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Émile Petitot
Birth name:  Émile-Fortuné Petitot
Other name(s):  Émile-Fortuné-Stanislas-Joseph Petitot;
Mitchi Pitchitork Tchikraynarm iyoyé
Born:  December 3, 1838(1838-12-03)
Place of birth:  Grancey-le-Château-Neuvelle, France
Died:  May 13, 1916 (aged 77)
Place of death:  Mareuil-lès-Meaux, France
Nationality:  French
Denomination(s):  Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Known for:  Canadian northwest cartographer, ethnologist, geographer, linguist, and writer
Title:  Father
Education:  Collège du Sacré-Cœur in Grancey;
Occupation:  Priest

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Father Émile-Fortuné Petitot[1] (also known as Émile-Fortuné-Stanislas-Joseph Petitot) (Inuk name, Mitchi Pitchitork Tchikraynarm iyoyé, meaning "Mr. Petitot, son of the Sun") (December 3, 1838-May 13, 1916), a French Missionary Oblate, was a notable Canadian northwest cartographer, ethnologist, geographer, linguist, and writer.[2][3][4]


Early years

Petitot was born in Grancey-le-Château-Neuvelle, France. His father, Jean-Baptiste Petitot, was a clockmaker; his mother was Thérèse-Julie-Fortunée Gagneur. Petitot attended the minor seminary and the Collège du Sacré-Cœur in Grancey. In 1859, he took minor orders of the priesthood before joining the Oblates in September 1860. His training occurred at Notre-Dame-de-l'Osier, and on March 15, 1862, he was ordained in Marseilles.[1]

Fourteen days after his ordination, he left for Canada's Mackenzie River. The young missionary Petitot traveled with Bishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché, of the Oblates of Saint Boniface, from Montreal to Manitoba, and then, by August 1862, he traveled to the Great Slave Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories with the Hudson's Bay Brigade Trail.[1][5]


Petitot was based at Northwest Territories' missions for 12 years, including Fort Norman,[6] Fort Providence, Fort Resolution, and Fort Good Hope. Here he collected material for his major Athapaskan languages dictionary, still the best available in the field.[3] He also collected extensive legends of the Blackfoot, Chipewyan, Cree, Dogrib, Hare, and Loucheux cultures.

From 1864 through 1878, he worked on the design, decoration, and construction of the Church of Our Lady of Good Hope, designated a National historic site by the Government of Canada.

The late 1860s were troublesome years. In 1866, he was temporarily excommunicated, and in 1868, he developed short bouts of insanity.[1]. But in the midst of this, in 1867–68, Petitot became the first European to reach the Tuktut Nogait National Park area.[7]

Petitot returned to France in 1874 and published his dictionaries and other works. The following year, in 1875, he spoke at the inaugural International Congress of Americanists in Nancy, France making a strong case for the Asiatic origin of Inuit and North American Indians. He was awarded a silver medal by the Société de Géographie for his Arctic maps, including the partially traveled Hornaday River, though he referred to it as Rivière La Roncière-le Noury,[8] named in honor of the president of the Société de Géographie.

After two years in France, Petitot returned to the North, mostly helping and studying the people of the Great Slave Lake area. By 1883, however, ill health forced him to end his missionary work and return to France. Honoring his scientific contributions, he was awarded the 1883 Back Prize by the Royal Geographical Society.[9]

He became a parish priest October 1, 1886 at Mareuil-lès-Meaux, France. Here, he ministered to the sick, and published books and articles on Northern Canada. He died in 1916.


Partial bibliography

In French language:

  • Vocabulaire Français-Esquimau OCLC 46291818
  • Les Amérindiens du nord-ouest canadien du 19e siècle selon Emile Petitot préc. d'une prés. gén. des indiens dènè-dindjié (The Amerindians of the Canadian Northwest in the 19th century, as seen by Émile Petitot), OCLC 179804765
  • Monographie de Dènè-Dindjié., OCLC 77347629
  • De l'origine asiatique des Indiens de l'Amérique arctique, OCLC 45903111
  • Petit vocabulaire sarcis, OCLC 35326154
  • Mémoire abrégé sur la géographie de l'Athabaskaw-Mackenzie et des grands lacs du bassin arctique de l'Amérique, ISBN 066504819X
  • (1874). Outils en pierre et en os du MacKenzie (cercle polaire arctique), OCLC 67291221
  • (1876). Dictionnaire de la langue dènd̀indjié ; dialectes montagnais ou chippewayan, peaux de lièvre et loucheux renfermant en outre un grand nombre de termes propres a sept autres dialectes de la même langue; précédé d'une monographie des dènè-dindjié, d'une grammaire et de tableaux synoptiques des conjugaisons, OCLC 78851365
  • (1884). De la formation du langage. Mots formés par le redoublement de racines hétérogènes, quoique de signification synonyme, c'est-a-dire par réitèration copulative, OCLC 67290388
  • (1890). Accord des mythologies dans la cosmogonie des Danites arctiques, OCLC 253141763
  • (1891). Autour du grand lac des Esclaves, OCLC 13624838
  • (1911). Dates importantes pour l'histoire de la découverte géographique de la puissance du Canada., OCLC 62929581

Musical score

  • (1889). Chants indiens du Canada Nord-Ouest, OCLC 47709084


  • 2001, I, Emile Petitot — Arctic Explorer and Missionary, a Getaway Films documentary.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d "PETITOT, ÉMILE (named at birth Émile-Fortuné; also known as Émile-Fortuné-Stanislas-Joseph)". University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  2. ^ "Church of Our Lady of Good Hope National Historic Site of Canada". Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  3. ^ a b c Savoie, Donat. "Emile Petitot (1838-1916)". Arctic (Ottawa: 35 (3): 446-447. 
  4. ^ "Émile Petitot". Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  5. ^ "The son of the sun". Radio Premiere Chaine. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  6. ^ a b "Petitot River". Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  7. ^ "Tuktut Nogait National Park of Canada". Parks Canada. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  8. ^ Fraser, J.K. (December 1952). "Identification of Petitot's Riviere La Ronciere-le Noury". Arctic ( 5 (4): 227. 
  9. ^ Proceedings. Royal Geographical Society. 1883. pp. 361. 
  10. ^ "I, EMILE PETITOT - ARCTIC EXPLORER AND MISSIONARY". Retrieved 2009-01-12. 


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