Posted By: Ina Wireman

 

By Suzanne Guimont Binette

In the early history of Canada, it was not until Olivier LeTardif became the personal representative and interpreter for Samuel de Champlain that we first hear the name Manitouabewich. This young Indian, of the Huron Nation, had been hired as LeTardif’s own scout and traveling companion. Manitouabewich had been converted to Christianity by the French missionaries, and as part of the baptismal ritual, had been given the Christian name of Roch, in honor of St.Roch, the patron saint. Olivier LeTardif and Roch Manitouabewich traveled together for many years. It was the responsibility of LeTardif to establish a network of fur trading posts for the "Company" that Champlain had based at Quebec (l’Habitation at Basseville). Actually, the fur trading posts were the "middle link" between the trappers and the "Company". There were three types of trappers: a) the trappers that were "licensed" by the authorities of the Company b) the itinerant unlicensed trappers known as the "Coureurs des bois" c) the Indians who trapped and traded with the Company All of these three types bartered their furs at the fur trading post of his choice, usually the post nearest his hunting area. The system worked well and was rather efficient. The trading posts gave the trappers a "depot" at which they could dispose of their furs and at the same time barter for traps, knives, and items of clothing such as hats, shirts, etc. The Indians almost always bartered for blankets, mirrors, the white man’s hats, and for colored beads to adorn their native costumes and headdresses. As a team, LeTardif and Manitouabewich oftentimes penetrated deep into the vast expanse of the Canadian wilderness to make contact with some of the outlaying Indian settlements of the "back country", and along the way they met and did business with some of the nomadic Indians. They encouraged these nomadic Indians to use the facilities of the various trading posts that had been set up for the operation of fur trade. After eight years in the field, LeTardif was promoted by Champlain and became the head clerk (equivalent to Secretary-Treasurer) of the fur trading company. It was then that Le Tardif settled down to a more normal way of life, conducting the "inner affairs" of the Company at the main office at Quebec (Basse-ville). Roch Manitouabewich also settled down to a more domestic way of life, but in his own environment of the Huron settlement at Sillery near Quebec. The bond off friendship, trust, and loyalty between these two men was very strong, and, although each lived in his own "milieu", they never lost contact one from the other. It was when Roch Manitouabewich and his wife had a daughter and had her baptized that LeTardif became "Godfather" for the baby girl, and in accordance with the custom of the times, LeTardif gave the girl his own name of Olivier. In addition, the missionary performing the baptism gave the girl the name Marie, in honor of the Virgin Mary, and he also gave her the name Sylvestre, meaning "one who comes from the forest" or "one who lives in the forest". When Marie Olivier Sylvestre was ten years old, Olivier LeTardif, in his generous way and because of his respect for his friend and servant, Roch Manitouabewich, adopted the young Indian girl as his very own daughter (she never carried the family name of LeTardif). This enabled her to be educated and reared in the same manner as a well-to-do French girl. First he placed her as a "live-in border" and student with the Ursuline Nuns at Quebec, and later he boarded her with a French family where she was privately tutored. It was in the atmosphere of this respected family of Guillaume Hubou and his wife Marie Rollet (when she married Guillaume Hubou, she was the widow of Louis Hebert) that Marie Olivier Sylvestre met and married Martin Prevost, friend of the Hubou family and a very personal friend of Olivier LeTardif. This marriage was to be the first marriage on record between an Indian girl and a French colonist. The marriage took place on the third of January 1644 at Quebec. Recorded as witnesses to the ceremony was Olivier LeTardif and Quillaume Couillard (father-in-law of LeTardif).