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The Pétun (tobacco in old French), or Tionontati in their Iroquoian language, were a historical First Nations people closely related to the Wendat (Huron) Confederacy. Their homeland was located along the southwest edge of Georgian Bay, in the area immediately to the west of the Huron territory in Southern Ontario of present-day Canada. They had eight to ten villages, and may have numbered several thousand prior to European contact.[1]

Following decimation by infectious disease after 1634, when immigration of children from England, France and Holland increased and brought contact, both the Wendat and Petun societies were in a weakened state. They were attacked, destroyed and dispersed by the Iroquois, raiding from their base in present-day New York in 1649. The remnants joined with some refugee Huron to become the Huron-Petun Nation, who were later known as the Wyandot.


French traders called these First Nations people the Pétun (tobacco), for their industrious cultivation of that plant. Pétun as a word for tobacco became obsolete; it was derived from the early French-Brazilian trade,[2] and comes from the Guarani language.[3] In the Iroquoian Mohawk language, the name for tobacco is O-ye-aug-wa.[4]

French colonial traders in the Ohio Valley transliterated the name as Guyandotte, their spelling of how it sounded in their language. Later European-American settlers in the valley adopted this name. They named the Guyandotte River in south-western West Virginia for the Wendat people, who had migrated to the area during the Beaver Wars of the late seventeenth century. Later the Wendat were forced to move west to Ohio, and finally most removed to Indian Territory in present-day Kansas and Oklahoma. Two tribes are federally recognized in the United States: the Wyandotte Nation and the Wyandot Nation of Kansas.


  1. ^ Ramsden, Peter G., "Petun", The Canadian Encyclopedia, accessed 24 Aug 2009
  2. ^ Historical Magazine, Vol. V, O. S., 1861, p. 263.
  3. ^, accessed 20 April 2011
  4. ^ Gallatin, Synopsis American Aboriginal Archives, Vol. II, p. 484.