The Eighteenth-Century Wyandot
A Clan-Based Study
The Wyandot were born of two Wendat peoples encountered by the French in the first half of the seventeenth century—the otherwise named Petun and Huron—and their history is fragmented by their dispersal between Quebec, Michigan, Kansas, and Oklahoma. This book weaves these fragmented histories together, with a focus on the mid-eighteenth century.
Author John Steckley claims that the key to consolidating the stories of the scattered Wyandot lies in their clan structure. Beginning with the half century of their initial diaspora, as interpreted through the political strategies of five clan leaders, and continuing through the eighteenth century and their shared residency with Jesuit missionaries—notably, the distinct relationships different clans established with them—Steckley reveals the resilience of the Wyandot clan structure. He draws upon rich but previously ignored sources—including baptismal, marriage, and mortuary records, and a detailed house-to-house census compiled in 1747, featuring a list of male and female elders—to illustrate the social structure of the people, including a study of both male and female leadership patterns. A recording of the 1747 census as well as translated copies of letters sent between the Wyandot and the French is included in an appendix.
- Winner, Award for Excellence in Publishing (Ontario Archaeological Society) 2014
“Using documentation about clan structure, residences, and history, as well as individual stories, Steckley peers deeply into Wyandot/Wendat culture, especially their political systems, gender roles, relations with various Jesuits, and interactions with non-Wyandot/Wendat First Nation People throughout the Great Lakes, from the Iroguoian Confederacy in the east to the Fox Nation to the west. Steckley’s book is most significant in two areas for which he is particularly well-known and professional esteemed. The first is his singular understanding and interpretation of the Wyandot/Wendat language. ... Steckley’s easy to understand orthography of the Wyandot/Wendat language literally keeps the language alive. Secondly, Steckley’s use of individual case studies, both male and female, keeps the memory of individuals alive, people who otherwise would have been ‘lost to history. ’ In other words, Steckley’s book is extraordinarily dynamic on many accounts. It is not surprising therefore that Steckley, who has devoted his life’s work to understanding and unravelling the cultures and kinship of Great Lakes native cultures, was adopted by the Wyandot people of Kansas—a compliment of brotherhood that is unquestionably the greatest accolade of his professional life; more importantly, Steckley, as a human being, is helping to counter the terrible effects of cultural genocide and ethnocide that occurred throughout the Great Lakes, and all of the Americas, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Eighteenth-Century Wyandot makes major contributions to the academic fields of Great Lakes and Native American history, anthropology (and archaeology), sociology, and anthropological linguistics. Indeed, Steckley’s book is the best kinship/clan based historical study I have ever read. ”- Kenneth C. Carstens, Michigan Historical Review
“John Steckley’s detailed research on the Wyandot/Wendat clan system is the culmination of a lifetime pursuit to unearth and untangle the complicated history of North America’s Indigenous peoples. This book is a goldmine for all those interested in exploring the organic and evolutionary nature of First Nation communities and will contribute greatly to our understanding of Indigenous strategies of resistance and survival against colonial regimes. ”- Kathryn Labelle, University of Saskatchewan, author of Dispersed but Not Destroyed: A History of the Seventeenth-Century Wendat People (2013)
“Steckley’s central thesis is that clans kept the Wyandot strong, enabling them to survive forced migration and the splitting up of ancestral villages and tribes. Steckley demonstrates that the Wyandot clan structure was dynamic in nature, despite its static depiction in classic anthropological literature. The author’s uniquely personalized writing style makes this work accessible to interested readers outside of academia. ... This work makes an invaluable contribution to a better understanding of Wyandot history. Summing up: Highly recommended. ”- B.F.R. Edwards, Choice