Thursday, January 13, 2011

Indian Blood

A few years back a woman from Maryland was in contact with my Dad and she gave him a genealogy that traced his (our) family tree back to the 1600's. I did not look at it closely at the time, but recently pulled it out again. A couple weeks ago I had the fortune to see some Native American dancers here in town (Saratoga Springs) for the First Night celebration. This reminded me that we supposedly had some "Indian blood" in our past. With the family tree in hand and some internet digging, here is what I discovered.

My Native American roots go back to one Nicolas Arendanki (meaning: "He who comes from beyond Arenda"). He was a Huron chieftain of the Bear Clan. "Huron" is actually a French name however, and they called themselves the Wendat or Wyandot. Nicolas died repelling an attack on the Jesuit Mission Sainte-Marie during the Iroquois massacres in Huronia in 1649. The Mission was the first European settlement in what is now the province of Ontario. In addition to the local Hurons, 8 missionaries from Sainte-Marie were also killed. They were canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1930. "Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons" was designated a national historic site on November 11, 1988. A reconstruction of the mission now operates as a living museum. Anyway...The Wyandot nation was divided by sub tribes or clans. The major sub-nations of the Wyandot are the Arendahronon (rock sub-tribe), the Attigneenongnahac (bear sub-tribe), the Attignawantan (cord sub-tribe), and the Tahontaenrat (deer sub-tribe).

But back to the family...

Nicolas, his Christian name, was born about 1623 in Huron Mission, Georgian Bay, Ontario. He is of historical note as he was the first Huron Chief to convert to Catholicism. He married Jeanne Otrihoandet, also a Huron, born about 1627 at Huron Mission. Their daughter Catherine, was called by Jesuit missionaries "Catherine, the beloved child of God (Annennontak) a Huron girl". The 1649 attacks that killed Nicolas were also widespread throughout the area and the Huron Nation was almost anihilated. Catherine, a new-born infant, and her mother took refuge with surviving Jesuit missionaries. When her mother died, Catherine, age 5, was taken by the Jesuits to Quebec, where she became a protege of Madame de la Peltrie, the founder of the Ursulines in Quebec, and the ward of Venerable Mere Marie de L’Incarnation convent.

In 1991 a movie called "Black Robe" (based on a historical novel of the same name) was released. It deals with the story of the Jesuit mission to the Hurons during Nicolas's time. I saw it in a theatre back when it came out. Little did I know then that this film, which I recall as quite moving, was so closely related to my own family's history.

I need to see it again.

For more info on The Hurons and the Mission here are a couple nice links: