FREE Catholic Classes
Principal chief of the Micmac Indians of Nova Scotia at the time of the establishment of the French colony under de Monts and Poutrincourt in 1605, and noted in mission annals of the first Christian in the tribe. The French form Memberton is a dialectic corruption of the Micmac name Maopeltu, which is itself a contracted form of Maoi-Napeltu, "chief of all, i.e. "principal chief" from maoi (all) and napeltu (chief, or leader). On St. John's Day, 24 June, 1610, he was baptized with twenty others of his family by the secular priest Father Messire Jesse Flèche at Port Royal, now Annapolis, Nova Scotia, Poutrincourt and his son acting as sponsors for the King and Dauphin of France. He was given the name Henry, after Henry IV, he wife was named Marie after the queen regent, while his children and other relatives were called after members of the royal family. Then very old, although vigorous mentally and physically, he claimed to remember the first visit of Cartier to the St. Lawrence in 1534. For many years the acknowledged chief and war captain, medicine man and chief of tribal ceremonies, in the midst of paganism he led a temperate and moral life, even before baptism, limiting himself to one wife, where polygamy was the rule among great men, one chief having as many as eight. On account of their good offices in the serious illness of his son, he became strongly attached to the Jesuit missionaries Biard and Massé, who arrived in June, 1611, and proved an earnest, practical Christian frequently expressing a fervent hope for the conversion of his whole tribe. Towards the end of August, 1611, seized with his last illness, he was brought at his own request to Father Biard's house, where he died a week later having received every attention, and having given consent to be buried in the Christian cemetery as an example to his people, whom he repeatedly exhorted to maintain a friendship with the French, he was buried with full ecclesiastical ceremony, as befitted his rank and character. Father Biard says of him: "This was the greatest. most renown, and most formidable savage within the memory of man ; of slender physique, taller and longer-limbed than is usual among them; bearded like a Frenchmen although scarcely any of the others have hair upon their chin; grave and reserved; feeling a proper sense of dignity for his position as commander, God impressed upon his soul a greater idea of Christianity that he had been able to form from hearing about it, and he often said to me in his savage tongue, 'Learn our language quickly, for as soon as thou knowest it and has taught me well I wish to become a preacher like thee.' Even before his conversion he never cared to have more than one living wife." In accordance with a universal Indian dislike to name the dead, his people referred to him after his death simply as the "Great Chief". At the Micmac mission town of Sainte-Anne de Ristigouche, Quebec, a monument was unveiled on the third centenary of his baptism to commemorate the beginnings of the Micmac mission.