The only thing I really knew about “half-breeds” was the 1973 song by Cher which, to be honest, did not paint the prettiest of pictures. But I was able to add to my understanding of what the French-Canadians call Métis when I found a relative that could be counted among them.
Claude “Old War” Caron, the 3rd great grandfather of my daughter-in-law’s great grand aunt, was born in 1710 to a French Canadian fur trader and a Abnaki Indian woman. This was hardly unusual at the time. Relations between the French settlers and native Indians was quite common, in fact encouraged, as a natural dependency formed between the two cultures.
Claude elected to live among his mother’s people, married a Menominee woman named Wau Pe Se Sui (“The Wild Potato”) and eventually became a Menominee chief. They bore sons who became chiefs of their own clans within the Menominee tribe. Iometah became chief of the bear clan; Chawanon became chief of the buffalo clan; and Tomah, the most “famous” of the Carons, was the chief of the prairie chicken clan.
The Menominee Indian Tribe dates back some 10,000 years and, at the beginning of the treaty era, occupied a land mass of around 10 million acres. This was continually reduced as they entered into a series of seven treaties with the United States government until they were left with only 235,000 acres today.
In the 1950s, the US Congress attempted to deprive the Menominee people of their cultural identity by removing federal recognition of their tribe. A long and difficult grassroots movement ensued which was eventually successful by the passing the Menominee Restoration Act in 1973 which restored their status.
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