This Week in History
Chief Membertou: The Great Captain
For the week of Monday June 21, 2010
Membertou first met Samuel de Champlain and other French settlers around modern Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, in 1605. The French had established the colony of Port-Royal in that area, where the Mi’kmaq traditionally fished. There, Champlain invited the Mi’kmaq to a feast and Membertou welcomed the French settlers as his neighbours. Their good relations proved beneficial for both sides, as the Mi’kmaq taught the French how to snowshoe and sail birchbark canoes, and Membertou received European weapons to gain the edge over his many enemies. When the French had to leave Port-Royal in 1607, Membertou promised to keep the settlement safe. True to his word, the French returned in 1610 to find Port-Royal just as they had left it.
Membertou succumbed to dysentery and died in September of 1611. Mi’kmaw and French settlers attended the funeral service before burying him in a French cemetery. After his death many began referring to him as “The Great Captain.” Although Membertou died just a year after his baptism, the Mi’kmaq-French alliance he began lasted over a century. Membertou and Champlain remain a prime example of the many partnerships that contributed to the growth of Canada.
Recognized as one of the greatest leaders of his time, Grand Chief Membertou played a crucial role in the successful establishment of European settlers in Annapolis Valley, in 1605. For beginning a Mi'kmaq-French Alliance, Membertou (Anli-Maopeltoog) was designated a national historic person in 1981. Considered to be the father of New France, Samuel de Champlain was designated a national historic person in 1929.
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