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The Petun, or Tionontati in their Iroquoian language, were a historical First Nations band government 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 Eurasian infectious diseases after 1634, such as smallpox, to which Native Americans had no immunity, both the Wendat and Petun societies were in a weakened state. They were attacked, destroyed and dispersed by warriors of the Iroquois Confederacy, raiding in 1648–1649 from their base south of the Great Lakes in present-day New York. The remnants joined with some refugee Huron to become the Huron–Petun Nation, who were later known as the Wyandot.

The Jesuit Relations of 1652 describes the practice of tattooing among the Petun and the Neutrals:

And this (tattooing) in some nations is so common that in the one which we called the Tobacco, and in that which – on account of enjoying peace with the Hurons and with the Iroquois – was called Neutral, I know not whether a single individual was found, who was not painted in this manner, on some part of the body.[2]


French traders called these First Nations people the Pétun from a French word for 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[3] and comes from the Guarani indigenous language.[4]

In the Iroquoian Mohawk language, the name for tobacco is O-ye-aug-wa.[5] French colonial traders in the Ohio Valley transliterated the Mohawk 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. In the 1830s, 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. ^ Jesuit Relations, Creighton University
  3. ^ Historical Magazine, Vol. V, O. S., 1861, p. 263.
  4. ^ "Petun", Le Garde-Mots blog, 28 Janvier 2011, accessed 20 April 2011
  5. ^ Gallatin, Synopsis American Aboriginal Archives, Vol. II, p. 484.