Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory, 2008
Abstract: Bernard-Anselme d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin was the son of Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin, a French officer responsible for cultivating relations with the Abenaki in Acadia, and Melchilde de Nicosquoué, the daughter of the Penobscot chief Madockawando. Even though he was raised in Penobscot society, Saint-Castin received his education in Quebec City and would later become part of Acadian society in Port Royal. It is this position between French and Aboriginal worlds that makes him a good case study through which to understand the aboriginal role in defending Port Royal between 1707 and 1710.
Port Royal was attacked by New England troops three times between 1707 and 1710. In 1707, during the first two attacks, the French and Abenaki successfully defended the village. However, the fort was lost during the third attack in 1710. The British victory was definitive. Port Royal never again returned to French control. It is tempting to suggest that if the presence of Saint-Castin and the Abenaki was critical to the French success in 1707, their absence in 1710 was a contributing factor to the French defeat in 1710. This paper complicates this assumption by using Charlevoix’s Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle-France along with French colonial correspondence, ethnographic and archaeological sources as tools to better understand the role of the Abenaki, Mi’kmaq and Saint-Castin family during the three sieges that led to Port Royal’s fall.
The paper makes three contributions. First, it improves our understanding of key individuals, like Saint-Castin, who played critical roles in brokering the relationship between France and North American aboriginal peoples. Second, it will demonstrate the critical way that imperial and local decision making can affect these relationships. Third, it will stress how these events help to broaden our understanding of European – Aboriginal relations in Northeastern North America.