MI’KMAQ GRAND CHIEF HENRI MEMBERTOU DIED–FIRST NATIVE LEADER TO BE BAPTIZED.
Membertou’s birth date is unknown and little is known about his life prior to encountering the French in 1605. By that time, he was Sagamo (Grand Chief) of the Mi’kmaq situated near Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia) and seen as an autmoin (medicine man). He claimed to have met navigator Jacques Cartier in 1534 and could have been over 110 yet still had keen eyesight. Taller & larger-limbed than other Mi’kmaq, he was “well aware of his position as commander.” Also, unlike other Mi’kmaq men, he had a dark beard. A skilled warrior, he was also an orator & master of repartee who considered himself equal to any European king. In 1610, he became the first Native leader to be baptized by the French as a sign of alliance and good faith. He was given the baptismal name Henri, after the late king of France, Henry IV. Unlike most Sagamo who were polygamous, Membertou had only one wife, who was baptized with the name of “Marie.” He died at Port-Royal, now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.
Sources: Stéphanie Béreau, “Membertou,” Canadian Encyclopedia of Biography. Retrieved 3/15/2022, Biography – MEMBERTOU (baptized Henri) – Volume I (1000-1700) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography (biographi.ca) Lucien Campeau, “Membertou,” Canadian Encyclopedia of Biography, 1966. Retrieved 7/4/2019, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/membertou_1E.html Engraving: Hibbert Binney (1766-1842), circa 1791. Mi’kmaq Encampment. Public Domain. Source: Nova Scotia Museum.