The Children of Aataentsic is both a full-scale ethnohistory of the Huron Indian confederacy and a far-reaching study of the causes of its collapse under the impact of the Iroquois attacks of 1649. Drawing upon the archaeological context, the ethnography presented by early explorers and missionaries, and the recorded history of contact with Europeans, Bruce Trigger traces the development of the Huron people from the earliest hunting and gathering economies in southern Ontario, many centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, to their key role in the fur trade in eastern Canada during the first half of the seventeenth century.
Trigger's work integrates insights from archaeology, history, ethnology, linguistics, and geography. This wide knowledge allows him to show that, far from being a static prehistoric society quickly torn apart by European contact and the fur trade, almost every facet of Iroquoian culture had undergone significant change in the centuries preceding European contact. He argues convincingly that the European impact upon native cultures cannot be correctly assessed unless the nature and extent of precontact change is understood. His study not only stands Euro-American stereotypes and fictions on their heads, but forcefully and consistently interprets European and Indian actions, thoughts, and motives from the perspective of the Huron culture.
The Children of Aataentsic revises widely accepted interpretations of Indian behaviour and challenges cherished myths about the actions of some celebrated Europeans during the "heroic age" of Canadian history. In a new preface, Trigger describes and evaluates contemporary controversies over the ethnohistory of eastern Canada.