Huron (hyŏrˈänˌ) [key], confederation of four Native North American groups who spoke the Wyandot language, which belongs to the Iroquoian branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). Their name for themselves was Wendat, Huron being the name applied to them by the French. In the early 17th cent. they occupied the region between Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay in Ontario and numbered some 20,000. Their culture was substantially that of the area of the Eastern woodlands. They lived in palisaded villages and cultivated tobacco.
In 1615, when Samuel Champlain visited the Huron, they were at war with the Iroquois. The long-standing enmity between the Huron and the Iroquois reached a climax in 1648, when the Iroquois, armed with Dutch firearms, invaded Huronia and subsequently disrupted (1649) the Huron confederacy. It was at this time that Father Jean de Brébeuf, who established (1626) a Roman Catholic mission among the Huron, and other Jesuit missionaries were killed by the Iroquois. The survivors of the Huron fled in all directions—southwest to the Tobacco Nation, south to the Neutral Nation, southeast to the Erie, and northeast to a French fort near Quebec. The implacable Iroquois hunted the Huron everywhere; in 1649 the Iroquois attacked the Tobacco Nation, causing the migration of these people in company with the Huron. In 1650 the Neutral Nation was invaded by the Iroquois and practically wiped out, and in 1656 the Erie were almost exterminated.
The Huron who had fled to Quebec ultimately received a small reservation at Lorette, where many still live, but the remnants of the Huron and Tobacco Nation went, under pressure from the Iroquois, first to Michigan, then to Wisconsin and Illinois, where the Sioux attacked them. The Tobacco Nation and Huron eventually settled (1750) in villages near Detroit and at Sandusky, Ohio. In Ohio they became known to the British as the Wyandot and as such fought with the British against the Americans in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. After the War of 1812 possession of their lands was confirmed by the United States, but by 1842 they had sold their tracts and moved to what is now Wyandotte co., Kans. In 1867 they were settled in NE Oklahoma, where they reside as citizens, their tribe having been terminated in 1959. There were some 2,500 Wyandot in the United States in 1990. About 1,500 Huron live in Canada.
See B. G. Trigger, The Huron Farmers of the North (1969).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: North American indigenous peoples