Sometimes the Marquis de Montcalm visits the Amerindians in person to form or strengthen alliances. Here we find the Marquis in a longhouse trading wampum, a symbolic Amerindian necklace. Later, the general will linger, talking around the fire and sharing the peace pipe. The Marquis sees these talks as a necessary evil: he does not like the way the Amerindians fight. But isn’t their alliance worth the effort? In the summer of 1759, the presence of nearly 1,800 Amerindian warriors in Québec City will be a valuable help to him.
Division of Native Peoples in America
The French use their sharp skills as negotiators to form numerous alliances with aboriginal tribes.
Grand Onontio: A Symbol of Protection
Among the Amerindians, as with the Europeans and Canadians, discussions about war are often very emotional. The words of these warriors say a great deal about their reasons for choosing the side they did.
Brethren, are you ignorant of the difference between our French Father Onontio and the English? Go see the forts that our Father Onontio has established and you will see that the land he builds on is still a hunting ground, whereas whenever the English occupy a territory, all the game flees to other parts, the woods are cut down, the land is razed, and we find ourselves without shelter.
The Ritual of Alliance-Making
Crucial for both parties, the alliances between the French and the Amerindians are always sealed with numerous rituals. Here’s how the French describe these memorable encounters.
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by three firings of two small cannons and the Savages’ musketry… In the afternoon we held council, at which time the Marquis de Montcalm told the Savages he had come to see them as a sign of his friendship… He eventually said that he would give them three oxen and several other gifts to prepare a feast, and that he hoped to sing war songs and smoke with them in the council house. The Savages thanked the Marquis de Montcalm for his visit and assured him that they would follow his word and would give him the wampum as well as a report on the warriors who would march with him to war.
Tribes Involved in the Conflict
Even though the Amerindians have formed alliances with the French, not all tribes are in Québec City to defend it.
The alliances have been formed, and a large part of the Amerindians from eastern North America will fight alongside the French. The eloquent speeches have all been made, and the warriors prepare for battle. They dance, sing, and invoke the spirits to bring them victory.
The Warrior's Motivations
Is the Amerindian warrior so different from the European or Canadian soldier?
The Amerindian warrior was typically a young man in his twenties who went to battle in order to avenge a death, make territorial claims, or maintain an alliance. Since he was not paid to fight, he could change his mind at any time if he no longer thought it was a good idea or beleived something to be a bad omen.
The Amerindian warrior is feared for his great bravery, and the weapons he uses terrorize the enemy.
Getting Ready to Fight
For the professional soldier, preparation for battle is tedious and requires long hours of training. However, the road that leads to battle is quite different for the Amerindians. Let’s take a peek at what their preparation involves.
A few days before leaving for battle, we undertake a series of preparations, which vary from one tribe to the next. Usually we talk for a long time before reaching a decision, then end our ceremony by smoking the peace pipe. The warriors paint their bodies red and black, then dance war dances and practice other rituals such as animal sacrifices. But an ill omen or premonitory dream may make us change our minds at the last minute. Once the warriors finally feel ready, they take to the war path.
The decision to participate in combat does not sit well with all Amerindians. Some young women worry about the young warriors leaving for war, where they may lose their lives. They often accuse the older women of having pushed the men into battle out of revenge. Let’s listen to one of them explain how she feels.
Revenge, revenge! Those are the words my stepmother keeps repeating when we talk about the Englishman. Death is still so much in her heart. Her son and her brother paid with their blood and their life for a war that has nothing to do with us. Now her heart is as hard as a stone and her mouth spits out the flames of hatred. She, as well as the other elderly women, cry out for revenge and she urges the men to join the Frenchmen’s war. The old wise men already met and gave their consent to the preparations. But my sisters and I feel that evil spirits are leading us towards a conflict that will make us lose everything, even our dignity.
Tactics of War
The Amerindians are renowned for being great warriors. Their ways of doing battle are completely different from those of the Europeans. Learn about their manoeuvres by closely observing their battle tactics.
All throughout the summer, the Amerindians come and go as they please. They give the Europeans the impression they are not actively participating in the conflict. However, they are very active indeed, conducting all sorts of raids and ambushes on the British positions. Although the tactics of the Amerindians do not always meet with the full approval of the French and Canadians, the continuous harassment of British troops helps the French to counter the attacks of their enemy in North America.
Those Too Sure of Victory are Bound to lose
On July 31, a confident Wolfe attempts an offensive in Beauport. Is it a good tactic?
Those Amerindians are a Hard Act to Follow
In the summer of 1759, the Amerindians are constantly on the move, relentlessly harrying the British with raids and ambushes.
The tactics of the Amerindians fly in the face of rigid European military custom. The French officers would dearly love to know the location of their aboriginal allies. Unfortunately for them, the strategy of surprise and ambush employed by the Amerindians makes their movements entirely unpredictable. At one moment, they are near Cap-Rouge, only to appear a few days later at the foot of Montmorency Falls. Furthermore, Amerindian tribes come and go from the region depending on their whims and convictions. Nevertheless—and contrary to all expectations—their tactics will revolutionize the way soldiers wage war and call into question the traditional concept of the pitched battle. Camouflage, ambushes, surprise attacks, and raids—all techniques mastered by the Amerindian—are the new weapons that will determine the success of tomorrow’s armies. Throughout the summer, the Amerindians use these methods to take prisoners, steal military supplies, conduct surprise attacks and, especially, take a few English scalps.
The siege of Québec has its inconveniences, the worst of them being hunger. Food theft becomes a veritable plague, and is severely punished… with a few exceptions…
The Amerindians are unfamiliar with the notion of private property. For them, food is to be shared among those in need. Knowing this, French authorities decided not to punish aboriginal thieves for fear of alienating their valued allies.In contrast, the theft of a mere chicken is enough to get a French soldier strung up for public execution without trial or any other form of due process.
On the Plains of Abraham, the Amerindians have been firing at the English since early morning. But because there are few places to hide, there is little else the Amerindians can do. Nonetheless, they inflict appreciable damage on Wolfe’s troops. At about 9 a.m., the French and Canadians finally arrive on the battlefield.
The Amerindians are feared by the Europeans because of their ruthless combat techniques. The warriors' battle dress and overall appearance play a big part in intimidating the enemy. Let's see what these courageous warriors are like.
Many savage nations have a custom of pricking (tattooing) the skin. Other nations just paint their skin and faces with different colours—such as black, red, blue, and green—which are applied on top of a layer of bear grease. It is a war paint used to frighten and intimidate the enemy. They wear nothing, apart from a breechcloth and sometimes leggings. Their shaven heads are decorated with feathers. Their ears hang to their shoulders, and they take care to tie them out of the way so they don’t slow their movements. They have no facial or body hair, and they often proudly wear rings in their noses and bracelets on their arms.
Two Distinctive Traits: Patience and the Scalp
During the battle of the Plains of Abraham, the Amerindians were unable to use their favourite weapon—that of surprise. This wide, open field had no hiding places, except for the groves located on either side of the English lines.
Normally, the Amerindians look for a position that would give them an advantage by allowing them to lie in ambush close to the location they wished to attack. They wait quietly for hours, sometimes even days, until their leader gives the war cry. Catching the enemy unawares, they fire on them and then rush forward, axes in hand, to finish the job. Should an adversary fall, the warriors take his scalp, brandishing it in the air as they let out their terrifying battle cry. Here is how one French soldier describes the scene:
The battle is now inevitable. It will take place on the Heights of Abraham. Listen to four people who witnessed the tragedy. An Aide-de-camp of General Wolfe, a Canadian employee at the King's store, John Knox, Lieutenant in Wolfe's army and a Huron warrior, Little Étienne.
September 12 , on board of Sutherland