Paper presented at the Montreal History Group, 6 May 2011 (Conference Program)
Abstract: Aboriginal people living near French administrative centres experienced the fall of New France in very different ways. In Acadia, although local Mi’kmaq did not defend French interests when the latter came under British attack in the early eighteenth century, they actively resisted the British in the years following the French cession of the territory in 1713. The Huron-Wendat at Jeune-Lorette, on the other hand, had an altogether different experience a half-century later. Though they fought alongside the French in the late-summer of 1759, the community’s elders adopted a policy of neutrality soon after the French defeat, and made peace with the British just a few days before Montreal capitulated.
The impact of European administrative change on local Aboriginal peoples illustrates the diverse nature of Aboriginal-European interactions in the northeast. This paper demonstrates that before and after the ‘British conquests’, imperial agents focused on specific peoples and places, rather than on indigenous peoples as a single category. They varied local policies depending on the political, socio-economic and military needs of empire, which differed from place to place. Some relationships were relatively minimal, despite a European presence in the region, while others were based on alliances or the attempted imposition of European will on Aboriginal populations. By comparing Mi’kmaw and Huron-Wendat experiences of the fall of New France – two communities separated by time, culture and place – this paper shows the importance of understanding local variations in imperial practices and how they have shaped the geo-politics of the eighteenth-century northeast.