The name “Ondessonk” is the Huron word for “Bird of Prey.” It is the name that the Huron gave to St. Isaac Jogues when he was serving among them as a Jesuit missionary, because of his black robe. Jogues came to this country from France in the early 17th century in an effort to bring the Gospel to the American Indians. He ended up giving his life to this task when he was tortured and later martyred.
Several other Jesuit missionaries working among the Huron during this time were martyred as well. These saints and their American Indian companions are honored and remembered at Camp Ondessonk with the camp units, lakes, and major land forms named after them.
The North American martyrs are:
- St. Isaac Jogues
- St. Jean de Brébeuf
- St. Noël Chabanel
- St. Antoine Daniel
- St. Charles Garnier
- St. René Goupil
- St. Jean de Lalande
- St. Gabriel Lalemant
Others whom places around camp were named for:
- Amantacha, baptized as Louis de Sainte-Foi, was a Huron educated in France under the instruction of Antoine Daniel. He later became a friend and aide of the Jesuit missionaries.
- Paul Ragueneau, a Jesuit missionary who was a part of the Huron mission and worked under the instruction of Fathers Jean de Brébeuf and Jérôme Lalemant (uncle to the martyr Gabriel Lalemant) for eight years. The unit of Raganeau uses a slightly different spelling of his name.
- Kateri Tekakwitha, originally known as Catherine Tekakwitha and informally known as Lily of the Mohawks was an Algonquin and Iroquois Native American woman from New France and an early convert to Roman Catholicism. She was recognized as the first Native American saint in 2012.
- Echon, is the name given to Jean de Brébeuf by the Huron. It means “Healing Tree”, as a representation of how much Brébeuf helped the Hurons and of the medicines he brought them from Europe. Another interpretation of Echon is “he who bears the heavy load”, as Brébeuf was massive in stature and carried more than his share when working with the Huron people.
Previously existing units namesakes:
- Eustace Ahatsistari, honored as the greatest war chief of all the Huron nations, was accompanying Goupil and Couture through enemy territory when the group was captured by the Mohawk Indians. Ahatsistari’s name possibly means, “he who cooks with fire,” which was fitting as he was a brutal warrior all the way to the end of his life, when he managed to literally spit fire at the Mohawk Indians who were torturing him.
- Guillaume Couture, a French missionary who worked with Isaac Jogues among the Huron. He was ambushed and tortured by the Iroquois but later became a part of the Iroquois councils when he impressed his captors with his endurance and continuous dignity throughout his torture. He was the only European to ever obtain such an honorable position.
- Joseph Teondechoren, a Huron medicine man later turned missionary. His brother, Joseph Chiwatenhwa, is known as “the forgotten martyr” or “the first Huron martyr.” Teondechoren refused baptism during Joseph Chiwatenhwa’s lifetime but quickly converted days after his brother’s surprise death and took on the name Joseph in honor of his brother. He carried on Chiwatenhwa’s missionary work among the Hurons. At one point he was a part of the missionary group that was captured and tortured by the Iroquois and included Jogues, Couture, and Goupil. The unit of Teondecoren used a slightly different spelling of his name.