his christian name of Antoine.

     Although the experiment of bringing a Huron boy to France for education and his reception into the christian community had not seemed to be successful, the Jesuits still thought that the road to christianizing the Huron nation was through the young. So they began to plan for a Seminary or school for Huron boys at Quebec.

     After long negotiations twelve Huron boys were to make the journey to Quebec as the first group for the Seminary. Fathers Daniel and Davost were assigned to accompany them as well as to begin the new school. The day for the departure was fixed for July 22, 1636. When it came time to leave, many of the parents could not bear to part with their children, so only three Huron boys made the journey.

     The journey went extremely well at the beginning in comparison with the one that both Daniel and Davost had made to Huronia. Along the route, about three days before arriving at Allumette Island, they saw Fathers Garnier and Chastelain on their way to Huronia. Daniel, seeing that these Fathers were well treated, was so delighted that he "gave the Indians some of the weed which we detest and which they adore tobacco."

     For a second time, Allumette Island was a focal point of difficulty in the journey. The Algonquins did not want the Hurons to pass and use the Ottawa River. Daniel sent a letter to Le Jeune explaining the difficulty:

I am held here at the Island of the Allumettes. The Indians will not let us pass, because Chief Le Borgne is dead and his relatives have not been covered. You know what that means. Their grief has not been assuaged by rich presents. We cannot satisfy them and though they are willing to let the French go down the river, they are detaining the Hurons, but I told them I would not go without my Indians. (O'Brien, p.145).

     It seems that there was more at stake than the grief of relatives. The Algonquins were becoming very jealous of the trade between the Hurons and the French. After lengthy negotiations the Hurons were allowed to pass, and the journey resumed towards Three Rivers.
Le Jeune's Relation of 1636 describes the arrival at Three Rivers:

     On the nineteenth of the same month of August a part of the main body of the Hurons arrived. As soon as we saw their canoes appear upon the great River, we descended from the Fort to receive Father Daniel and Father Davost, and a few of our French, whom we were expecting; Monsieur the Commandant himself was there. Father Daniel was in this first company, Father Davost in the rear guard, which did not yet appear; and we even began to doubt whether the Island Indians had not made them return. At the sight of Father Daniel, our hearts melted; his face was bright and happy, but greatly emaciated; he was barefooted, had a paddle in his hand, and was clad in a wretched cassock, his Breviary suspended from his neck, his shirt rotting on his back. He saluted our Captains and our French people; then we embraced him, and, having led him to our little room, after having blessed and adored our Lord, he related to us in what condition was the cause of christianity among the Hurons, delivering to me the Letters and the Relations sent from that Country, which constrained us to sing a Te Deum as a thanksgiving for the blessings that God was pouring out upon this New Church.

After staying a few days at Three Rivers, Daniel and the Huron boys made their way to Quebec, about a two days journey. At Quebec, after the usual acknowledgements of the Governor, they made their way to Notre-Dame-des-Anges. By this time the number of the Huron boys had increased to six, since the interpreter, Jean Nicolet, had brought three more recruits with him, arriving a few days after Daniel at Three Rivers. The Seminary at Notre~Dame-des-Anges, on the banks of the St. Charles River, about two miles from Quebec, also took in some boys from the Montagnais nation.

     Seminary life was rigorous for the boys. Beginning with prayers in the morning, Mass, and breakfast, the Indian lads were then taught read-ing and writing followed by a short break after which they had cateche-tical instruction. They set their own table for dinner, which was fol-lowed by more instruction in reading. They then "are free to go and walk, or to devote their attention to some occupation. They generally go hunting or fishing, or make bows and arrows, or clear some land in their own way, or do anything else that is agreeable to them." In the evening, after supper, they said their prayers and retired. Helping Daniel at the Seminary were Father Anne de Noue, Father Pierre Pijart, and, of course, Father Davost.

     Just as the beginnings of the Seminary were difficult, so too was the first year, for two of the Huron boys died. Daniel was at the bedside of these two boys day and night during their illness. Both were baptized before they died.

     In the following year, 1637, the Seminary was transferred to Quebec to the college that had been founded there in 1635. Father Davost went with the Indian boys and he taught both the French and the Hurons at the new site.

     In 1638, Daniel began the return journey to Huronia, accompanied by a small group of French soldiers, for news in the fall of 1637 was that the Hurons had risen up against the French and had massacred the missionaries. During the journey, Daniel was sick and was abandoned for the second time by the Hurons. The Frenchmen on the journey forced the Indians to leave some corn with Daniel so he could survive. Once again he was picked up by a friendly Huron and he arrived in Huronia on July 9,1638.

That first year back he spent at Ossossane, or La Conception, on Nottawasaga Bay. In 1639, he was transferred to the eastern part of Huronia among the Arendarhonons, who are generally considered one of the four nations of the Huron Confederacy; they were also known as the "People of the Rocks," or the Rock Nation. From 1639 to 1648, Daniel worked out of two villages: St. Jean Baptiste or Cahiague, from 1638-1647; and St. Joseph II, or Teanaostaiae~, 1647-1648. His work consisted in visiting the neighboring villages and preaching the word of God to the Hurons.

     As it was customary for the Jesuits to make an annual retreat during the summer months, Antoine Daniel, in late June of 1648, went to Sainte-Marie I, which had been built as a christian centre among the Huron people and was also the first European settlement in the present day Province of Ontario. Daniel finished his retreat on July 1st, and al-though his Jesuit brothers tried to convince him to stay a few days to rest and relax, he left immediately for his mission station of St. Joseph II. Three days later the Iroquois attacked, captured and burnt the Indian village of St. Joseph II.

     In a letter of 1649, Father Ragueneau recorded the events that had happened at St. Joseph II as they were related to him by the Hurons of that village who had survived. Father Daniel had just finished saying Mass, about sunrise, when the war cries of the Iroquois were heard. During the battle that followed, Father Daniel went about comforting the dying and baptizing many. When the Iroquois finally entered the village, the blackrobe walked towards them blocking their way in order to gain time for the Hurons who were trying to escape. Wounded by a musket-shot and pierced by many arrows he fell and died calling upon the name of Jesus. The Iroquois added new wounds to his corpse and finally threw his body into the flames of the burning church. "Thus delaying the enemy, he was serviceable to his escaping flock even after his death," for, in delaying over the body of Daniel, the Iroquois had given the needed time to the fleeing Hurons.

     Father Ragueneau summarizes the life of Daniel in these words:

Antoine had just finished his fourteenth year at this Huron mission, everywhere a useful man, and assuredly raised up for the salvation of those tribes;. .. and the first man of our society to be taken from us. True, his death was sudden, but did not find him unprepared; for he had always lived that he was ever ready for death (Thwaites, XXXIII, 265).