An imagining (@1931) of the early (@1640) Ursuline nuns with their Indian students. MIKAN 2895625
I found a squaw in the family. My Nanny always said that her great uncle married one, but the one I found was in the seventeenth, not the nineteenth century.
Her name is Marie Gonnetenre and she was Oneida.
I love that I can say her name and not just refer to her anonymously as a slur.
I am aware of few documents that can tell me anything about her life. I know her husband was born French but lived Oneida. This began on 10 June 1653, when it is noted in the Jesuit Relations (volume 38) that:
The Iroquois having appeared at Cap Rouge, kill Francois Boule, having pierced him with three gunshots, — in the stomach, in the groin, and in the thigh, — and having removed half of his scalp…. Besides, the lead away alive Pierre Garman, called “Le Picard,” and his son, Charles, 8-years-old; also a young man, Hugues Le Cousturier, of 23 years. They crossed the river again in five canoes.
Charles Gareman’s baptism is recorded at Trois Rivieres on March 27, 1643. He had three older sisters . The two born in France both named a son Charles after his disappearance. Florence (Boucher) in 1658 and Nicole (Mezere) in 1672. The youngest, Marguerite (Trut), only bore girls. I assume this means he was missed and not forgotten.
But Charles didn’t come back until 1677 when he and Marie Gonnetenre baptized their daughter, Louise on June 14th. This is the record that provides so much for the imagination.
But before I get to that, there is one more record, and one last known fact: Louise was buried on September 7, 1683 as a ward of the Ursalines in Quebec.
It is this latter record that suggests that Charles and Marie and left her behind with the Ursalines for raising. But why?
All sorts of things are possible: Charles and Marie had died, Charles and Marie were about to die, or Charles and Marie went on to live long lives in Pays-d’en-haut (the upper country where the French traded but rarely lived.)
When I first saw Louise’s baptism, I thought Charles wanted a Christian upbringing for his child, that maybe he had come home for a family reunion. But now I think it is more likely that he wasn’t interested in returning as much as the French were interested in his return. After all, it took him 24 years to show up.
And I think he did show up, even though there is no wording to say that he was present at his daughter’s baptism. I believe this mostly because in the baptismal record he is recorded as Charles Gareman dit Gannonchiase. Gannonchiase, his Oneida name, is not listed on the burial record. Therefore I imagine he was present for the first event and had a chance to represent himself.
And then my heart breaks. I can’t imagine bringing a child to Quebec and leaving her behind. But I imagine the French were thrilled to have her. They were always on the lookout for conversion successes — and what better candidate than a boy who did not come back’s daughter.
Drouin Institute records. Notre Dame de Quebec, 14 June 1677.
And then I wonder about coercion. I wonder if the donation of this child was the price Gannonchiase and Gonnetenre had to pay for his continued freedom to live in Oneida country. I am not sure that the couple valued Christianity because Marie is referred to as a sauvagesse not indienne — and this might indicate that she is not Christian like the name Marie (the most generic of all Christian women’s names, literally most women had this as a first name) suggests.
I also wonder if sacrificing their daughter was the cost of their freedom because Louise’s godfather is none other than the governor of New France (1672-1682, and again 1689-1698), Louis de Buade de Frontenac.
Now maybe my imagination has run away with me, maybe sauvagesse and indienne are synonyms, and maybe the governor was the symbolic godfather to all native daughters entering the Ursaline’s care. I haven’t seen enough similar but unrelated documents to judge the pattern yet.
But on this Columbus Day my mind is wandering with Gannonchiase and Gonnetenre.