The Joseph Boyden mistaken identity issue is not new.
It’s been around since he published his fictional account of the Great Dispersal of the Hurons in 1648 titled The Orenda. No one ever heard of Boyden, and all of a sudden he has Indigenous ancestry. That he can’t prove his ancestry, Boyden recently became the target of our Culture Police.
The Orenda is fiction. The idea of “Indian savages”, as the Iroquois were most famously labelled in the American Declaration of Independence in 1775, is projected back into the 1600s. The Iroquois mindlessly attacked the passive Huron-Wendat People. Claimed by some to derive from the word “hure” for ‘peasant’, these people were called by historian Bruce Trigger “The Huron: Farmers of the North”. Peasants farm for lords of the manor — in this case Catholic priests. In Boyden’s novel the League of the Five Nations sabotaged Huron civilization.
The Old Ones tell a different story.
The Huron Confederacy was torn apart by agents of France with names like Brebeuf and Lallemand in the mid-1600s. The word “huron” is not derived from the French word “hure” for peasant. The word “Huron” is from the Five Nations people — the Onondaga word “‘horon’yaehteh” means “they share our sky” according to the late-Reg Henry. The sky (vista) they shared with the League of the Five Nations was the Great Law. The rule of the Great Law prevailed in Iroquoia — until the mid-1600s when Boyden’s novel is set.
These priestly spies disrupted the Great Law Confederacy of the Hurons causing a rift between the Bear, Fish and Cord Nations, and the Great Law loyalist Rock and Deer Nations. The Bear, Fish, and Cord Nations became allies of the Catholic Church. The spies worked to deliberately split the Huron Confederacy.
The Rock and Deer Nations met with the League of the Five Nations near present-day Guelph Ontario. The Rock and Deer Nations described how the other Nations were breaking the Great Peace. The Five Nations agreed to help restore order. “Count five days, and let your people know they should leave. Then we’ll be there.”
The event was described in priest’s journals before they were executed into martyrdom. The Bear, Fish, and Cord Nations were banished. The Rock and Deer Nations were admitted into the League, mostly among the Laurentian Mohawks. Today, remnants of the Huron Confederacy reside on Georgina and Christian Islands. Descendants also live on Manitoulin Island.
As in any country on earth, indigenous people had the right to restore order and kill the spies. The Iroquois are no more barbaric than any other people. Joseph Boyden, like Disney writers for the cartoon Pocahontas, is a product of his time and space searching for meaning through a cultural meme.
It’s art. And as popular artists do, Boyden reflects contemporary time and space. In our modern era everyone else is the barbarian, everyone is the demon, and everyone else is the problem. Projecting these views onto history is what the winners get to do — revise history to suit their own master narrative of how things came to be.