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Michel Cadotte 1764-1837 (also spelled Michael, Cadott, Cadeau, and other variations) or (Ojibwe: Kechemeshane (or Gichi-miishen in the contemporary spelling) "Great Michel") was a Métis fur trader whose post at La Pointe on Madeline Island was a critical center for trade between the Lake Superior Ojibwe and British and American trading companies.

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Background

Cadotte was born July 22, 1764 to a French father and an Anishinaabe mother in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. His paternal grandfather, a man named Cadeau, had come to Lake Superior on a French exploratory mission in the late 17th century. His father, Jean Baptiste Cadotte Sr., became an active fur trader for French and later British interests in and around the eastern end of Lake Superior. His mother, a Roman Catholic convert whose French name was likely Marianne or Anastasia, was a member of the powerful Owaazsii (Bullhead) clan of the Anishinaabeg. She is frequently known in the records as having high status in the region and as being an exceptionally kind person. Michel Cadotte received a liberal French Catholic education in Montreal.[1]

Career

Though partially French by heritage, Cadotte was born just after the collapse of New France. His career, which came toward the end of the great fur trade, was during a period were traders of Métis heritage were handling the bulk of the trade on behalf of British and American companies. As his father's career progressed, he pressed westward along the south shore of Lake Superior and set up a trading post on Mooningwanekaaning, an island in Chequamegon Bay in modern day Wisconsin. The island, the traditional center of the Lake Superior Ojibwe had been home to a previous French post. As Michel reached adulthood, he came west with his father and older brother Jean Baptiste Jr. (more often called John Baptiste Cadotte).

Jean Baptiste Sr. retired in 1796 and left his holdings to his sons. John Baptiste Jr. pressed further westward to Fond du Lac and later to Red Lake in present-day Minnesota. Michel settled at La Pointe and married Ikwesewe the daughter of the head of the White Crane clan. This was an advantageous marriage, as the cranes were the hereditary chiefs of the Lake Superior band. Cadotte soon established himself as the head trader on the south shore, and would remain so for decades.

Working for the British North West Company and later the American Fur Company, Cadotte built a trading empire throughout northern Wisconsin and established outposts at the head of the Chippewa River, and at Lac Courte Oreilles.

Cadotte, and his brother John Baptiste, were very generous and well-liked and proved instrumental in brokering peace and commerce in the region. Literate, and able to speak fluent Ojibwe, English, and French, Cadotte often acted as an intermediary between the Ojibwe and the colonial governments. He held a great deal of political sway as well, convincing the bulk of the Lake Superior Ojibwe to stay out of Tecumseh's Rebellion, among other actions.

Cadotte retired in 1823 and left his business to his two American sons-in-law, Lyman and Truman Warren. He died on July 8, 1837, and was buried at La Pointe.[2]

Legacy

Mooningwanekaaning Island, designated Ile St. Michel by the French in the 17th century, became more widely known as Michael's Island during the 19th and into the 20th century after Cadotte. However, it was his wife Ikwesewe, who lived into her nineties and held the Catholic name Madeline, who the island is now most widely known for: Madeline Island. Cadott, Wisconsin in Chippewa County, Wisconsin was named for him.

Cadotte's grandson, William Whipple Warren, also from La Pointe and a native-Ojibwe speaker was a territorial legislator from Minnesota Territory, during the 1850s, and wrote a comprehensive chronicle of Ojibwe history. Cadotte has numerous living descendants throughout Ojibwe Country, especially in the Red Cliff area.

See also

References

  • Warren, William W. History of the Ojibway People 1851.
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