It’s not often an 18th century Cape Breton woman makes the news, but Marie Marguerite Benoit has recently. Earlier in March, she was named on CBC radio in connection with a descendant, Memorial University’s Vice Chancellor Dr. Vianne Timmons. CBC had investigated claims of Mi’kmaq ancestry by Dr. Timmons.
Marie Marguerite Benoit is her 3x great-grandmother. Is this enough to claim Mi’kmaq heritage or identity, as Dr. Timmons has done? I’ve become familiar with the Benoit family history over the years, so I wanted to know where Marie Marguerite, this one under discussion, fit in. So, in case you’d like to know too, here’s a family chart.
Legitimacy of identity?
I have no answer to give to the question about legitimacy of identity claims. There are a lot of people who know an awful lot about genealogies of Atlantic Canada – Acadian, Mi’kmaq and other. Way more than I do. But there are disagreements between them, and different interpretations of facts that themselves often don’t match up.
CBC reports make reference to an “unrecognized, unofficial” band in Cape Breton of which Dr. Timmons was a member. There are several such bands in Cape Breton who claim indigeneity from the Benoit and other Mi’kmaq-Acadian families. They are unofficial and unrecognized by the federal government and other First Nations, yes.
In assessing those bands, and Dr. Timmons’ claims, it is worth remembering that there are recognized, official bands who, not that long ago, were “unrecognized” and “unofficial.” Those bands include Miawpukek (1985) and Qalipu (2011) in Newfoundland.
For me, reading about Dr. Timmon’s family history was interesting. But of more concern was a blog post from January 2022 about her overspending in non-academic parts of the university while at MUN and previously at the University of Regina.
For more on Acadian-Mi’kmaq genealogies, a good place to start is WikiTree. Notes on individual entries give details of historical sources and links for finding out more. The following sources may also be helpful:
• Stephen A. White, genealogist, U de Moncton
• LeJeune and Youngs: An Acadian Mi’kmaq Family, Lark Szick
See my Journey to Anne Marie for more on the story of Anne Marie and Rene Rimbault.