Jean de Brébeuf, the other French missionaries, and most of the people of Ossosane believed that Joseph Chiwatenwa was struck down by enemies among his own people simply because he was a Christian. The chiefs of Ossosane insisted, however, that his assailants were Iroquois. There is no way of knowing with certainty which Indians really murdered Chiwatenwa.
There is no doubt, however, that Joseph's death was due to the fact that he was a Christian. His life had been in great danger from the time of his baptism. Father Francis X. Talbot, the Jesuit historian, wrote in a footnote to Saint Among the Hurons, a biography of St. Jean de Brébeuf, "the present writer regards him [Joseph Chiwatenwa] as the first Huron martyr."
With Teondechoren's startling conversion, it was clear to Jean de Brébeuf that "the saintly Joseph Chiwatenwa had already begun to perform miracles of grace." Teondechoren was baptized on September 8, 1640, and took the name Joseph. He had never been a respected man among his people, but the change after his conversion was so complete that he became very highly regarded by the chiefs and captains of his tribe.
His wife was baptized the following Easter and named Catherine. Joseph Teondechoren also fulfilled Chiwatenwa's wish of bringing their niece Therese to Quebec to be placed in the hands of the Ursuline nuns.
Christianity among the villagers of Ossosane flourished after Joseph's death. The missionaries wrote: "This mission, since Joseph's death, appears to us like a little lump of gold, refined in the furnace of many tribulations."
Immediately after Joseph's death, the rumor spread among the Indians that Joseph had been killed because he had ignored his warning dreams. To the great wonder of the Jesuits, their Christians had the courage to overcome this temptation of reverting to superstition. More than that, many notable conversions followed, including the baptism of Ahatsis-tari, the bravest war captain of the Cord nation, who took the name Eustace.
Echon's forecast to Joseph Chiwatenwa that the Huron nation was in danger of extinction by the Iro-quois was accurate. Tribes of the Iroquois family (which included the Oneidas, Onondagas, Mohawks and Cayugas) began to attack the Algonquins and Hurons ferociously, wiping out whole flotillas of canoes on the St. Lawrence River, massacring men, women, and children in their cabins, and burning their villages.
Exactly two years after Joseph Chiwatenwa's death, in August, 1642, Joseph Teondechoren and Peter Saoekbata were returning to the Huron country from Quebec in a two-canoe party of Christians, one of whom was Father Isaac Jogues. All of them were captured by the Iroquois.
Sometime later, the two brothers of Chiwatenwa escaped. They found their way back to Echon, who scarcely recognized them in their starved and scarred condition. Teondechoren and Saoekbata told Father de Brébeuf how they and the other Christian Indians had been tortured, along with Isaac Jogues and the two donnes, William Couture and Rene Goupil. Later, in one of the Iroquois villages, Rene Goupil had been killed for making the sign of the cross on the forehead of a child, and Isaac Jogues had been made a slave. Many of the Huron Christians were killed and died heroic deaths. Among these was the war captain Eustace. Peter Saoekbata's daughter, Therese, who had been returning home from Quebec, was also captured and held as a slave. Her subsequent story is not known.
As for Isaac Jogues, his story is well known. He escaped from the Iroquois and returned to France, only to beg permission to go back to the missions, where he was finally slaughtered by the Mohawks (a member of the Iroquois Five-Nation Confederacy), in August, 1646.
Jean de Brébeuf saw that the Huron nation, which now numbered only 12,000 people, was doomed, but the work of the mission went on. Nine years after Joseph's death, there were fifteen Christian villages among the Hurons.
And then, suddenly and terribly, in 1649, the whole work of the French Jesuits was swept away in a seething wave of blood and terror, as the Iroquois destroyed the Huron nation, burning all the Christian villages, murdering the warriors, and carrying off the surviving women and children to be slaves.
Five of the Jesuits were brutally killed: Jean de Brébeuf; Noel Chabanel; Antoine Daniel; Charles Gamier; and Gabriel Lalement, nephew of Jerome Lalement.
When the Iroquois captured the famous giant Echon, they were jubilant over their special prize. They devised unique tortures for this man who had been a legend for almost twenty-five years.
Because he would not curse them, but instead, forgave them and preached courage to the other captured Christians, the Iroquois cut out his tongue. They scalped him while he was still alive, and when, finally, the death blow was struck, they pounced upon his body and cut out his heart, to eat it and drink his blood that they might have courage like Echon's.
Thus ended fifteen years of work in the Huron missions. Was it worth it--fifteen years of hard labor, dangers from nature and natives, and in the end, blood and destruction? It was well worth it.
These Jesuits and Christian Indians were God's heroes, both of whom gave up the traditions of the society they were born into, to sacrifice themselves for God's truths. In God's favor, the Jesuits could add up this score: several thousand souls baptized; several dozen souls--like Joseph Chiwatenwa--refined in the fire of faith; and the martyrdom of many brave Christians, both Indian and Jesuit.
And so, despite the fact that the story did not have a happy ending on earth, there was a happy ending in heaven.