A visit to Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was the most highly recommended day-out within a few hours of where we were staying, and we could see why!
Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was established in the 1600s by French Jesuits dedicated to spreading Catholicism in an area known as Wendake, the homeland of the Huron Wendat nation (part of the Iroquoian family). The fortified settlement acted as a base for Jesuit missionaries as they travelled from village to village, learning the customs and language of the Wendat people as well as preaching to them about Catholicism.
Sainte-Marie was almost entirely self-sufficient, which was almost a necessity due to Quebec being 1200km’s away! This was short-lived however, as only 10 years after its discovery and under growing attacks from the Iroquois, the Jesuit missionaries were forced to abandon the settlement and burn it to the ground.
In its place, there is now a “living-museum” which includes the reconstructed settlement. The museum illustrates how the French and Wendat nations interacted with one another and includes demonstrations of everyday activities – such as popular games and sports, as well as how people would have started fires with flint and steel (during the demonstration, it was very clear that this is a very well-practiced skill!).
The main buildings within Wendat villages were longhouses and there was a reconstruction of one that we could walk around.
They were large windowless buildings covered in bark, around 8 metres wide and high and were believed to be up to 30 meters in length. These buildings were where people would socialise and sleep. Other reconstructed buildings included a blacksmiths, a chapel and accommodation used by the French Jesuits.
We were glad to have made the trip and found it to be a very interesting demonstration of the history of the area and would absolutely recommend a visit if you find yourself nearby!