John Steckley Humber College

The development of the seventeenth century Huron tribal alliance is investigated using evidence from dialect analysis of the phonetic features found in writings of the Wendat language (Huron and Petun). It is suggested that the powerful Bear tribe of the Huron was made up of two ethnic groups, termed the Northern and Southern Bear. The dialect of the Southern Bear is closest to the dialects spoken by the Cord and the Petun, the first 'Wendat' to move north into the area of Georgian Bay. The Northern Bear dialect is similar to that of the Rock, a group which moved north late in the sixteenth century, pointing to their own relatively late arrival into historic Huronia. The identity of the little-known Bog tribe is also considered.

Native sociopolitical units have often possessed a fluidity of structure and membership that differs from how they have been represented by European writers from early contact until the present. Native groups have been and still are dynamic and changing, not static or carved in stone from time immemorial. When the French establishing New France first started labeling the groups they found in North America, it is as if they froze the groups in time forever, the names appearing first on maps and lists, and later in history books as fixed bodies, unmoving stars. But these labeled entities reflected only the situation at one point in time, blinding the observer to the moves that led to that point, and to the effects of prior states on the social dynamics of the time. A case in point occurs in what is now Southern Ontario. In the first half of the seventeenth century the French wrote that there were three Iroquoian peoples there: the Huron, the Petun, and the Neutral. There were, however, links between and separations within each group that makes this statement misleading for researchers trying to understand both the history prior to contact and the situation at that time.

In this paper I examine dialects of what is termed here the 'Wendat' language. To call it the Huron language would be perpetuating the mistakes of the past, creating a greater distinction between the Huron and one of their neighbors than had really existed. Dialect analysis presented here reveals the following: first, that a tribe within the Huron alliance, the Bear, was not ethnically one group but two, a fact that helps to explain certain events of the 163 Os. Second, this division is connected with the notion that one of these two 'ethnic groups,' the Southern Bear, had a closer linguistic link to at least one of the groups labeled as Petun than did the other (the Northern Bear). Third, it is suggested that another tribe, the Cord, might have shared this link. These dialect connections have implications for how various groups of speakers of Wendat were politically associated prior to the founding of the 'Huron' and the 'Petun' as distinct configurations of peoples. Finally, some speculative remarks are made as to the nature of the mysterious Bog tribe of the Huron, about which so little is known.


The sources for this study span the roughly three hundred years from the early seventeenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. They begin with the accounts of Champlain's exploration of Ontario (Champlain 1929). Next is the French-Wendat phrase book of Recollect Brother Gabriel Sagard, based both on his own work with the Huron in 1623-24 and on that of at least one person who came before him (Sagard 1866). The bulk of the sources are Jesuit, beginning with a catechism written by Father Jean de Bre'beuf sometime after his first stay with the Huron in 1626-28 (Bre'beuf 1630). This is followed in the 1630s to 1670s by Wendat words that appear in the Jesuit Relations, annual reports written by the Father Superior of the Jesuits in New France (JR 1959).

The Jesuits also produced a good number of Wendat dictionaries. The earliest surviving such dictionary (hereafter referred to as FHO) is a French-Wendat dictionary that has some Onondaga entries in a right hand column, with many spaces left to fill. There is good reason to believe that this was a field manual dictionary used by Jesuit Fathers Pierre Chaumonot and Claude Dablon when they stayed with the Onondaga in 1655-56 (Steckley 1982; 1991c). Probably very close to that dictionary in time is the French Wendat section (hereafter designated as FH62) of a dictionary that shows some forms that differ from those found in the more extensive Wendat-French part of the dictionary (hereafter termed HF62). These differences involve forms shared with the FHO dictionary.

Father Etienne de Carheil is known to have compiled a list of Wendat verb and noun roots from 1666 to 1700 (Potier 1920:x'vii). It is probably this compilation that formed the basis for the three seventeenth century and one eighteenth century Wendat-French dictionaries used in this study (HF59, HF62, HF65 and Potier 1920). There are three French-Wendat dictionaries also used in this study which may be of a later date. Two can be dated roughly as 1693 and 1697 (FH1693 and FH1697 respectively). The third (FH67) has not as yet been dated, but it shares some features of the other two, as we will see below.

Father Pierre Potier copied one of Carheil's Wendat-French dictionaries during tlie 1740s when he lived with the Wyandot people, and it is the first source of what those people spoke (Potier 1920). Lastly, there is the Wyandot writing of Marius Barbeau, based on material compiled during the summers of 1911 and 1912 (Barbeau 1960).


The orthography used here is that of tlie original writers, usually the Jesuits, but also of Recollect Brother Gabriel Sagard. The Jesuits developed a system of writing the Wendat language that reflects that they were French speakers, with tlie -ch- being pronounced as in 'Chicago,' and with nasal vowels being. written with the vowel having an -n- written after it. They also used -8- (more accurately a -u- over an -o-) to represent a -u- sound before a consonant, and a -w- sound before a vowel.


The Huron of the first half of the seventeenth century were recorded as being an alliance or confederacy of at least four, possibly five tribes 1: the Atinniawenten, 'they are of bear country' or Bear; the Atingeennonniahak, 'they used to make cord' or Cord; the Arendaeronnon, 'people at the rock' or Rock; the Atahontaenrat, 'two white ears' or Deer; and the Ataronchronnon, 'people in the swamp, mud, or clay' or Bog.

The Bear were said to be the largest of tlie component tribes of the Huron, composing perhaps half the population (JR 10:77), and made up of some 13 or 14 communities. In 1636, tension was exhibited between the leaders of the five northernmost communities and those of the more populated south. This led to the drastic step of the northerners holding a separate Feast of the Dead (JR 10:281, 307). According to Jesuit Father Jean de Brebeuf, "This division has been followed by distrust on both sides" (JR 10:281). Brebeuf reported that the northern leaders complained that: "they do not become acquainted as they would like with the affairs of the Country; that they are not called to the most secret and important Councils, and to a share of the presents" (JR 10:281).

This dispute can be understood in two ways: as indicative of the Bear getting 'too big' for its internal political mechanisms, or as a power struggle between two leaders, Aenons in the north and Anenkhiondic in the south, both trying to have the Jesuits live with them, thereby enhancing their position in the French trade. However, the key to understanding this situation is to think of it as reflecting a pre-existing ethnic split in the tribe made larger by the pressures of the new life brought on by the presence of European trade and the Jesuit missionaries. As we will see, dialect analysis indicates the presence of two 'ethnic groups within the Bear.

Sources differ as to the phonological features or 'sounds' spoken by the Bear. One set is found in the catechism written by Bre'besuf, in the Jesuit Relations until various points during the 1640s for some features, and up until and including FHO and FH62 for others. A different Bear dialect was recorded in the writings of Recollect Brother Gabriel Sagard, who lived with the Huron in 1623-24. Added to this are a few names that appear in the Jesuit Relations. Bre'beuf lived with the Bear in the north until the summer of 1637, when the Jesuits moved their mission to the main Southern Bear community of Ossossane. Sagard stayed exclusively with those living in the south. Hence, I have termed these dialects Northern Bear and Southern Bear respectively.

The Bear and the Cord had a special relationship. According to the Jesuits, of the tribes of the Huron, the Bear and the Cord: "...are the most important, having received the others into their country, as it were, and adopted them. . ..These ... two speak with certainty of the settlements of their Ancestors, and of the different sites of their villages, for more than two hundred years back. ...These two nations term each other 'brother' and 'sister,' in the councils and assemblies" (JR 16:227-9).

We might expect that there would be some linguistic evidence to demonstrate the long term connection between the Bear and the Cord. Material concerning the Cord dialect is difficult to obtain. The Jesuit mission to the Cord began in 1639 and continued until the dispersal in 1650, but there is no writer or source at that time that can be pinned down as being 'Cord' alone. However, a look at the post-dispersal history of the Huron might lielp us here. Of the five tribes of the Huron alliance, the Bog disappeared and the Deer joined eventually with the Seneca, in a mostly independent community near the southern shore of Lake Ontario. In 1657, the Rock left the then diminished Huron alliance to join, somewhat reluctantly, the Onondaga. At tlie same time, the Bear, led by the Northern Bear war leader Atsena2 (Steckley 1995a), took a similar trip to the country of the Mohawk, leaving the Cord as the nucleus of the remaining Huron community. It is thus conceivable that some of the later dictionaries (i.e., post-1657) might contain a few Cord features. The change should be gradual, as the dictionary-making process was a conservative one. New Jesuit missionaries learned Wendat, and prepared for mission work with speakers of the related Iroquoian languages of Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca by copying what their predecessors had written, adding perhaps what they had learned that was not contained in the source they were copying. We should look for some differences here between FHO and FH62, and at least some of the other dictionaries. Part of the distinction should entail a dropping of Northern Bear forms.

There are three tribes left to account for. We know that the Deer spoke a different dialect from that which the Jesuits were accustomed to with the Southern and Northern Bear, not surprising since that tribe had moved north to join the alliance only some thirty years or so before 1639 (JR 16:227). Brebeuf wrote in 1636 that "the accent of that Nation is a little different from that of the Bears, with whom we live" (JR 10:11). While there is no single source that one can point to as being 'Deer' in nature, it should be noted that the year after the Jesuits first opened up a mission to that people in 1642, we get our first evidence of a change in dialect in the writing in the Jesuit Relations. Perhaps it was influenced by their experience with a new Wendat dialect.

We have no direct evidence concerning the nature of the dialect spoken by the Bog, even though the Jesuits were living in what appears to have been the midst of their country (see Heidenreich 1971 :map 17). They seem generally to have been something of a mystery, only being twice referred to in the writing of the Jesuits (JR 13:61, 19:125). It is here suggested, however, that we may have indirect evidence concerning the Bog dialect from the changes that took place in the dialect forms written by the Jesuits in their Relations. These changes end the use of Northern Bear forms and replace them with forms that were more commonly found in Huron communities.

That leaves us with the Rock. In the Relation of 1639, it was stated that the Rock came to Huronia "fifty years ago" (JR 16:227). Like the Deer, they were newcomers to the area, relative to the Bear and the Cord. The Jesuits did not establish a mission among the Rock until 1639. The Jesuits may have delayed that mission because of some recognition that the Rock spoke a different dialect from that which they (the Jesuits) were accustomed to. This could be what was meant by Father Jerome Lalemant when he wrote in the Relation of 1640: "This so special alliance which these Arendaronon people have with the French had often given us the thought of going to impart to them the riches of the Gospel; but our deficiency in the language has always prevented us from advancing to that point,..." (JR 20:21; emphasis mine).

We can identify some sources as providing us with evidence of the Rock dialect. The Rock were the first Huron tribe with whom the French established contact with. Thus, Champlain's works have examples of the Rock dialect, and the 'non-Bear' dialect found in Sagard's writing, obviously cribbed from an earlier writer, is also Rock.


To the west of the Huron were an Iroquoian-speaking people known to the French as the 'Petun' or Tobacco. The Petun were termed by the Huron Etionnontateronnon, 'people of the hill' (Blue Mountain), which may or may not have been the Petun term for themselves. It is quite probable that, like the Huron, beyond the tribal level, they may have referred to themseh'es as Wendat, for as we will see, they were to form the nucleus of the Wyandot. The Jesuit literature is not very clear concerning the political structure of the Petun. They are reported as being divided into the "two different nations" of the Deer and Wolf (JR 33:143), but it isn't known whether 'nations' here refers to clans, moieties, or tribes. Archaeologically we know that they were made of different groups (Charles Garrad, personal communication).

At the time of contact there was an amicable relationship between the Hur6n and the Petun. However, and this is important to the concerns of this paper, there was a time when the two peoples had fought. According to the Jesuit Relation of 1640, the Huron and the Petun "once waged cruel wars against one another; but they are now on very good terms, and have recently renewed their alliance, and made a new confederation against some other peoples, their common enemies" (JR 20:43).

Like the Huron, the Petun were driven out of southern Ontario by the Iroquois during the middle of the seventeenth century. Sometime during the early 1650s, they formed the nucleus for the tribe known historically as the Wyandot, a word based on the term Wendat. The evidence suggests that it was the Deer that formed the main part of the Wyandot. The leader of the Wyandot was Sastaretsi, who was the leader of the Deer clan of the Wyandot (see also below, concerning the use of the name Mattias). While the Huron also contributed to the formation of the Wyandot, we know from various forms of evidence that they were minor players relative to the Petun (Steckley 1988). First, the native word typically used to refer to the Wyandot in the Jesuit Relations was some version of the aforementioned Etionnontateronnon (JR 41:76; 50:306; 51:20; 54:166; 55:96, 158, 166; 56:114; 57:248, 250; 59:216; 60:52; and 61:102). Second, they were referred to in French as "les Hurons de la Nation du Petun" (JR 45:234; 50:306; and 56:114). Third, in a census of the 1740s, the most common male Wyandot name (recorded six times) was Mattias, the same appellation as had earlier been given to the Jesuit mission to the Deer group of the Petun, a mission named after the apostle Matthew. Not one of the Christian names recorded for the Huron in the Jesuit Relations was Mattias.

Probably no one Huron tribe contributed significantly more to the Wyandot than did the others. The evidence for this comes from personal names of the Wyandot found in the 1740s. These names come from all four of the Huron tribes (excluding the Bog). From the Northern Bear came Enons (recorded as Aenons in 1636; JR 10:81, 235 and 237), who was the leader of the Bear clan of the Wyandot (Potier 1920:152). Another name belonging to a Northern Bear leader, Taretande (JR 12:215, 217, 223), also appeared in the Wyandot census (Potier 1920:149). Rock-associated names were Onnonrouten (JR 20:203; Potier 1920:152) and the Rock leader's name Atironta (Potier 1920:151). The names that belonged to the Cord were Sondakwa, the leader of the Wyandot's Sturgeon clan (Potier 1920:152), and Sarenhes (JR 4:225; 7:213; 8:69, 8:139, 8:151; 13:23, 13:27; Potier 1920:152). Finally, from the Deer came the name Tiok8oindoron (JR 22.135, 22:139,26:295, 26:299; Potier 1920:149, 152).


There are eleven phonetic or sound features where clear evidence of difference between sources is found. The analysis begins with those features that are unique to the Northern Bear sources. The Wendat and French examples presented below in list form have been transcribed exactly as they appear in the original texts.

First, there is the -y- phoneme, variously recorded as -,- (the iota subscriptum), -y-, and -g-. It is absent from Northern Bear, but present in all other Wendat dialects. This absence may be significant in that the -y- is one of the ways in which Wendat differs from other Iroquoian languages, which have a corresponding -g- or -k-. I would speculate that the dropping of the -y- came about when -y- speakers and -g- speakers were in intense contact with each other, eventually causing a dropping of a key difference. Such a dropping of differences happened early in the history of the English language, with speakers of various Germanic languages in Britain communicating by leveling the distinctions between their languages. Perhaps with Northern Bear, a Neutral group and a Wendat speaking group came together. This would be hard to prove, unless archaeologists were to discover Neutral artifacts in the northern part of the Penetang Peninsula, so it remains speculation at this point.

In Southern Bear the -y- tends to be absent at the beginning of some words, but present in other positions (Steckley 1991d). I suggest that this absence at the beginning is due to the influence of long term contact with Northern Bear speakers. As we will see, there are several such linguistic accommodations made between the two groups. The following example illustrates both the differences and the similarities. The word in question means 'in' or 'at the sky':



French (source)

N. Bear aronhiae Paradise (JR 21:261)
S. Bear Haronhiaye

Ciel, le Ciel (Sagard 1866:20 line 20)

Other , aronhia,e (Potier 1920:634)

The -y- is not evident in the early Jesuit Relations, but first appears as -,- in 1646 with the name "hou,oucsta" (JR 28:159). It begins to appear with more frequency after that, and is found in all of the Huron dictionaries. From both Champlain and Sagard we can clearly see evidence for the presence of the -y- feature in the Rock dialect. In Champlain, we see it as a -g- in the place names "Touaguainchain" and "Cahiague," the personal name "Ochataguain," and the national name "Asistaguerouon" (Champlain 1929:48, 49, 73, 97 respectively). In Sagard we see a good number of examples of the -y- feature, as -y and -g-, in words that have Southern Bear features. Unfortunately, we have no examples in which another Rock identifying feature occurs along with -y-. This shift would appear to represent a move from a feature that was unique to the Northern Bear, to a feature shared by all the other tribes of the alliance, probably including the Bog as well.

A similar dropping of sounds occurs when Northern Bear has -ona- or -one- (Steckley 199 ic) where other dialects, including Southern Bear, have -onywa- or -onywe-. The following is an example. The -8- symbol here represents a -w- sound.

N. Bear Soneiachasenni il s'est mis en colere contre nous (FH62)
Other Son,8eiachasennik il se fasche contre nous (HF62: 142)

Another apparently unique feature of Northern Bear is the -k(h)r- which corresponds to a Southern Bear -t(h)r- (Steckley 1991a). To be noted in the following example is the fact that the Sagard entry contains the Southern Bear feature -kv- (see discussion below) expressed as -qui-, so the word is Southern Bear and not Rock, the other dialect contained in Sagard's writing. Both entries contain the semi- reflexive prefix at- plus the verb root -rio-, 'to fight, kill.'

N. Bear nonakhriochaens aux ennemis (Bre'beuf 1630:14)
S. Bear Onnen ondathrio haquiey N. Nous allons combattre contre les N. (Sagard 1866:128)
Other Atrio Se battre (FH1697:22)

As with the introduction of -y-, the Jesuits moved away from using a solely Northern Bear form with the dropping of -kr- (written as -k(h)(r)-). The last word in the Jesuit Relations bearing a -kr- occurs in 1645 (in the name "Tokhrahenehiaron"; JR 27:252). Beginning in 1646 (JR 30:22, 28:230), the Jesuit Relations have -tr- forms, and this also occurs in all Huron dictionaries. In Sagard's dictionary we find around one hundred entries with -tr-, and no sign of a -kr-, which can be considered indirect evidence that -tr- was both a Rock and a Southern Bear form. There is a good chance that this feature was shared by Cord and Deer and possibly even Bog.

Another Northern Bear feature that is replaced in the Jesuit Relations during the 1640s is the use of -kv- (typically written as -khi-) rather than -ty- (typically written as -ti-; Steckley 199 lb). It could be significant that we see the shift in the two writings of the personal name of a Deer man. It appears in 1642 as "Okhuk8andoron" (JR 22:134, 138) and in 1643 as "Aotiok8andoron" (JR 26:294, 298). While -kv- is a feature shared by Northern Bear, Southern Bear, and Petun (Wyandot), all the dictionaries take -ty-. This can be seen in the following example:

N. Bear khiokhiac (1641 map; Steckley 1990:24)
S. Bear Kyokiaye Le Saguenay, Prouince du Saguenay (Sagard 1866:95)
Wyandot Te ockia,i * Montreal (Potier 1920:154)
Other Te otia,i Montreal (FH1697:250)

We find examples of -ty- in Sagard's writing in addition to the more dominant Southern Bear -ky-. For example, one word for 'snake' that appears in Sagard's work is seen as "Tioointsiq" (Sagard 1866:17), an attempt to write what appears in later dictionaries as "Tiogentsik" (FH1697:23 1). The Wyandot form takes -ky- (Barbeau 1960:15). The shift from -ky- to -ty- in the Jesuit Relations may have been because they found the latter form more prevalent in their expanding missions of the 1640s, a feature of the Rock and the Deer, possibly the Cord and the Bog as well.

A similar case occurs with the move from -ngy- to -ndy- before -a-. Northern Bear, Southern Bear and Wyandot take -ngv- (Steckley 1993). Rock, as seen in Sagard, and the dictionaries take -ndy-. This can be seen in the following entries using the noun root -ndy-/-ngy-, meaning 'finger, hand':

N. Bear taenguiaens gueris moy Iwith the veil) 'to go out'/ (JR 10:158)
S. Bear Eingya, Eteingya Les doigts (Sagard 1866:86)
Wyandot ,andia...atendgia doigt (Potier 1920:449)
Rock Seindia Coupe le doigt Iwith the verb 'to cut'I (Sagard 1866:86)
Dictionaries ,andia Doigt (FH1697:55, of. HF59:96 and FH62)

The shift seems to have taken place sometime during the 1640s. The earliest recorded instance of -ndy- before -a- in the Jesuit Relations occurs in 1648 with the name "Tsoendiai" (JR 34:218). The latest occurring example of -ngy- is the place name "Onguiaahra (i.e., Niagara, Steckley 1992o; JR 21:190) or "Onguiaahra" (JR 21:210) in 1641. All of the dictionaries then take -ndy-. This all suggests that this form was not unique to Rock, but might have been shared by the dialects of the Cord, Deer and maybe tile Bog.

So far, we have given clear examples of the existence of four Wendat dialects: Northern Bear, Southern Bear, Rock, and Petun (Wyandot). Is there any evidence that points directly to the nature of Cord? Can we say, for example, whether the Cord were closer to the Northern or Southern Bear?

One form of evidence that may shed some light on these questions comes from names. There are over 300 Huron names that appear in the Jesuit Relations. The only such name to bear the sound -m-, and it does so consistently, is the Cord name Amantacha (JR 5:73, 225, 239-41, 245, 251-3, 6:21-23, 7:215). The existence of this feature is problematic. In Jesuit Father Jean de Bre'besuf's description of the Huron language, recorded in the Jesuit Relation of 1636, he stated that speakers of the language, "...are not acquainted with B.F.L.M.P.X.Z." (JR 10:117). His experience at the time was largely conditioned by his experience to that point of dealing predominantly with speakers of Northern Bear. Later dictionaries reflect this in having no Huron terms containing an -m-. There is clear evidence, however, that -m- existed in the Southern Bear dialect as recorded by Sagard (Steckley 1991b). This is illustrated in the two words, possibly cognates, for awl recorded in Sagard's dictionary. One of those forms is the following, which differs from all other recordings of the word not only in the absence of the initial -y-, but in having -m- where the other sources have -w- (represented by -8-):

S. Bear Assimenta Baillel'alesne
Other ,Aohi8enta alesne (FH1697:11, c.f. HF62, HF59:49, HF65:59)

The feature may have been disappearing from Cord and Southern Bear at the time of first contact with the French, owing at least in part to the relatively recent joining of the Rock and the Deer into the Huron alliance.

One additional comment should be made here. By the late eighteenth century there is clear evidence that Wyandot also had an -m-, but it is totally absent from Potier's writing of the 1740s. Did he simply miss them at first, or were they not there, to develop later that century? At this point I do not have a satisfactory answer to this question.

Another feature that might be shared by Southern Bear and Cord is the use of -dr- after a nasal vowel, where Northern Bear takes -nr- (Steckley 1993). The reason for using the cautionary word 'might' here is that in the five examples of -dr- found in Sagard, there is no hint as to whether the dialect in question was Southern Bear and/or Rock. It probably was Southern Bear, as it seems that most of the dictionary was Sagard's work. The following is an example using the veil) root -(,)an(n/dl)r- meaning 'to look':

N. Bear atisaca/n/gnren regardez (JR 10:70)
S. Bear Cateendh/r/a le regarde la (Sagard 1866:136 line 18)

It can also be seen that the dictionaries FH67, FH1693, and FH1697 differ from the Northern Bear and the other dictionaries in taking -dr- rather than -nr-. For ten words which appear either with one or the other feature, nine only take -dr- when they occur with the three first mentioned 'Cord' sources. The exception is the word for 'contagion,' which takes -dr- in HF59, HF62 and HF65. The following example demonstrates the rule with the verb root -chion(d/n)rack- 'to have as brother's child' (female speaking):

Cord(?) ,achiondracka (FH1697:258 and FH1693:257)
N. Bear ,Achionnrack (FHO)
S. Bear(?) Etchondray Ma niece (maniere de parler aux femmes & filles) (Sagard 1866:105, line 12)
Other ,achionnrak (HF65:59, cf HF59:48, HF62:12)

There are several different ways of interpreting this phenomenon. The most likely is that this is an example of a feature of the Cord dialect, which mirrors what probably is the Southern Bear form. One reason for saying this is that a very similar dictionary pattern is followed by a feature that is unique to the FH67, FH1693, and FH1697 dictionaries (Steckley 1995b), and that therefore could be a Cord feature. This is the appearance of -dya- after a nasal vowel in a limited set of words, where Southern Bear exhibits -gva- and Northern Bear and Rock appear to show -nya-:

Cord (?) Tsondiatena Souris (FH1697: 199)
N. Bear Tsonniatena Souris (FR62)
S. Bear Tsongyatan Souris (Sagard 1866:17)
Other tsonniatena souris (HF65)
Cord (?) hatindia8enten la nation de l'ours, l/e/s hurons (FH1693 :234)
N. Bear Attignawantan (JR 16:227; see also JR 19:125)
S. Bear Atingyahointan (Sagard 1939:91)
Rock Atignouaatitan (Champlain map in Heidenreich 1971:301)
Petun hatindgia8ointen (Potier 1920:154)

With a few verbs, a mix of -nya- and -ndy- occurs in some of the other dictionaries, but the -ndy- form is still more prevalent in the FH67, FH1693, and FH1697 dictionaries.

A more complex case occurs with -ndh- as opposed to -nh- (Steckley 1991c and 1993). First, we note that Northern Bear and Southern Bear take the former, while Rock takes the latter. Second, we see that Wyandot takes - nhth-, which might be derived from the -ndh-, a form possibly once shared. The following example uses to verb root -n(d)hi-, meaning 'to be full':

N. Bear ichiendhi plein (Brebeuf 1630:7 line 14)
S. Bear Yguenhi, yguendi Ton Canot est-il plein, estes-vous chargez? (1.3 per., Sagard 1866:126-7, underlined)
Rock Yguenhi, yguendi (Sagard 1866:126-7, underlined)
Wyandot ienctnhi ils sont grand monde, une grande assemblee (Potier 1920:303)

Acomplication with this feature is that it 'dies hard.' It is found in names presented in the Jesuit Relations in 1651 and 1652 (JR 36:122, 132, 142, 37:104, 168 respectively), and one isolated term in 1672 (JR 55:273-4). The - nnh- forms first appear in a prayer of 1654, with different forms of the noun -,ennh (JR 41:166, "Ennnhiek", "ate 0, ennhae" and "ennhaae") and then again in a personal name in 1673 (JR 57:62) that had appeared with an -ndh- in 1651 (JR 36:122, 142). Not surprisingly, in the Northern Bear dictionaries FHO and FH62, the -ndh- dominates, while in the other dictionaries it appears less often. While there is a fairly even balance of -ndh- and -nnh- forms, with two of the dictionaries, HF62 and FH1693, showing both forms in some cases for the same veil) or noun. In the latter the -nnh- form seems added, as in at least one instance it is written in a different handwriting. All of the other dictionaries have at least one instance of each form. It is only through the written texts in the Jesuit Relations (JR 61:271, "on8atonnhara" and JR 64:facing p.58, "a,onnhe") and through the texts and dictionary entries copied by Potier and not showing Wyandot superscripts that we can tell for sure that a shift from -ndh- to -nnh- was taking place. It is difficult to say at this point whether the Cord form followed that of the Rock or Southern Bear.

A similar situation occurs with -u- (typically written as -8- or -ou-) as opposed to -o- (Steckley 1992a and 1993). The profile with this feature is as follows. There are thirty eight nouns and verbs where -u- or -o- could appear in initial position. Three sources, Sagard and the two Northern Bear dictionaries FHO and FH62, have -U- more often than -o-, and also have -u- significantly more than do the other dictionaries.

N. Bear 8sata fumee (FH62; cf FHO)
S. Bear Oussata ayot Lflumee m'a faict mal (Sagard 1866:65)
Other osata fumee (FH1697:82; cf. FH67:104)

This points to -U- being both a Southern Bear and a Northern Bear feature. Wyandot shares this feature. This can be seen in the fact that in a number of cases Potier wrote a superscript -8- over an -o (Potier 1920), and that Barbeau has -u- completely replace -o- in all cases (Barbeau 1960).

The -U- appears to have been more of a Southern Bear and Wyandot feature than a Northern Bear feature (Steckley 1992a, 1993). There are a number of instances in positions other than initial when Southern Bear takes - U- where Northern Bear takes -o-. One such instance is with the noun root -sk(o/U)t-, meaning 'head':

N. Bear Oscotarach Perce-teste (JR 10:146)
S. Bear Scouta La teste (Sagard 1866:85, cf. the Southern Bear name "Oscouta", JR 14:60, 62)
Wyandot osko8ta tete (Potier 1920:453)
Other oskota Tete caput (FH1697:208)

It appears as though -a- is a Rock feature. This can be verified through the discussion of a final feature. Southern Bear and Wyandot differ from Northern Bear and the dictionaries in taking -chr- rather than -ch- (Steckley 199 le), as we can see from the following:

N. Bear econdechate la terre (Brebeuf 1630:4)
S. Bear Ondechra, Ondechrate la terre, le monde (Sagard 1866:132)
Wyandot ondechra terre.. pais (Potier 1920:455)
Other ondecha terre (FH1697:207)

There are instances of -ch- as well as -chr- in Sagard's writing. I believe that there are two separate reasons for this. The -chr- may have been more of a Wyandot feature than it was a Southern Bear one. The evidence for this comes from one verb root -ch(r)onni-, 'to prepare,' which in Sagard's writings always took -ch-, even when it showed the Southern Bear form -ngv-, as in the following example:

S. Bear Asson tesquachongya Elle n'en scauroit encore faire (Sagard 1866:60)

Using a -ch- in a Southern Bear word in such a case may have been due to the influence of Northern Bear, which did not take -chr-. Another reason for the appearance of at least some of the -ch-'s is because it is a Rock feature. Often when the -ch- appears in Sagard's writing, it is accompanied by an -0- when Southern Bear would take a -u-. This is probably because both -ch- and -o- are Rock characteristics. An example is the following:

Rock Sanontaha ottecha Elle te portera le bled pile (Sagard 1866:119)
Wyandot 8techra farine (Potier 1920:453)


We have seen that Northern and Southern Bear are separate dialects, pointing to a separate 'ethnic' origin of the two groups that made up the Bear at the time of first contact with the French. Among the eleven phonetic features that differ between the various Wendat dialects, Northern and Southern Bear differ concerning six features: -y-, - on(a/e)- vs -on,w(a/e), -kr- vs -tr-, -m-, -nr- vs -dr-, and -ch- vs -chr-. Among the features which differ between Wendat dialects, they share the remaining five: -ngy- vs -ny- and -ndy-, -ngy- vs -ndy-, -ky- vs -ty-, -ndh- vs -nnh-, and -U- vs -o-.

Also to be noted is the influence each dialect may have had on the other. It would appear that this was a mutual process. Under the influence of Northern Bear, Southern Bear seems to have dropped the initial -y- in at least some circumstances, as well as probably diminishing the instances in which -chr-, -u- and - m- would occur.

More powerful was the apparent influence of the larger Southern Bear on their smaller fellow member group of the Bear tribe. All the features that Southern Bear shares with Northern Bear are also exhibited by Wyandot (Petun). This makes it quite probable that most, if not all, of these features entered Northern Bear because of long term contact with their more nuinerous southern neighbor.

Southern Bear seems closer linguistically to Wyandot (Petun) than it is to Northern Bear, sharing almost every feature in which Wendat dialects differ, although being less thoroughgoing in its use of -u-, -chr-, -y- and -m- due to contact with Northern Bear, as we have seen. What does this mean in anthropological terms beyond linguistics? This suggests to me that the Southern Bear and the Petun (or at least the Deer tribe of the Petun) were linked before the former formed an alliance with the Northern Bear, before there was a 'Huron'/'Petun' distinction amongst the Wendat speakers. Perhaps this connection was severed by the battles referred to in the Jesuit Relations.

Although the evidence is in no way conclusive, there is the distinct possibility that the Cord had a closer historic link to the Southern Bear than they did to the Northern Bear, and that the forming of the 'Huron alliance' of Bear and Cord some two hundred years prior to contact was a linking of Southern Bear and Cord. The evidence comes from several directions. First there is the -m- and the -ndr-. Second there is the dropping of the -y- (and the accompanying -ona-/-one-) and the -kr- to be replaced by -tr- in the Jesuit Relations. That the Cord had the same features as Rock and Southern Bear in this regard would help explain why the Jesuits shifted their dialect use. The suggestion then is that the Northern Bear joined an already-formed Southern Bear/Cord alliance.

Finally, there are the even more speculative possibilities concerning the Bog dialect. It would make sense that the changes that took place in the writing of the Jesuit Relations-the shift to using -,- (the -y- sound), to replacing -ky- with -ty-, -kr- with -tr-, -ngy- with -ndy-, and possibly -ndh- with -nnh- -reflected a move towards representing a majority of Wendat speakers in Huronia. The Jesuit lived in what appears to have been Bog country. Decisions regarding representing majority dialect forms would thus certainly involve consideration of what the Bog tribe used. Thus, it is possible that some or all of the features, -y-, -ty-, -tr-, -ndy-, and -nnh-, belonged to the dialect spoken by these people. This would make their dialect closer to Rock (and possibly Deer) than Northern Bear, Southern Bear, Cord and Petun. They might have been linked with one or both of those two tribes prior to coming to the shores of Georgian Bay.


During the Middle Iroquoian period (A.D. 1300 to A.D. 1420), the ancestors of the Huron and Petun began moving into the areas where Europeans first came into contact with them. By the end of the period, based primarily on pottery types, we see a cultural division between those living in the newly-populated north, and those in the traditional area of the south (i.e., not far from the north shore of Lake Ontario). By Late Middleport times there are for the first time village sites in three areas: north of the Nottawasaga River, not far from Petun country; and in the contact-period areas of the Bear and of the Cord. This fits with the oral tradition recorded in the Jesuit Relations of the Bear and Cord being in the area for about 200 years. I believe that these three clusters represent the following: the Petun who spoke the dialect later to become known as Wyandot, the Southern Bear, and the Cord.

During the Late Prehistoric period (A.D. 1420 to A.D. 1550), we find for the first time villages in Northern Bear country (Figure 1, top). I suspect that this is when the Northern Bear joined the Southern Bear. Perhaps the Northern Bear were forced north by population pressures then coming into play in more southerly regions. Archaeologists have uncovered what appear to be signs of density-related diseases and warfare in village and burial sites in those regions during this time (see discussion in Warrick 1990:379- 380)

During the Contact period (A.D. 1550 to A.D. 1650), two developments are seen archaeologically (Figure 1, bottom). First, the southern territory of the ancestors of the Petun and Huron was abandoned. Clearly at least some of those who left were the Rock and the Deer, who were recorded by the Jesuits as entering historic Huronia within the fifty years prior to the missionaries arrival at Georgian Bay. It seems safe to presume that the linguistically related Bog shared that migration, possibly being the pioneers who first moved in with the Bear and the Cord. Another development at this time was the substantial growth of the Petun. While this probably is linked in some way to the "cruel wars" that the Jesuits were told took place between the Huron and the Petun at some point during this period (JR 20:43), what is yet to be determined is which happened first, the fighting or the move of new groups north.


Table 1. Sequences of development in alliance formation among the Huron and Petun.





Southern Bear

north alliance


Mohawk and Wyandot


north alliance


Huron and Wyandot


north alliance



Northern Bear



Mohawk and Wyandot








Onondaga and Wyandot




Seneca and Wyandot

In sum, what is being suggested here is the following sequences of development in the formation of alliances or confederacies among the Huron and Petun (see Table 1). First is the idea that three closely related people-the Southern Bear, the Cord, and the Petun-moved north at some point between A.D. 1300 and A.D. 1420. The Northern Bear added to their number by joining with the Southern Bear after A.D. 1420 and well before A.D. 1550. After A.D. 1550, the Petun fought with the Huron Confederacy and both Petun and Huron added tribes to their separate political entities. For the Huron, the additions were first the Bog, then the Rock, and then the Deer.

The dispersal of the Huron and Petun from the Georgian Bay area around 1650 led to the pursuit of several different strategies. The Petun formed the base of the people to be known as the Wyandot. Strengthening the group would be members and perhaps clans of the Northern and Southern Bear, the Cord, the Rock and the Deer. 4 Another strategy was the formation of a group who chose to live close to the heart of French settlement. At the base of this group were the Cord. Finally, major sections of the Deer, the Rock, and one or both of the Southern and Northern Bear joined the Seneca, the Onondaga, and the Mohawk respectively. The fate of the Bog is unknown.


1. Champlain only mentioned the Bear (Champlain 1929:46); Sagard, the three largest, the Bear, Cord, and Rock (Sagard 1939:91); while the Jesuit Relations reference four (JR 16:227), adding the Deer, and five (JR 19:167), adding the Bog, who are not written about at that point.

2. We cannot conclude from this that it was the Northern Bear who joined the Mohawk One reason for this is that Ennons, the leader of the Bear clan of the Wyandot during the 1 740s, appears to have the same name as Aennons, the principal leader of the Northern Bear during the 1630s.

3. Thanks are given here to Dean Snow for suggesting that this section be added to make the paper more comprehensible to a non- linguistic audience. The information presented here is based largely on Gary Warrick's doctoral dissertation (Warrick 1990), and the uselul maps were supplied by Dean snow.

4. Some evidence suggesting the presence of elements of the latter three tribes amongst the Wyandot comes from the names showing up in a list of Wyandot in the 1740s (Potier 1920:152). The Deer tribe name Ayotiokwandoron ('they form a valuable group' i.e., deer) appears for the leader of one of the Turtle clans of the Wyandot, the Cord leader name Sondokwo, 'Eagle,' appears as the leader of the Sturgeon clan, and Atironta, the name of the leader of the Rock during the 1630s and 1640s, was also present among the Wyandot.


Barbeau, M. 1960 Huron-Wyandot Traditional Narratives National Museum of Canada, Bulletin 165. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa. Brebeuf, J. de 1630 Doctrine Chrestienne, dv R.P. Ledesme de Is Compagne de lesvs. In Voyages: ou journal des descouvertes de la Nouvelle France, Samuel de Champlain, tomes I-III. Paris. Champlain, S. de 1929 The Works ofSamuel de Champlain, Vol.3. H.P. Biggar, editor. The Champlain society, Toronto. Heidenreich, C. 1971 Huronia: A H'story and Geography of the Huron Indians 1600-1650. MCClelland & Stewart, Toronto. Potier, P. 1920 Radices Huronicae. Fifteenth Report of the Bureau ofArchives for the Province of Ontario 159455. C.W. James, Toronto Sagard, G. 1866 Histoire du Canada...avec un dictionnaire de la language huronne. Edwin Tross, Paris 1939 The Long Journey to the Country ofthe Hurons. G.M. Wrong, editor. The Champlain Society, Toronto. Steckley, J.L. 1982 Huron Clans and Phratries. Ontario Archaeology 37:29-34. 1988 How the Huron became Wyandot. Onomastica Canadiana 68:39-50. 1990 The Early Map "Novvelle France." Ontario Archaeology 51:17-29. 1991a One BearorTwo Too.ArchNotes9l-l:12, 15-6. 199 lb The Mysterious -M-. Arch Notes 91-2:14-20 and 25. 199 Ic The First Huron-French Dictionary? Arch Notes 91-3:17-23. 1991d Rock and southern Bear: Another Feature shared. Arch Notes 914:12-15. 1991e southern Bear's -chr-: How Can a Sound Be Like a Bat's Wing? Arch Notes 91-6:11-15.

1992a Pieces of-8-: Another Southern Bear Feature. Arch Notes 92-1:5-9. 1992b Tying the Cord with the Southern Bear. Arch Notes 92-2:12-16. 1992c Niagara: An Interpretation. Arch Notes 92-4:17-22. 1993 Linguistically Linking the Petun with the Southern Bear. Arch Notes 93-2:20-26. 1995a Hatindia8enten: They ofthe Bear People. Arch Notes 95-1:21-28. 1995b A Unique Feature of the Cord Dialect. Arch Notes 95-6:22-26. JR=Thwaites, R.G. (editor) 1959 The JesuitRelations andAlliedDocuments 1610-1791.73 vols. Pageant, New York. Warrick, G. 1990 A Population History of the Huron-Petun, A.D. 900-1650. Ph.D dissertation, Deparunent of Anthropology, McGill Urnversity.

Unpublished Archival Documents:

FHO ci 656 Dictionaire Huron et hiroquois onontaheronon. MS, Archive Seminaire de Quebec. FH62 ci 656 French-Wendat section of MS 62 (as cited in Victor Hanzeli, Missionary Linguistics in New France, 1969, The Hague, Mouton), Archive Seminaire de Quebec. FH67 n.d. French-Wendat dictionary, MS 67 (as cited in Hanzeli, 1969), Archive Serninaire de Quebec. FH1693 c1693 French-Wendat dictionary. MS, Archive Seminaire de Quebec. FH1697 c1697 French-Wendat dictionary. MS, Jol,n Carter Brown Library, Brown University, Providence, RI. HFS9 n.d. Wendat-French dictionary. MS 59 (Hanzeli), Archive Seminaire de Quebec. HF62 n.d. Wendat-French section of MS 62 (Hanzeli), Archive Seminaire de Quebec. HF6S n.d. Wendat-French dictionary. MS 65 (Hanzeli), Archive Seminaire de Quebec.