The Life And Times of Catherine Annennontak

The Life And Times of Catherine Annennontak

In the year 1649, a little girl named Catherine Annennontak was born into an extremely dangerous and tumultuous world. She was born during the height of the Iroquois Wars, also known as the Beaver Wars, and it was a critical time for her people, the Huron. This series of conflicts involved the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy), as well as other Iroquois groups and French colonial forces and allies. This war shaped the course of many Native peoples, and has significant importance to the world Catherine lived in.

Conventional colonial history sets up the “Beaver Wars” as simply a war about the fur trade. With the use of guns by the Natives, provided by colonists in exchange for furs, the beaver populations dropped quickly and significantly. Since beaver pelts were essentially the currency of the new world for the Natives, this lack posed a very real problem for the future of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Other native groups, such as the Hurons and Algonquins further north, had access to better quality furs and a larger beaver population. This was not, however, the only factor feeding into these horrible conflicts. Many of the native groups had been divided into factions as their contact with colonists, and most especially the Jesuits and religion, increased. The northern tribes were most especially afflicted, with the French colonists and Jesuit missions providing guns to those who converted to Catholicism. Some of the guns that these people received are significantly different from the ones they may have been handed in this day and age. To take them back to those times, people who like to collect guns or enjoy learning about them may decide to read something like this “Schwarzlose Followup and the more things change” article to find out about the different designs of guns that once graced the market. In that time, guns made up a huge part of its history. The Iroquois tribes had less requirements from their English and Dutch trading partners to convert to their religion, and still experienced some division, but markedly less than their Northern neighbours. The Hurons, with the influence of the Jesuits and the temptation of firearms, were extremely divided. This created two factions; the Christian converts, who had come to rely more and more on French goods and embraced Christianity, and the traditionalists, who didn’t want to convert and tried to retain their way of life. These factions created a fractured community, and eventually the converts left and went to live closer to the Jesuits, leaving their traditionalist family members behind.

Antique gun of the type traded to natives.
Guns similar to this would have been traded to the Natives in exchange for furs, and in some cases, religious conversion.

Further, all the Native groups at the time were plagued with illnesses introduced into their populations by Europeans. It’s estimated that within a 6 year period, these diseases wiped out 50% of the Native population. Due to travel and trade, these diseases even affected populations that had not yet had European contact. This drastic reduction in population greatly affected all these groups, with the large reduction in numbers making them more vulnerable in general. In the case of the Huron traditionalists, they believed that these illnesses were a form of retribution for the betrayal of their culture and conversions to Christianity, further fueling division amongst their people and reducing family groups. By the time young Catherine was born, these divisions were quite strong and had done much damage.

Catherine’s father was Nicolas Arendanki. A distinguished Chieftan of the Bear Clan who had converted to Christianity early. His wife, and Catherine’s mother, Jeanne Otrihoandet was also of the powerful Bear Clan. This powerhouse couple were part of the Wyandot Hurons. The main territory of the Hurons was referred to by the Europeans as “Huronia”, but the Huron people themselves called it Wendake. In the height of the Iroquois wars, this area was under regular attack, and it was during one of these attacks Nicolas was killed defending his home and people. They were horribly outnumbered, and the Iroquois slaughtered the Wyandot Huron people.

Among those that survived was Nicholas’s wife, Jeanne, who fled with a small contigent of survivors with Catherine strapped to her back. One can only imagine them living constantly on the edge of terror, hunger, and cold. Relentlessly pursued by the Iroquois bent on their destruction, the survivors paddled their birch-bark canoes through enemy territory always under threat of attack. Their route of escape was 1,500 miles across many different and difficult types of terrain and weather. They finally arrived at the Fortress city of Quebec. It’s easy to imagine how relieved Jeanne would have been to have made it to safety with her young daughter through such a harrowing experience. Catherine and her mother were settled on the nearby Ile d’Orleans along with many of the other survivors. For the moment, they were safe.

Their solace wasn’t meant to last, though, and when Catherine was five years old, her mother died tragically from a fever. All of a sudden, little Catherine was an orphan. The young girl was taken to the Ursuline convent in Quebec City to be raised by the catholic nuns there. She was the ward of the Venerable Mere Marie de L’Incarnation, and was apparently quite a favorite in her new home. She was so pretty she was referred to as “Belle Fleur de Bois” (Beautiful Flower of the Woods). Catherine became the protoge of Madame de la Peltrie, the founder of the Ursulines in Quebec, and recieved an excellent education. Francois de Laval, the first Bishop of Canada, arrived in June of 1659 to begin his own missions there. He was at the Ursuline convent and administered the sacrament to a number of young women there. Catherine was among this number. Despite the loss of her parents, Catherine’s life was full.

During this time period, it was somewhat difficult to convince colonists to come from France to the new World. It was a hard life, and many people were daunted by the prospects of moving to an untamed wilderness. However, the French government managed to convince some young men to take service contracts for 3 year periods to come to Canada and serve as colonists – doing whatever work was needed. Hunting, fishing, lumbering were all a part of this service, as was a period of service in the local militia. With France embroiled in it’s own wars on the European front, they could not sent military to defend the colonies. These contractors helped to keep the forts supplied and defended.

Marriage record of Catherine and Jean Durand

One such colonist was Jean Durand. Born the son of Louis and Medleine Malvand in France, 1640, he signed a contract as an “enlistee” to come to the new world and help build the colonies. While there, he served successfully with the militia, and was even engaged to a “King’s Daughter” by the name of Marie Fayette. They mutually ended the engagement, and Jean’s eye was caught by the beautiful “Fleur”, Catherine. In 1662, Jean Durand entered a contract with Charles Gautier in Cap Rouge to lease land. The rights to the land included tillable acreage, fishing rights, and timber rights. It was also part of the contract that he would provide 15,000 pounds of eel annually to Mr. Gautier. Eel was a main food staple of the colonists at the time as it was plentiful, easy to catch, and nutritous.

On September 23, 1662, Catherine and Jean were wed at Quebec City with many friends and officials present for the ceremony. Surely, the happy couple established themselves in Jean’s contracted plot, working the land and waiting for the blessing of children. Blessed they were indeed, and their marriage produced three children. A daughter, named Marie, and two boys, Ignace and Louis.

Sadly, tragedy struck nearly 10 short years later, and in 1672, Jean suddenly dies, leaving Catherine a young widow with three young children to care for. It was an extremely dangerous time for a woman and her children to be on their own without a man to protect them. With this in mind, Catherine forgoes the normal mourning period for her first husband and chooses her second husband, Jacques Couturier. Jacques was a 26 year old Norman French bachelor. The couple were married in Quebec city on June 26, 1672.

Catherine’s second marriage produced 6 children; Charles, Genevieve, Denis dit Joseph, Jean-Francois and Jacques and Catherine both of whom died in infancy. While these children were growing up, the children of her first marriage were quickly maturing. The boys, Ignace and Louis became voyageurs and coureurs de bois (woodland runners/guides). Marie, the oldest daughter, married a voyageur. Things seemed to be settling down for the family.

Marriage Record of Catherine and Jacques

Unfortunately, once again, fate had a sad twist in mind for Catherine. At the age of 31 years old, her second husband Jacques also passed away, succumbing to an epidemic of measles. It’s estimated that 1/8 of the French population (over 1400 people) died in this same epidemic.

Death Record of Catherine Annennontakhed

It’s almost certain that this loss had a profound effect on Catherine. She stayed alone for ten years. Perhaps it was loneliness, or perhaps he was very special, but for a third time, Catherine married a third time. Her third husband, Jean de Lafond was a widower. He brought along with him his remaining dependant children from his own 8, and together they raised them all and watched Catherine’s children grow and marry. It is interesting to note that Catherine signed herself as Catherine Durant on the marriage contract to Jean, and as Annennontak in the civil register.


Shortly after this marriage, two of Catherine’s adult sons died. She and Jean de Lafond had no children together. Catherine herself died of yellow fever in January of 1709 in Batiscan, Quebec.
Many Metis families can trace their lineage back to Catherine Annennontak. These families also include several Cajun mixed-blood groups. One Cajun family even claims to have artifacts that have been handed down to them from Catherine, and speak of her in their family legends and stories. Regardless of the truth in these claims, the power of Catherine’s memory and legacy is still powerful even 400 years later.


Native American Daughters – Catherine Annenontak—Faith-Healer—Part-II

28 thoughts on “The Life And Times of Catherine Annennontak

  1. My families story is almost the same we come from the beaver war era and our families can show our heritage .Why aren’t all the metis from Quebec the same , some have national rights and some don’t.thank you for your story it helps to know more of the people you came from.

  2. I am also a descendant of Catherine. My family had stories passed down about her still to this day of her hunting for bear with her son because her husband had died.

    1. I would love to hear more of your stories. I am a 9th generation descendent of Catherine through the Durand family who later settled in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Durands are descended from Jean Durand, her first husband.

    2. 2020 my name is yvan morais an also a decendant of catherine am 63 an only now i learn of all this in calgary alberta now for last 42 yrs after serving in the armee woooooo so amazing sstorys

  3. I recently discovered my family are descendants of Katherine. Her daughter, Marie married Mathurin Cadotte which leads into our family line of Ojibwe, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewas. It was amazing to find out our Ojibwe line includes Huron.

    1. Hi Matt. We are related! I also come from the Cadotte family lineage. My Great Grandmother was the last of the Cadotte’s (Jeanne D’Ark Cadotte). All born in Quebec right up to my mother. (Sudbury, Ontario)
      Who do you branch off from? Wondering how closely related we are.
      SO interesting!

  4. I come directly from Julia LaDouceur who married Pierre Vaillancourt (Peter vancour) in Sheldon VT. in 1840. Julia is a direct descendant from Nicholas Annenontak on her mother’s side. I am about a 1/50th of 1% Huron Indian.
    Frank Nocera

  5. Hello cousins!

    I am a descendant of Catherine and her first husband Louis Durand. There is a lady in New Orleans who claims to have Catherine’s artifacts, including a wampum. She is a healer and has a webpage but her name escapes me at this time. If you google it I’m sure it will come up. She also makes paintings of Catherine and her mother. We found Catherine on a family tree that my mother gave to us, compiled by a cousin in New York who was able to research our French/Canadian roots back to 1500s. It is interesting to note that Huran is a derogatory term the French gave them. I have heard they prefer Wendat.

    1. !!! That is the coolest thing ever, I just visited NOLA this past November. I also descend from Catherine (her 2nd marriage with Jacques Courturier via their daughter Marie Genevieve)– I tried googling this lady you speak of that has artifacts & paints portraits, but nothing came up. I wish I knew that when I was in New Orleans, I would have specifically sought her out! If you have anything I would really be interested in seeing it! If you have any cool details please shoot me an email 🙂 Thanks cousin! Cherie

    2. !!! That is the coolest thing ever, I just visited NOLA this past November. I also descend from Catherine (her 2nd marriage with Jacques Courturier via their daughter Marie Genevieve)– I tried googling this lady you speak of that has artifacts & paints portraits, but nothing came up. I wish I knew that when I was in New Orleans, I would have specifically sought her out! If you have anything I would really be interested in seeing it! If you have any cool details please shoot me an email 🙂 Thanks cousin!

    3. Hi! I’d love to know more, I’m going to New Orleans in a few weeks and am a descendant of the inspiring Catherine, would love to see some artwork inspired by her. Do you happen to remember this healer’s name? Thank you!

    4. Sonya:

      I am also a descendant of Catherine and Jean Durand through their son Louis. I’d love to hear more about the family in NY. There is a Durand (town) in Michigan that’s named after a Congressman George Durand, who was originally from Cobbleskill, NY. Is that connected to you? My family came down from Canada to Fall River, Massachusetts in the late 1860/early 1870s.

      Is this the woman you referenced?

    5. Catherine’s first husband was Jean dit la fortune Durand. He married her when she was either 13 or 15. They had children named Ignace, Marie, and Louis. I descend from Jean through Louis and almost a dozen generations. My family lives in the midwest of the U.S. We started a foundation to collect family stories: Durand Heritage Foundation. Our website is We publish a newsletter; I’m researching Catherine for an article I’m writing. I’m very interested in finding out more about her from the woman in New Orleans. If you think of any more information about her, please let me know. Thanks!
      P.S. I’m very proud to be a member of the Bear Clan.

  6. Pierre marois
    Descendant de la ligne direct du chef Nicolas Arendaki Annenontak et de sa fille Catherine Annenontak épouse de louis durant fier d’être indien , et Metis du Québec et fier , L’ame de ma famille je dit un beau salut a toutes mes cousin que je ne connais pas et fier de qui je suis grâce a mes ancestres , arbre de la vie pousse ou est enseveli ma grand mère est un chêne de plus de 50 ans.
    Mon arrière grand mère d’une nation huron , crie ,Ojibwe , et wampum ,et Sioux je viens d’une grande nation et fIer de qui je suis .

    Descendant of the direct line of the leader Nicolas Arendaki Annenontak and his daughter Catherine Annenontak wife of louis during proud of being Indian, and Metis of Quebec and proud, The soul of my family I say a beautiful salute to all my cousins that I do not know and proud of who I am thanks to my ancestres, tree of life grows or is buried my grandmother is an oak of more than 50 years.
    My great grandmother of a Huron nation, screams, Ojibwe, and wampum, and Sioux I come from a great nation and fIer of who I am

    1. salut pierre …..mon nom est yvan morais jais 63 ans je viens just dapprendre que je suis direct decendant de catherine et son premier maris jait toujour sentis que jetait metis je demeure a calgary depuis 1978 servit avec larmee depuit mon depart darmee ma famille adoptive est des lambert ill mon accepter dans leur come un de leux leur…..jaimerais que tu peuve me contactersi possible salut a toute mes cousin/ cousinne

  7. I’m also a descendant of Catherine Anenonta Annennontak Amenontha Arendaki and John Durand through there son Louis Durand. My Great Grandmother was Emma Durand. It’s nice to read the comments from each one and to call you all cousin’s. My Grandfather Bourgeois’s family originated from the Acadians and Micmac people who were from Port Royal at that time. They ended up in St. Malo Manitoba which is a Metis community. Grandfather Albert Bourgeois and Grandmother Emma Durand lived in Rainy River Ontario and had an old homestead there. If any of my cousin’s would like to correspond with me I’m on Facebook under Carla Macdonald.

    1. Our family on my mothers side, the Doucet’s (Doucette) are also related to Catherine in our genealogy. I can’t wait to learn more about our heritage!

    2. Hi all, direct descendant of Catherine Anenontak and Jean Durand. Reading this article and your comments was an emotional moment for me. Thank you all for sharing!

  8. I am a 12th generation descendent of Caterine Annannontok and her son from her first marriage to Louis Durand, whose descendent married into the Lefevbre family,(7th generation) Leocadie Lefevere married Robert Powell,b1828 East Yorkshire, a British Royal artillery gunner in Montreal Cathedral in 1850. His eldest daughter Elizabeth Margery Powell b.1856 Fort Smith. All family migrated back to London when British garrison left Canada. She married Sidney Horton in London, they had several children, but their youngest daughter Violet Elizabeth was my maternal Great Grandmother (1880-1968), she had two children, a son and a daughter, but only one (son) had 2 daughters, 1 being my mother.

  9. 2020 my name is yvan morais an also a decendant of catherine am 63 an only now i learn of all this in calgary alberta now for last 42 yrs after serving in the armee woooooo so amazing sstorys would love if any of you my cousin wanna contact me that would be wondefulll wanna know more about our ppl an history

  10. I am also a descendant of Catherine of Anenontha and John Durand through their their son Louis Durand. Her descendant Angelle West gave birth to my first American born ancestor and great great grandmother Amelie Lebrun who married in 1887 in Burlington Vermont. My grandmother is Elizabeth Bedard (Lesperance) Hurd. My father Gerald Lesperance was born in 1930 in Gardner, Massachusetts and died in Hawaii in 2018.

  11. reserche of all time the wampus belt of to katerie Annennontak , need information as really important. and other arthefact reserche to my families

    yvan morais si tu veux autre information sur mes recherche ad moi sur facebook mon nom tu le sais je comprend aussi anglais et le cree que j apprend a temp perdu .

  12. I am 11th Generation from Catherine and Jean Durand. This page has a lot of interesting information and fascinating family history in the newsletters. I am interested in finding more cousins. I am on facebook as Jinger Durand DeRossett. (In the family books as Jeanette R. Durand)

  13. Hi guys, I’m the daughter of Pierre Marois. We are now doing some research to know our ancestors and Catherine Anneontak is one of them. Could you give us more informations about her relatives? Is there a Joseph Louis Durand in the 1890’s? We found a picture of him and his family which put him in the 1890’s but our info isn’t the same (like he was born in 1600’s or else).
    Also, if you have more info about the woman in Louisiana with the wampus belt, it would help a lot!

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