Jean-Baptiste de Lorimier – Kanienʼkehá꞉ka Interpreter ❖
Jean-Baptiste de Lorimier was descended from a distinguished Canadian family with a long tradition of military service. Jean-Babtiste was born in Caughnawaga (now Kahnawake, Quebec, where his father was an agent of the Indian Department of the British colonial government. Later he helped Jean-Baptiste to get a job there as an interpreter in May 1810. His mother, Louise Schuyler, was a Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) Iroquoian from Kahnawà:ke, so his ties with that community were strong indeed.
He later worked as interpreter at Kanehsatà:ke, near Oka, Quebec, and was eventually promoted to captain and resident agent and then sent to Saint-Régis (Ahkwesáhsne, Quebec) on 11 May 1813. But war had broken out with the Americans, so two weeks later he was ordered to the Niagara frontier with a detachment of Indigenous warriors from Lower Canada for service in the conflict.
Lorimier and about 300 Haudenosaunee warriors from Kanehsatà:ke and Ahkwesáhsne, joined a group of about 100 other Mohawk Warriors from the local Six Nations Grand River area. This force was one of the main reasons the Americans were defeated near Beaver Dams (Thorold) on 24 June. Lorimier commanded these “Indians from Saint-Régis” (Ahkwesáhsne) during this engagement.
Lorimier stayed in the Niagara area for the next two months, as the Americans, operating from the captured Fort George (Niagara-on-the-Lake), continued to fight with British troops and Canadian militiamen. On the 17th of August he was seriously wounded, and he spent the rest of 1813 as a prisoner of war. His mistreatment as a prison was so bad that it had become the subject of arguments between the British and American commands. Lorimier’s wounds from the imprisonment affected his health for the rest of his life.
On 8 Aug. 1814 Lorimier was made captain in the newly established “Embodied Indian Warriors” of which his father was deputy superintendent. He spent the remainder of that year in the canoe guards which protected the flotillas travelling to British posts on the upper Great Lakes. His knowledge of various Indian dialects made him very useful. At the end of the war he returned to his duties at Saint-Régis, where he dealt with land disputes on the reserves where local Kanienʼkehá꞉ka accused local white settlers of cheating them.
Text by Douglas Leighton. Adapted heavily by LEARN for Elementary students.
Visit online source: LORIMIER, JEAN-BAPTISTE DE – Volume VII (1836-1850) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography
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