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Rediscovering 'The Great Peace'
The Landmark Peace Treaty of Montréal Turns 300 Years Old

Pictures from Treaty of MontrealSee photos of the treaty of "The Great Peace of Montréal"

Amerindian artifactsView a slide show of Amerindian artifacts
from the era of The Great Peace

Ian Fleet's report on The Treaty of Montreal Listen to Ian Flett's report for Weekend Edition Saturday on the Treaty of Montréal

August 4, 2001 — Three hundred years ago, the city of Montréal was a small French village on the banks of the St. Lawrence River called Ville Marie. Its 1,200 citizens -- ranging from noblemen and military officers to merchants and craftsmen -- witnessed the signing of one of the most remarkable peace treaties in the New World. It was both a trade and a security agreement between French settlers and the indigenous people -- a mutual understanding that would last well into the next century.

Treaty of Montreal
The drawn images on treaty documents are signatory marks of 39 Amerindian leaders.
See more images from the treaty
Photo: Pointe-à-calliére Museum, Montréal

Along the banks of the Little St. Pierre River, just outside of the town’s wooden stockade, some 1,300 American Indians had arrived and set up camp for this occasion. They came from the farthest reaches of the Maritimes and the Great Lakes region, from what is now New York, Southern Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and as far north as James Bay.

Among the 39 indigenous nations represented were the Iroquios nations of Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca, as well as the Huron, Ojibwe, Sable Ottowa, Cree, Hochungra, Potawatomi, Mississauga, Kiskakon, Sauk, Amikwa and Mascouten.

On August 4, 1701, they witnessed the signing of "Le Grande Paix," or "The Great Peace," a treaty meant to end decades of bloody conflict between the colonizing French and their indigenous allies, as well as their enemy, the Iroquois confederacy. The French were to recognize the independent sovereignty of each signatory nation and that nation was to pledge peace and goodwill in return. The treaty was signed by the French governor, de Callière, and was marked by leaders from 39 indigenous nations.

Wampum arm-band bordered with porcupine quills
Wampum arm-band bordered with porcupine quills, 17th century
View more artifacts from Amerindian nations

Photo: Musée de l’Homme, Paris & Pointe-à-calliére Museum in Montréal

While it didn’t guarantee a future free of conflict, the treaty virtually ended the Amerindian-French wars and set a precedent of negotiation, which lasted well into the 1800's.

This summer, the city of Montréal is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Great Peace treaty with reenactments, exhibits, food and dances of the Amerindians and the early French settlers. NPR’s Ian Flett reports for Weekend Edition Saturday.

Additional Resources:

Check out the official Web site of The Great Peace of Montréal 1701-2001

Visit Montréal's Pointe-à-calliére Museum. It is organizing The Great Peace anniversary celebration, as well as displaying artifacts featured in our slide show.