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Legend of Cadieux

Monday 8 December 2014, by Monique

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As part of the day “A travel in the past” presented on August 2nd at the Pontiac Museum , Venetia Crawford from the Shawville Archives prepared a play with volunteers about the Legend of Cadieux. ARAS’ decorated tipi was the setting.

 Legend of Cadieux

Jean Cadieux, was a “coureur des bois”, has an Algonquian wife, and was a hunter and trapper. He bartered with the natives and traded furs for provisions and manufactured products, which permitted him to survive winter in his small cabin in the middle of the woods. On a beautiful day in May 1709, he went from Morisson Island to Montreal with a couple of natives to sell some furs. During a stop at the Sept-Chutes portage on the Ottawa River at Grand Calumet Island, one of his companions, a young Algonquian, went out to do some scouting, and spotted a group of Iroquois warriors. They were setting up an ambush for any unfortunate traveler so that they could steal his furs. In order to escape, they would have to go over impassable rapids and under a volley of arrows! To ensure the safety of his men and family, Cadieux decided that he would, along with a young Algonquian, divert the Iroquois and lead them far from the rapids so that they could cross them in safety. All of them hid in the bottom of the canoes upriver, and waited on the appointed signal, which was a shot of the gun, in order to leave.

An hour later, Cadieux and his friend surprised the Iroquois and enticed them away from the rapids. Shots were fired: it was the signal that Cadieux’s companions were waiting for to descend the terrible rapids. None of the Iroquois noticed them, for they were too busy trying to catch Cadieux and his companion. With an amazing dexterity, the Algonquian paddlers guided the frail bark canoes in the middle of the crashing waters, trying to stay away from the rocks, which would have ripped the fragile birch bark, and meant certain death for the travellers. For two days straight, they navigated the rough waters with a hellish pace and finally reached the Two Mountains Lake where they found refuge at the fort.

Not seeing him come back, three of his companions, after having put his family and the furs in security, left to try to find Cadieux. The Iroquois had left the island and the Algonquians found a small shelter made of branches near the seven falls portage. The Algonquian warriors left to find their companions, reading the tracks left by the aggressors and the fugitives like in a great book. The young Algonquian had been killed and, for three days, the Iroquois searched the island trying to find Cadieux who continued to wage war, as uncatchable as a ghost!

After two days of fruitless searches, having lost all hope of finding Cadieux, they discovered a wooden cross planted in the ground close to the shelter that they had found on their way up. And there, half dead, lay the body of Jean. He held in his hand a long piece of bark on which, before dying, he had written in the form of a lament, his story.

He had managed to escape the Iroquois, but tired, and out of strength after three days of deprivations, he had seen his companions arrive, but he couldn’t find the strength to call them. He prepared himself for death, digging his grave, and planting a cross in the ground after having written his lament. Then, with his last bit of strength, he buried himself, waiting for death to come in a place called Petit Rocher de la Haute Montagne.

One hundred and fifty years later, Jean-Charles Taché related that the legend of Cadieux was so long-lived that the “coureurs de bois” that passed on the Ottawa River would stop on his tomb to pray, touch the cross, and take a small piece of it for good luck. Some would even attach to a nearby tree a copy of the lament written on a piece of birch bark. Taché re-wrote the lament that was composed of eleven couplets and found a priest, Father Cadieux, who confided in him that Jean Cadieux was the grand-father of his grand-father.

 Cadieux’s lament

Écrite sur une écorce de bouleau par Jean Cadieux mourant en 1709

« Petit rocher de la Haute-Montagne,
Je viens ici finir cette campagne!
Ah! Doux échos, entendez mes soupirs,
En languissant, je vais bientôt mourir!

Petits oiseaux, vos douces harmonies,
Quand vous chantez, me rattachent à la vie:
Ah! Si j’avais des ailes commes vous,
Je s’rais heureux avant qu’il fut deux jours!

Seul dans ces bois, que j’ai eu de soucis,
Pensant toujours à mes si chers amis;
Je demandais: hélas! Sont-ils noyés?
Les Iroquois les auraient-ils tués?

Un de ces jours que m’étant éloigné,
En revenant je vis une fumée;
Je me suis dit: Ah! Grand Dieu! Qu’est ceci?
Les Iroquois m’ont-ils pris mon logis?

Je me suis mis un peu à l’ambassade,
Afin de voir si c’était embuscade;
Alors je vis trois visages français.
M’ont mis le coeur d’une trop grande joie!

Mes genoux plient, ma faible voix s’arrête,
Je tombe... hélas! À partir ils s’apprêtent:
Je reste seul... pas un qui me console,
Quand la mort vient par un si grand désole!

Un loup hurlant vient près de ma cabane,
Voir si mon feu n’avait plus de boucane!
Je lui ai dit: Retire-toi d’ici;
Car ma foi, je perdrai ton habit!

Un noir corbeau volant à l’aventure,
Vient se percher tout près de ma toiture;
Je lui ai dit: Mangeur de chair humaine,
Va-t-en chercher autre viande que mienne.

Va-t-en là-bas dans ces bois et marais,
Tu trouveras plusieurs corps iroquois;
Tu trouveras des chairs aussi des os;
Va-t-en plus loin, laisse-moi en repos!

Rossignolet, va dire à ma maîtresse,
À mes enfants, qu’un adieu je leur laisse,
Que j’ai gardé mon amour et ma foi,
Et désormais faut renoncer à moi!

C’est donc ici que le monde m’abandonne,
Mai j’ai recours en vous Sauveur des hommes!
Très-sainte Vierge, ah! M’abandonnez pas,
Permettez-moi de mourir entre vos bras!»

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