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Exit from Gahoendoe (Christian Island)

From the beginning of the occupation of the island, famine was a constant reality. During March of 1650, with the hint of thaw in the air, those who were able sought out the hill summits in the area, both on the islands and on the mainland, to find acorns and vegetation where the snow was thinnest. Other groups headed for the opening waters to fish in order to further supplement the meagre food supply. But the dangers were many, for several people drowned after falling through the melting ice. Then in late March the persistent Haudenosaunee fell upon the camps of Wendat on the mainland and a massacre ensued. Only one man escaped to bring news to the beleaguered Islanders.

Decision to Leave Christian Island (Closed captions available in EN and FR) – View this video with a transcript (EN)

With the cutting off of any new food sources, famine once again gripped the diminishing population. When rumors of the coming of two more bands of Haudenosaunee circulated among the Wendat, they decided in council that they would have more of a chance if they left the island and spilt up to live in small groups in the forest. Two Wendat captains then approached the Jesuit Ragueneau and after explaining that once they had dispersed there would be no reason for the French to remain, urged them to retreat as well, and establish a place near Quebec where “the remnants of this ruined nation” could reassemble at some future time.  For forty hours the fathers consulted among themselves and eventually, after realising that with further Haudenosaunee hostility and famine, there would be no Christians left in the flock, they decided to retreat from Christian lsland to the protective walls of Montreal, Quebec or Three Rivers.

Decision to Leave Christian Island (Closed captions available in EN and FR) – View this video with a transcript (EN)

On the 10th of June, 1650, the meagre possessions of the group were once more gathered up and the French, along with about three hundred Wendat, retreated up the shores of Georgian Bay, into Lake Nipissing and into the Ottawa River valley, travelling through lands once populous towards the St. Lawrence, ending the French and Wendat occupation of historic Wendake. About 300 other Wendat had decided to weather the conditions on Gahoendoe and maintained a presence despite constant Haudenosaunee harassment even on the island; they eventually fled the island in the spring of 1651.