Native Peoples in the Upper St.John River valley


Before the arrival of the first Acadian settlers in about 1784, the Upper St.John River valley was home to Native Peoples, in particular to the Wulustukieg or Maliseet (Malécite) Nation, a branch of the Algonquin peoples.  The very name Madawaska is from the Maliseet's Algonquin language: "madawes"—porcupine, "kak"—place.

The "Walloostook River"

1846 Map showing Walloostook River

The detail above is from a map by Samuel Mitchell, made in 1846. As you can see, the upper St. John River is still called by its Maliseet name, though in an anglicized form: "The River Walloostook or Maine St.John."

The latest reference I have found to the name Wulustuk in non-native sources is a map of Maine from 1859, in which the upper St.John is labeled "Wool as took or St.John's River." In other early sources, the name Walloostook is given to the St.John above the Allagash.

Detail from map, "Canada East Formerly Lower Canada," by Samuel Augustus Mitchell, 1846. For full map go to the David Rumsey Map Collection, at

The Maliseet's name for themselves, Wolastoqiyik, or Wulustukieg, is derived from the word wolastoq, which means "beautiful river." Wolastoq (Wulustuk, or anglicized, Walloostook) is the Maliseet name for the St.John River.

The Wulustukieg or Maliseet people thus call themselves the people of the St.John River, which shows the extent to which they identify with this region.

Introduction: "Land Grants" and their relationship to Native Peoples

The lands that were granted by European and American governments to the settlers of North America, including in the St.John River valley, were in effect taken from the Native Peoples. Although the European states and the US negotiated treaties with various Native Peoples, recognizing implicitly a form of sovereignty or "ownership" over land, the European theory of land ownership also held that, since the natives had done nothing to "improve" the land, they had forfeited their right to own it.

Indeed, the Natives' sovereignty turned out to be of a very limited kind, and as the demand for land increased among European settlers and their descendants, the various governments assumed sovereignty over that land, allowing the land of the Natives to be taken by treaty, deception, and at times by force. As the European-descent population increased, the pressure to take land likewise increased.

In the area that came to be known as the Madawaska Settlement, as we'll see below, this process took place over the course of about 60 or so years. At first, both the French and then the British authorities, though claiming the territory as their own, recognized the rights of the Malecites to live on and use the land in the upper St.John River valley. But by the time the first Acadians arrived in the valley, there had been a shift in attitude by the British crown, which made a number of grants to the Acadian settlers; and, once the region was claimed by the US, the states of Maine and Massachusetts (Maine was a province of Massachusetts until it became a state in 1820) assumed ownership of all of the land in the state of Maine that was not already officially owned, and made grants of that land. Ironically, following the 1842 treaty that settled the border dispute between the US and Great Britain, the State of Maine decided to recognize ownership of any land that, though not officially granted, had been occupied and improved by settlers.

The lands of the Maliseet nation

Source:Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 15, p.124. Image from

History of the Native Peoples in the Valley

As is the case with most victims of European colonialism, the history of the Maliseets comes down to us through European sources. The story here is thus from the perspective of Europeans and people of European descent. Of the Maliseet's own perceptions and perspectives of their encounters with Europeans, we know very little.

The earliest written European records of the Maliseet came from French sources, who reported the existence of a nation of native peoples they called the Etchemins.  This group included today's Maliseet and Passamaquody nations (in the map on the left, the Maliseet territory is in brown, the Passamaquody in gray).

Already by the late 1600s the Malecite inhabitants of the Upper St.John River valley had been influenced by European colonialism, including by French missionaries who had been active in New France from the late 1500s. The Acadian Genealogy Homepage notes that:

"The first recorded data that we have on the Indians of Madawaska, are the notes of Bishop Saint-Vallier, second Bishop of Quebec. These notes were made during his visit to Acadia in 1686, one hundred years before the first settlement [by people of European descent] in the valley. The following is from 'The State of the Church and the French Colony in New France' (L'État de l'Église et de la colonie française dans la Nouvelle-France), published in Québec, in 1856:

'On the second day of our journey on the St. John River, on May 16, 1686, we saw a hut belonging to Christian Indians of Siller, who in order to go hunting, had stationed themselves at the mouth of the river that they call Madoueskak and that we renamed St. Francis de Sales. (Note: On D'Anville's map, the Madawaska River is called the Great St. Francis, while the present St. Francis River is called the Little St. Francis). Words cannot describe the joy of these poor Christians at seeing us, nor ours in finding them. They offered us a gift of part of their food, at a time when ours was running out. The next day, we found more of them in three other huts and they received us in the same manner and begged us for a missionary, to instruct them. A few of them came from Isle Percee and we were surprised to find one who spoke a bit of French and had been to France.

"William de Rosier's map of the Abenakis missions of the St. John Valley (1699), indicates that at the same time there were nine Indian settlements in the area; three on the Aroostook River, four on the St. John River, one on Eagle Lake and one on the Squateck Lake. One St. John Settlement was at the mouth of the St. Francis River (Madawaska)." [Source: Acadian Genealogy Homepage, "Indians of Madawaska" at]

At the end of the 1600s the native nations in the Maritimes began to form an alliance to counter British expansion into their lands.  In 1701 the Maliseet joined with Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, and Micmac Nations in this Wabanaki Alliance."The French both encouraged this alliance and supplied it with arms to block British expansion northward from New England and to protect Quebec and Acadia from British invasion in case of war. With the outbreak of the King William's War (1688-97) between Britain and France, the Abenaki Confederation did exactly that." [Source: Lee Sultzman, "Micmac History" on the First Nations / First Peoples Issues website]  "The Confederacy had its own symbol on a wampum belt, which had four white triangles on a blue background, signifying the union of four allied tribes. In times of need, envoys took this belt to invite allies 'to take up the hatchet against the enemies of the nation.'" [Source: "The Abenaki," Snow Owl] 

The Alliance, including the Maliseet, continued to come into conflict with the British. They were very involved in the struggle over the control of Acadia, a French colony in what is today Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that the British had taken over in 1713.  The British, in their attempt to assert greater control of the region, moved more British settlers into the territories of the Wabanaki Alliance nations, increasing tensions with them. Indeed, "Although the Micmac, Maliseet, and Abenaki had signed a peace treaty with New England at Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1713, they still refused to recognize British authority in Acadia." [Source: Lee Sultzman, "Micmac History" on the First Nations / First Peoples Issues website]

Sultzman describes the ensuing war between the British and the Wabanaki Alliance, including the Maliseet:

"In 1744 Britain and France went to war again - this time in a dispute over who should sit on the throne of Austria. The War of Austrian Sucession spread from Europe to North America where it was known as the King George's War (1744-48). All the smoldering resentment of the last 29 years of British occupation erupted throughout the Canadian Maritimes, and the Micmac and Maliseet attacked the British outposts. Massachusetts declared war in 1744 against the Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, and St. John Indians (actually the Maliseet and Micmac). The Penobscot, Kennebec, and Passamaquoddy from Maine also joined the fighting, and the British were overwhelmed. The French immediately tried and failed to retake Port Royal in 1744. They tried again the following year, but this, as well as an attack on Cape Breton Island, was also repulsed. Even so, by the end of 1745 the British were besieged inside their forts. Their only military unit still able to operate effectively was the solitary Ranger Company of John Gorham, a group of few white frontiersmen and 50 Mohawk warriors recruited by Sir William Johnson in New York.

"The French Acadians were officially neutral but so open in their sympathy for the Micmac that Governor Shirley of Massachusetts in 1746 demanded their removal from Nova Scotia. This easily could have happened if a 4,000 man combined British and colonial army had not captured Louisbourgh in June, 1745. The capture of Louisbourgh was the major British victory during the war. It not only removed the immediate threat of invasion to Nova Scotia but permitted the British naval blockade of Canada which eventually brought the French to their knees. However, it did not stop Micmac and Abenaki attacks which continued throughout Nova Scotia and northern Maine until a year after the end of the war. Between 1747 and 1749, there was a lot of bushwhacking and ambush in the Maritimes which kept Gorham's Rangers [British forces] very busy. Even though crippled by the loss of Louisbourgh, the French were still dangerous, and an attack in February, 1747 wiped out the British garrison at Grand Pre (Grand Pre Massacre). During 1748, however, the French ended their support for the Micmac on Cape Breton which ended most of the fighting in that vicinity.

"The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle [1748] settled the problem France and Britain had with each other about the Austrian throne, but neither side was willing to concede control of the Canadian Maritimes. To the total outrage and disgust of the New England colonies, the treaty returned the fortress at Louisbourgh to the French. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 had failed to define the border between Nova Scotia and Quebec. Taking advantage of this and their alliance with the Abenaki and Maliseet, the French began in 1749 to re-occupy the St. John Valley in New Brunswick. At the same time, the British decided the solution to control of the Maritimes was to populate it with British colonists. In June 1749 Colonel Edward Cornwallis arrived as the new governor of Nova Scotia accompanied by 2,500 new settlers. After founding the city of Halifax, he made peace overtures to the Abenaki and Maliseet using the ranger captain John Gorham as his emissary. The result was a peace treaty signed at Halifax with the Maliseet and Abenaki, but the strength of this agreement was indicated by the fact the Maliseet celebrated the signing with a war dance on the decks of Cornwallis' ship." [Source: Lee Sultzman, "Micmac History" on the First Nations / First Peoples Issues website]

Warfare nevertheless continued:

"Offering £10 for every Micmac scalp or prisoner, [British Colonel Edward] Cornwallis dispatched the Cobb expedition with 100 men to hunt down and kill Micmac. [...] Cobb's expedition destroyed just about everything they found, but Micmac resistance only stiffened. By 1750 the price of scalps was raised from £10 to £50 which provided incentive for the formation of two additional ranger companies under Captains William Clapham and Francis Bartelo." [Source: Lee Sultzman, "Micmac History" on the First Nations / First Peoples Issues website]

The subsequent French and Indian War (1755-1760, Peace signed in 1763) resulted in the British expulsion of Acadia's French population (1755), along with the Micmac who had intermarried with the French and those that lived alongside them.  "Fort Beausejour in New Brunswick was captured in 1757, and in 1758 the British army swept through the remaining Acadian settlements on the St. John River destroying everything in their path. French resistance slackened after the fall of Louisbourgh in 1758 which opened the way for a British invasion of the St. Lawrence Valley."  The war ended with the defeat of French forces in Quebec, resulting in the British takeover of virtually all French possessions in North America.  This turn of events had an enormous impact on the Maliseets of the St.John valley as well, who had taken part in these wars.  The Maliseet signed treaties with the British in 1760, although "lasting treaties with the Maliseet were not signed until 1770 and 1776."

Thus, while the French and British colonial authorities in North America had recognized the rights of Natives to specific territories —indeed, one of the grievances of the American colonists that led to the Revolution was that the British were refusing to allow white settlement in territories recognized as belonging to Native Nations (for more information on this British policy, see the Royal Proclamation of 1763)—by the late 1700s and early 1800s territories of the Natives had not only been subject to encroachment by settlers as well as by hunters and missionaries, but had been crucial actors in the colonial wars fought by the two powers.  Although it is not likely that the Natives could have remained apart from these wars, they were seriously hurt by them.

Once the British had taken control of the former French possessions, the Maliseet requested that the new rulers respect their rights to specific territory in the upper St.John River valley, between the Grand Falls and Lake Temiscouata.  One early mention of the Madawaska Maliseet in colonial documents concerns this exact topic.  This document is from 1765, and is a British response to a request by the Natives living in the valley. Maliseet envoys—Pierre Tomah and Ambroise St-Aubin—complained in 1764 to the Governor of Canada (Quebec) about trespasses on the Maliseet's territory, and asked the British to maintain the rights to their territory that the French (who had ruled until 1763) had recognized.

Explicitly mentioned as their territory is the Upper St.John River valley from Grand Falls all the way to Lake Témiscouata, including Rivière du Loup and the Madawaska River:

"Your Petitioner has also the honour to represent to your Excellency, that his brethren Indians find themselves reduced to the lowest ebb of misery, by the unwarrantable encroachments of the Canadian inhabitants hunting beaver on the lands belonging to the nation, by which your Petitioner has been deputed; which tract begins at the great falls of the St.John's, and runs as far as Temisquata, including the Wolf River, (or Rivière du Loup) and the River Madawaska, which rivers discharge themselves into the River St. John's, making a space of about twenty leagues, on which the nation, whose grievances your Petitioner has the honour to lay before your Excellency, always had an exclusive privilege of hunting beaver in the time of the French Government; therefore your Petitioner humbly requests, in the name of his nation, that your Excellency will be pleased to continue their privilege, by forbidding the inhabitants of this Province to hunt beaver on the said grounds."

In response, in a letter dated 19th January 1765, the Governor of Canada confirmed their rights:


Secretary's Office, 19th Jan. 1765

Whereas the Nation of Maricitte Indians, by the following paragraph of a petition to his Excellency the Governor of this Province have represented that they are encroached upon by the Canadian inhabitants hunting beaver on the lands therein mentioned, which have ever belonged to, and are the property of the said Nation : this, therefore, is to give notice, that the privilege prayed for by the said Indians will be allowed and confirmed to them, unless any person or persons can show just cause to the contrary, by memorial to his Excellency the Governor and Council, directed to the Secretary of this Province, on or before the first day of May next.
By command of his Excellency.
J. Goldfrap, D.Sec.
[Source: Appendix No.28, "Extracts from the Quebec Gazette, 2d.--24th January, 1765...," in First Statement on the part of Great Britain, according to the Provisions of The Convention Concluded Between Great Britain and the United States, on the 29th September, 1827 for Regulating the Reference to Arbitration of the Disputed Points of Boundary under the Fifth Article of the Treaty of Ghent (1829), p.225. The names of the Maliseet envoys are from Acadian Genealogy Homepage, "Indians of Madawaska, part 2"]

Clearly by 1765 the Maliseet had already had much contact with white settlers: armies, missionaries, trappers, hunters, and couriers. They were also no longer in control of their fate; the fact that they were petitioning the British authorities for protection made that clear.

The arrival of Acadians in the upper St.John River valley

The American Revolution added to the pressure on Maliseet lands.  A significant part of the population of the rebellious thirteen colonies had remained loyal to the King.  Many of these Loyalists fled the newly independent country once the war ended, in 1783.  Beginning in that year, the British government granted Loyalists land along the St.John River in New Brunswick, land that was in the Maliseet territory.  But this land had been settled by Acadians who had fled the British in the 1730s, and who were later joined by other Acadians whom the British had expelled in 1755.  As a result of the Loyalist settlements, the Acadians were displaced for a second time, and moved further upriver, beyond Great Falls, to the area around the Madawaska River settlement of the Maliseet.  This was an area that had been recognized by the French and then British as belonging to the Maliseet, and that had to that point not seen permanent European settlers. The net effect of the displacement of the Loyalists and Acadians was that the entire territory of the Maliseets was now being settled by non-native people.   The Maliseet's attitude toward the Acadian refugees who came up the St.John in 1785 was thus probably not entirely welcoming.

In 1785, when the first group of Acadian settlers arrived at Madawaska, the main village of the Maliseets in that area, located near present-day Edmundston, was reported to include 60 families; their leader was referred to as François Xavier and was reported to comand "200 warriors".

Apparently the Maliseets struck a deal with this group of Acadians: in exchange for giving the Acadians part of the Maliseet land, the Maliseet asked that the Acadians defend the territory against intruders.

Here is an excerpt on this first meeting from "First Madawaska Acadian Settlement" at the Acadian Genealogy Home Page. It is important to remember that this story is being told from the Acadians' perspective. It is not clear how cordial and welcoming the Maliseet actually were upon the arrival of these new settlers.

"The travelers [Acadians heading up the St.John River] continued their journey until they set foot on the south bank of the St. John River, two and one-half miles south of the Malecite village on one of the most elevated flats, a short distance from the present church of St. David, Madawaska, Maine. As they were making camp, Joseph Daigle erected a cross (which is today known as the 'Acadian Cross') at that very place in the land of Madawaska.
"On the same day, two young men were sent to the Indian village (now Edmundston, New Brunswick), to advise the Chief of their arrival and that their fathers would be in to see him the next day.
"At first the Indians did not show much enthusiasm when the strangers arrived, but soon afterwards the meeting was one of the most cordial. The hall to which they were admitted, was full of tribal warriors. The Chief, while extending to them a welcome did not hesitate however, to warn them that the vast territory between Grand Falls (New Brunswick) and Lake Temiscouata (Quebec), had always been known as the land of the Malecites. In a few words, he told the visitors that they could have a part of this land and that they could help them protect it from invaders. 'As long as your guns will not refuse to shoot the reindeers, or your nets to catch the fish in our rivers, you shall be welcome, and you shall be my friends.'
"After this meeting with the Chief and his warriors, the Frenchmen returned to meet their fellowmen, who had already begun the work of building. This diplomatic meeting won the good graces and protections of the Indians. We must not forget that this Indian village, the Malecite capital of the St. John Valley, had 60 families, and that Francis Xavier who had just spoken to them, had 200 warriors under his command, and that on the first day that an argument should ensue between the two peoples, the Acadians would be at the mercy of the Indians."
[Source: "First Madawaska Acadian Settlement" at].

Over the next few years, more Acadian families joined these original settlers. By the mid-1790s, the British had made grants of land in Madawaska to over 70 Acadian families. (For more information see the page on Early Land Grants in Madawaska on this website.) Given the size of Acadian families, it is likely that these 70 families added up to more than 500 people.

Like their neighbours the Micmac and Abenaki, the Maliseet had from the earliest days of contact with the French tended to convert to Roman Catholicism, which of course was strongly encouraged by the French missionaries and colonial authorities.  The Bishop of Québec, Joseph-Octave Plessis, noted that in the mid 1780s the Maliseets living at Madawaska had requested Father Adrien Leclerc of L'Isle Verte to visit them once a year. Beginning in 1786—that is, just a year after the arrival of the first Acadians —Leclerc spent several weeks each summer with them, as did his successor, Joseph Pâquet. Maliseets from other villages would come to Madawaska at these times.

Plessis noted, however, that as more and more Acadians and Canadians established themselves around the Maliseet village at Madawaska, the Maliseet moved away:

"The curés of Saint-André (Kamouraska), Monseigneurs Amiot, Vézina, Dorval, who were charged, after the priests from L'Isle Verte, with serving this mission [from 1799-1804], ended up no longer finding any Indians, but rather French who already numbered 24 families in 1792, when they addressed the Bishop of Quebec for permission to build a chapel." [Plessis, p.124]

Indeed, it appears that the Church was purposely encouraging the Maliseet to settle down in Tobique.  John Jennings, in his history of the Catholic Church in New Brunswick, notes that Father François Ciquard, assigned to the mission from 1794 to 1798, wrote to the Bishop of Québec:

"Ciquard reported his effort to deal with two difficulties associated with the Maliseet missions, the mobility of the population and the effects of alcohol.  Father Ciquard's approach was to try to settle the Maliseet at Tobique and insist that he would serve them only there or at Madawaska.

"Ciquard reported that shortly after his arrival in the colony, he had discussed the question of the settlement of the Maliseets with the governor in Fredericton, Thomas Carleton.  He indicated that both he and the governor were in agreement that it was best that the Natives be given land at Tobique where they could take up agriculture and be protected from alcohol.  This would then be the focus of the missionary's service to them, although he would still have some traveling for special purposes and to serve the settlements of French Catholics.  This cooperatoin with the British officials extended even to financial support, for the colonial authorities paid a stipend to the missionary serving the Natives in the St.John River Valley.  For Ciquard, this stipend was £50..." [Jennings, p.127]

In 1801 the provincial government of New Brunswick officially set aside land at at the confluence of the Tobique and St.John Rivers for the Maliseets:

On the 4th.of September 1801 an allotment was made to Neville Bernard for himself and his tribe of Melicete Indians on the East Side of the River Saint John, beginning opposite to the Tobique Rock and running up Stream until it comes opposite to the Mouth of the Restock [Aroostook] River. [Source:"Warrant of Survey to Mr Geo Morehouse Deputy Surveyor for Disbanded Officers and Men between Preque Isle and the Great Falls" in the PANB, RS637 1a.Primary Letter books 1. 1785-1789. Thanks to Norm DeMerchant for this info.]

Thus between the arrival of more and more Acadians and Canadians, and conscious efforts by the Province of New Brunswick and the Diocese of Quebec to resettle the Maliseet, the native population of the upper St.John continued to dwindle.  Indeed, over the following years many of the Madawaska Maliseet moved downriver to Tobique:

"Bishop Plessis in the narrative of his tour in 1812 mentions this Indian Village [at the mouth of the Madawaska River], and says that most of the Indians had gone down the river at first to the Tobic and later to the Meductic Village, below Woodstock." [Source: "Report by Messrs. Deane and Kavanagh," edited by W.O. Raymond, in Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society (St.John, N.B.) number 9 (1914), p.443.]

Given the rapid growth in the European-descent population of the Madawaska Settlement—by 1820 it had reached over 1,100—it seems that most of the Maliseet had either assimilated into the Acadian community or relocated to other Maliseet villages.

By 1831, about 45 years after the first Acadian settlers arrived, the Maliseet had been seriously reduced. During their survey of the inhabitants and land holdings in the Upper St.John River for the State of Maine in July 1831, John Deane and Edward Kavanagh noted, near the mouth of the Madawaska River, on the north bank (next to Simon Hébert), that

the Indians have 3 or 4 houses apparently as commodious and comfortable as many of the houses of the white inhabitants, and have 20 or 30 acres of cleared land. There are only 5 or 6 families, the remnant of the tribe, which was numerous when the whites first began the settlement at Madawaska. [Source: "Report by Messrs. Deane and Kavanagh," edited by W.O. Raymond, in Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society (St.John, N.B.) number 9 (1914), p.443.]

Deane and Kavanagh also mention a few lots owned by Acadians that had been "improved by the Indians," and/or had been "purchased from the Indians"; they also claimed that Simon Hébert, "who has a grant from the British and is clearing it"—the grant of 250 acres was dated May 16, 1825—had in 1829 or 1830, "by the aid of the British Civil Officer, turned out" (evicted) the Indians who lived on the land granted by the British. They note that the Indians had built 2 houses on that land, at the mouth of the Madawaska, which they described as having been "the headquarters of the Indians." (Raymond, p.446).

The 1841 Perley Report on the First Nations of New Brunswick

In 1841 Moses Perley undertook a survey of the first nations population of New Brunswick for the provincial government.  At Madawaska, he found 27 Malecite (5 men, 7 women, 6 boys, 9 girls) living at the mouth of the Madawaska River, the same families Deane and Kavanagh mentioned on their visit 10 years earlier.  Here are his comments on these families:

"From the Tobique I proceeded to Madawaska, and visited the Indian Settlement at the mouth of the Madawaska River, where I found only twenty seven souls

"These Indians occupy an exceedingly beautiful and very fertile piece of ground, and their crop appeared in a promising state. They cultivate the land upon shares with one of their French neighbours; each party finds half the seed; the Frenchman sows, reaps and delivers them half the crop, as also half the grass from their meadow, which he also cuts and makes into hay. They sowed this year ninety bushels of Wheat and Oats, and thirty bushels of Potatoes, besides Peas, Beans and Flax. They have also fifty bushels of Potatoes planted by individuals on their sole account, and their farm has a very respectable appearance.

"The Captain of the Madawaska Settlement is named Louis Bernard, a very respectable industrious man, to whose sole exertions the prosperous state of the farm is to be attributed; He told me that he was upwards of fifty years of age; that he was born on the land, and that his father and grandfather were also born, lived, died and were buried on this spot. That when he was a boy, the Indians had a very considerable Village here, the wigwams standing in regular streets near the waterside; he pointed out to me the former site of their Village, and also the boundaries that were assigned to the Tribe when he was a youth. Their land commenced on the bank of the Saint John, at a small Brook half-a-mile above the mouth of the Madawaska River, and extended down the Saint John, one mile and a half to a point of rocks jutting into the Stream, which point is now the boundary between the Indian land and the property of Alexander Albert.

"Within this tract a grant was made some years ago to ____ [note: in the original no name is given, instead a line is used-cg] on the East side of the Madawaska, of 200 acres. _____ purchased from an Indian who then resided on the land, a piece containing nine acres, which was marked out by stakes. Under color of this purchase, he succeeded in obtaining from the Crown a grant of 200 acres. Recently the Government had occasion to take possession of a portion of this grant, 400 yards square, on which to place a Block House, and other Public Works, when _____ demanded fifteen hundred pounds damages, but was eventually induced, or rather compelled, to take three hundred pounds, in satisfaction of his claim.

"That part of the Indian Reserve on the West side of the Madawaska, is now in the possession of _____, under a Licence of occupation at a nominal rent.  _____ makes no use of this land, and appears to hold it with the hope of eventually obtaining title to it, and for that purpose only. Some years before _____ obtained a Licence to occupy this land, Pierre Denis, an Indian, had cleared and cultivated a portion of the front, on which he had built a small house, and was living very comfortably. Denis refused to give up possession, and finally an order was passed that _____ should pay to Denis a certain sum for his house, which was appraised at fifty dollars, and on the promise of that sum being paid, Denis quitted the land in 1837, and yielded up possession to _____.

"I saw Pierre Denis at Tobique; he is an old man, childless and in poor circumstances.

"On behalf of the Indians, I claim the land now held by _____ under the license of occupation, and pray that he may be compelled to pay Pierre Denis the sum doe [sic] by appraisement for his improvements, or else allow him to re-occupy them. [...]

"With respect to the Madawaska Settlement, I have to state that Louis Bernard and his family are respectable, and well conducted; the other men there, devote themselves almost entirely to the chase [hunting], and, whenever they obtain money, spend it in drink. I think it would be advisable to let Bernard occupy a portion of this land during his life, and lease the rest for the benefit of the Tribe." [Source: "Report on Indian Settlements, &c," Extracts from Mr. Perley's First Report Respecting the Indians on the Saint John, 12th August 1841.]

From this description of life in Madawaska, as well as from Perley's comments about the Maliseet settlements down river from Madawaska, especially at Tobique, it was clear that by 1841 the native population was at the mercy of white settlers who were with impunity encroaching illegally on lands that had been recognized as belonging to the Maliseet population. According to Perley, these squatters—anglophones living in what is now Victoria County—"openly plunder the forest in the vicinity, of the most valuable Timber, and dispose of it, in the face of the Indians, whom they will scarcely allow to set foot upon the land, and invariably hunt oft like wild beasts, if they attempt to look after or prevent the trespasses which are constantly committed."  In addition, Perley's comments also make clear that the goal of the provincial government was to "civilize" the Maliseet, that is, to force them to assimilate into the dominant culture, including forcibly removing them from their land if necessary.

Maliseet Nation in the New Brunswick censuses

Ten years after Perley's report, the 1851 New Brunswick census records 30 people described as "Indians" in the Madawaska settlement area, in about 5 or 6 families, living in the parish of St-Basile, including "Lewis Bernard."  The families go by the names of Bernard, Saulis, Ellis, Bear, and "Bellose" (probably Polchies). What is notable is that in 1851 they no longer are living at the mouth of the Madawaska (that is, in the parish of Madawaska), but rather seem to be living next to the church at St-Basile (Father Antoine Langevin, the pastor of St-Basile, is next door to Lewis Bernard).

By the 1881 census, there were 28 people listed as "Indians" living together in Madawaska Parish, members of the Bernard and Wallace families.  The Saulis family had by 1861 moved to Perth.

Since in the United States Native Americans ("Indians") were exempt from taxation and were not counted in the regular US census, Maliseet families were probably not included in the various US censuses conducted in Madawaska from 1820 onward unless they had taken French names and assimilated into the community.

This is from the Columbia Encyclopedia entry for "Malecite / Maliseet":

"Malecite or Maliseet , Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock. In the early 17th cent. they occupied the valley of the St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada. The French settlers in this area intermarried with the Malecite, thereby forming a close alliance with the indigenous people. Hence, during the colonial wars the Malecite supported the French against the English. They now live in New Brunswick, Quebec, and Maine. In 1990 there were about 1,700 Malecite in Canada and about 900 in the United States. See J. F. Pratson, Land of the Four Directions (1970)." [ ]

Currently, on the St-Basile IR 10, which is just outside of Edmundston, there are living 98 people in 51 dwellings.

The State of Maine recognized the Maliseet, along with the Micmac, as official tribes in 1974.

In 1989 the Province of Québec officially recognized the Maliseets (Malécites) as the eleventh Aboriginal nation in the province.  Their territory in the province is divided between two reserves on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River near the municipality of Rivière du Loup.

If you have any other information about the Wulustukieg/Malecite/Maliseet people in the Upper St.John River valley, either history or information about specific individuals or families, please let me know.

Some links on the Malecite / Maliseet:

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Last revised 25 Feb 2006
© 2003-2006 C. Gagnon