Between Canadien and Métis: Louis Lorimier and the Process of Métissage in the Middle Mississippi Valley

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:40 AM
Superior Room A (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Robert A. Englebert, University of Saskatchewan
This paper examines métissage in the middle Mississippi Valley during the latter half of the eighteenth century through the case of Louis Lorimier. In 1803, Nicolas de Finiels described Lorimier, the founder of Cape Girardot, as the son of a white man and a Shawnee woman. He came to this conclusion based largely on the fact that Lorimier had helped set up several nearby Shawnee and Delaware villages, spoke the languages, and dressed in both European and Indian attire. Yet most of the historical evidence indicates that Lorimier was a transplanted Canadien, born in the St. Lawrence Valley, who had engaged in the fur trade, married a Shawnee woman, and helped negotiate the relocation of the Shawnee and Delaware to Upper Louisiana. Lorimier’s correspondence and journal entries during these negotiations reveal a man who was concerned about the security of the west bank of the Mississippi and saw the relocation of the Shawnee and Delaware as instrumental to helping secure the region. They also show a man who was comfortable dealing with French administrators, wrote well in French, and who at times became frustrated with the aboriginal peoples with whom he dealt. Discussed regularly, although oftentimes tangentially, in academic literature, Lorimier has been depicted as both as Canadien and métis. By situating Louis Lorimier in the broader context of French and Indian marriage and migration patterns, this case provides a window into the fluid social and ethnic boundaries that characterized the middle Mississippi Valley during the latter half  of the eighteenth century.
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