Three Sisters' Brother: The Franco-Haudenosaunee Alliances (v2)

Three Sisters’ Brother
aka the Franco–Haudenosaunee Alliances

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Chapter I - Quebec
Chapter II - First Spring


What is this about?
The what-if that got me into Alt-History. What if the French were more successful in Canada?

What is the POD?
In OTL, French Explorer Samuel de Champlain scouted the valley of the St. Lawrence-Stream in 1603. However, his superiors convinced him to settle in today's Nova Scotia the following year. Two colonies there failed and Champlain only came back to settle Quebec in 1608. This 1608 expedition was way worse funded than the first one to Nova Scotia in 1604.
In TTL, Champlain founds Quebec in 1604. This not only gives the French a stronger start in Canada and butterflies away an especially terrible first winter. More importantly, the narrative and main idea of the TL will develop. And this is the French siding with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy(=Iroquois) instead of the Confederacy's ancestral enemies, the Wendat (=Huron) - as it happened OTL. The OTL "Great Tabagie" of Tadoussac, 1603, where the alliance against the Iroquois had its root, does not happen.


What is new in V2?
I abandoned the original TL for quite a few reasons. First, I wasn't happy with some chapters. Secondly, plausibility was an issue with some assumptions and quality of writing was going downhill. And finally, I ended up taking a much more eurocentric perspective than I originally intended to.
So, after re-reading my sources and deepening my understanding of Native cultures and especially the frankly quite byzantine internal politics of the Haudenosaunee, I'm confident I can deliver a stronger emphasis on native affairs, woven into a more plausible and more easily followed narrative.
V2 is a complete rework. I will change the story starting with Chapter I and as the pacing will be different I decided to open a new thread. I will repost the overhauled chapters as I'll have them done. Additionally, I intend to produce, shorter yet more frequent updates.
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Special thanks to @Albeques and @Comte de Dordogne for nominating the original TL for a Turtledove, @Maperseguir for their contributions on the original thread and all other readers!

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Finally, English is not my first language. So I apologize for any mistakes in advance and I am always happy to be corrected.





 
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I - Quebec
Chapter I : Quebec (1604)

Crossing the Atlantic could be a rather tedious and dangerous affair in these days. But the French were lucky. Already by May 10th their ships anchored before Tadoussac. A settlement they called this array of some crude shacks. And in fact it was the entirety with what the French traders clung onto this vast wilderness. Located at the mouth of the Great River it was the door to Canada. The big ships from France could quite easily reach here even without navigating the sometimes treacherous river itself. And so consequently Tadoussac was the place the natives came to trade. And trade, in this part of the world, meant European Traders fleecing natives for the beaver furs that were plenty in Canada.

The French leadership around Pierre Dugua, Jean de Biencourt and Champlain however agreed. Tadoussac wasn’t suited to be their colony’s location. Too infertile was the coast of Saguenay. And too far were the hunting grounds where the best beaver pelts came from. These furs were imperative for the colony. For without a good return the investors behind Dugua would soon turn their back on the enterprise. And without their supplies and new colonists the entire endeavour would be moribund. No, in order to find better soil and better trading opportunities they had to move upstream.

In an expedition the previous year Champlain had found several good locations. One was a cliff above a narrowing of the river, a place the natives called Quebec. The place also seemed quite frequented by natives, making it suitable for trading. Further upstream Champlain had found another prime location just before impassable rapids blocked any advance further up the river. There was a most strategically placed island at the confluence of the Great River and another major stream. Jacques Cartier already had reached the place 70 years earlier, calling it Mont Real.

After careful consideration, the expedition decided on Quebec. Not only was it the more defensible spot, it was also closer to Tadoussac and the big, oceangoing vessels could sail there.
Without wasting a lot of time in Tadoussac their ships carefully sailed upstream, weary of the unknown waters. At the building site the men quickly went to work. Time was key given how early winter came in this land. Clearing the land, felling trees and digging ditches and cellars was hard work – but by Mid-August Quebec their home was ready for winter. Near the shore the French had erected a big storehouse and something they called Habitation. This complex vaguely resembled the miniature of a European Fortress. A ditch that could only be crossed on a drawbridge was surrounding a palisade, which was defended by cannons mounted on wooden bastions. The complex inside then was a triangular array of living quarters, workshops, the forge, and the headquarters of the officers.

The colony with its total of around 80 settlers was quite big for the time – and rather well funded. Nearly all the colonists were trained specialists – quite the far cry from the underfunded convict coffin ships of lost souls that were usually sent over the pond in these days. Primarily artisans and farmers the expedition was supplemented by some trained hunters, two surgeons and an apothecary. Even a detachment of 10 professional Swiss soldiers had been hired to protect the new colony. Noteworthy as well was a man called Mathieu da Costa. Originally from somewhere in Africa, he had ended up with natives south-east of the Great River for some years prior. There picked up some local languages and customs.

The colony did not go unnoticed for long. Quebec had long been an ancestral fishing site for local natives and news spread fast in this land. Even before the colonists properly moved into their new homes, they happened to greet the first curious visitors and delegations.Thanks to the expertise of da Costa, and maybe more importantly, their generous attitude the French soon laid the foundation for quite a friendly relationship with the locals.

So housed, with abundant supplies and no hostile environment around them the colonists quite optimistically were about to face their first winter across the ocean.
 
II: First Spring
Chapter II – First Spring


Scurvy came late. By February the colonists had already hoped they had managed their first winter quite easily. The interior of their Habitation had slowly begun to feel like home, and they were keenly awaiting the onset of spring. But in the third week of February the first men fell ill. Neither the surgeons nor the Apothecary, Louis Hébert, could do anything to help. On the 10th March the first man died, two weeks later six men had succumbed to the mystifying disease.
When the Great River finally lost its icy cover by early April, 18 Frenchmen were dead and a third of the rest severely ill. As they were given freshly caught fish, however, they rather suddenly got better. While the colonists did not know what had hit them they clearly saw that the consumption of fresh fish made the sick better. A conclusion, that especially Louis Hebert could not deny.

But even after these losses the French had mastered their first winter admirably – especially compared with other settlements in this time and place. Still having a bit above 60 men at their disposal and expecting even more in early June, the colonists could think about exploration or even expansion.

As spring started in earnest, more and more natives came to have a look at the bearded men and their weird village by the shore. In May a delegation of Wendat arrived, primarily to trade. However, they also were hinting at a defensive alliance against an ancestral foe of theirs. While the French clearly did not know a lot of the balance of power in these lands, they were certainly not going to jump head-first into a war they did not know anything about. And so they continuously stalled the advances of the Wendat in that regard.

Meanwhile, the delegation – as the Montagnais [1] and Algonquin before – quickly were intrigued by the sheer power the colonists wielded. Especially everything about metal and the forge truly amazed them. The generous attitude of the French did the rest. And so, the visitors quickly seemed more like rather permanent guests, living of what the French gave away. Naturally, some colonists were less than happy with this development. Sometimes it were small grievances, like natives standing in the way and hindering a worker’s chore. But sometimes, there were also bigger concerns – clearly some guests could not discern between their property and the property of the colonists. And so from time to time, things vanished. Most didn’t really hurt the colony as a whole, but the individuals owners were reasonably angered.

One unlucky day a locksmith called Jean Duval caught a Wendat stealing a minor tool red-handedly. The Wendat, visibly intoxicated, drew a knife he had shortly before been gifted by the colonists and threatened Duval. A rather short-tempered man, Duval in his anger took up a nearby sledgehammer – and hit the thief with a single yet deadly blow. Quickly news about the incident spread though the colony – and by the end of the day the Wendat had retreated to their camp outside Quebec. While the French tried to repair relations, the honeymoon ended that day. The next morning the entire delegation was gone without further notice.

At least Champlain was able to remedy the situation with the Algonquin and Montagnais present using quite some gifts. It became clearer and clearer that Champlain, while technically the lowest of the three leaders, was the most adept at dealing with the natives. Dugua and Biencourt were both of old noble lineage – something they had to weave into each interaction with the natives. This demeanour of superiority did nothing to endear them to the locals, who were quite igrorant of their presumed status. Champlain, on the other hand, was of much more obscure background [2] and his open-minded approach proved much more effective.

While the disappearance of the Wendat was unfortunate – they lived the furthest inland of the three nations and could have provided the most useful guides – Champlain still proceeded with his plan to explore the River upstream again. A similar river barque to the one he used 1603 was made ready and by the onset of June he set sail with 10 companions.


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[1] OTL Innu
[2] We really don't know a lot about his background. Not even Champlain's year of birth is known with certainty. It should be noted that there is a...theory/speculation, that he in fact was a bastard of Henry IV. That would explain his quite unusual rise to power and oddities like his direct access to the king.


Quebec is founded. While scurvy takes its toll, the colony is in working shape in 1605. A Wendat delegation retreats after one of their members dies in an altercation. Champlain continues to explore the St-Lawrence River.

 
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