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The Raizenne Legacy

Sep 30, 2016

One fateful winter night in Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1704, a 4 year old girl named Abigail and a ten year old boy named Josiah were awakened in their perspective homes by the sounds of battle and the smell of smoke.  Both children must have been incredibly confused and frightened as their families realized that their village was under attack from enemy forces.  As the raiders moved from home to home, both children were probably guided by their parents and encouraged to hide.  Unfortunately for the colonists at Deerfield, the combined forces of Jean-Baptiste Hertel de Rouville and the Indigenous Tribes that were working with him overwhelmed the militia forces, as well as the reinforcements brought in from other surrounding settlements.  When the long battle was over, 47 were killed, and 112 settlers were taken captive.

Abigail and Josiah were among those captured by the raiding party. Josiah was a guest visiting the village, and his direct family was not there when the raid occurred.  Abigail’s four older siblings were sadly murdered during the raid, but her mother was taken captive with her.  There is no mention of her father.  In the tradition of the War of Mourning, the first Indian who touches a slave becomes their master, and therefore the settlers were distributed amongst the native warriors and removed from the settlement to their rally point.

The terrified captives were herded to a site about a mile from the camp, and from there, they were forced to march over 300 miles (480 kms) through the brutal winter conditions.  Many of the settlers were ill-prepared, and although they were provided with snowshoes to help navigate the deep snow, they were difficult to use, and the Indians quickly killed those who clearly couldn’t keep up.  With harsh weather and tight rations, even one sickly person could slow down their arduous journey.  During this time, Abigail’s mother was killed by her captor.  The stories claim that she fell into a creek, and unfortunately became ill and started trailing behind fairly early on in the trip.  With the death of her mother, poor little Abigail was all alone.    However, she was very fortunate – her master was a kind man who was reported to have carried her most of the way.   There is no information about Josiah’s trip, but it was obviously very difficult.  Scared, alone, suffering the effects of malnourishment and frigid temperatures, many of the other young children died on the journey.

The raiding party and their captives travelled up the frozen Connecticut River, up Wells River, down the Winooski River to Lake Champlain and made their way to Chambley.  It was from here that most of the force dispersed to their villages and homes, taking their slaves with them.  Of the 112 settlers captured, only 89 arrived alive to start their new lives as slaves.

Abigail was taken by her master, believed to be Haronhiateka, Chief of the Bear Clan of Sault au Recollet,   to La Mission de la Montagne to live in the longhouse of Ganastarsie.  Ganastarsie was probably the wife or the mother of Abigail’s benevolent captor and would have been the head of the household.  There, Abigail would serve the longhouse doing the work of the women and whatever chores were given to her by the family.  In two ceremonies, she’s given two new names.  Her Christian/Catholic name was declared to be Marie-Elizabeth Nims with a Catholic baptism.  Her native name was also given to her, Touatogouachi, loosely translated as “she who gets the water”.  She lived much of her young life growing up in the longhouse of Ganastarsie, most likely starting out doing tasks as her name suggests – hauling water, cleaning, and tending the small children.

Josiah was taken somewhere else upon dispersal of forces from Chambly to a facility called Fort Lorette.   Built in 1696, this Aboriginal mission and military installment is where many captives ended up after raids, especially those from the English colonies.  Not much is known about Josiah’s time here, but stories told by other children relay the need for captives to very quickly adapt to their new surroundings, language, and culture, or face ridicule from the community.  He also received two new names.  His Christian/Catholic name was declared as Ignace Raizenne at his Catholic baptism– a tribute to St. Ignace.  The native name given to him was Shoentakouani, meaning “his village has been taken from him”.

Both children lived with their Iroquois families for years, becoming fluent in both the French and Iroquois languages, and fully integrating in their new society.   When Josiah was 20, a relative offered to redeem him, paying a ransom in order to have him returned home.  Josiah flatly refused to leave his new life.  Abigail’s family also attempted to redeem her when she was 14.  She, like Josiah, also refused to leave her adoptive home.  By 1713 slavery came to an end with the war, and Abigail and Josiah were free to follow their own paths.  When Josiah was 21 and Abigail was 15, they married at the Chapel of Fort Lorette and settled down, staying at the mission with the priests and their Indian families.

In 1721, The Sulpician Native mission was given land in Lac-des-Deux mountains in Oka, and the entire settlement had to make the walk to their new home in showshoes, dragging items on toboggans through the deep snow.  By this time, Abigail and Josiah had been married for several years and they had three small children.  They were granted a large estate by the church and settled in to become prosperous “cultivateurs”, or farmers, and an important part of the Mission community.  They called their new homestead  ”Risingland”, and the family and subsequent generations would live there for over 200 years.

The Raizennes had 8 children in total.  Marie-Anne, Marie Catherine, Anastasie Charlotte, Marie Madeleine, Suzanne, Simon Amable, Jean-Baptiste-Jerome, and Marie.    They were fairly affluent, as they were able to scrape together sufficient money to send their son, Simon Amable, to school at the Sulpician seminary in Montreal and to enter him into the Priesthood in 1744.  They also came up with the requisite dowry required to enable 2 of their daughters, Marie, and Marie-Madeline to become congregation Soeurs (or Nuns).  Marie (who took the name of Sister St. Ignace) actually went on to become the Mother Superior of the local congregation.  This was a huge responsibility, as the Mother Superior was not only responsible for the spiritual well-being of the community, but was responsible for the overall management of the church institution and presided over all community administrative bodies.  She possessed many privileges, and was the only person in the congregation who had the ability to correspond with the major political and religious figures of the day.

Two of their other daughters, Marie-Catherine and Marie-Anne went on to marry brothers.  Marie-Catherine married Jean-Baptiste Seguin, and Marie-Anne married Louis Seguin. Louis Seguin was a rather important figure from a well-known French founding family.  His grandfather was Francois Seguin dit Laderoute, the first Seguin to settle in New France.  It’s said that the legacy of Francois Seguin is responsible for more than 95% of the instances of the Seguin surname in America.  Louis himself was an army major, the commander of the fort at Oka, and captain of the Militia.  He must have seemed very exciting to the young Marie-Anne.  His position provided great affluence – stories say that Louis had four servants, which was very rare at the time.  He and Marie-Anne went on to have 15 children together.  In the fall of 1752, Louis permanently left Oka to stay with his family at Concession #49, above Grand-Detroit.  This is where the community of Hudson is located.

The legacy of Louis and Marie-Anne, and by extension the Raizenne Métis family, continued as several of their children had families of 10 children or more.  Many of these children became important figures in their own right in their communities, churches, and villages.  All of them are part of the incredible Métis Legacy in Eastern Canada, and their progeny can be found in many Métis genealogies to this day.

If you missed Part 1, please read it here.