President's Message, Spring 2018
For some, dealing with the past is not as simple as it once appeared to be. For others, the past was never simple – it was, and is, painful. The history of early settlers in both Canada and the United States is irrevocably linked in many ways – both good and bad – to the indigenous tribes who had lived there for generations before.
You might be asking the following questions: What does this have to do with us? We’re a hereditary association; we’re not political. We just honor our French-Canadian ancestors. But we need to be reminded that these French immigrants invaded and settled on land held by indigenous peoples. The Iroquois defended their territory and trading practices by conducting brutal raids on French settlements. Our association honors, in part, soldiers who conducted war against the Iroquois people in 1665-1666 in defense of these French settlements. Subsequently, French settlers and French troops in New France again fought with the Iroquois in the 1680s-1690s.
Ultimately the wars ended. However, Native Peoples in North America suffered huge losses, not the least being death from disease and starvation. Some native tribes were virtually eliminated.
In the past decade, the Canadian government apologized to the indigenous peoples of the country for the actions by past governments. No less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada called Canada’s past actions “cultural genocide” towards the native peoples of Canada (the First Nations, Métis and Inuit).
Most importantly, Canada established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which conducted hearings and heard the testimony of many survivors of “residential schools”. These boarding schools, often operated by religious institutions, forced indigenous children to abandon their native language and culture. In addition to losing a connection with their own families, they were also subjected to abuse. The Commission produced a tremendously important report in 2015 with both findings and a list of 97 “calls to action” with specific steps Canadians and their institutions can take to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation between white Canadians and the indigenous peoples.
Now survivors struggle to rediscover their cultures and practices, regain their heritage, save their languages, and restore the health of their communities. They have a significant need for support from the majority population of Canada and the United States in doing so.
Many individuals, including members of our society, are related to both French Canadians and Native Americans. They are either direct descendants of both or have cousins of varying degrees who are descendants of both. Two articles published in our Spring 2018 journal testify to this relationship.
The membership of the SFRSC can play a role in reconciliation. We can learn about the indigenous peoples and their descendants as we learn about our French-Canadian ancestors. We do not need to view them as the “enemy” of our ancestors. We can tell the stories of our forebears but also show respect for the indigenous peoples of North America who were here before the conquest by our European ancestors.
Let us know if you have native or indigenous ancestry, or if you have ideas about how we can both honor our ancestors while showing respect for our indigenous neighbors.
Dave Toupin, president
President's Message, Spring 2016
As a group, and as individuals, we honor our ancestors the Filles du roi and the Carignan soldiers. We do so not just because they are related to us, but because they were early settlers in an unsettled, sometimes dangerous land, and showed great courage and tenacity not only to survive, but seemingly thrive in that harsh reality. Consider the impact that the Filles du roi (and their husbands) had on the French colony of New France: there were only 2,500 French colonists in New France in 1663 (Gagné, 2001), the year the arrival of the first 36 Filles du roi (Landry, 1992). A total of 768 Filles du roi (Gagné, 2001) are known to have arrived in New France from 1663 to 1673; though not all remained in the colony, married or bore a child, the vast majority did so, often marrying very soon after disembarking and having their first child less than a year later (Gagné, 2001). The result: 4,459 births to Filles du roi from 1664 to 1702 (Landry, 1992).
Meanwhile, some 446 men of the Carignan-Salières regiment (including some from four other regiments) chose to settle in New France as colonists once released from their duties in 1668 (Verney, 1991). Already a large number of unmarried men were in the colony at the time – six to fourteen times the number of marriageable men as women (Gagné, 2001) - hence the need to send the Filles du roi to help populate the colony. As we know (and have listed on our website), many of the Carignan soldiers married Filles du roi; but author Jack Verney (Verney, 1991) claims that the dramatic increase in the population was more the result of unions between civilian male workers and women, both recently arrived from France, and that very few soldiers immediately married after leaving the army (likely due to the lure of the fur trade). Nevertheless, the retired soldiers and officers from the regiment (and subsequent retirees from the Troupes de la Marine) brought many skills and a sense of optimism needed for the young colony to survive, including for the formation of an improved militia (Verney, 1991).
Other early settlers from the 17th century were important too, and deserve to be honored, including those prior to the Filles du roi and Carignan soldiers (such as the Filles à marier) and later settlers. Our choice to focus on two particular groups of settlers is not intended in any way to lessen the important contribution by these other immigrants to New France. And though our Carignan soldier ancestors fought against the Iroquois (specifically the Mohawk) in 1665-1666 (and later colonists did so again in the 1680s-1690s), we are fully cognizant that the indigenous peoples then (as now) are entitled to be honored and respected.
In the end, whether it is due to the interesting history, the pride in the exploits of ancestors (or the fascination with their foibles), the curiosity about our roots, the desire to honor a culture that has not always been respected in the past, we have selected these Filles du roi and Carignan soldiers for our research, our writing, our honored spot on the wall in framed certificates.
I invite you to write me with your thoughts: what inspired you to choose this hobby, or devotion? What can you add to describe your involvement in genealogy, and in particular French-Canadian genealogy? What is important to you about the Filles du roi and/or Carignan soldiers? Should we be publishing articles on other, related topics, in addition to the Filles and soldiers?
Thank you for your membership and support. Let me know how we can serve you better.
Dave Toupin, pres.
Gagné, P. J. (2001). King's Daughters and Founding Mothers: the Filles du Roi, 1663-1673. Pawtucket: Quintin Publications.
Landry, Y. (1992). Les filles du roi au xvii'ème siècle. Montréal: Leméac.
Verney, J. (1991). The Good Regiment. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.