Great Peace of Montreal, 1701

Original Post: 18th Century Primary Source Madness!


Primary source document:

Historical Thinking Concepts

(Jacie) Historical Significance

(Jacie) Cause and Consequence

(Nathan) Ethical Judgement

(Kaeten) Continuity and Change

(Noah) Perspective

(Noah) Evidence/ primary source


Historical Significance

1. Was the event notable at the time?

Yes, since the French and Indians were at war prior to the treaty. On top of losing men from fighting, the Indians were already taking a heavy toll from the influenza introduced by Europeans. The French were also tired of constant Indian raids on their villages. When the peace treaty was signed, it claimed that from then on there would be no more wars between the French and Indians. The Iroquois and thirty-eight other nations signed the treaty promising to remain neutral in any future conflicts between the French and Britain (their former allies).

2. How widespread lasting were the consequences?

The treaty was signed in 1701 and is still is still in use today, therefore it has been in place for almost 300 years. In addition to the treaty’s significance, it not only impacted New France but also involved 40 other native nations.



3. Issues or trends (symbolic)

The Great Peace of Montreal was the first treaty signed in Canada, and was also under Indian influence. This is very symbolic as is it shows that in the past Aboriginals had more power than the French, and the French had to abide to Aboriginal culture. It also represents, “the idea that an alliance is possible between the First Nations and colonial populations” (As said in Virtual Museum, After the Great Peace: From 1701 to Today).


Cause and Consequence

1. What are the range of factors that contributed to the event?

  • Lives lost
    • Constant fighting between the Iroquois and French
    • Influenza introduced by the Europeans, First Nations had no immunity
  • Military expeditions and guerilla raids from both sides
    • destroyed villages and food supplies
  • Almost a century of fighting

All these factors tired both sides out, which led to the consensus of a treaty.
2. Which causes are most influential?

The most influential cause was the loss of lives. The French were getting tired of constantly being wary of their Iroquois enemies just across the St. Lawrence river and the the influenza introduced by Europeans wiped out two thirds of Native population, Iroquois included. Both sides knew that continuing the war would not benefit anyone.
3. What were the intended and unintended consequences?

It was intentional for there to be peace between both sides, however the peace did not last as an unintended consequence was for war to break out between the French and British in 1760.



Continuity and Change:

The Great Peace of 1701 was a peace treaty signed between New France and 40 First Nations tribes of North America. It demonstrates the historical thinking concept of Continuity and Change very strongly. It shows continuity as the treaty is still valid and in effect today, and it is still recognized by the First Nations tribes involved. This continuity is supported as stated in the document, The History of Canada Online: The Great Peace of Montreal, “Under the terms of the Great Peace the Iroquois agreed to remain neutral in any future conflict between the French and the English”. This treaty shows continuity because while the tensions between the French and the Iroquois would continue, they would never go to war again. There has been a significant change since the 1800s because today treaties are made through written documents, while back then, they were made using not only words, but also symbolic drawings.



Ethical Judgement

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries there was a vast amount of political tension between the various aboriginal tribes (specifically the Huron and the Iroquois). Considering the conditions of politics in New France at the time, we can see  that the idea of a “great peace” was unethical. Although the idea of having peace between all groups sounds ideal, it  was actually selfish of the French. When French colonists first started settling in New France they initially formed a peace treaty with the Huron peoples. Over the next century the fur trade between the French and the British became extremely competitive. To increase  profits and economic influence the French decided to form a treaty with all Aboriginal tribes so that they could receive furs on a larger scale. This was unethical because the French put the fate of their own economic advancements before themselves and disregarded the underlying tensions between the aboriginal tribes who fought with each other because they didn’t like the idea of having the French form alliances with multiple tribes.

Historical Perspective

The Great Peace Treaty of 1701 was a means by which the different Aboriginal groups and the French could finally settle their differences and achieve peace. There were three groups – the Iroquois, who had been allied with the English, the many aboriginal groups who had been allied with the French, and the French themselves.  Taking a historical perspective here means understanding how the interests of these three finally came together.  For the Iroquois this meant that after years of fighting and feeling threatened by the French and other groups they could co-exist with them without worry of more problems.  The French, ­­­­­­­who had been struggling to keep New France going, would be able to more freely trade with all the Aboriginal groups within their territory without interference from Aboriginal wars and politics. Lastly the other Aboriginal groups would be able to stop the fighting among them that had become more problematic after the fur trade had begun.  We can see that the different perspectives of the three parties here – the Iroquois, the groups that had been allied with New France, and the French themselves – had to come together.  In fact, they were all interested not just in stopping the bloodshed, but in entering into a more productive economy.


Evidence/ Primary Source

During their speech the Iroquois state, “I speak in the name of the 4 Iroquois Nations, Onondagas, Senecas, Cayugas and Oneidas, the late Count de Frontenac having stated that we could transact business independent of the Mohawks. Since that time I obeyed your order not to go to war. But the Outta8es, Miamis, Ilinois and others, your allies of the Upper Country, have not acted in the same manner. Therefore, I request you, Father, to take the hatchet out of their hands so that they may strike no more; if I do not defend myself, it is not for want of courage, but because I wish to obey you.”

In this speech the Iroquois are saying that they wish for peace with the French but have found it difficult because the other Aboriginal groups allied with the French have continued attacking them. They also make clear that they can negotiate independently of the Mohawks, who did not agree to make peace.  They ask the French to stop the tribes from attacking them since they have agreed not to attack French allies.

It is important to understand that this was only one speech out of many, and that representatives of many tribes participated.  The treaty took place in Montreal and was set up within a general arena. For each group was a speaker, and each took turns telling the others of what they wished to come from the peace. As each group spoke they offered a wampum belt to show that their wishes were genuine. Afterwards a peace treaty was passed around by the French and all smoked the peace pipe.

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