The Neutral were the largest Aboriginal society in the Northeast during 1615-1650, numbering about 40 000 persons. They had an army of 4000 to 6000 warriors prior to the smallpox EPIDEMICS of 1638-40. They lived in LONGHOUSES in about 40 settlements that included large palisaded towns, villages and smaller specialized seasonal hamlets whose main concentration was distributed within a 32 km radius of Hamilton, Ont.
As agriculturists, the Neutral relied upon horticultural crops of corn, beans and SQUASH; they also practised considerable hunting of deer, raccoon, BLACK BEAR and the now extinct passenger pigeon. The diet was augmented by fishing and nut collecting, and tobacco was cultivated for ritual and trade purposes.
The men were heavily tattooed and in summer wore little if any clothing. They were extremely proficient at knapping chert arrowheads and scrapers, and while many women made pottery, it was gradually replaced by European brass containers that often were included as cemetery grave goods.
The Neutral had trading and war alliances with surrounding Iroquoian-speaking peoples, particularly the PETUN, Huron, Wenro, Kakwa, Erie, Andasté , Massawomek and IROQUOIS further south. They were also allied with the OTTAWA against the Algonquian-speaking Mascouten of Michigan and Ohio. The Mascouten were long-standing, bitter enemies, and in 1643 the Neutral army captured and brought back 800 prisoners, both male and female, torturing some of them. This was massive warfare and the Neutrals usually were led into battle by their warrior-priest-chief, Tsouharissen ("Child of the Sun").
The Neutral army was also used to transport and protect their valuable deer hides and by-products to the Powhatan chiefdom on Chesapeake Bay, where exchanges were made for prized marine Snow Whelk shells. To ensure a steady supply of white-tailed deer hides and this profitable Aboriginal economy, the Neutral began penning the animals, thereby managing them.
Unlike other contemporaneous Northeastern Iroquoians, the Neutral had developed politically, economically and demographically beyond the confederacy level to a nascent chiefdom. Their paramount chief, Tsouharissen, with his council united some ten "tribes" within Neutralia, and a ranked society was clearly manifest. At his capital town, Ounontisaston (9.6 km southeast of present-day Brantford), the grand chief held court and personally adopted the French Recollet friar Joseph de la Roche Daillon in 1626. Daillon witnessed three large deer pens near this community. Fourteen years later the Jesuits Jean de BRÉBEUF and Joseph Marie Chaumonot visited the Neutral, but were not well received. After the death of Tsouharissen in about 1646, the chiefdom failed and the Iroquois were able to disperse and destroy the Neutral as a cultural entity in 1651. Last mention of the Neutral in French writing was in 1671.
See also NATIVE PEOPLE, EASTERN WOODLANDS and general articles under native people.
Author WILLIAM C. NOBLE
J.E.M. Crerar, Rochester Museum & Science Centre, Research Records No. 23 (1994); W.C. Noble and J.E.M. Crerar, Archaeo-Zoologia VI, 2 (1993); W.C. Noble, Canadian Journal of Archaeology VIII, 1 (1984) and IX, 2 (1985), and Rochester Museum & Science Centre, Research Records No. 23; B.G. Trigger, ed, Handbook of North American Indians, vol 15: Northeast (1978).
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
The website for the "Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples." Click on the links for feature articles about Canada's many multicultural communities, access to their extensive digital archives collection, learning modules, and much more. From "Multicultural Canada."
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
The Early Political and Military History of Burford
See the full text of an illustrated 1913 book about the early history of southern Ontario. From the Brantford Library.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...