Marguerite: la traversée
podcast series in 4 episodes
During a guided tour of Montreal’s Aboriginal history in Old Montreal, Émilie hears the name Marguerite Duplessis for the first time. At the corner of St-Sulpice and St-Paul, in the very place where Marguerite lived for a good part of her life in the 18th century, she listens to the story of this 22-year-old woman, who in 1740, was the first slave and the first Aboriginal person to have recourse to justice to have her freedom recognized. This encounter with the story of Marguerite is a shock for Émilie who had never heard of it. How is this possible? Why is the name Marguerite Duplessis unknown to everyone? Why doesn’t it appear anywhere? Following this discovery, Émilie never stops trying to learn more about the history of Marguerite Duplessis. Her investigation, on the trail of Marguerite, leads her to meet historians, specialists, and activists, who teach her more about the hidden history of slavery in New France, and more specifically about the slavery of Aboriginals.
In this first episode, Émilie meets Brett Rushforth, an American, Signa Daum Shanks, Métis lawyer and specialist in Aboriginal law, and Webster, an artist, historian and expert in the history of black people in Quebec and French America.
In 2014, Émilie Monnet begins her research on Marguerite Duplessis and presents, for the first time, a performance art piece around the figure of Marguerite. That same year, the lifeless body of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old Anishnaabe girl, is found in a river in Manitoba. This event marks the beginning of a popular mobilization in the country. The call for a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls was initially rejected by the government, but the inquiry was launched in 2015.
In this second episode of Marguerite, la traversée, Émilie Monnet draws parallels between the life and journey of Marguerite Duplessis and the cause of women, particularly Aboriginal women, today. Marguerite’s journey from the Great Lakes to Montreal, and then from Montreal to Martinique, echoes the sex trade in Canada, which affects mostly Aboriginal women. Accompanied by her guests, Émilie talks about the tragedy of missing women, the commodification and objectification of Aboriginal women, and about solidarity, resilience, resistance and audacity.
Émilie meets Bridget Perrier, Anishnaabe activist and founder of SexTrade 101; Jessica Quijano, coordinator of the Iskweu project at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal; Michelle O’bonsawin, a judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice; the judge Justice Jacques Viens; and an Inuk woman living in Montreal.
In episode 3 of Marguerite: la traversée, Émilie questions her legitimacy to “tell” History. How can we talk about history if we don’t know everything? In a quest for the truth, Émilie tries to fill in some of the gaps in Marguerite Duplessis’ story through archives and bits of information she has read in documents. She goes to Quebec City, to the National Archives, and for the first time, consulted the period archives bearing Marguerite Duplessis’ signature, including the transcript of her trial.
How does one go about accessing memory when there are few written traces left, or when the written word has been filtered and distorted? Does oral storytelling and tradition, which is at the heart of Aboriginal culture, have a place when we try to retrace history? Is the only historical truth the one found in the archives?
Émilie talks to historians Médérik Sioui and Brett Rushforth, sociologist Philippe Néméh-Nombré, and historian Dominique Deslandres.
In the fourth and final episode of Marguerite: la traversée, Émilie Monnet recounts her journey to Martinique — where Marguerite was deported and ended her life — in an attempt to fill in the gaps in her story and find out what happened to her after her trial. By following in Marguerite’s footsteps, Émilie also discovers the strong historical ties that exist between Quebec and Martinique, particularly in relation to slavery. Can revealing this shared painful history give strength to the communities?
During this trip to Martinique, Émilie realizes that she may never know how Marguerite’s life ended, nor where her bones lie, but that through her research and her epic journey through time, she wishes to honor Marguerite Duplessis and her courage, as well as all the people who were torn from their land to be enslaved.
With testimonies from historians Brett Rushforth and Gilbert Pago, journalist and writer Serge Bilé, ethno-musicologist Dominique Cyrille from Martinique and Wendat psychologist Anik Sioui.