Random walks through the internet: from dissonance to consonance

For better or for worse, my highly analytical mind can’t handle an inconsistency. And the inconsistency that I have been trying to resolve for myself since about 2015 is this:

How is it possible that my maternal grandmother, Ethel Ladas, described herself as Algonquin, while her mother, Angélique Maheux, described herself as Odawa?

Although the Algonquin and the Odawa are both Algonquian, they are distinct nations, with distinct traditional territories, even if those territories overlapped in more recent history. So, strictly speaking, my grandmother and great grandmother were describing themselves as belonging to different nations.

In Europeans terms, it would be a bit like one was saying she was from Germany and the other from Austria. Yes, both nations are, broadly speaking, “German” but they are two very different nations.  

As is so often the case, the answer was at my fingertips all along. 

Yesterday, I was again looking through the parish records that are available on the fantastic website, http://www.weskarini.ca/ — parish records, which I might add, I have looked through many many times before. Fortunately, yesterday, for whatever reason, my brain spotted the key piece of information that makes sense of the apparent inconsistency. 

Angélique Maheux’s paternal grandmother was Louise Wabadik, who was married to Simon Kaponiching, an Algonquin. Louise’s father, Laurent Echkipakis, is described in the parish record as “Ojibwe,” which I’m willing to bet was a catch-all term used by the parish priest for multiple nations, one of which very likely would have been the Odawa. And, finally, to put a nice bow on it, Angélique also went by the name Wabadik, a name she gave to my grandmother, Ethel. 

So, if Angélique was Louise’s namesake, it seems likely they had a close relationship and, given Angélique’s identification with the Odawa, it is safe to assume Louise was Odawa, given the description of her father’s identity in the parish record. Meanwhile, Angélique’s father and grandfather and great grandfather were Algonquin, so it would be perfectly reasonable for my grandmother to describe herself as Algonquin, even if her own father was French.   

Mystery solved. 

I wonder if this is how Nancy Drew felt after she cracked a particularly tough case with a clue that had been hiding in plain sight.

I am also somewhat pleased by the resolution to the story because I discovered the crucial  fact yesterday after a random walk through the internet. I actually had to go through my search history today to remember why I even landed on the Weskarini site yesterday.

The resolution pleases me because I only unearthed the original mystery after another random walk through the internet led me to Desmond Moreton’s article about Frank Maheux, Angélique’s husband and Ethel’s father, in which she is described as Odawa, a description that did not resonate with my memory of how Ethel described herself. So, one random walk has answered the question that another random walked posed many years ago. I’ve always appreciated the symmetry of a story that comes full circle. 

If you’d like to know more about my effort to make sense of the discrepancy, I’ve written a number of posts reflecting on it, which can be found here.

Ultimately, I may be the only person in my family who has ever given this a second thought (never mind the very many thoughts I have actually given to it), but, if you are on your own random walk through the internet and our lineage overlaps, the key record is here.

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