ON A BLUFF OVERLOOKING THE MOHAWK RIVER IN NORTHERN NEW YORK STOOD A collection of longhouses enclosed in a protective palisade—the village of Gandaouagué—and it was here that Tekakwitha was born in or about the year 1656. To that place her Algonquin-born mother had been dragged, bewildered and in mortal terror, by a Mohawk war party that had captured her near Three Rivers, midway between Montreal and Quebec on the St. Lawrence. Her mother is not named in the Jesuit accounts, nor are the time and exact circumstances of her capture known, but Chauchetière and Cholenec both insist that she was a devout, baptized Catholic.
The Mohawks and the Algonquins had been enemies for as long as anyone could remember, and from about 1640, their conflict seemed to intensify. The Mohawks were very much in the ascendancy, thanks partly to the firearms they procured from the Dutch traders at Fort Orange (Albany); driven on, through this time of upheaval and deadly epidemics, by the imperatives of the Mourning War complex, they pressed their advantage against the Algonquins and their Montagnais and French allies. Except during the brief periods of truce, raiding parties set off for the north, hoping to encounter a band hunting and fishing along one of the rivers that ran down to the St. Lawrence from the northern interior of what is now the province of Quebec. To read in the pages of the Jesuit Relations of the harrowing fate that awaited victims of these raids is to understand why they inspired mortal terror. Two Algonquin women escaped from Mohawk captivity