|Photo of the offending plaque from National Post/Canadian Press. See linked article.|
The Cultural Revolution continues apace. Now there is news of a drive to efface a plaque in Montreal’s Place Royal/Place d’Armes commemorating the city’s founding.
The plaque reads:
“Near this square afterwards named La Place d’Armes the founders of Ville-Marie first encountered the Iroquois whom they defeated. Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve killing the chief with his own hands. March 1644.”
This, neutral and purely descriptive as it appears to be, turns out to be offensive to Canada’s native people. And the Bank of Montreal has promised to destroy this public relic of Canadian history as soon as they get permission from the provincial government to do permanent damage to an officially designated historic property.
“We need to put into context the fact that the Iroquois chief was defending his territory,” explains Mohawk activist Michael Rice. “Depicting (the Iroquois) as fish waiting to be shot or as bloodthirsty Iroquois doesn’t do justice to history.”
He apparently sees some reference to fish on the plaque that I don’t. Perhaps some reader can help me with this.
|Our book cover image is actually a detail from the Chomedey statue in the Place d'Armes--showing an Indian ally.|
But he is factually wrong that the Iroquois chief was just there “defending his territory.” There were no Iroquois living in the St. Lawrence Valley at the time. Mohawk are there now; they came as immigrants after the French set up missions. They moved there so that they could live safely as Christians. The Iroquois lands, however, were in upstate New York. The Iroquois who attacked the French settlement at Ville Marie were a raiding party, there to kill Frenchmen and for no other purpose. They were foreign invaders. The French were in alliance with the local Indians, who were Huron and Algonquin. The Huron and Algonquins were the Iroquois’s enemies. The Iroquois, specifically, wanted to prevent these interior tribes from trading directly with the French, in order to preserve their monopoly on the fur trade due to their own proximity to Dutch trading posts at Albany.
There are reasons why it is important to preserve our history. This controversy shows one: it is too easy otherwise for self-interested groups to falsify it for political purposes.