Historic #Métis communities: “Where the river narrows”

Race is a social construct; it doesn’t exist. Governments have tried for years to make us the Indian race, then the First Nations race and the Aboriginal race. But we are not a race. We’re Indigenous nations. – Wab Kinew.

Indigenous nations. 

There is absolutely no doubt that Métis existed and thrived in the Eastern parts of “Nouvelle France” and Acadia; enough empirical evidence has been provided to that effect.

The discussion in some circles has more to do with the concept of historic Métis communities, and whether such entities exist or existed East of the Great Lakes.

Métis communities West of the Great Lakes have received much of the attention, and all of the funding required to produce advocacy and research regarding their historic communities. Due to the Métis Scrip, which was designed to extinguish Aboriginal title (more about the subject here), there are recent written records of families and their communities.

Métis living East of the Great Lakes had their Aboriginal title extinguished in much more gradual ways.

Sociologist Gérard Bouchard has it partially right: the Catholic Church, who was heavily involved in governing here, from the days of Nouvelle France right up to the late 1960s, strongly discouraged the mixing of Indigenous People and their pious, Pure Laine Catholic brethren. 

Where Bouchard has it wrong, it is to homogenize the Kébec Métis within the general population of Québec to assert the narrative of the French as original People. Most mixed marriages chose to move away from early Settlements.

Couples of mixed marriages did not mix with the general population. Métis were most often shunned by Pure Laine Settlers, likely due to the kidnapping and / or murder of some early Colonials by Aboriginals.

Very little research has been done to help us understand why some Settlers fell victims of Aboriginals, while some others did not. 

My first paternal, Colonial ancestor, Jacques Brisset, arrived in Canada before 1648. He was “kidnapped” by Aboriginals after 1656 and “released” after July 1660. I deliberately use quotation marks, because I have found no evidence to support why he would have survived while many more Settlers were quickly killed. Why would Aboriginals feed, clothe and shelter some random White guy? Why did he survive, when many didn’t? Did Settlers use the term “kidnap” as a measure to scare away other Settlers from mixed marriages, and ostracize those who did marry Aboriginals?

We may never know. The study of early Settlers is limited to amateur genealogists, who present hypotheses like facts and those hypotheses are tainted by whichever bias they have. Which is why I use quotation marks to kidnap and released.

What we know is that Jacques was given a lot away from Trois-Rivières, on l’ile du milieu (St-Christophe) in March of 1655, along with the father of his future daughter-in-law, Pierre Dandonneau.

What we also know is that we cannot find any origins or marriage records for his wife Jeanne Fétis (or Fétéis or Fortier or Forestier or Forest). We know she’s not a “Fille du Roy” or a “Fille à Marier”, we know she didn’t arrive with Jacques, and we can’t find any record of her birth in France.

We do know that as more and more Settlers arrived in Nouvelle France, Jacques and his family moved West, away from the Settler population and deeper into Indigenous parts.

Jacques’ son, also named Jacques, purchased a Seigneurie with his brother-in-law Louis Dandonneau. The seigneurie is located several hours away West, on Ile Dupas, an island in the St-Lawrence river known to be the meeting place of Abénaki and Atikamekw Nations, and straight across from where is now the Odanak reserve. 

The Bri(e)sset(te), Courchenes, Dupas all come from this common ancestor, and lived alongside the Abénaki, the Atikamekw and the Wendat Nations since then, intermarrying among ourselves and spreading North, South and, yes, West, past the Great Lakes.

Our historic communities surround Ile Dupas, in the Eastern parts of what is now called Lanaudière and Mauricie.

We are Kébec Métis. We are a Nation. 

Oh, and Kébec is Algonquian for “where the river narrows”.