Hail! You awesome human. We meet and we are joyous. It is with gladness that we greet the newcomers to our great land. Come, eat, fill your bellies from our larder, you will not starve among us. We feed you, we accept you, friend, speak with us. We will teach you and help you, friend, come to our village, for conversation and peace among us.
You, oh lofty European, with your fine boat, your interesting garment, your unusual style. How intriguing that you should come here to meet us. Tell us about yourselves, your passage, your ways, your reason for being here.
And so, the dialogue occurs. A conversation on the island of Montreal, between the explore Jacques Cartier and the Iroquois of Hochelaga.
The kindness of the people, the curiosity, goodwill, companionship and generosity all marked in the captains log. A fine people of bravery and fellowship, standing at the gateway to the interior of Canada. A brave new land. A people of skills and craftsmanship who built a fortress of wood with a village of longhouses inside it. A people who farmed the land, planted crops, fished in the waters of the St. Lawrence River. A people with some invention, with tools and self sufficiency, that were able to rely on their wits and toil for their survival.
These are the people who are lost to us, only six years had passed and they are gone. Where did you vanish to, you kind and courageous people? Where did you go, when we needed your stories? Your kinship is important to us, yet you vanish into history. A people of fame, marked in the year 1535 and gone 6 years later in 1541. Man the builder. A fortress of wood, with longhouses inside it. A village to protect the 1500 occupants. The historical significance of this site is immense, since the builder has tools and a method of construction which was unique to them. They also had social order which helped them to live congenially in such a confined space. But where did you go, oh fine human? A human of intellect and high aptitudes, of compassion and caring, vanishing into the unknown in such a few short years.
The mystery of Hochelaga still haunts us, as we excavate Montreal. Although the people vanished, the message survived. Come, friend, speak with us. The exploration of Canada and later the fur trade.
written by Dr. Louise Hayes
February 1, 2020