Milmaw Marie Mi'Kmaq (Membertou) (deceased)

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Death: (Date and location unknown)
Managed by: Andre P. Chiasson, A.P.C.
Last Updated:

About Milmaw Marie Mi'Kmaq (Membertou)

                      From the website: http://www.geocities.com/weallcamefromsomewhere/marie_membertou.html
Marie Dit Membertou  
   
 
 The First Lady of Acadia  

Marie was not her real name, nor was Membertou her husband's; but in the written history of Acadia, those are the only names on record for it's most prominant couple, when they made contact with the Europeans in the early seventeenth century.

Marie, as I will call her, was at the time the wife of her village's Chief and Shaman, Membertou, or Memberton, the name assigned to him by the French.   It was derived from the Native term Maoi-Napeltu, meaning “Chief of All” or “Principal Chief”, since he then had juristiction over the entire area from the Ste. Croix to the St. John's River Valley,  near the present day Maine/New Brunswick border.  

At the time Marie was his only wife, possibly taken from another tribe as a trophy of war, or presented to him as prelude to peace. Though belonging to the Mi'kmaq Nation, Membertou was not like most of their men. For one thing, he was over a century old, and after many inquiries about the French explorer, Jacques Cartier, he claimed to have met him when he visited the area in 1534.

It was also believed that he was actually the offspring of a European fisherman and a Mi'kmaq girl, and his overall appearance would certainly attest to the lineage. Unusually tall and slim, with a long beard; he looked more French than Mi'kmaq, though by now his skin had leathered and his features had diminished with age. However, he was still both respected and feared throughout the entire region.

His domain was one of seven districts in the region; headed by a Grand Council, and the Grand Council fell under the leadership of the Wapn'ki Confederacy. In spring and summer, the bands would gather at fixed locations on the water, for planting and fishing. At times these summer villages were fortified, if the need arose, but in winter, the group would move further inland, where hunting was necessary to stay alive.

As for Marie's extended family, or clan, they lived more like outlaws. They never planted and rarely hunted, preferring instead to take what they needed; usually by force; from other villages. They prided themselves on being able to conduct business directly with the Europeans, and what they referred to as the “French Trade”, became their mainstay. Since her husband was also a Shaman, or medicine-man, he was able to control his people both spiritually and physically.


And Marie would also hold a distinguished position within the tribal unit. One of her main responsibilities as the Chief's wife, was to ensure that the fire never died out, so she led the other women, who would take turns adding fuel, mostly half-rotton pine wood. If the fire lasted three moons (about three months), there would be a celebration in their honour, since the fire had now become magical and sacred.

Everyone in the community would gather together and first all of the women would be showered with praise. Then the men would light their pipes from the magical flames, and in turn, blow the smoke from the pipe into the face of the woman who lit the last spark. They would then dance around the fire, singing and giving thanks to the “Father of Light...The Sun”.

If it was Marie, or any other Chief's wife, she was given the honour of preparing a feast (hmm?) for the men, which she would be allowed to attend, with whatever other women she chose. She would also be the first allowed to speak at the end of the feast; then light her husband's pipe and present it to him. She would also lead the song and dance which would begin the moment he took the first puff.


The women were also responsible for the corporal punishment of female offenders. Marc Lescarbot recalls: “...one day there was an Armouchiquois woman, a prisoner, who had aided a fellow prisoner from her country to escape...had stolen a tinderbox and hatchet (from Membertou’s cabin)... When this came to the knowledge of the savages, they would not proceed to execute justice on her near us, but went off to encamp four or five leagues from Port Royal, where she was killed...because she was a woman the wives and daughters of our savages executed her. Kinibech-coech, a young maid of eighteen years of age; plump and fair, gave her the first stroke in the throat...with a knife. Another maid of the same age, handsome enough, called Metembroech, followed on, and the daughters of Membertou, whom we called Membertouech-Coech, made an end to her...This is their form of justice”.


From the time that the ragtag group of Frenchmen had made their way to the shores of the Annapolis Basin, transporting their makeshift homes from Ste. Croix; to establish a trading post near Marie's village, her husband embraced them, recognizing their importance as a military ally and customer base for their products. Not that it was a new phenomena. Membertou and his people had been dealing with French traders for decades, but now that he was getting on in years, he was looking for a way to protect his family’s interests.


As such, Marie and some of the other village elders, were responsible for matching their young women with men from the new habitation. It didn't take a genious to realize that if they truly wanted to settle and raise families, this could not be done with 50 men and no women!

So the young girls did their duty by encouraging relationships, though the final approval for any formal union would have to come from Membertou. Not that many were offically presented to him. The young men enjoyed the company of the free spirited girls, but few, if any, considered a long term commitment.


However, they all enjoyed each other's company, and while no serious work ever got done, the parties and banquets helped to pass the time. Sometimes her people were quite amused by the silly get-ups of the Frenchmen, and their effeminate ways, but they seemed harmless enough; at times like children who needed direction; especially in cleaning, feeding, healing and dressing themselves suitably for the climate.


At other times, however, they proved to be a menace, mainly in their dealings with her family's enemies and allies. In the summer of 1606, when some of the men from the fort were on yet another journey of exploration, they were hailed down by a neighbouring chief, Messamouet, whose people lived at what was later known as Le Have.


Like her husband, Messamouet was a Metis, or from European stock. As a matter of fact, most of his people were the same, and the chief himself was an accomplished shallop sailor, and had spent quite a bit of time in France before 1580; long before the new arrivals.

According to Champlain: “two Indians arrived (at what is now Saco Maine)...one a Maliseet named Chkoudun, the chief of the River St. John ...the other a micmac Messamouet...they had much merchandise...kettles, hatchets, knives, dresses, capes, red jackets, peas, beans, biscuits...Messamouet (made a speech) pointing out how of past time they had friendly intercourse...”

This speech was to encourage the Maliseet of the St. John to join forces with the Mi'kmaq and the French to fight common enemies...”Make use of the friendship of the French, whom they saw there present exploring their country, in order in future to bring merchandise to them and to aid them with their resources”... He went on to tell them that he had visited France and stayed at the home of the Governor of Bayonne, Philibert De Gramont. He spoke for about an hour...”with much vehemence and earnestness and with such gestures of body and of arm as befit a good orator.”

As a gesture of good will, he then threw all of his merchadise into the canoe of Olmechin as a gift. Maybe he envied Marie's family for their closeness with these allies, and wanted to be sure that the men of Port Royal shared the wealth, or it may have been in reponse to the request made to Champlain on an earlier expedition to the natives of Maine, to negotiate peace with Abenaki. Regardless, it would cost them dearly.


When Messamouet's gifts were presented to the two sagamores; Marchin and Onemessin, they returned the maize, beans and pumpkins as being unsatisfactory. This insult greatly angered the La Have chief, and he vowed to get his revenge.


Meanwhile, De Monts and Champlain were again using Panoniac, the son of Niguiroet and Neguiadodetch, from the village as a guide. He brought along a captured bride from the Almouchiquois, their enemies, to act as a translator. However, when they encountered her people, Poniac was killed and the woman returned to her people.

When the body of Panoniac was brought on shore, his relatives and friends began to wail and moan. They painted their bodies all over in black and after a great deal of weeping, took a quantity of tobacco, a few dogs and other personal possessions of the deceased and set fire to it all. The next day the body was wrapped in a large red blanket (obtained from Champlain on the encouragement of Membertou)...when bound up tight they decorated it with beads, colourful bracelets...they also painted his face and placed several large feathers on his head. They then placed the body on it’s knees between two stakes, with another supporting it’s arms and about the body was his mother, his wife and other relatives and friends, both women and girls, who howled like dogs. (from Samuel De Champlain)

The body was kept in the cabin of his parents until spring when it was taken to a desolate island off the coast of Cape Sable for burial. These small isles were known only to the local people, since they didn’t want their enemies raiding the graves. It was then a common problem that the Europeans were digging up graves to steal the beaver robes. And yet the Natives were called Savages?

Once the funeral arrangements were complete, they met with Membertou to discuss revenge.


Poniac was his son-in-law, so this was definitely viewed as a challenge, and one he met in his usual take-charge manner. So, in the summer of 1607, spurned on by the presence of the French at Port Royal, Membertou borrowed their shallops and firearms, and led a Viking like raid on his enemies; an easy victory. However, soon his new friends would be forced to vacate the area, and they placed the Chief in charge of the fort in their absense; a duty he did not take lightly.

But he really missed his new allies. The Order of Good Cheer, and impromptu parties and games, helped to pass away the long winters, and since he always held a place of honor, as head of the local government, at their functions; he felt every bit the grand statesman. Now, with them gone, and his enemies breathing down his neck, he felt abandoned and had all but given up on ever seeing them again.

Finally, on a warm day in May, three years after their departure, Membertou and some of his people caught sight of a ship approaching the Bay. Not sure if they were friend or foe, he rallied his men, but his apprehension would turn to joy, when he saw the French Flag, and the chief got into a canoe with his daughter, to greet his old friends.

This time Poitrincourt had along not only his son, Charles, but also his wife; Madame Claudia Pajot de Poitrincourt; several members of the de Salazar family and his nephew; Charles De La Tour; a man who would play a very important role in the history of French-Acadia. Introductions were made all round, and everyone was caught up on the latest news. Poutrincourt informed the natives that Champlain was now looking to colonize Kebec and Marc Lescarbot had returned to the practice of law. After examining the fort, he was pleased to see that nothing had been taken or damaged, and thanked his old friend for his diligence.


From that time on, things would never be the same. The new arrivals were not at all like Champlain or Lescarbot, and though they remained on good terms with Poutrincourt and his son, his family and friends, for the most part, treated them like peasants. The end of an era.


Later, when the Jesuits arrived, they became close. She and her husband respected their simple ways and selfless devotion to her family. On September 18, 1612, Membertou died after returning from a voyage. He was given the last sacrament and gathered his children around, encouraging them to remain loyal to the French, especially Poutrincourt, whom he called his brother and friend. He also told them to follow God and when he died his body was given a Christian burial, despite much opposition.


The Jesuits describe the event:

“Membertou had come from Baye Sainte Marie to have himself treated for a disease which had overtaken him. Father Enemonde Masse had put him in a little cabin, in Father Biard’s bed, and was there taking care of him like a father and servant...one of their greatest hardships was to carry all the wood that was needed for day and night, since it was quite chilly and the fire had to be kept going to eliminate the odour of dysentary, from which Membertou was suffering.

At the end of five or six days of service, Membertou’s wife and daughter came to stay with him...Father Biard begged Sieur de Biencourt to have the invalid moved to one of the empty cabins in the settlement...his cabin was so small that when 3 or 4 persons were in it they could not turn around. Biencourt had one put up where the invalid was taken, but the move seemed to have made him worse....he died a few days later. Membertou told Biencourt that he wished to be buried with his fathers and ancestors, but Father Briard opposed since Membertou was now a Christian and the others in the graves pagans. Membertou relented.”


There is no record of the death of Marie. When Port Royal was burned down by Samuel Argall in 1613, the place would be abandoned, though Charles Biencourt and Charles La Tour remained in the vicinity, trading furs, and living the life of the Natives. She no doubt remarried after the necessary grieving period, and continued to live as her people had for centuries. But she was a real person, with all the hopes and dreams of any mother for her family, and deserves to be remembered for her role in forging relationships with the foreign investors, who made their fur trade so lucrative.

-------------------- From the website: http://www.geocities.com/weallcamefromsomewhere/marie_membertou.html Marie Dit Membertou The First Lady of Acadia Marie was not her real name, nor was Membertou her husband's; but in the written history of Acadia, those are the only names on record for it's most prominant couple, when they made contact with the Europeans in the early seventeenth century.

Marie, as I will call her, was at the time the wife of her village's Chief and Shaman, Membertou, or Memberton, the name assigned to him by the French. It was derived from the Native term Maoi-Napeltu, meaning “Chief of All” or “Principal Chief”, since he then had juristiction over the entire area from the Ste. Croix to the St. John's River Valley, near the present day Maine/New Brunswick border. At the time Marie was his only wife, possibly taken from another tribe as a trophy of war, or presented to him as prelude to peace. Though belonging to the Mi'kmaq Nation, Membertou was not like most of their men. For one thing, he was over a century old, and after many inquiries about the French explorer, Jacques Cartier, he claimed to have met him when he visited the area in 1534.

It was also believed that he was actually the offspring of a European fisherman and a Mi'kmaq girl, and his overall appearance would certainly attest to the lineage. Unusually tall and slim, with a long beard; he looked more French than Mi'kmaq, though by now his skin had leathered and his features had diminished with age. However, he was still both respected and feared throughout the entire region.

His domain was one of seven districts in the region; headed by a Grand Council, and the Grand Council fell under the leadership of the Wapn'ki Confederacy. In spring and summer, the bands would gather at fixed locations on the water, for planting and fishing. At times these summer villages were fortified, if the need arose, but in winter, the group would move further inland, where hunting was necessary to stay alive.

As for Marie's extended family, or clan, they lived more like outlaws. They never planted and rarely hunted, preferring instead to take what they needed; usually by force; from other villages. They prided themselves on being able to conduct business directly with the Europeans, and what they referred to as the “French Trade”, became their mainstay. Since her husband was also a Shaman, or medicine-man, he was able to control his people both spiritually and physically.

And Marie would also hold a distinguished position within the tribal unit. One of her main responsibilities as the Chief's wife, was to ensure that the fire never died out, so she led the other women, who would take turns adding fuel, mostly half-rotton pine wood. If the fire lasted three moons (about three months), there would be a celebration in their honour, since the fire had now become magical and sacred.

Everyone in the community would gather together and first all of the women would be showered with praise. Then the men would light their pipes from the magical flames, and in turn, blow the smoke from the pipe into the face of the woman who lit the last spark. They would then dance around the fire, singing and giving thanks to the “Father of Light...The Sun”.

If it was Marie, or any other Chief's wife, she was given the honour of preparing a feast (hmm?) for the men, which she would be allowed to attend, with whatever other women she chose. She would also be the first allowed to speak at the end of the feast; then light her husband's pipe and present it to him. She would also lead the song and dance which would begin the moment he took the first puff.

The women were also responsible for the corporal punishment of female offenders. Marc Lescarbot recalls: “...one day there was an Armouchiquois woman, a prisoner, who had aided a fellow prisoner from her country to escape...had stolen a tinderbox and hatchet (from Membertou’s cabin)... When this came to the knowledge of the savages, they would not proceed to execute justice on her near us, but went off to encamp four or five leagues from Port Royal, where she was killed...because she was a woman the wives and daughters of our savages executed her. Kinibech-coech, a young maid of eighteen years of age; plump and fair, gave her the first stroke in the throat...with a knife. Another maid of the same age, handsome enough, called Metembroech, followed on, and the daughters of Membertou, whom we called Membertouech-Coech, made an end to her...This is their form of justice”.

From the time that the ragtag group of Frenchmen had made their way to the shores of the Annapolis Basin, transporting their makeshift homes from Ste. Croix; to establish a trading post near Marie's village, her husband embraced them, recognizing their importance as a military ally and customer base for their products. Not that it was a new phenomena. Membertou and his people had been dealing with French traders for decades, but now that he was getting on in years, he was looking for a way to protect his family’s interests.

As such, Marie and some of the other village elders, were responsible for matching their young women with men from the new habitation. It didn't take a genious to realize that if they truly wanted to settle and raise families, this could not be done with 50 men and no women!

So the young girls did their duty by encouraging relationships, though the final approval for any formal union would have to come from Membertou. Not that many were offically presented to him. The young men enjoyed the company of the free spirited girls, but few, if any, considered a long term commitment.

However, they all enjoyed each other's company, and while no serious work ever got done, the parties and banquets helped to pass the time. Sometimes her people were quite amused by the silly get-ups of the Frenchmen, and their effeminate ways, but they seemed harmless enough; at times like children who needed direction; especially in cleaning, feeding, healing and dressing themselves suitably for the climate.

At other times, however, they proved to be a menace, mainly in their dealings with her family's enemies and allies. In the summer of 1606, when some of the men from the fort were on yet another journey of exploration, they were hailed down by a neighbouring chief, Messamouet, whose people lived at what was later known as Le Have.

Like her husband, Messamouet was a Metis, or from European stock. As a matter of fact, most of his people were the same, and the chief himself was an accomplished shallop sailor, and had spent quite a bit of time in France before 1580; long before the new arrivals.

According to Champlain: “two Indians arrived (at what is now Saco Maine)...one a Maliseet named Chkoudun, the chief of the River St. John ...the other a micmac Messamouet...they had much merchandise...kettles, hatchets, knives, dresses, capes, red jackets, peas, beans, biscuits...Messamouet (made a speech) pointing out how of past time they had friendly intercourse...”

This speech was to encourage the Maliseet of the St. John to join forces with the Mi'kmaq and the French to fight common enemies...”Make use of the friendship of the French, whom they saw there present exploring their country, in order in future to bring merchandise to them and to aid them with their resources”... He went on to tell them that he had visited France and stayed at the home of the Governor of Bayonne, Philibert De Gramont. He spoke for about an hour...”with much vehemence and earnestness and with such gestures of body and of arm as befit a good orator.”

As a gesture of good will, he then threw all of his merchadise into the canoe of Olmechin as a gift. Maybe he envied Marie's family for their closeness with these allies, and wanted to be sure that the men of Port Royal shared the wealth, or it may have been in reponse to the request made to Champlain on an earlier expedition to the natives of Maine, to negotiate peace with Abenaki. Regardless, it would cost them dearly.

When Messamouet's gifts were presented to the two sagamores; Marchin and Onemessin, they returned the maize, beans and pumpkins as being unsatisfactory. This insult greatly angered the La Have chief, and he vowed to get his revenge.

Meanwhile, De Monts and Champlain were again using Panoniac, the son of Niguiroet and Neguiadodetch, from the village as a guide. He brought along a captured bride from the Almouchiquois, their enemies, to act as a translator. However, when they encountered her people, Poniac was killed and the woman returned to her people.

When the body of Panoniac was brought on shore, his relatives and friends began to wail and moan. They painted their bodies all over in black and after a great deal of weeping, took a quantity of tobacco, a few dogs and other personal possessions of the deceased and set fire to it all. The next day the body was wrapped in a large red blanket (obtained from Champlain on the encouragement of Membertou)...when bound up tight they decorated it with beads, colourful bracelets...they also painted his face and placed several large feathers on his head. They then placed the body on it’s knees between two stakes, with another supporting it’s arms and about the body was his mother, his wife and other relatives and friends, both women and girls, who howled like dogs. (from Samuel De Champlain)

The body was kept in the cabin of his parents until spring when it was taken to a desolate island off the coast of Cape Sable for burial. These small isles were known only to the local people, since they didn’t want their enemies raiding the graves. It was then a common problem that the Europeans were digging up graves to steal the beaver robes. And yet the Natives were called Savages?

Once the funeral arrangements were complete, they met with Membertou to discuss revenge.

Poniac was his son-in-law, so this was definitely viewed as a challenge, and one he met in his usual take-charge manner. So, in the summer of 1607, spurned on by the presence of the French at Port Royal, Membertou borrowed their shallops and firearms, and led a Viking like raid on his enemies; an easy victory. However, soon his new friends would be forced to vacate the area, and they placed the Chief in charge of the fort in their absense; a duty he did not take lightly.

But he really missed his new allies. The Order of Good Cheer, and impromptu parties and games, helped to pass away the long winters, and since he always held a place of honor, as head of the local government, at their functions; he felt every bit the grand statesman. Now, with them gone, and his enemies breathing down his neck, he felt abandoned and had all but given up on ever seeing them again.

Finally, on a warm day in May, three years after their departure, Membertou and some of his people caught sight of a ship approaching the Bay. Not sure if they were friend or foe, he rallied his men, but his apprehension would turn to joy, when he saw the French Flag, and the chief got into a canoe with his daughter, to greet his old friends.

This time Poitrincourt had along not only his son, Charles, but also his wife; Madame Claudia Pajot de Poitrincourt; several members of the de Salazar family and his nephew; Charles De La Tour; a man who would play a very important role in the history of French-Acadia. Introductions were made all round, and everyone was caught up on the latest news. Poutrincourt informed the natives that Champlain was now looking to colonize Kebec and Marc Lescarbot had returned to the practice of law. After examining the fort, he was pleased to see that nothing had been taken or damaged, and thanked his old friend for his diligence.

From that time on, things would never be the same. The new arrivals were not at all like Champlain or Lescarbot, and though they remained on good terms with Poutrincourt and his son, his family and friends, for the most part, treated them like peasants. The end of an era.

Later, when the Jesuits arrived, they became close. She and her husband respected their simple ways and selfless devotion to her family. On September 18, 1612, Membertou died after returning from a voyage. He was given the last sacrament and gathered his children around, encouraging them to remain loyal to the French, especially Poutrincourt, whom he called his brother and friend. He also told them to follow God and when he died his body was given a Christian burial, despite much opposition.

The Jesuits describe the event:

“Membertou had come from Baye Sainte Marie to have himself treated for a disease which had overtaken him. Father Enemonde Masse had put him in a little cabin, in Father Biard’s bed, and was there taking care of him like a father and servant...one of their greatest hardships was to carry all the wood that was needed for day and night, since it was quite chilly and the fire had to be kept going to eliminate the odour of dysentary, from which Membertou was suffering.

At the end of five or six days of service, Membertou’s wife and daughter came to stay with him...Father Biard begged Sieur de Biencourt to have the invalid moved to one of the empty cabins in the settlement...his cabin was so small that when 3 or 4 persons were in it they could not turn around. Biencourt had one put up where the invalid was taken, but the move seemed to have made him worse....he died a few days later. Membertou told Biencourt that he wished to be buried with his fathers and ancestors, but Father Briard opposed since Membertou was now a Christian and the others in the graves pagans. Membertou relented.”

There is no record of the death of Marie. When Port Royal was burned down by Samuel Argall in 1613, the place would be abandoned, though Charles Biencourt and Charles La Tour remained in the vicinity, trading furs, and living the life of the Natives. She no doubt remarried after the necessary grieving period, and continued to live as her people had for centuries. But she was a real person, with all the hopes and dreams of any mother for her family, and deserves to be remembered for her role in forging relationships with the foreign investors, who made their fur trade so lucrative.