BERNARD, NOËL (Bernard Noel, Nuel Benar, Neville Bernard), Malecite leader; fl. 1781–1801 in the Saint John valley of New Brunswick.
Possibly the earliest reference to Noël Bernard is dated 21 Oct. 1781, when he received a gun at the “Indian House” of William Hazen and Company at Indiantown (Saint John). Although he was associated at various points in his life with Meductic (four miles upriver from present-day Meductic) and Tobique (Tobique Indian Reserve), his base of operations appears to have been in the Madawaska region. His son Louis claimed that both Noël and his father had been born and buried there.
Meductic was for many years the site of a Malecite summer village, but its residents had fled to the Madawaska region prior to 1784 in face of loyalist immigration up the Saint John. Sponsored by the New England Company, Anglican missionary Frederick Dibblee* in 1788 established a school for Indians at Meductic. He gave out supplies generously in the hope of encouraging the Malecites to allow their children to attend. Attracted equally by the fact that Meductic was unoccupied – the soldiers to whom it had been granted having failed to take up their claims – numbers of Malecites arrived. Bernard, with his wife Antoinette and five children, Marie-Madeleine, Jean-Baptiste, Louis, Zacharie, and Marie, came in 1788 or 1789. Sunum Benar, literally his son Bernard, who follows on Dibblee’s list of those who received supplies, was likely an adult, unmarried son. The quantity of goods the two obtained was well below the average given to the hundred or more parties who visited Meductic during those years. How long Bernard remained is not known.
The establishment in 1792 of a Catholic chapel, that of Saint-Basile-le-Grand, no doubt helped attract Malecites and other Indians to the Madawaska area. Bernard’s daughter Marie-Madeleine was buried in the cemetery on 20 May 1795. Louis Bernard, interviewed in 1841, claimed that he and his family were the sole survivors of a band of five or six hundred, whose village was arranged in regular streets when he was a child.
Following the failure of Dibblee’s Meductic school in the early 1790s, the New Brunswick government evolved a plan to settle the “Indian problem.” A reserve of 16,000 acres was established on 4 Sept. 1801 at the confluence of the Tobique and Saint John rivers and given to Bernard and his tribe. The House of Assembly expressed the hope that, since the reserve contained fertile soil for agriculture, adequate woodlands for hunting, and several good salmon pools, the Malecites from the entire Saint John valley would have sufficient resources there to follow a traditional way of life until such time as they might become farmers. Many, however, preferred to remain in the vicinity of present-day Kingsclear, Saint John, Woodstock, and Madawaska. A migratory people with traditional hunting-grounds, they were not attracted to the settled existence of the farmer.
Arch. paroissiales, Saint-Basile (Saint-Basile-le-Grand, N.-B.), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 1792–1823 (mfm. at PANB). N.B. Museum, Simonds, Hazen, and White papers, F20: 96, no. 98 (memorandum, W. White, 21 Oct. 1781). Military operations in eastern Maine and N. S. (Kidder), 306. N.B., House of Assembly, Journal, 1838: app.12; 1842: xcii–cxxviii. Source materials relating to the New Brunswick Indian, ed. W. D. Hamilton and W. A. Spray (Fredericton, 1976). H. R. Schoolcraft, Historical and statistical information respecting the history, condition and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States . . . (6v., Philadelphia, 1851–57; repr. New York, 1969), 5. W. F. Ganong, “A monograph of historic sites in the province of New Brunswick,” RSC Trans., 2nd ser., 5 (1899), sect.ii: 213–357. W. O. Raymond, “The first English proprietors of the parish of Woodstock,” Dispatch (Woodstock, N.B.), 31 July 1895; “The founding of Woodstock,” Dispatch, 10 July 1895; “The Meductic fort and its surroundings,” Dispatch, 29 Jan. 1896; “The old Meductic fort,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 1 (1894–96), no.1: 221–72.