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Etienne Pigarouiche – The Final Chapter

Aug 14, 2017

This is the second part to the story of Etienne Pigarouiche.  Read part 1 here.

Etienne Pigarouiche and his adventures brought him to Sillery, where he devoted his life to the Church and to his people.  Here, he was married to Marguerite Oupitaouabamouku.  He was considered a good neophyte, giving fiery speeches and imploring the people to follow the laws of God and Church.  The Jesuits were highly pleased, being that he was such an influential person in his community, and wrote in 1643, “this year he has given us testimonies of his zeal and virtue as remarkable as ever.”  He was so impassioned with his faith that he would often become involved in matters of the sinfulness of others, and would ensure that punishment was given to those who sinned.  Often, he was more harsh than even the Jesuits in meting out punishments for sin.

When Etienne made the choice to be baptized,  he took the Christian name of “Stephen”.  He preached often about the importance of names, and said that the name of Stephen was even more honourable to him than that of Pigarouiche.  Almost hard to believe, given his coloured history with the Church in the past.  Unfortunately, his own sins of the past and his multiple conversions came back to haunt him.

Sometime after his conversion and baptism, he got himself into some trouble.  While she didn’t specify the type of sin, Marie de l’Incarnation wrote that he committed “a considerable fault against good morals.”.  Perhaps his old ways were re-emerging?  He was treated badly by his people after this point – they felt he was a hypocrite after all his preaching to them of sin and his active participation in the punishment of sinners.  This couldn’t have sat well with Etienne, who was an avid speaker and seems to have really enjoyed the respect and adoration of his people.

His trouble didn’t end there, however.  With his people already angry at him, and the Church somewhat doubtful, he was caught during a trip to Quebec in the company of a concubine.  It was a huge scandal, and it also ended up getting his long-time friend and compatriot, Chief Tessouat, in the same place as he was – hot water.  In the ensuing scandal, Tessouat was denounced for not having done enough to keep Pigarouiche out of trouble and far from sin.  Tessouat was condemned and both men were called apostates and disowned by the Jesuits.

This rejection was believed to be as political as it was religious.  There was a strong rivalry between Quebec and Montreal at this time – they were constantly battling for resources.  The Governer of Quebec, Montmagny, had already taken the matter up with the French King, and the rivalry was being played out in the French court at the time.  Tessouat, being an ally of Montreal, strenghened the position of Montreal and supported the governer there.  The Jesuits were firmly allied with the Quebec governer, and the removal of Tessouat weakened the position of their rivals.

Pigarouiche, banned by both the French and the Natives, attempted to return to his old home in Trois-Rivieres.  There he went to Father Brebeuf begging him to provide him absolution from his sins.  He was flatly refused.

Heartbroken, he travelled back to Montreal, and again attempted to confess his sins.  He found Father Buteux to be willing to accept his confession.  Father Buteux later wrote regarding his impassioned plea that he had “never heard Savage speak better or more boldly than he did in Church in the space of a quarter of an hour.”

After this, the records go basically silent regarding the “apostate” Pigarouiche.  It isn’t known exactly where he settled, but it would be easy to assume that it wasn’t easy for him to find somewhere he and his family would be accepted.  In 1677, he and his wife welcomed the birth of their daughter Marguerite.

Etienne Pigarouiche in many ways was a man beyond his time.  Bold, fiercly outspoken, flambouyant, highly intelligent, and incredibly adaptable.  In many ways, he used the Church, but the Church also used him.  Almost like a bad romance, this relationship created much chaos and hardship for him, but also comfort and peace.  Were his conversions real?  Or was it all part of his elaborate scheming?   We will never now for sure, but his exploits will serve to fascinate and entertain for as long as he is held in memory.