Perrault, Curot, Nelson, and Malhoit

March 8, 2014

PerraultCurotMalhoitNelson

Click to enlarge (it can only be read when the image is full size).

UPDATE MAY 16, 2014: This map is updated with additional names from John Sayer’s journal in this post.

I’ve been getting lazy, lately, writing all my posts about the 1850s and later.  It’s easy to find sources about that because they are everywhere, and many are being digitized in an archival format.  It takes more work to write a relevant post about the earlier eras of Chequamegon History.  The sources are sparse, scattered, and the ones that are digitized or published have largely been picked over and examined by other researchers.  However, that’s no excuse.  Those earlier periods are certainly as interesting as the mid-19th Century. I needed to just jump in and do a project of some sort.

I’m someone who needs to know the names and personalities involved to truly wrap my head around a history.  I’ve never been comfortable making inferences and generalizations unless I have a good grasp of the specific.  This doesn’t become easy in the Lake Superior country until after the Cass Expedition in 1820.

But what about a generation earlier?

The dawn of the 19th-century was a dynamic time for our region.  The fur trade was booming under the British North West Company.  The Ojibwe were expanding in all directions, especially to west, and many of familiar French surnames that are so common in the area arrived with Canadian and Ojibwe mix-blooded voyageurs.  Admittedly, the pages of the written record around 1800 are filled with violence and alcohol, but that shouldn’t make one lose track of the big picture.  Right or wrong, sustainable or not, this was a time of prosperity for many.  I say this from having read numerous later nostalgic accounts from old chiefs and voyageurs about this golden age.

We can meet some of the bigger characters of this era in the pages of William W. Warren and Henry Schoolcraft.  In them, men like Mamaangazide (Mamongazida “Big Feet”) and Michel Cadotte of La Pointe, Beyazhig (Pay-a-jick “Lone Man) of St. Croix, and Giishkiman (Keeshkemun “Sharpened Stone”) of Lac du Flambeau become titans, covered with glory in trade, war, and influence.  However, there are issues with these accounts.  These two authors, and their informants, are prone toward glorifying their own family members. Considering that Schoolcraft’s (his mother-in law, Ozhaawashkodewike) and Warren’s (Flat Mouth, Buffalo, Madeline and Michel Cadotte Jr., Jean Baptiste Corbin, etc.) informants were alive and well into adulthood by 1800, we need to keep things in perspective.

The nature of Ojibwe leadership wasn’t different enough in that earlier era to allow for a leader with any more coercive power than that of the chiefs in 1850s.  Mamaangazide and his son Waabojiig may have racked up great stories and prestige in hunting and war, but their stature didn’t get them rich, didn’t get them out of performing the same seasonal labors as the other men in the band, and didn’t guarantee any sort of power for their descendants.  In the pages of contemporary sources, the titans of Warren and Schoolcraft are men.

Finally, it should be stated that 1800 is comparatively recent.  Reading the journals and narratives of the Old North West Company can make one feel completely separate from the American colonization of the Chequamegon Region in the 1840s and ’50s.  However, they were written at a time when the Americans had already claimed this area for over a decade.  In fact, the long knife Zebulon Pike reached Leech Lake only a year after Francois Malhoit traded at Lac du Flambeau.

The Project

I decided that if I wanted to get serious about learning about this era, I had to know who the individuals were. The most accessible place to start would be four published fur-trade journals and narratives:  those of Jean Baptiste Perrault (1790s), George Nelson (1802-1804), Michel Curot (1803-1804), and Francois Malhoit (1804-1805).

The reason these journals overlap in time is that these years were the fiercest for competition between the North West Company and the upstart XY Company of Sir Alexander MacKenzie.  Both the NWC traders (such as Perrault and Malhoit) and the XY traders (Nelson and Curot) were expected to keep meticulous records during these years.

I’d looked at some of these journals before and found them to be fairly dry and lacking in big-picture narrative history.  They mostly just chronicle the daily transactions of the fur posts.  However, they do frequently mention individual Ojibwe people by name, something that can be lacking in other primary records.  My hope was that these names could be connected to bands and villages and then be cross-referenced with Warren and Schoolcraft to fill in some of the bigger story. As the project took shape, it took the form of a map with lots of names on it.  I recorded every Ojibwe person by name and located them in the locations where they met the traders, unless they are mentioned specifically as being from a particular village other than where they were trading.

I started with Perrault’s Narrative and tried to record all the names the traders and voyageurs mentioned as well.  As they were mobile and much less identified with particular villages, I decided this wasn’t worth it.  However, because this is Chequamegon History, I thought I should at least record those “Frenchmen” (in quotes because they were British subjects, some were English speakers, and some were mix-bloods who spoke Ojibwe as a first language) who left their names in our part of the world.  So, you’ll see Cadotte, Charette, Corbin, Roy, Dufault (DeFoe), Gauthier (Gokee), Belanger, Godin (Gordon), Connor, Bazinet (Basina), Soulierre, and other familiar names where they were encountered in the journals.  I haven’t tried to establish a complete genealogy for either, but I believe Perrault (Pero) and Malhoit (Mayotte) also have names that are still with us.

For each of the names on the map, I recorded the narrative or journal they appeared in:

JBP=  Jean Baptiste Perrault

GN=  George Nelson

MC=  Michel Curot

FM=  Francois Malhoit

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Red Lake-Pembina area:  By this time, the Ojibwe had started to spread far beyond the Lake Superior forests and into the western prairies.  Perrault speaks of the Pillagers (Leech Lake Band) being absent from their villages because they had gone to hunt buffalo in the west.  Vincent Roy Sr. and his sons later settled at La Pointe, but their family maintained connections in the Canadian borderlands.  Jean Baptiste Cadotte Jr. was the brother of Michel Cadotte (Gichi-Mishen), the famous La Pointe trader.

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Leech Lake and Sandy Lake area:  The names that jump out at me here are La Brechet or Gaa-dawaabide (Broken Tooth), the great Loon-clan chief from Sandy Lake (son of Bayaaswaa mentioned in this post) and Loon’s Foot (Maangozid).  The Maangozid we know as the old speaker and medicine man from Fond du Lac (read this post) was the son of Gaa-dawaabide.  He would have been a teenager or young man at the time Perrault passed through Sandy Lake.

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Fond du Lac and St. Croix: Augustin Belanger and Francois Godin had descendants that settled at La Pointe and Red Cliff.  Jean Baptiste Roy was the father of Vincent Roy Sr.  I don’t know anything about Big Marten and Little Marten of Fond du Lac or Little Wolf of the St. Croix portage, but William Warren writes extensively about the importance of the Marten Clan and Wolf Clan in those respective bands.  Bayezhig (Pay-a-jick) is a celebrated warrior in Warren and Giishkiman (Kishkemun) is credited by Warren with founding the Lac du Flambeau village.  Buffalo of the St. Croix lived into the 1840s. I wrote about his trip to Washington in this post.

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Lac Courte Oreilles and Chippewa River:  Many of the men mentioned at LCO by Perrault are found in Warren.  Little (Petit) Michel Cadotte was a cousin of the La Pointe trader, Big (Gichi/La Grande) Michel Cadotte.  The “Red Devil” appears in Schoolcraft’s account of 1831.  The old, respected Lac du Flambeau chief Giishkiman appears in several villages in these journals.  As the father of Keenestinoquay and father-in-law of Simon Charette, a fur-trade power couple, he traded with Curot and Nelson who worked with Charette in the XY Company.

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La Pointe:  Unfortunately, none of the traders spent much time at La Pointe, but they all mention Michel Cadotte as being there.  The family of Gros Pied (Mamaangizide, “Big Feet”) the father of Waabojiig, opened up his lodge to Perrault when the trader was waylaid by weather.  According to Schoolcraft and Warren, the old war chief had fought for the French on the Plains of Abraham in 1759. 

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Lac du Flambeau:  Malhoit records many of the same names in Lac du Flambeau that Nelson met on the Chippewa River.  Simon Charette claimed much of the trade in this area.  Mozobodo and “Magpie” (White Crow), were his brothers-in-law.  Since I’ve written so much about chiefs named Buffalo, I should point out that there’s an outside chance Le Taureau (presumably another Bizhiki) could be the famous Chief Buffalo of La Pointe.

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L’Anse, Ontonagon, and Lac Vieux Desert:  More Cadottes and Roys, but otherwise I don’t know much about these men.

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At Mackinac and the Soo, Perrault encountered a number of names that either came from “The West,” or would find their way there in later years.  “Cadotte” is probably Jean Baptiste Sr., the father of “Great” Michel Cadotte of La Pointe.

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Malhoit meets Jean Baptiste Corbin at Kaministiquia.  Corbin worked for Michel Cadotte and traded at Lac Courte Oreilles for decades.  He was likely picking up supplies for a return to Wisconsin.  Kaministiquia was the new headquarters of the North West Company which could no longer base itself south of the American line at Grand Portage.

Initial Conclusions 

There are many stories that can be told from the people listed in these maps.  They will have to wait for future posts, because this one only has space to introduce the project.  However, there are two important concepts that need to be mentioned.  Neither are new, but both are critical to understanding these maps:

1)  There is a great potential for misidentifying people.

Any reading of the fur-trade accounts and attempts to connect names across sources needs to consider the following:

  • English names are coming to us from Ojibwe through French.  Names are mistranslated or shortened.
  • Ojibwe names are rendered in French orthography, and are not always transliterated correctly.
  • Many Ojibwe people had more than one name, had nicknames, or were referenced by their father’s names or clan names rather than their individual names.
  • Traders often nicknamed Ojibwe people with French phrases that did not relate to their Ojibwe names.
  • Both Ojibwe and French names were repeated through the generations.  One should not assume a name is always unique to a particular individual.

So, if you see a name you recognize, be careful to verify it’s reall  the person you’re thinking of.  Likewise, if you don’t see a name you’d expect to, don’t assume it isn’t there.

2)  When talking about Ojibwe bands, kinship is more important than physical location.

In the later 1800s, we are used to talking about distinct entities called the “St. Croix Band” or “Lac du Flambeau Band.”  This is a function of the treaties and reservations.  In 1800, those categories are largely meaningless.  A band is group made up of a few interconnected families identified in the sources by the names of their chiefs:  La Grand Razeur’s village, Kishkimun’s Band, etc.  People and bands move across large areas and have kinship ties that may bind them more closely to a band hundreds of miles away than to the one in the next lake over.

I mapped here by physical geography related to trading posts, so the names tend to group up.  However, don’t assume two people are necessarily connected because they’re in the same spot on the map.

On a related note, proximity between villages should always be measured in river miles rather than actual miles.

Going Forward

I have some projects that could spin out of these maps, but for now, I’m going to set them aside.  Please let me know if you see anything here that you think is worth further investigation.

 

Sources:
Curot, Michel. A Wisconsin Fur Trader’s Journal, 1803-1804. Edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites. Wisconsin Historical Collections, vol. XX: 396-472, 1911.
Malhoit, Francois V. “A Wisconsin Fur Trader’s Journal, 1804-05.” Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites. Vol. 19. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1910. 163-225. Print.
Nelson, George, Laura L. Peers, and Theresa M. Schenck. My First Years in the Fur Trade: The Journals of 1802-1804. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society, 2002. Print.
Perrault, Jean Baptiste. Narrative of The Travels And Adventures Of A Merchant Voyager In The Savage Territories Of Northern America Leaving Montreal The 28th of May 1783 (to 1820) ed. and Introduction by, John Sharpless Fox. Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections. vol. 37. Lansing: Wynkoop, Hallenbeck, Crawford Co., 1900.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Information Respecting The History,Condition And Prospects OF The Indian Tribes Of The United States. Illustrated by Capt. S. Eastman. Published by the Authority of Congress. Part III. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1953.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, and Philip P. Mason. Expedition to Lake Itasca; the Discovery of the Source of the Mississippi. East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 1958. Print.
Warren, William W., and Theresa M. Schenck. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2009. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Perrault, Curot, Nelson, and Malhoit”

  1. Diana Kohn said

    I found this very interesting as I have been doing research on Jeanne Baptiste Perrault. He is my ancestor. I live in Wisconsin and am amazed at all of the places he traveled and lived to tell about it! I liked this a lot because of the maps showing exactly where he was. I have read a lot of his Narrative and look for translations everywhere. My sister recently went to France and saw the church where I believe his parents were married. Thanks for your work on this project!

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