Chief Adario on the White Man's Morals

Editorial note by T.C. McLuhan: Adario, a seventeenth-century Huron chief, was also known as Kondiaronk (his Huron name) and The Rat (so called by the French). He had a high reputation for bravery and sagacity, and played a prominent part in Frontenacís War (1689-1697) ó a series of conflicts between the French and English, and between the French along with their Indian allies and the Iroquois. His skill in diplomacy and confederating the tribes made him an acclaimed peacemaker. He died in Montreal during an important peace conference in 1701. Adario travelled widely and said of his travels: "I have been in France, New York and Quebec, where I Studyíd the Customs and Doctrines of the English and French." The following discourse took place between Adario and Baron de Lahontan, a Frenchman, explorer and Lord Lieutenant of the French colony at Placentia in Newfoundland. Lahontan has just explained to Adario that without punishing the wicked and rewarding the good, murder and robbery would spread everywhere, and the white man would soon be the most miserable people upon the earth. Adario, in turn, interprets his understanding of the white manís law.

NAY, YOU ARE MISERABLE ENOUGH ALREADY, AND INDEED I CANíT see how you can be more such. What sort of Men must the EUROPEANS be? What Species of Creatures do they retain to? The EUROPEANS, who must be forcíd to do Good, and have no other Prompter for the avoiding of Evil than the fear of Punishment. If I askíd thee, what a Man is, thou wouldst answer me, Heís a FRENCHMAN, and yet Iíll prove that your MAN is rather a BEAVER. For MAN is not intitled to that character upon the force of his walking upright upon two Legs, or of Reading and Writing, and showing a Thousand other Instances of his Industry....

Who gave you all the Countries that you now inhabit, by what Right do you possess them? They always belonged to the ALGONKINS before. In earnest, my dear Brother, Iím sorry for thee from the bottom of my soul. Take my advice, and turn HURON; for I see plainly a vast difference between thy condition and mine. I am Master of my Condition and mine. I am Master of my own Body, I have the absolute disposal of my self, I do what I please, I am the first and the last of my Nation, I fear no Man, and I depend only upon the Great Spirit. Whereas, thy Body, as well as thy Soul, are doomed to a dependence upon thy great Captain, thy Vice-Roy disposes of thee, thou hast not the liberty of doing what thou hast a mind to; thou art afraid of Robbers, false Witnesses, Assassins, etc., and thou dependest upon an infinity of Persons whose Places have raised them above thee. Is it true or not?


SOURCE: McLuhan, T.C. Touch the Earth: A Self-Portrait of Indian Existence (New York: Promontory Press, 1971), p. 50. [Emphasis by R. Dumain]

Primary source: Thwaites, Rueben Gold, ed. Lahontan's New Voyages to North America (Chicago: McClurg, 1905), vol. 2, p. 533.


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