The Canadian Martyrs, also known as the North American Martyrs or the Martyrs of New France, were eight Jesuit missionaries from Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, who were tortured and martyred on various dates in the mid-17th century in Canada, in what are now southern Ontario and upstate New York, during the warfare between the Iroquois (particularly the Mohawk people) and the Huron.
The Martyrs are St. René Goupil (1642), St. Isaac Jogues (1646), St. Jean de Lalande (1646), St. Antoine Daniel (1648), St. Jean de Brébeuf (1649), St. Noël Chabanel (1649), St. Charles Garnier (1649), and St. Gabriel Lalemant (1649).
Jesuit missionaries worked among the Hurons, in the Georgian Bay area of Central Ontario, which is called Huronia. The Hurons in this area were farmers, fishermen and traders who lived in villages surrounded by wooden palisades for protection. Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was the headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people.
By the late 1640s the Jesuits believed they were making more progress in their mission to the Huron, and they claimed to have made many converts at this time. But, within Huron communities, the priests were not universally trusted. Many Huron considered them to be malevolent shamans who brought death and disease wherever they travelled because their arrival had coincided with epidemics after 1634 of smallpox and other infectious diseases of Europe, to which aboriginal peoples had no immunity. (Epidemiological studies have shown the diseases were likely carried by the increased number of children immigrating after 1634 with families from cities in nations where smallpox was endemic, such as France, England and the Netherlands).
The Iroquois considered the Jesuits legitimate targets of their raids and warfare, as the missionaries were nominally allies of the Huron. French colonial attacks against the Iroquois also were a reason for their raids against the Huron and Jesuits.
The martyrs were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930. They are collectively the secondary patron saints of Canada. St. René Goupil, St. Isaac Jogues, and St. Jean de Lalande are the first three U.S. saints, as they were martyred at Ossernenon near the confluence of the Schoharie and Mohawk rivers. Their feast day is celebrated in the General Roman Calendar and in the United States on October 19 under the title of "John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs," and in Canada on September 26 among Traditionalist Catholics.
The Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario, the site of their missionary work among the Huron, is the National Shrine to the Canadian Martyrs. (Canada)
There is a second National Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, along the Mohawk River. (United States)
Many churches are dedicated to the martyrs, including the Canadian national church in Rome; North American Martyrs Parish and School in Monroeville, Pennsylvania; North American Martyrs Catholic Church in Lincoln, Nebraska; North American Martyrs Catholic Church, a parish of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Seattle, Washington; American Martyrs Parish in Manhattan Beach, California; and American Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in Bayside, New York.
Many schools also honor the martyrs, including the sports teams of the Pontifical North American College in Rome; a primary school named after them in Newmarket, Ontario; Jesuit High School in Sacramento, California, where each building on the campus has been named after one of the saints; Jesuit High School in New Orleans, Louisiana; Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, holds the martyrs as her patronal saints and the chapel there is named in their honor; the torture of the martyrs by the Iroquois is the subject depicted in the twelve-light World War I memorial window (1933) by Charles William Kelsey at the Loyola College (Montreal) chapel; at the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes on the campus of Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland; and a side shine at Madonna Della Strada Chapel on the campus of Loyola University Chicago.
The martyrs are honored at Camp Ondessonk, a Catholic summer camp in Ozark, Illinois, where each unit of cabins is named after one of the martyrs.