Published on March 10, 2011 by Alice
In the summer of 1661, while Father Simon Le Moyne was at Onondaga negotiating for peace, Otreouti led 30 Onondagas against Montreal, in retaliation for the insult of having been imprisoned there. In the vicinity of Montreal, Otreouti and his followers surprised Father Jacques Le Maistre, a Sulpician, and other Frenchmen, who were working in a field of grain. They killed two, including Father Le Maistre, and took one captive. Father Le Maistre they decapitated and, putting on the priest’s cassock, Otreouti strutted defiantly in full view of the inhabitants of Montreal.
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In September 1661, on the way back to Onondaga, Otreouti, who still wore the murdered priest’s black cassock, and his companions, who were carrying some French scalps, met a Seneca and Onondaga embassy led by Garakontié, an Onondaga chief friendly to the French, on its way to Montreal to deliver nine French captives. The ambassadors were shocked at the sight. They halted, deliberating in council for some time as to whether they would be safe in going on to Montreal. Garakontié prevailed in the end and the embassy, with the nine captives, reached Montreal 5 Oct. 1661.
Four years later, Otreouti was one of six Onondaga ambassadors who attested articles of peace 13 Dec. 1665 at Quebec with the French in the name of their own nation, and of the Senecas, the Cayugas, and the Oneidas. The role of Otreouti in the negotiations of 1665 is not clear, witness an enigmatic entry in the Jesuit Journal of 8 Dec. 1665: “La grand gueule (‘big mouth’) then learned, I know not from whom, of the design of Monsieur the governor respecting Anniee and he informed Garakontie of it in our reception room.”
Otreouti is not mentioned again in colonial records for almost 19 years, until the time of Governor Le Febvre de La Barre’s invasion of the Mohawk country in 1684. On 18 July 1684, the Jesuit, Father Jean de Lamberville*, wrote from the Onondaga mission to La Barre (whose small force had proceeded only as far as Lake St. Francis) about a council of Onondagas, Senecas, Cayugas, and Oneidas, in which Otreouti played a part. “La Grande Gueule,” the priest reported, “and his triumvirate have assuredly signalized themselves in this rencounter”; and again, 17 Aug. 1684, “1 gave La Grande Gueule your belt underhand, and have remarked to him the things you wish him to effect. He calls himself your best friend and you have done well to have attached to you this hoc who has the strongest head and loudest voice among the Iroquois.”