LaFramboise family subject of book, upcoming talk

NEW ULM – One of the best educated men in the Northwest Territory, a speaker of five languages (French, English, Ottawa, Chippewa and Dakota); the fur trader who guided German settlers in choosing the site of present-day New Ulm; a colorful character married four times, whose wives included two daughters of Chief Sleepy Eye…

Joseph LaFramboise, interpreter to the Sioux and Chippewa Indians in Minnesota, was involved in nearly every historic event involving Indians and settlers, from 1826 until his death in 1856.

LaFramboise and his family are the subject of an upcoming talk by Janet Timmerman, author of “Red Earth, White Road: The History of the LaFramboise Family.”

Timmerman is the guest speaker at the Brown County Historical Society annual meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, at Turner Hall in New Ulm.

“I had been researching a story about an environmental history when the story of the LaFramboise family came to light,” said Timmerman. “I continued on with this research over time, and the stories of the family during the US-Dakota War intrigued me.”

Timmerman pieced the story together from letters and testimony by LaFramboise family members.

Researching her topic in the context of the culture clashes of its time, Timmerman became aware of the complex nature of the historic events.

“There were not just two sides to this conflict, but many sides and opinions, within both the white and the Dakota community,” she says. “The Metis reflected this multi-faceted situation. The Minnesota River Valley was a milieu of European cultures and Dakota people in many stages of change, from Dakota traditional to farming and educated Christian. The Metis were a mixture of many of these.”

Most of Timmerman’s writing focuses on environmental history – but “the LaFramboise family story is far from complete, and I will continue to work on it,” says Timmerman.

Her upcoming talk in New Ulm will highlight the historic tragedy of the Metis.

“Neither connected completely to the Euro-white community, nor with the Dakota, they were often not trusted by either, or were forced to chose which side of the conflict they would participate in,” she notes. “Their traditional roles as mediators between the two cultures were no longer viable.”

“When we talk about today’s diverse immigrant cultures, we fail to realize the variety of the past was greater and more striking, as the idea of Americanism was neither as strong nor as defined,” muses Timmerman.

Timmerman is a native of southwest Minnesota with deep prairie roots. She has spent the last three and a half years working in Rochester at the history center of Olmsted County. She is just starting a new position in her home area, as the director of Murray county’s historic properties. She is a mom to two sons and a grandmom of two grandsons. She and her husband Mark live on a farmstead they purchased in1986.

Joseph LaFramboise was born in Michigan in 1805 of two historic parents, Madeline Marcotte, daughter of Jean Baptiste Marcotte, granddaughter of Ottawa chieftain Returning Cloud, and Joseph LaFramboise Sr., a native of France and a noted fur trader.

Records show that LaFramboise was licensed as a fur trader in 1826 with H.H. Sibley and was Sibley’s assistant.

In 1832, LaFramboise set up a trading post at the confluence of the Cottonwood and Minnesota Rivers. Two years later, he established Little Rock Trading Post in Ridgely Township on the north side of the Minnesota River.

Much of the material and supplies for the building of Fort Ridgely were unloaded at Little Rock Post and transported to the fort site.

On July 29, 1830, with 1,200 Indians assembled at Fort Snelling, LaFramboise was instrumental in convincing the Sioux and Chippewa tribes to sign a treaty with the US Government in which the tribes assumed responsibility for their debts.

On July 23, 1851, he was one of the official government interpreters to the Sioux at the signing of the Traverse des Sioux Treaty.

He died in 1856 at Little Rock Trading Post.

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