Bergeron, Francis Xavier
Francis Xavier Bergeron was a French-Canadian born near Quebec, Canada, and arrived around the Kankakee area in the late 1830s. After removal west of the Mississippi, a Potawatomi tribal member named Watchekee or Watseka often made trips back to Illinois. She and Francis met on one of these excursions and wed around 1840. They had four children: Jean Batiste, Catherine (Kate), Matilda and Charlie.
Francis and Watchekee’s children grew up in a pivotal, difficult time in Potawatomi history. They experienced forced removal, relocations and the countless adversities associated with navigating being Woodland people on the prairies west of the Mississippi. Although Potawatomi had hopes the reservation in Kansas would be safe from outside encroachment, it did not go unnoticed by settlers and travelers. The Oregon Trail brought thousands through the area, and the railroad saw many economic opportunities.
As a result of Westward Expansion and commerce, the federal government approached the Tribe about the chance to take allotments and become U.S. citizens in 1861. The Bergeron family were among the Citizen Potawatomi listed on the 1863 census. However, this did not prove advantageous for many who gained American citizenship, and the allotted lands quickly passed from Potawatomi ownership to white settlers. A clause in the 1861 treaty provided opportunity for the Potawatomi to sell their remaining lands in Kansas and purchase a new reservation in Indian Territory.
In 1872, the Bergeron family joined six other Kansas-based families to become part of the original Potawatomi to settle on the new reservation in present-day Oklahoma. Nine years later, Francis passed away in present-day Wanette, Oklahoma, and his grave is located in the Wanette Cemetery.
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center: Collections and Research Division. 2005. Bergeron Family Manuscripts
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Public Information Department. 2020. Hownikan