At the beginning of the 17th century, there were between 16,000 and 30,000 Hurons
living in lands distributed in southeastern Ontario (Georgian Bay), overlapping the actual frontiers of Quebec and the United States.
Agriculture and trade made the Hurons one of the most prosperous and stable nations in North America at the time. The Hurons, called Wendat, had a monopoly on corn and tobacco, wich they traded for furs with other Aboriginal nations. Afterwards, the trading will be done with European groups, who will later exploit and colonize those territories. Their trading area took in the Great Lakes region, the Saint-Maurice Valley, the Saguenay region and even Hudson Bay.
According to Marguerite Vincent, author of the book La Nation Huronne, "The Hurons were very much aware of the perfection of their trading system and very proud of the influence they enjoyed among other Indians, to the point that they refused to learn any dialect other than their own, forcing the Indians that traded with them to learn Huron".
When Jacques-Cartier arrived in 1534, the Hurons were at war with the Iroquois. The two nations were fighting over the fur trade in the Ohio Valley and along the Mississippi. The situation worsened once the Europeans brought in firearms. Soon the war imported by the English and French was superimposed on the war between the Iroquois and Hurons, adding further violence to the hostilities.
From 1649, the Hurons were defeated many times with many casualties, many deaths also occur from diseases caused by contacts with the Europeans. Pursued and harassed by the Iroquois, they live the Hurons land and the survivors took refuge in Quebec City, where they were welcomed by the Ursulines, Hospitalers and Jesuits. The Hurons then moved successively seven times, (either on conceded lands or into reductions in the Quebec area) before settling permanently in Wendake (Village-des-Hurons) in 1697.
By 1740, all that was left of what had been a stable and populous nation at the beginning of the 17th century was 400 to 1,000 individuals living in Loretteville and along the shore of Lake Erie. In 1829, there were 179 people in Wendake. Today, there are 2,751 Hurons, including the 1,100 living in Wendake.
The Hurons form today a prosperous community. The economy of Wendake provides work for most of its members during the touristic season and to over 300 non-Native people. The snowshoes, mocassins and canoes built by the Hurons enjoy an international reputation. The touristic, cultural, manufacturer and services sectors are at the heart of the communitie's economic development.
Living in a urbanized zone for over 300 years, the Hurons are now making efforts to revive their culture and their language. They will celebrate this summer their 300th anniversary; important festivities will be held in Wendake to welcome this major event for the Huron-Wendat nation.
Famous Hurons include Degandawida, the father of the Five Nations Confederacy that was one of the models for the American constitution; Chief Kondiaronk, who was famous for his skill as a diplomat and his role in the conclusion of the 1701 peace treaty, to wich all the Indian nations of New France adhered; Prosper Vincent (1842-1915), the first Huron elected to the Quebec National Assembly and a prosperous business man; Oscar Bastien, the first Huron radio announcer (1927-1942); and Léon Gros-Louis, the first Huron doctor to graduate from Laval University.