Category Archives for Writing

Who were Marie Sophie Henault-Canada’s parents?

Who were Marie Sophie Henault-Canada’s parents?

My struggle answering this question typifies the trouble I’ve had researching all of my First Nation ancestors. See my stories about St. Anne and Louis Riel .

It’s clear that my four-times great grandmother Marie Sophie (or Séraphie) Henault-Canada was born in the Red River Settlement on April 6, 1818, to parents Marie and Charles Henault-Canada. But who was her father and where did he come from? And who was her mother?

According to notes left to me by my grandmother, Sophie was born to Marie Gris, who was born in an unidentified location on October 30, 1802, and Charles Henault-Canada, who was born in 1793 in Berthier, Quebec. I haven’t been able to find records of his birth in Quebec, so I’m not sure whether that information is accurate.

In fact, it’s hard to confirm any of the information because the documents I’ve found so far seem to conflict and some information can’t be confirmed.

The 1870 Manitoba Census shows a Manitoba-based location in which Sophie was born that looks a bit like “territorial something,” that could refer to the Red River Settlement. In that document, Marie is listed as “Marie Henault” and she appears next to her husband, Charles Henault. Marie, Charles and Sophie are all described as French-speaking Catholic Métis.[1]

Marie and Charles both have 1810 listed as their birthdates in the 1870 Manitoba Census, a rather extraordinary coincidence I think.  Marie Hénault is listed in the 1870 Manitoba Census as 60 years old, however, so the birthdate for her might be correct. If it is, a different Marie may have been Sophie’s mother.

A Hudson Bay Company Census conducted the same year[2] doesn’t list a Marie Henault, but it does show Marie Gris living on a farm on lot 8 in Pointe-des-Chênes with her daughter, granddaughter and another woman and her child. A second house on the same lot is home to Sophie’s aunt Catherine and her husband Francois Ducharme.[3]

Her older daughter Sophie was married to Dominique Ducharme-Charron by then. The couple was living on lot 27 with four of their children Johnny 19, Roger 17, Joseph 13 and Marie, 12.[4]

The Hudson Bay Census also lists Sophie’s father, Charles Henault/ Heneault/ Haineault/ Henault dit Canada/ Enaud dit Canada/ Enaud/ Enault “Métis, born 1810; farmer in his life time” as dead, although the document doesn’t say when exactly he died. My grandmother doesn’t show a date for that either. Perhaps he died that very year, 1870?

The date 1810 next to Charles’ name might refer to the date he arrived in the Red River Settlement rather than his birthdate. He may have come from elsewhere to Manitoba to work for the North West Company Fort Gibraltar trading post, which was set up in 1809.  Or maybe it’s correct because my grandmother also shows his father, Pierre Énault-Canada as born in Berthier on August 9, 1730, which would be possible if his son were born in 1810. She shows his father as another Pierre Énault-Canada and his mother as Marguerite Piette-Tremp, whose parents and grandparents are all identified, though with no dates.

Hall’s appendix gives me access to two other potential ancestors beyond my grandmother’s notes. Her father was a Cree man named Thomas Gris and her mother was Marie Nepissing. Then again, if this Marie is not Sophie’s mother, they are not my ancestors.

Guess I have a bit of work to do.

 

[1] Canada, L. A. (2016, June 23). 1870 Census of Manitoba. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1870/pdf/e010985547.pdf.

[2] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.

[3] The 1870 Manitoba Census identifies Catherine and Francois living in St. Anne as Métis, French-speaking and Catholic. It also shows Catherine’s father as Charles Henault, lines 126, 127, p231,5. The information was collected on October 27, 1870, and residence was established as of July 16, 1870.

[4]http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1870/pdf/e010985551.pdf

 

Continue reading

Honouring the slave who raised him

Due to an unfortunate health problem, Pulitzer prize–winning reporter Alex Tizon died three months before “My Family’s Slave,” his incredible tale about Eudocia Tomas Pulido, appeared on the cover of the June issue of the Atlantic Magazine.

We called her Lola,” wrote Tizon. “She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine—my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding.”

Had he lived to tour and answer questions about his experience, Tizon might have prompted an even bigger discussion about modern slavery in North American than his article set off.

A Story of Mutual Dependence and Love

“My Family’s Slave” details Tizon’s complicated relationship with his nanny and household maid. Initially, Lola was trapped due to decisions made by his mother and grandfather. After Alex became responsible for Lola, he tried to free her, but by then, she didn’t have anywhere else to go. He paid to send her back home to the Philippines, but she returned to his household soon after saying she no longer fit in with the few people still alive in her hometown.

It’s hard not to wonder how many similar situations exist across North America.

When he came to us with the enthralling, vexing story of his immigrant family and its terrible secret, we recognized that this was the sort of journalism The Atlantic has practiced since its inception,” wrote editor Jeffrey Goldberg, in a companion article to the piece. “The magazine was founded in 1857 by a group of New England abolitionists eager to advance the cause of universal freedom. When I first read a draft of Alex’s piece, I imagined that the founders—people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Harriet Beecher Stowe—would not have believed that 154 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, humans would still be enslaving other humans, in America and across the planet. The eradication of all forms of slavery remains an unfinished goal of civilization, and of this magazine, and stories like Alex’s help us understand slavery’s awful persistence.”

A structure that weaves through time and place

Tizon’s story follows a complicated structure that weaves four storylines together. One storyline follows the author’s journey as he carries Lola’s ashes to her birthplace outside of Manilla, told in the order in which it took place in narrative fashion, complete with flashbacks to previous visits to the region. A second storyline outlines the history of slavery as an institution from modern times dating back to some time prior to the 1500s. Another storyline highlights the history of the Tarlac Province and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. The main storyline connects each of the other three by describing Lola’s service to Tizon’s family, highlighting key moments of connection, cruelty and turmoil.

We landed in Los Angeles on May 12, 1964, all our belongings in cardboard boxes tied with rope. Lola had been with my mother for 21 years by then. In many ways, she was more of a parent to me than either my mother or my father. Hers was the first face I saw in the morning and the last one I saw at night. As a baby, I uttered Lola’s name (which I first pronounced “Oh-ah”) long before I learned to say “Mom” or “Dad.” As a toddler, I refused to go to sleep unless Lola was holding me, or at least nearby.”

Classic Feature Style

Like most of the stories in The Atlantic, “my family’s slave” represents exquisite long-form journalism. No errors appear in the text and each sentence flows easily from the one it follows.

I highly recommend My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon , The Atlantic, May 15, 2017,  accessed April 2, 2018.

Continue reading

Can Sherry Simon understand cities by studying language?

Earlier this year, I attended a bilingual lunchtime discussion led by Sherry Simon about power struggles in multilingual cities at McGill’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Montreal.

As Keynote speaker, Simon, a Professor in Concordia’s French Department presented a collection of stories she edited within a book called “Speaking Memory: How Translation Shapes City Life.”

Even though this book is a collective, it is a result of my obsession with Montreal and with Montreal-like cities which I’ve studied over the last ten or more years,” she said. “It all started in the early 1990s in my neighbourhood, which is Mile-End, when I became aware that the day-to-day life in my neighbourhood, the way languages were handled, the way people thought, the way identities were construed were diametrically opposed to what I was hearing on the radio and what I was reading in the newspapers. That was a shock.”

My focus was a profile for the February issue of the Montrealer, but Simon’s work is so fascinating, I decided to present our conversation in this podcast as well.

Sherry Simon’s Diverse Career

As a Jewish Anglophone who grew up in Snowdon, went to school in Westmount and spent much of her life integrating into Montreal’s Francophone culture, Simon knows how it feels to be an outsider. Unlike many of us, however, she has used her minority status as a strength in understanding and explaining changing identities.  She is one of the few Anglophones I’ve met who speaks about the French and English dichotomy in Quebec from a position in which she absolutely believes that it is vitally important to keep the French language dominant in the city. Despite not agreeing with her, I couldn’t help but recognize how well-considered her opinion is.

Simon is currently a professor in the French Department at Concordia University and author of “Genders in Translation,” “Cities in Translation,” and “Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City” in addition to “Speaking Memory.”

 

What some people see as a disadvantage I turned into an advantage,” she said. “I remember that very existential sense that I had as a kid when I took the bus across town and felt unwelcome. Bilingualism in Montreal affects everything that we are. Culture is constantly being transferred back and forth.”

Simon was born on April 16, 1948. The Royal Society of Canada and of the Académie des lettres du Québec count her as a member. In 2009 she was a Killam Research Fellow and in 2010 she received the Prix André-Laurendeau from l’Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS).

During our conversation, we discuss the bonjour/hi controversy,  Quebec’s influence on France when it comes to gender,  the improvement in Francophone pride in their own identity, and the removal of gender from Canada’s national anthem.

This is a change that is long overdue,” says Simon. “Language regularly changes. This is totally normal and fundamental. It’s absolutely essential that people recognize themselves in the language they use.”

A fascinating part of our conversation for me was our discussion about Montreal’s fundamental shit from English to French between 1940 and 1980.

People don’t realize that what was happening on the French side of town was exciting to a whole group of Anglos at the time,” said Simon. “My favourite character of that time was Malcolm Reid, a journalist in the 70’s who wrote about Francophone Montreal. He wrote this wonderful book about the Shouting Sign Painters. It’s a fabulous book about how the poets and songwriters were transferring the identity of the city and how exciting that was for English Montrealers to watch.”

Sherry Simon’s next book will be a tourist guidebook to polyglot places.

Once my Montrealer profile is online, I’ll link to it, but in the meantime, I highly recommend that readers who understand French watch Simon’s bilingual speech called “The Flow of Languages, the Grace of Cultures.”

 

 

 

Continue reading

Manon Barbe Profile on Page 1

My profile of longtime LaSalle borough mayor Manon Barbe appears on page 1 of yesterday’s (March 14) City Edition of the Suburban.

Barbe is a great example of a successful political leader who has broken many glass ceilings over the years through dedicated service, gumption and persistence. I don’t agree with all the positions she holds on issues, but her ability to make decisions and stand by them is admirable. She also works hard. I’ve seen her personally wait tables to serve veterans their lunch at LaSalle Legion events.

 

Continue reading

Ste. Anne’s First Nation Heritage

Can the trajectory of Canada’s development be shown in miniature by looking at the life of a small community on the shores of the Seine River between Winnipeg, Manitoba and Grand Forks, North Dakota?

I hope so because the twists and turns in the nature of the town offer me hints about who my ancestors were and how they lived during a crucial period in the history of our country.

The town, which is now known as Ste. Anne, has served as a haven for Aboriginal, Métis, French, Immigrant, and Catholic peoples over the years. It changed its name to match the most important value held by a majority of its settlers and has been known as Oak Point, Pointe-des-Chênes, St. Alexandre, Ste.-Anne, Sainte-Anne-Pointe-des-Chênes and Ste.-Anne des Chênes.

I’m curious about the place because a family tree my grandmother left me says that my four-times great grandmother Marie Sophie (or Séraphie) Henault-Canada was born and died there. I haven’t found anything to confirm her data, but the 1870 Manitoba Census shows Sophie and her husband farming in the community. It also indicates Charles Enault was her father.[1] The Hudson Bay Company Archives show Charles Henault being in the community as of 1810.[2]

Ste. Anne’s location between the boreal forests of the Canadian Shield and the flat plains of the Red River always made it prime real estate for settlement. Nomads sought good hunting grounds and shelter from high winds close to the era’s key transportation infrastructure along the river and via trails. Later, the plains made for good year-round farming sheltered by high oak. Eventually, the area attracted entrepreneurs and became a bustling pioneer town. Gathering settlers attracted Catholic missionaries who turned the town into a full-blown Catholic parish. Today, the same community sits at the junction of two major highways and has become a suburban community of Winnipeg.

Sophie’s birth on April 6, 1818 may have taken place within a local First Nation. I’ve found traces of several in the area, including the Rouseau River Band, the Oak Point First Nation, the Saultaux First Nation and the Upper Fort Garry First Nation.[3]

It’s also possible that her father was a Voyageur who came to the area from another First Nation elsewhere in North America.

Her father and mother may also have been among Métis settlers known to winter in the area during that period.

As early as 1820, Métis families were wintering at Pointe-des-Chênes, southeast of St. Boniface on the Seine River. The area had a mix of mature forest and grasslands suitable for farming. The large oak groves served as a source of income for the settlers — lumber cut in the parish in 1820 was used for building a large chapel at St. Boniface.[4]

A combination of forests and plains enabled the family to pasture farmed livestock, cut timber for building materials and fuel, and hunt wild game.[5]

Scottish settlers who came under Lord Selkirk’s Red River Settlement plan were attracted by similar amenities, with many establishing farms and businesses in the region during Sophie’s childhood. Métis workers set up local farms after losing their jobs when the North Western and Hudson Bay companies merged in 1821.

Over the next thirty years, the lifestyles of the settlers and First Nations began to clash. By 1852, Oak Point settlers and the chief of the local First Nation, Saulteaux Chief Na-sa-kee-by-ness/ Na-sha-ke-penais/ ‘Flying Down Bird’/ Grandes Oreilles (son of Les Grandes Oreilles) had negotiated a treaty so that First Nations groups would move out of the area.[6]

My ancestors stayed put and continued to farm as the town grew rapidly. By 1856, when the Government of Canada chose to purchase Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, it boasted a trading post, hotel, general store and jail.

The St. Alexander chapel opened in 1861 and began attracting Catholics. In the following decade, the town became the parish of Sainte Anne to attract additional settlers.

Still, my ancestors stayed and continued farming. The 1870 Hudson Bay Census shows Sophie and her husband Dominique Ducharme-Charron living on lot 27 with four of their children Johnny 19, Roger 17, Joseph 13 and Marie, 12. [7]

During the 1870s, Ste. Anne served as a stopover for travellers on their journey to Winnipeg along the famed Dawson Trail, a path linking Northern Ontario and the Red River Settlement. It was so heavily developed by 1881, Dominion surveyors maintained its traditional French-style long river-side lots instead of breaking it up into square lots.

If my grandmothers’ notes are accurate, Sophie died in Sainte Anne in 1882 at the age of 64 years, five months and ten days.

Today, 2,114 people live in her community and the land she once farmed has been paved over by the #12 and Trans Canada highways.

 

 

[1]1870 Census Of Manitoba, Library and Archives Canada – https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1870/Pages/1870.aspx

[2] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.

[3]Barkwell, Lawrence J. “The Métis First Nation Band at Upper Fort Garry,” February 14, 2017, Louis Riel Institute, Manitoba,  https://www.scribd.com/document/337524184/The-Metis-First-Nation-Band-at-Upper-Fort-Garry, accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

[4] Hall, Norma J. Provissional Government of Assiniboia, Ste-Anne, https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/resources/definition-provisional-government/the-people-electorate/ste-anne/, accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

[5] https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/hrb/internal_reports/pdfs/crow_wing_settlement_groups.pdf, accessed Feb 26, 2018

[6] Hall, N. J. (2015, March 15). Ste.-Anne/ Point des Chêne/ Sainte-Anne-Pointe-des-Chênes/ Ste.-Anne des Chênes/ Oak Point/ St. Alexandre. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/resources/definition-provisional-government/the-people-electorate/ste-anne/

[7] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.

Continue reading
1 2 3 38