Community connections between the Chicot and West Nipissing: “li Mitifs sont tissés serrés comme la Fléchée”

Up until the World Wars, people who left communities were oddities. People grew deep roots in their community; in the case of Métis communities, these roots even predate the arrival of European Settlers.

Voyageurs, well, were travelers – yet as we’ve seen in records, they came back, they kept ties with their kin and their communities. These connections survived through many generations, despite the difficulties in communication. The postal service was a lifeline between kin. Many pints of maple syrup made their way West while lots of Serviceberry Pellican (how us kids called Pemmican) made its way East.

Kin were remembered by nicknames, stories, songs and tall tales; as time passed, everything was embellished and exaggerated to keep the listener enthralled and ensure the story was passed down to the next generation. Yet, the tales stayed true enough that if you did meet the subject in question, you instantly recognized them and felt like you’d known them forever.

By the early eighties, which coincides when the beginning of modern technologies, most of our town folk who were the storytellers had left us. As time passed, the stories became more and more doubted and modern day amenities made the idea that it was possible to keep connected became seen as ludicrous. Funnily enough, before technology, we had no way of verifying these stories – yet we knew them to be true. Today, we’re programmed to see everything through the fake news lens.

It always give me a thrill me when someone who I don’t know personally, but with whom I share many kinship connections, shares stories we’ve both heard from different yet common sources.

Here is one case. This picture and story was posted by Mrs Viviane Roberge, who maintains a wonderful Facebook page about events past and present of the town of St-Gabriel de Brandon, where I was born.

Most of these names are all very familiar to me: although not direct ancestors, Celina Corriveau and Calixte Courchesne are the grandparents of my uncle, Rolland Desrochers. We are related through his wife, my aunt Jeanne Mathews.

I had the pleasure of spending many of Summer vacations with Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Rolland. Although they had moved down to Florida back in the 50s or 60s, they came back almost every Summer and stayed with my grandfather while they visited with their respective families. Uncle Rolland’s brother owned the garage in town and the family was well-known hotel and shopkeepers.Uncle Rolland’s family were seasoned travelers. Like many families from our community, they had been to many places, like the Voyageurs our ancestors all were. Uncle Rolland regaled us with stories of cousins they’d meet during their many travels in a succession of fancy home on wheels.Uncle Rolland’s grandfather Calixte Courchene had left St-Gabriel de Brandon several times, going as far South as Lowell, Massachusetts before setting roots West in the Temiskaming town of Lavigne, where Calixte passed away in 1940. His son Télesphore made sure that all of Calixte’s six wives were named in his burial record.CalisteCourchesnesepulcre

Télesphore Courchesne war born in St-Gabriel de Brandon in 1897, of Calixte’s second wife, Marie Louise Allard:telesphorecourchesnebirth

Telesphore Courchesne


Télesphore married Marie Anne Aubin in 1920. Himself recognized as a Knowledge Keeper by the Centre franco-ontarien de folklore: son, Narcisse, followed his father’s footsteps and became the region’s Knowledge Keeper. He published over a dozen books on the region of West Nipissing and is also co-founder of the Sudbury Area History and Genealogy Society. Having become an expert in this field, he helped several members of his community produce their family trees and obtain their Métis cards.

Narcisse Courchesne

     Until Mrs. Viviane Roberge posted in her group St-Gabriel de Brandon, d’une génération à l’autre, I had no idea of this Knowledge Keeper’s name, but I had heard stories of Uncle Rolland’s cousin who even made the trip all the way back to the Chicot to visit his father’s birthplace.I wish I knew this when I had the absolute privilege to visit the area at the invitation of members of Parliament Marc Serré of the riding of Sudbury and Paul Lefebvre of the riding of Nickel Belt back in the Summer of 2017!

mfc visit sudbury nickel belt 2017
Gathering of concerned MNO citizens and the Metis Federation of Canada, August 2017 from left: Robert Pilon, Saskatchewan Métis, President Johanne Brissette, Chicot river Métis, Treasurer Dr. Keen Savard, French river Métis, Consultant Marc Serré, MP for Sudbury Paul Lefebvre, MP for Nickel Belt

If you are related to Calixte, Télesphore and Narcisse and would like to chat about our communities, please drop me a line!



Les multiples noms des Métis: un peu plus sur l’origine du Chicot

En tant que document d’accompagnement d’un blog précédent: Iles Dupas et du Chicot , je veux partager avec vous les origines du terme parfois utilisé pour désigner les Métis.


Auparavant mentionné, mes aïeux Jacques BRISSET et Louis DANDONNEAU étaient les détenteurs de la seigneurie:

Le nom Chicot a été documenté en 1860, lorsque Johann G. Kohl a décrit dans un passage de son livre: Kitch-Gami, Vie Parmi les Ojibwés Lac Supérieur dans lequel il raconte sa discussion en français avec un homme métis qu’il rencontrait lors de ses voyages:

En l’absence d’autres informations, Kohl et beaucoup après lui déduit que Chicot signifiait sa traduction française comme “souches mi-brûlées”, et associé avec le teint des Métis qu’il rencontrait.
Chicot, comme beaucoup de noms donnés aux Peuples Autochtones tels que Nipissing, Ahousat, Yellowknives, Mississaugas etc., est en fait un nom de lieu. Chicot est une rivière qui se jette dans l’archipel entre Trois-Rivières et Montréal, entre Berthier et Sorel à l’île Dupas.

La rivière Chicot, en amont, prend son départ entre St-Gabriel de Brandon et St-Didace court en direction Sud à travers les communautés de St-Cuthbert, Saint-Norbert et se décharge dans le Saint-Laurent à l’île Dupas. Il est l’un des nombreux cours d’eau utilisés par les Voyageurs, ayant connus sa navigation à partir de leurs famille des Premières Nations. Comme les îles et les villes voisines étaient devenues bondés de colons attirés par le poste de traite à proximité, les Métis et les Premières Nations pagayèrent leur chemin en amont et se construsirent des communautés le long de ses rives.


Il est remarquable de souligner les noms des communautés qui ont été utilisés par les Chicots lorsqu’ils s’installèrent dans les communautés le long de la rivière Rouge dans ce qui est devenu le Manitoba: «Brandon» et «St-Norbert».

Le Centre du patrimoine au Manitoba, gardien du patrimoine francophone et métis de l’Ouest canadien a récemment souligné que la municipalité de Taché, Manitoba a récemment reconnu l’importance de Saint-Cuthbert non seulement comme lieu d’origine de sa famille mais aussi comme lieu d’origine de plusieurs familles. Cliquez ici pour plus d’informations

Enter a caption


Une Langue of à Nous: La genèse du michif, la langue crie mixte-française des Métis du Canada, Peter Bakker, Oxford University Press, 5 juin 1997

Autres lectures: (version française non-disponible – titres traduits à titre informatif seulement)

Kitchi-Gami: la vie parmi les Ojibway, Johann Georg Kohl, St.Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1985

One of the Family: Métis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan, Brenda Macdougall, UBC Press, 1 janvier 2011

Contours d’un peuple: Metis famille, mobilité et d’ histoire, Nichole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, Brenda Macdougall, University of Oklahoma Press, 18 déc 2014

Foire aux questions, Métis Nation of Ontario (cliquer pour le lien –en Anglais seulement)

The Many Names of the Métis: here’s more about Chicot

As a companion piece of a previous blog: Iles Dupas et du Chicot, I want to share with you the origins of the term sometimes used to designate Métis.

As previously mentioned, Jacques BRISSET and Louis DANDONNEAU were the holders of the title to the area:


The name Chicot was later documented in 1860, when Johann G. Kohl wrote a passage in his book: Kitch-Gami, Life Among the Lake Superior Ojibwa in which he retells his discussion in French with a Métis man he encountered during his travels:


With no other information, Kohl and many after him deduced that Chicot meant its literal translation from French as “half-burnt stumps”, and associated it with the complexion of the Métis he met.

Chicot, like many names given to Indigenous Peoples such as Nipissing, Ahousat, Yellowknives, Mississaugas etc., is in fact a place-name. Chicot is a river that runs into the archipelago between Trois-Rivières and Montréal, between Berthier and Sorel and known today as île Dupas.


The Chicot travels downstream, beginning between St-Gabriel de Brandon and St-Didace and flows South through the communities of St-Cuthbert, St-Norbert to discharge into the Saint-Lawrence at île Dupas. It is one of the many rivers used by Voyageurs, who learned to navigate it from their First Nations kin. As the islands and neighbouring towns became crowded with Settlers attracted to the nearby trading post, Métis paddled their way upstream and built communities along its shores.



It is noteworthy to highlight the names of the communities that were used by Chicots who set up communities along the Red river in what became Manitoba: “Brandon“, “St-Cuthbert” and “St-Norbert“.


Excerpt from:

A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language of the Canadian Métis, Peter Bakker, Oxford University Press, Jun 5, 1997

Further readings:

Kitchi-Gami : life among the Ojibway, Johann Georg Kohl, St.Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1985

One of the Family: Metis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan, Brenda Macdougall, UBC Press, Jan 1, 2011A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language of the Métis, Peter Bakker, Oxford University Press, Jun 5, 1997

Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and HistoryNichole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, Brenda Macdougall, University of Oklahoma Press, Dec 18, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions, Métis Nation of Ontario  (click for link)