TARATOUAN (Taratwane), Huron chief; b. 1577?; d. 1637.
Taratouan proved himself a staunch friend of the Jesuit missionaries during the years when their presence was arousing bitter opposition in the Huron villages. Once, when their lives were threatened in council, Taratouan rose to their defence by presenting a string of wampum with the words, “There is something to close your mouths and stop your talking.” By this pledge of support on the part of an influential chief, the ill-will against the priests was dissipated.
In the summer of 1636, Taratouan, with a flotilla of Huron and Nipissing canoes laden with pelts, was forbidden passage on the Ottawa River by the Allumette Island tribe of Algonkins, about 150 leagues above Trois-Rivières. Thirteen Huron canoes were turned back, but Taratouan held firm until the arrival of Father Antoine Daniel who interceded with the island tribe and refused to continue without the Hurons. The flotilla arrived safely in the St. Lawrence on 19 August and although there were few canoes, they carried “a great amount of merchandise.” It was the usual custom of the Allumettes to harass the Hurons and the French, for it was their ambition to prevent commerce between the French and the Hurons in order to gain control of the fur trade for themselves.
However, even if the Hurons were ten against one in relation to the Islanders they would not pass their island if a single inhabitant objected, “so strictly do they guard the laws of the Country.” A boundary tribute was paid customarily, and in the summer of 1636 special offerings were expected “to dry the tears” for the death of the Islander captain, Le Borgne [see Tessouat, d. 1636] who had not yet been resuscitated or “cached” in a ceremony by which his name and power would be given to another.
Taratouan visited the Jesuit seminary at Quebec and gave encouragement to the three recently arrived Huron students, especially to his nephew, Teouatiron. Father Paul Le Jeune believed him to be then (in 1636) “fully sixty years old.” Taratouan was never instructed in the Christian faith, other than by Teouatiron who had explained to him some of the teachings at the seminary. Le Jeune described him as “a brave Captain,” and again “this brave man.”
In 1637, on the journey down to Trois-Rivières, Taratouan, who was again in charge of a fur flotilla of ten Huron canoes, met Teouatiron travelling up to the Huron country. He persuaded him to return to the seminary. On entering Lake St. Peter, Taratouan was captured, together with nine canoes and their rich cargoes of fur. During his torture he was heard to sing “as loudly and as gayly as if he were among his friends.”
Shortly after this event Father Le Jeune, when accompanying a French war-party to the mouth of the River of the Iroquois (Richelieu), reported seeing a cross-bar ripped from a cross erected the year before by M. Duplessis-Bochart, which was fastened to a branchless tree on the spot where the massacre had taken place. On it were painted the heads of the 30 Huron captives. Variation in length of the lines indicated the quality and age of each. Two larger ones depicted captains and smaller ones, youths and children. Stripes in the form of plumes were on the heads of the bravest. All were red signifying their ultimate fate by fire, except one black head for the single Huron murdered at the time.