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Bertrand, Benjamin Hendre


Benjamin Hendre Bertrand was born June 25, 1812 in Berrien Country, Michigan to Madeline Bourassa and Joseph Bertrand. Like his cousins Joseph and Jude Bourassa, Benjamin attended the school at Carey Mission at the age of 7. He later transferred to a private school in Detroit, Michigan and then reunited with his Bourassa family at the Choctaw Academy at White Sulphur Springs, Kentucky.

After school, Benjamin returned to Michigan and worked as a clerk in his father’s store. Developing a mercantile business of his own, he continued to run his operation until 1850. That was the year he immigrated to St. Mary’s Mission, Kansas, with 670 local Potawatomi. Employed as a secretary for a C. Guillard, he served as an interpreter for his fellow Potawatomi. In St. Mary’s, he also worked as a bookkeeper and salesman at a local store. Using his experience in commerce to help his fellow tribal members, Benjamin developed a reputation as a successful entrepreneur, and he was elected in 1860 to the first Potawatomi Business Committee. In his position, he was to manage all business affairs of the tribe’s Catholic Band, included drafting terms for the Treaty of 1861.

In the spring of 1862, Benjamin and eight other tribal representatives travelled with Indian Agent William W. Ross to Washington DC in an effort to have the 1861 Treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate. Benjamin was also instrumental in shaping the pivotal treaties of 1866 that secured rights for female tribal members and 1867 that established a Citizen Potawatomi community in Oklahoma. Rather than move with his fellow Citizen Potawatomi to Indian Territory, Benjamin stayed in Kansas, helping layout the city of St. Mary’s and securing its charter in 1869. That same year he married Marguerite Fabing and the couple had two children. Benjamin Hendre Bertrand died April 25, 1888. Well respected, he was considered among the tribe as a man of integrity and probity.

Citations

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center. 2005. Bertrand Family Manuscripts

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