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The First Generation of Young Madawaska Settlers

Since 1985 was the International Year of Youth, artist Claude Picard, in this mural painted to commemorate Madawaska’s Bicentennial, wanted to underline the contribution of young people to the life of this nascent colony. What were their interests and their pastimes? How could they reach their potential in this “no man's land”? Because no written documents exist, we are left to our imagination to find answers. The Madawaska reality certainly encouraged friendship and mutual support between the “Whites” and the First Nation people. Relationships among the children, in particular, had to be lived in simplicity and genuineness. So where and how did they meet? It was certainly not on the school benches or when the white children worked in the fields and in the barn (faire le train). Therefore ,they must have met during their free time. They must have been happy to connect with the young Maliseets who were experts at hunting and fishing. The “Brayon” children may not have learned how to read and write, but they could not have had a better school to learn the job of a settler, who not only had to be a good land clearer but also a good trapper, hunter and fisherman.

Brayons are known for their resourcefulness, it seems. Wouldn’t these contacts with the First Nations people have served some purpose? Let us add that the young Madawaskan youth at the beginning of colonization grew up within a geographical and historical framework favourable to the development of initiative, sense of responsibility and entrepreneurship.

Moreover, it can be said that the bond with the Maliseets broadened the outlook of the white children who grew to know and appreciate the immense values and rich culture of a people then called "savages" by the grown-ups. Perhaps we owe gratitude to this first generation of young people in Madawaska for the reputation enjoyed by the population of the Upper Saint John Valley: cordiality, hospitality, and harmony between ethnicities.

G. Desjardins
Université de Moncton campus d'Edmundston Société Historique du Madawaska Ville d'Edmundston Patrimoine Canadien