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TOGOUIROUI (Togoniron, Kryn, Cryn, Athasata, Adhasatah), Joseph (Sosé), called the Great Mohawk, chief of the French Mohawks; d. 1690.

He had already distinguished himself in 1669, when the Mohicans had besieged Gandaouagué (Fonda, N.Y.). In 1672, after a disagreement with his wife, he went away from his village and during the winter hunt met near Chambly a Christian Indian woman and her husband, who was a catechumen at the Saint-François-Xavier mission at Prairie-de-la-Magdelaine. Won over by their example and by his conversations with them, he arrived at the mission with them in the spring and asked permission to become a Christian. Father Jacques Frémin, a Jesuit, first made him go back to Gandaouagué to get his wife. He returned towards the end of June 1673, accompanied by his wife and some 40 friends. Seven years later, thanks in good measure to the Great Mohawk, there were more of his compatriots at the mission than in their native canton. In 1676 he brought along about 30 more, and others the following year. As long as the peace which had been imposed by Prouville de Tracy in 1666 lasted, Togouiroui used to return from his trips with new recruits.

In 1683 a gale blew down the church at Saint-François-Xavier. To replace it the Great Mohawk handed over the fine lodge that he had just built for himself. Before leaving on Governor Le Febvre de La Barre’s ill-fated expedition to La Famine, he offered to the chapel in 1684 a bronze candlestick worth four beaver pelts.

As a chief he was admired not only by his own people but also by the French, and was respected by all. In 1674, in a skirmish near Fort Chambly, a pagan Iroquois killed a Mahican chief. A neophyte from Saint-François-Xavier was accused of the killing. Immediately the Great Mohawk held an investigation and proved that none of the mission Indians was guilty. In this way he rendered a great service to the colony: a violation of the peace of 1666 between the French and the Five Nations would have caused a disaster.

In 1687 Governor Brisay* de Denonville seized some pagan chiefs by treachery at Cataracoui (Fort Frontenac) and sent them to the galleys in France. In the month of July he attacked the Senecas and burned their villages. The Great Mohawk fought under his orders. At the end of August he went to Lake Champlain and met some 60 Mohawks who were on their way to attack the colony. The Great Mohawk persuaded them to go back home quietly. Once more he had saved the lives of French settlers.

After the massacre at Lachine by the pagan Iroquois in 1689, the Great Mohawk remained faithful to the French. When the aged Frontenac [see Buade], who had again become governor, declared war on the English at the beginning of February 1690, a detachment of Frenchmen and friendly Indians marched on Corlaer (Schenectady, N.Y.). The Great Mohawk harangued his men, and the village was attacked by surprise. The English, who had encouraged the Five Nations to wage war against the French, suffered a loss of 400,000 livres as well as many dead.

In another expedition under the command of René Legardeur* de Beauvais and the Great Mohawk, a small band of Frenchmen and Indians were bivouacking on the night of 4 June 1690 on the Rivière-aux-Saumons (Salmon River). A party of Algonkins and Abenakis, their allies, took them for the enemy and charged them before daylight. The Great Mohawk was the first to fall. He “was hardly less mourned by the French than by his compatriots,” wrote Father Charlevoix*, “& of all those who regretted his death, the missionaries were those who felt this loss the most cruelly.”

Henri Béchard

Charlevoix, Histoire. JR (Thwaites). La Pot(h)erie, Histoire, I, 347–49. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow). The Positio on Katharine Tekakwitha. Positio super virtutibus servae Dei Catharinae Tekakwitha. E. J. Devine, Historic Caughnawaga . . . (Montreal, 1922). Eccles, Frontenac, 4–5, 157–72, 186–87, 191–92, 197, 208, 224–27, 331–32 et passim. Lanctot, Histoire du Canada, II, 152–54.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Henri Béchard, “TOGOUIROUI, Joseph, Great Mohawk,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 22, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/togouiroui_1E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/togouiroui_1E.html
Author of Article: Henri Béchard
Title of Article: TOGOUIROUI, Joseph, Great Mohawk
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1966
Year of revision: 1966
Access Date: July 22, 2014