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Words of the Huron

John L. Steckley

Indigenous Studies Series

Paper 282 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-516-1

Release Date: February 2007

Online discount: 25%

$42.99  $32.24


eBook availability

Words of the Huron is an investigation into seventeenth-century Huron culture through a kind of linguistic archaeology of a language that died midway through the twentieth century.

John L. Steckley explores a range of topics, including: the construction of longhouses and wooden armour; the use of words for trees in village names; the social anthropological standards of kinship terms and clans; Huron conceptualizing of European-borne disease; the spirit realm of orenda; Huron nations and kinship groups; relationship to the environment; material culture; and the relationship between the French missionaries and settlers and the Huron people.

Steckley’s source material includes the first dictionary of any Aboriginal language, Recollect Brother Gabriel Sagard’s Huron phrasebook, published in 1632, and the sophisticated Jesuit missionary study of the language from the 1620s to the 1740s, beginning with the work of Father Jean de Brébeuf. The only book of its kind, Words of the Huron will spark discussion among scholars, students, and anyone interested in North American archaeology, Native studies, cultural anthropology, and seventeenth-century North American history.

John L. Steckley has taught at Humber College since 1983 in the areas of Aboriginal languages, culture, and history. His books include: Beyond Their Years: Five Native Women’s Stories; Full Circle: Canada’s First Nations; Aboriginal Voices and the Politics of Representation in Canadian Introductory Sociology Textbooks and De Religione: Telling the 17th Century Jesuit Story in Huron to the Iroquois. In 1999, he was adopted into the Wyandot tribe of Kansas.


“The book contains a wealth of both data and speculation. It illustrates some of the limits of even the best linguistic records from the past, as well as the potential results of supplementing linguistic materials with other kinds of evidence. It goes a long way toward meeting its aim of giving a voice to the Huron people.”

— Clifford Abbott, University of Wisconsin—Green Bay, Anthropological Linguistics

“Steckley’s work adds ethnolinguistics to the methods of research in Huron studies.... A fine example of original, intensive research.... Highly recommended.”

— R. Berleant-Schiller, emerita, University of Connecticut, CHOICE