Kahnawake History Kahnawake History

5 Glorious Incidents in Kahnawake History

Kahnawake History is a sublime fabrication of glory, culture, religion, and endeavour. It is natural, augmented, and carries a compilation of incidents that makes studying them really interesting.

Cognawaga, Caughnawaga, or Kahnawake?

People generally confuse the three names: Cognawaga, Cochnowaga, and Kahnawake. Surprisingly all the three names are of the same place, Kahnawake. The difference is just expositional.

Kahnawake history
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Kahnawake is a Mohawk word that means a place in the river where water flows quickly. Located on the south shore near Lachine Rapids of the river St Lawrence the meaning of Kahnawake is justified.

In the Mohawk language, the word Caughnawaga has the same meaning that modifies Kahnawake with lingual advancement. It preserves the traditional aura of early settlers.

St Lawrence River: A Witness of Kahnawake History

St Lawrence River cherishes the versatile Kahnawake History on its shore like the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec, Canada.  It has witnessed the saplings of hope and endurance flowering into a gamut of joy and establishment through sweat and optimism.

Kahnawake, one of the reserves of Mohawk Tribe, is a village situated in Quebec, Canada. It is the First Nations reserve of Mohawk. Mohawk immigrants from New York state settled in this reserve. It has an inspiring history that contains vibrant flavours of religion, politics, and architecture.

Also, read: The Canada Territories: 7 Interesting Facts

5 Glorious Events That Shaped Kahnawake History

1. Great Law of Peace

The Great Law of Peace occupies a prominent place in Kahnawake History because of its wide acceptance among the Haudenosaunee Confederacy nations. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy participants were 5 Haudenosaunee nations, namely Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, and Mohawk tribes.

The Peacemaker’s Journey & The Great Law of Peace

The Great Law of Peace’s main theme was the protection and preservation of every person’s liberty of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. It was an attempt to unite the people who spoke the same Iroquois language and share the resources. It was an oral constitution conceptualized by peacemaker Dekanawida and his spokesperson Hiawatha.

There is a dispute among historians regarding the date of the Great Law of Peace. Some historians claim the early 12th-century occurrence, while others consider the mid-15th century the exact time. However, the Great Law of Peace’s significance is observed in its adaptation by several democracies, including the United States of America.

2. French Jesuit Mission and Establishment of Kahnawake

Mohawks were native American people who migrated from New York state to establish Kahnawake. They spoke the Iroquoian language and called themselves People of the Flint.

Establishment of Kahnawake
Photo by Kathy Marsh on Unsplash

In the year 1664, French Jesuit Mission arrived from New France with Catholic ambitions. They established a mission in Caughnagawa near the Mohawk River. Initially, they started teaching the native Americans the French language, later converting them to Catholicism.

Historical sources confirm that few people left their ancestral land under French influence and established a new village where the French Jesuits had arrived. It was named Kahnawake, near the St Lawrence River, like its namesake, Caughnagawa.

This was the incident that laid down the foundation of Kahnawake as an independent village. However, the inhabitants kept the principles of the Great Law of Peace and led their life accordingly.

3. Fur Trade and Political Confusion

When the French settled in Kahnawake, they began recruiting Mohawk people into the fur trade on a salary basis. From 1790 to 1850, hundreds of Kahnawake residents were employed in the fur trade that lasted for two centuries.

As they settled in the new land, the youngsters also developed fierce warrior traits under the influence of racialized white ideologies. Mohawks were known for their abilities as distinguished sailors, trappers, and fearsome warriors. French and British were aware of their combating power and knew how to use them.

Fur Trade and Political Confusion
Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

Although French Jesuits influenced the foundation of Kahnawake, surprisingly, during the Revolutionary War, the people of Kahnawake stood with the British. This was the most disputed incident in Kahnawake History.

British administrators in charge of Indian affairs tried to subsidize the French Jesuit influence on the Mohawks. The establishment of Anglican churches was a move towards occupying a favourable position among the Kahnawake people.

Kahnawake History confirms a marital bond between a British officer and a Kahnawake woman, strengthening the political relations. During the 18th century, European settlers had occupied some towns near the Mohawk River. The people of Kahnawake were impressed by the British’s housing style and were in contact with the British Administration.

During the Revolution War in 1777, Kahnawake people joined British soldiers under Joseph Brant’s leadership, Mohawk Chief, known as Thayendanegea. The Mohawk soldiers and Joseph Brant fought the war courageously against the Americans, defeating their fierce war skills. However, they had to flee their homes eventually.

4. Other Wars of Kahnawake History

Wars of Kahnawake History
Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

After the Revolution War, the people of Kahnawake supported the British in the War of 1812. The Canadian military also recognized the potential of Mohawks and recruited them in World War I and II. The gallantry saga of Mohawks is documented in several books on Kahnawake History, a mentionable one is, Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors: Kahnawake Mohawk Politics and the Rise of Native Nationalism by Gerald R. Alfred Toronto: Oxford University Press

5. Dominion Bridge Company and Kahnawake Tragedy

By the 19th century, the people of Kahnawake were well versed with their rights and liabilities towards their land. When the Dominion Bridge Company won its contract for the construction of Quebec Bridge, the Mohawks of Kahnawake demanded their job share.

The Quebec Bridge proposed map lay within the reservation of Kahnawake. The people of Kahnawake demanded jobs in bridge construction, unaware of the major tragedy of Kahnawake’s History.

August 29, 1907, the work was usual at the construction site. Mohawks were engaged in shaping the high steel structure with their skills. Suddenly the bridge collapsed.

The bridge fell, and around 33 Mohawks of Kahnawake lost their lives. Many of them were youngsters, the only meal-tickets of their family. It left the Kahnawake with several widows and fatherless children.


In the present-day, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is inhabited by 11000 people in Quebec. It strongly believes in the Great Peace Treaty’s objectives, preserving the early Mohawks’ traditions among the Nations of Canada. The Kahnawake History has contained endurance and tragedies that helped create the prosperous Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.

Last Updated on by Sanjana


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