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PIERRE, Comanche Indian, slave; b. c. 1707; baptized 11 Sept. 1723 in Montreal; buried there 5 Aug. 1747.

This slave, a Comanche, was probably born in the central prairies of the present United States. The tribe was the relentless enemy of its neighbours, the Pawnees, who were found in great numbers as slaves in the St Lawrence valley and whose name in French, “Panis,” came to be used to mean any Indian slave.

In 1732 Pierre, as he had been baptized, was the subject of a legal struggle which obliged the authorities of New France to pronounce more definitively on the legality of slavery in the colony than had Intendant Jacques Raudot* in his ordinance of 1709. Philippe You de La Découverte, the slave’s owner, was the object of a distraint upon this piece of property as security for a debt of 3,500 livres that he owed Daniel Migeon de La Gauchetière. In December 1732 Pierre Raimbault*, the lieutenant general for civil and criminal affairs in the jurisdiction of Montreal, approved the distraint and ordered the slave to be sold for the benefit of Migeon de La Gauchetière. The merchant Charles Nolan Lamarque purchased him for 351 livres.

You de La Découverte appealed the decision of the Montreal judge to the Conseil Supérieur of New France. He alleged that the sale should be declared “invalid and harmful to religion,” and that the Indian, “being a Christian,” should recover his liberty. In addition, he claimed that Migeon de La Gauchetière should return the purchase price of 351 livres to Nolan Lamarque and Raimbault should be summoned before the council for having ordered “the sale of a Christian on the marketplace.”

The Conseil Supérieur referred the litigants to Intendant Gilles Hocquart*, who, basing his decision on Raudot’s ordinance which had legalized the enslavement of Negroes and Pawnees, confirmed the judgement handed down by Raimbault in the case of the Comanche Pierre. The affair might have been the occasion for the king to issue a regulation concerning slavery, but he preferred that the judges respect Canadian custom. Pierre Raimbault had created a precedent.

When he was buried in Montreal on 5 Aug. 1747, Pierre was still the property of Charles Nolan Lamarque.

Michel Paquin

[In his work L’esclavage au Canada français Professor Marcel Trudel has studied exhaustively the cases of Pierre the Comanche and many other slaves in Canada. The writer has used his work, every statement in which is based on primary sources.  m.p.]

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Michel Paquin, “PIERRE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pierre_3E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pierre_3E.html
Author of Article:   Michel Paquin
Title of Article:   PIERRE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1974
Year of revision:   1974
Access Date:   May 23, 2024