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Faribault, Pelagie (1783–1847)

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Dakota cradleboard ornament with quillwork

A cradleboard ornament made of hide decorated with dyed porcupine quills, created by a Dakota woman between 1775 and 1850. Pelagie Faribault would have made quillwork ornaments for her children's cradleboards in a similar style.

Pelagie Faribault was a métis (Native and European) woman who received Wita Tanka (Big Island, also called Pike Island) from her Dakota kin as part of an 1820 treaty with the United States. The Faribault family had influence among their Dakota relatives, and Pelagie in particular was known for her acts of generosity.

Pelagie Faribault was born in 1783 at Prairie du Chien. Historical records also refer to her as Kinnie Hanse Ainse, Pelagie Hause, Elizabeth Pelagie Ainse Faribault, and Madame Farribault. She was a Métis of Dakota and French descent; although sources disagree, it’s likely that her mother belonged to the Mdewakanton band. Her father, Joseph Ainse, was a French Canadian from Mackinac Island who became fluent in the Dakota language and worked with both the Ojibwe and Dakota as a fur trader and Indian agent. Due to these connections, Pelagie grew up familiar with the lifeways of both sides of her family.

Pelagie married twice. While caring for a daughter in her first marriage, she was widowed suddenly, and soon afterward married the French Canadian fur trader Jean-Baptiste Faribault at Inyan Ceyaka Otunwe, a summer planting village of the Mdewakanton Dakota. They married in the Dakota way. During their life together, the couple were often separated while Jean-Baptiste was brokering trades and seeing to other business.

Pelagie likely reinforced the importance of Dakota ways with her husband and children. She provided Jean-Baptiste with social connections that paved the way for trade opportunities with her Dakota relatives. She was known to be kind and generous, and she provided hospitality for the friends and neighbors in their social networks. Her own Dakota relatives sometimes visited nearby for extended periods.

Pelagie and Jean Baptiste had eight children, including Alexander (born in 1806), Lucie-Anne (1808), Oliver (1815), David-Frederic (1816), Amelia (Emilie) Rene (1820), Marie-Louise (1822), Philippe (1826), and Frederic-Daniel (1829). They lived with their mother at Prairie du Chien (ca. 1806), on the island called Wita Tanka (Big Island, ca. 1819 and 1820), and at Mendota (ca. 1822). The family also sheltered at Winona during the War of 1812. While there, they did not know that Jean-Baptiste had been imprisoned by the British. When the family lived on Wita Tanka, their guests included Colonel Henry Leavenworth (1819) and fur trader Philander Prescott (1820).

A treaty signed by the Dakota and the United States at Mni Owe Sni (Coldwater Spring) in 1820 ceded land for the construction of a fort at Bdote, the intersection of the Mni Sota Wakpa (Minnesota River) and the Wakpa Tanka (Mississippi River). At the same time it set aside Wita Tanka, the 320-acre piece of land at the center of Bdote, specifically for Pelagie Faribault. Her Dakota relatives wanted her to have it because she was already living there with her family. In a gesture that symbolized the Dakota value of honoring women, Wita Tanka was put in Pelagie’s name rather than deeded to her husband. Traditional Dakota culture gives women rights to land and home places—not in the sense of “ownership,” but of the privilege to use and share the land and its resources with relatives. At the time, Euro-American men used white privilege and male privilege to control property and land.

Due to floods on Wita Tanka, the family moved to Mendota (St. Peter) in 1826 while Jean-Baptiste ran his trading post at Inyan Ceyaka. When he was stabbed in the back and lungs by a customer in 1833, Pelagie traveled thirty-five miles at night from Mendota to Inyan Ceyaka to help him recover. In that same year, her husband purchased a Black woman (her name is unrecorded) to work as an enslaved laborer in the Faribault household. Although it was illegal, slavery was not uncommon at and near Fort Snelling before the 1850s.

The terms of an 1837 treaty between the US and the Dakota ignored Pelagie’s ownership of Wita Tanka, and in 1838, advocates of the family asked the US for compensation for the land. One letter of support describes Pelagie as an influential and generous person in the Dakota community.

In June 1840, Pelagie and her family moved from a log building into a larger, sandstone and Platteville limestone home at Mendota. The new house included luxuries such as a bar, a ballroom, and a billiard room. It stood 150 yards away from a building occupied by Henry Sibley, a fur trader who worked with Jean-Baptiste.

On June 19, 1847, Pelagie died. After her death, her husband and some of her children moved to the site of a trading post on the Inyan Bosdata Wakpa (Cannon River). The town that was built there was named Faribault after her son Alexander. A treasury document created in February of 1858 shows that the United States paid Jean-Baptiste Faribault $12,000 for Wita Tanka in that year, eleven years after Pelagie’s death.

Many of Pelagie’s children continued in the fur trade, treaty-making, and other businesses. Facing ill-fortune years later, Alexander died in poverty in 1882. He and Pelagie and other family members are buried at Calvary Cemetery in Faribault.

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Ancestry.com. “All Public Member Photos & Scanned Documents results for Faribault.”
https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1093/?name=_Faribault&count=50&fh=50&fsk=MDs0OTs1MA-61--61

Bachman, Walt. Northern Slave, Black Dakota: The Life and Times of Joseph Godfrey. Bloomington, MN: Pond Dakota Press, 2013.

Dakota County Historical Society. Faribault House.
https://www.dakotahistory.org/historical-sites/126-faribault-house

DeCarlo, Peter J. “Inyan Ceyaka Otunwe.” MNopedia, December 16, 2015.
https://www.mnopedia.org/place/inyan-ceyaka-otunwe

Denial, Catherine. “Pelagie Faribault’s Island: Property, Kinship, and the Meaning of Marriage in Dakota Country.” Minnesota History 62, no. 2 (Summer 2010): 48–59.
http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/62/v62i02p048-059.pdf

——— . Making Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and the American State in Dakota and Ojibwe Country. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2013.

Faribault Woolen Mill Co. The Faribault Woolen Mill Origin Story.
https://www.faribaultmill.com/blogs/the-thread/the-mill

Find a Grave. Alexander Faribault.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/11578065/alexander-faribault

Find a Grave. Elizabeth Pelagie Ainse Faribault.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/11922218/elizabeth-pelagie-faribault

Finnell, Arthur Louis. Known War of 1812 Veterans Buried in Minnesota, Volume 1. Bloomington, MN: Park Genealogical Books, 1996.

Friends of the Sibley Historic Site. Houses of the Sibley Historic Site: The Faribault House.
http://www.sibley-friends.org/faribaulthouse.htm

Hyman, Colette A. Dakota Women’s Work: Creativity, Culture, and Exile. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012.

Marcaccini, Ann, and George Woytanowitz. “House Work: The DAR at the Sibley House.” Minnesota History 55, no. 5 (Spring 1997): 187–201.
http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/55/v55i05p186-201.pdf

Minnesota Historical Society. Sibley Historic Site: Jean-Baptiste Faribault.
https://www.mnhs.org/sibley/learn/jean-baptiste-faribault

My Heritage Family Trees. David Faribault.
https://www.myheritage.com/names/david_faribault

Myles, Marlena. Dakhóta Thamákhočhe (map).
https://marlenamyl.es/project/dakota-land-map

Religions in Minnesota. Who Was Alexander Faribault?
https://religionsmn.carleton.edu/exhibits/show/history-of-faribault/building-a-community-together-/who-was-alexander-faribault

Schreier, David. “Pike Island: Two Dakota County Families Living on the Island a Century Apart.” Dakota County History (the newsletter of the Dakota County Historical Society), November 2000: 2–7.
https://www.dakotahistory.org/images/PastNewsletters/200011-DC-History-Pike-Island-Faribault-and-Ruddle.pdf

Shortridge, Julie. “Pelagie Faribault’s Home Fire.” Native American Press/Ojibwe News (Smoke Signals section), April 28, 2000.

Sibley, Henry H. Memoir of Jean-Baptiste Faribault. [Minnesota]: N.p., 1880.
https://archive.org/details/memoirofjeanbapt00siblrich

University of Oklahoma Digital Commons. “Report: Memorial of J. and P. Faribault. American Indian and Alaska Native Documents in the Congressional Serial Set, 1817–1899.”
https://digitalcommons.law.ou.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2272&context=indianserialset

Upham, Warren. Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origin and Historic Significance. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1920. https://archive.org/details/minnesotageogra00uphagoog/page/n9/mode/2up

Watson, Larry S. “Discovering Indian Records That Are Not Identified as Indian.” Journal of American Indian Family Research 8, no. 3 (1987): 3–6.

Related Images

Dakota cradleboard ornament with quillwork
Dakota cradleboard ornament with quillwork
Walking stick used by Jean-Baptiste Faribault
Walking stick used by Jean-Baptiste Faribault
Watercolor painting of Fort Snelling, c.1844. Painting by John Casper Wild.
Watercolor painting of Fort Snelling, c.1844. Painting by John Casper Wild.
View of Wita Tanka (Pike Island) and Fort Snelling from Mendota
View of Wita Tanka (Pike Island) and Fort Snelling from Mendota
Family members of Jean-Baptiste and Pelagie Faribault
Family members of Jean-Baptiste and Pelagie Faribault
Jean-Baptiste Faribault House
Jean-Baptiste Faribault House

Turning Point

The Mdewakanton Dakota provide Wita Tanka (Big Island, also called Pike Island) to Pelagie Faribault in an 1820 treaty with the United States.

Chronology

1783

Pelagie Ainse is born to a Dakota mother and a French Canadian father at Prairie Du Chien.

1805

After being widowed at the age of twenty-two, Pelagie is married a second time, through Dakota marriage practices, to Jean-Baptiste Faribault.

ca. 1812

Pelagie takes her children to Winona to be safe during the War of 1812 without knowing that Jean-Baptiste is being held captive by the British.

1815

Jean-Baptiste Faribault becomes a US citizen.

1820

In a treaty with the United States, the Dakota provide Wita Tanka (Big Island, also called Pike Island) to Pelagie Faribault, who is already living on the island with her children.

1822

Wita Tanka floods, forcing the Faribault family to move to a nearby shore on the mainland.

1833

Jean-Baptiste pays $350 to his son-in-law Alexis Bailly for an unnamed Black woman held in slavery at Mendota (slavery was illegal there at the time).

1838

The Faribault family enlists Samuel C. Stambaugh and Alexis Bailly to seek reimbursement from the US government for the loss of Pike Island in an 1837 treaty, an act Lawrence Taliaferro had opposed.

1840

John Müller, a stonemason, finishes (probably with Dakota laborers) a three-story Platteville yellow limestone and red sandstone home in Mendota, 150 yards away from Henry Sibley’s home.

1840

Pelagie and Jean-Baptiste’s son Philippe dies while still in his teenage years.

1845

Pelagie’s namesake, Eliza Pelagie Faribault, is born to her son Oliver and his wife, Harriet.

1847

At sixty-four years old, Pelagie dies in Mendota. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Faribault.

1858

Due to continual pressure by Samuel Stambaugh and Alexis Bailly, the US agrees to pay $12,000 (estimated to be $239,000 in 2020) to Jean-Baptiste for Wita Tanka. In the same year, Fort Snelling is sold to Franklin Steele.

1860

Jean-Baptiste Faribault dies.

2000

Gary Schulte, an entertainer, performs stories and songs about Pelagie Faribault at the historic Sibley House.