Time to forget d’Iberville

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Susan Flanagan’s June 17 column on the hiking trail named after Pierre le Moyne d’Iberville rankles. Not her description of the picturesque trail itself, but being forced to remember this bloodthirsty visitor to our shores more than 300 years ago.

She mentions that in 1696, in less than four months, he laid waste to 36 English villages, killed 200 men and took 700 prisoners in the dead of winter. In my opinion, to quote an oft heard and succinct pejorative expression, “he was a bad bastard.”

Better forgotten

Therefore, in my opinion he should be forgotten and not remembered any longer than it takes to gain the necessary heritage points on a federal trail grant application.

Notwithstanding the territorial clashes between the English and French during this era, I think Flanagan misspoke about the “brave sods who followed his footsteps.”

These were trained soldiers who routed, killed and made prisoners of defenceless men, women and children while destroying their possessions, food and shelter in the dead of winter. I see no bravery there.

Eight years after d’Iberville’s murderous trek, Placentia’s governor Subercase, along with D’Iberville’s officer Montigny ,once again created what must have appeared as déja vu mayhem to local inhabitants.

Along with a force of about 450 combatants that included the Canadian Abenaki Indians, they created ruinous havoc along the near same route from Placentia to the Southern Shore and onward to Conception and Trinity Bay via St. John’s.

According to Patrick O’Flaherty in his excellent book “Old Newfoundland — A history to 1843,” they again burned, murdered and looted, drove inhabitants into the woods in January, confiscated their livestock, burnt their homes (including all but four in

St. Johns), including boats and ships, and forced 150 people into slave labour.

They made one inhabitant go to Fort William, which by then (due to the previous troubles) had a small resisting garrison.

He was forced to carry the body of a child whose throat had been cut in an unsuccessful effort to intimidate the holdouts into surrender.

I suggest we forget d’Iberville in the same way modern media mostly ignores perpetrators of mass killings and concentrates instead on the victims.  

New name?

So, if the trail is to stand for anything let it be to glorify our ancestors’ tenacity and ability to survive.

Maybe it should be called the Masterless Way (in recognition of the so-called Masterless Men) or considering that Carbonear is the only community that successfully staved off both French attacks, Carbonear Way might be appropriate.

I did not know until Flanagan mentioned it that what’s-his-name is buried in Havana.

An appropriate place of interment for such a cold-blooded creature.

Tom Hawco

St. John’s

Organizations: Canadian Abenaki

Geographic location: Placentia, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland Fort William

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Recent comments

  • jerome delaney
    July 03, 2014 - 15:58

    it is amazing, how little we know about our own culture, French is also apart of it, just go to the west coast of the province. England, forbid us from settling here for the first 100 yrs, and when we did they gave all the rights to the English fish merchants, plus what they did to the Beothucks was criminal. We were fought over by many different countries. The English won out. I will be hiking the D'iberville trail, it is apart of our heritage. Our culture is made up of more than just Irish and English.

  • Diocletian
    July 03, 2014 - 15:56

    There are at least two statues to d'Iberville in Canada: one in Ottawa as one of the "valiant" and the other at the Quebec parliament. building. The latter is no surprise but the one in Ottawa is an insult to Newfoundlanders.

  • sylvester gaudot
    July 03, 2014 - 10:35

    those who forget history are doomed to repeat it

    • Christopher Chafe
      July 03, 2014 - 17:28

      Those that live in the past will die in the past.

    • sylvester gaudot
      July 04, 2014 - 13:07

      I'd rather be informed than ignorant. Painting the past as some ideal era is distorting reality.

  • edwartt
    July 03, 2014 - 09:44

    He was a murdering dirt bag who deserves nothing . He killed Nlers or froze/starved us to death.

  • Don II
    July 03, 2014 - 09:18

    I agree with Tom Hawco completely. D'Iberville should never have been glorified and commemorated with the construction of a hiking trail or a plaque in Newfoundland. The historical record clearly shows that D'Iberville was a blood thirsty and despicable man. The poorly armed Newfoundland locals were no match for D'Iberville and his soldiers. It appears that the cruel tactics used by D'Iberville and his men included the use of "scalping" defenseless Newfoundland locals, an act of barbarity which would be considered as the work of a war criminal today! It appears that in Newfoundland and Labrador, the actual negative effects of wrongs and atrocities which were inflicted on our ancestors, our own flesh and blood relatives, are not remembered, or if remembered, are quickly forgotten or forgiven if a large Government funding Grant can be had simply by commemorating and glorifying a war criminal or by creating a fictional historic site to commemorate a place that never existed!

  • Chantal
    July 03, 2014 - 08:47

    Would you extend your disgust to the English forces? How about the American forces? Perhaps we should never speak of the likes of Earl Haig again - but many consider him a war hero. There are statues to Air Marshall Arthur "bomber" Harris. But never mind wartime; how about the English Newfoundland settlers who wiped out the Beothucks for no particular reason.

    • edwartt
      July 03, 2014 - 15:10

      So Chantal this would be like the German's putting up a Bomber Harris plaque going on about how great he was. I don't think they did that, the french in France can put up a D'Iberville plaque not us , he killed us. And the English settlers killed the Beothucks not disease or Scottish settlers or Irish settlers or french settlers .