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Huron also known as “Wendat” Pitek, Emily


This entry is based upon ethnographic materials that reconstruct the Huron society prior to cultural changes as a result of outside influence. Reconstruction is made possible from accounts written by European traders and Jesuit missionaries during early contacts with the Huron. This entry focuses on the Bear (Attignawantan) and Cord (Attigneenongnahac) subtribes around the time of 1634, which were located between Lake Simcoe and the Georgian Bay in what is now Ontario, Canada. These two subtribes are the largest and oldest of the four Huron subtribes (the other two being the Tahontaenrat and Arendahronon). At the focal time of 1634, the village was the primary unit of daily life, encompassing social, economic, and religious importance. The village was led by a council of elders, a war chief, and a general chief. However, this varied by village and sometimes several chiefs were present. Leaders acted as a council, with no chief outranking others, and holding their position on the basis of ability, experience, success, courage, etc. Religion did not have its own distinct sphere in Huron society, rather, it was a part of all Huron beliefs and practices; “to them, their religion and way of life were one and the same” (Trigger, 1976:75). Consequently, this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with the society. The Huron did not have religious specialists (e.g. a shaman or priest position), rather, chiefs often held ritual offices and duties in addition to their secular roles. The religion did not have a well-defined pantheon of supernatural beings, but the most important deity is the sky, serving as a present but otiose high god. Also present are previously human spirits, but these beings are not discussed in extensive ethnographic details. Non-human supernatural beings include Iouskeha and Aataentsic (two of the most important, bestpersonified, and most described beings), as well as “… animate spirits [that] resided in the earth, the rivers, lakes, certain rocks, and the sky and had control over journeying, trading, war feasts, disease, and other matters" (Tooker, 1964:80). Religious observances (e.g. taboos, superstitions) were associated with almost all aspects of Huron life, such as subsistence strategies and life cycle events. Four types of feasts were held, including singing (celebratory) feasts, thanksgiving feasts, curing feasts, and farewell feasts.

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