Simon Le Moyne

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Father Simon Le Moyne, S.J. (22 October 1604 – 24 November 1665) was a Jesuit priest in Lower Canada who was involved in the mission to the Hurons. His notability in Canadian history comes from his work as an ambassador of peace to the Iroquois.

Le Moyne had 16 years of education and experience in the priesthood in France before arriving in the New World in 1638 and heading out to his mission in Huron country. He was there until the Iroquois destruction of the Huron nation brought him back to Quebec in 1650.

Biography[edit]

Simon Le Moyne was born at Beauvais in 1604. He entered the Jesuit novitiate at Rouen on 10 Dec. 1622 and studied philosophy at the Collège de Clermont in Paris (1624–27). Le Moyne was sent to Canada in 1638. He worked on the Huron mission with Pierre-Joseph Chaumonot and Francesco Giuseppe Bressani. Second only to Chaumonot in his mastery of the Huron-Iroquois language, he was unequalled in the knowledge of the character of the Indians their customs and traditions. This made him well-suited to serve as ambassador in difficult matters.[1]

Around 1653, Le Moyne set out on an Iroquois Mission, at great risk, that would take him through the St. Lawrence valley and into Lake Ontario, where he would reach a fishing village at the mouth of the Oswego River in present-day New York State. From there, he traveled south to Onondaga Lake, home of the Onondaga, keepers of the council fire of the Iroquois Nation. After converting a large number of the Iroquois, including some chiefs, Le Moyne returned to Canada with a favorable report. He was assigned to several more missions, including work with the Mohawks.

Onondaga salt springs[edit]

Le Moyne was the first from Europe to discover the Salt Springs of Onondaga, located near what is today Syracuse, New York.[1] On August 5, 1654, Father LeMoyne arrived in the Onondaga village. During his short stay, LeMoyne drank from a spring which the Onondagas believed to be tainted due to an evil spirit. Unlike the Onondagas who considered the salt springs evil, the French instead, saw them as a commercial enterprise.[2]

Father Le Moyne noted in his diary that "We tested the water of a spring, which the Indians are afraid to drink, saying that it is inhabited by a demon, who makes it foul. I found the fountain of salt water, from which we evaporated a little salt as natural as that from the sea, some of which we shall carry to Quebec."[3]

Later years[edit]

Le Moyne made a number of journeys into Mohawk territory in an effort to further peace negotiations. During 1657-1658 he journeyed from Ossernenon (Auriesville, N.Y.) to New Amsterdam (New York), where he was cordially received by Pastor Jan Megapolensis. Pastor Megapolensis had shown kindness to Father Isaac Jogues after Jogues had been ransomed from the Mohawks by Dutch traders from Fort Orange (Albany, N.Y.). He arrived in Quebec on 21 May 1658.[4]

On 21 July 1661, Father Le Moyne went again to Iroquois territory to seek the release of French captives. He returned to Montreal on 31 Aug. 1662 with nineteen.[4]

His last journey appears to have been in 1662, when he returned to Quebec with a number of French who had been held captive by the Iroquois.

Legacy[edit]

Le Moyne College is a Jesuit college located in Syracuse, New York and named after Simon Le Moyne. The Le Moyne College seal includes downturned arrowheads which symbolize his work on behalf of diplomacy and peace. It also depicts flowing waters, to symbolize both the ritual of baptism and Father Le Moyne's discovery of the value of the Onondaga salt springs.

Since 1968 Le Moyne College has honored local and national figures with the "Simon Le Moyne Award" for outstanding leadership to the benefit of society.[5]

References[edit]

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