The Innu & the Drummer Boy, 1633

Posted on June 14, 2011


An incident that occurred in 1633 showed that the cherishing attitude of the Montagnais-Naskapi toward all their children extended even to the French. A Montagnais man was looking closely at a drummer boy and his drum and was hit in the head with a drumstick, drawing blood.  In Montagnais style, the onlookers asked for presents in recompense.

But the French interpreter said, “Thou knowest our custom; when any of our number does wrong, we punish him.  This child has wounded one of your people; he shall be whipped at once in your presence.”

At this the Montagnais “began to pray for his pardon, alleging he was only a child, that he had no mind, that he did not know what he was doing.”

When the French persisted, “one of the Savages stripped himself entirely, threw his blanket over the child and cried out to him who was going to do the whipping: ‘Strike me if thou wilt, but thou shalt not strike him.’ And thus the little one escaped.”

The above is exerpted from Eleanor Leacock, “The Montagnais-Naskapi of the Labrador Peninsula” which is Chapter 7 of Native Peoples: The Canadian Experience, Second edition, edited by R. Bruce Morrison and C. Roderick Wilson, McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1995.

Posted in: Aboriginal Notes