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TOMAH (Toma, Thomas), PIERRE, known as Governor Tomah (the name also appears as Toma Pierre), Malecite chief; b. c. 1734, possibly at Aukpaque (near Fredericton, N.B.), son of Pierre Tomah*, supreme sachem of the Malecites; m. 5 June 1768 Marie-Joseph of Aukpaque before Abbé Charles – François Bailly* de Messein; d. in or after 1827, likely at Meductic (near present-day Meductic), N.B.

Pierre Tomah had a long and distinguished career. In 1759 he fought with Montcalm*’s forces on the Plains of Abraham, where he lost an arm and an eye. His activities during the American revolution are not well documented, but on 28 July 1780 he is listed on the return of American agent John Allan* as being “Encamped at Passamaquoddy,” accompanied by his wife and three children. On 2 Oct. 1781, through a skilful manœuvre of Nova Scotia’s superintendent of Indians, Michael Francklin*, at a conference held at Burton (N.B.), Pierre Tomah became “governor” (roughly the equivalent of supreme sachem) of the Malecites, thereby succeeding his father. That Francklin considered intervention necessary may suggest that patrilineal succession was not unquestioningly accepted by all Malecites at this time.

In 1788 or 1789, Tomah, his wife, and four children were reported by Frederick Dibblee, founder of the New England Company’s school at Meductic, to have stopped there. Since the quantity of goods that Tomah and his children received was far below average, it is likely that their participation at the school was only peripheral. It was probably the same Pierre Tomah who in 1790 was reported living with 29 other families at Becaguimec (Hartland), N.B., where he was tilling a large corn patch.

In the latter years of Tomah’s life the Malecites began to experience the effects of loyalist expansion into the upper Saint John River region. It was a time of particular difficulty as they faced the need to adjust their way of life to a social environment increasingly moulded by whites. The younger generations were the ones to suffer the full consequences of greater contact with the English-speaking colonists [see Molly Ann Gell; Francis Tomah*] .

The election of Francis Tomah as chief at Kingsclear in 1813 may indicate that Pierre Tomah had relinquished his leadership or that because of his age, infirmity, or some other reason the old chief was unable to maintain authority over the entire Malecite population of the Saint John valley. If Pierre Tomah still laid claims to be the major chief in the 1820s, and if he still had any support from his people, he had largely been forgotten by the New Brunswick authorities. Lieutenant Governor Sir Howard Douglas*, who visited Meductic in 1827, seems to have been surprised to find him still alive, a destitute man of 93 years. A contemporary account reported: “His Excellency, deeming him to be a very proper object of Charity, caused him to come down to Fredericton, and immediately directed the Commissioners for superintending Indian Affairs to have him decently clothed, and relieve his present wants, and also to adopt measures for his relief and sustenance. It is worthy of remark that while putting on his new Apparel he seemed to manifest the most sincere joy and gratitude.” Nothing more is known of Pierre Tomah.

Vincent. O. Erickson

N.B. Museum, Webster ms coll., packet 31, [Walter Bromley], “Report of the state of the Indians in New Brunswick under the patronage of the New England Company, 14th August 1822” Military operations in eastern Maine and Nova Scotia during the revolution, chiefly compiled from the journals and letters of Colonel John Allan . . . , ed. Frederic Kidder (Albany, N.Y., 1867). New-Brunswick Courier, 18 Aug. 1827. W. O. Raymond, The River StJohn: its physical features, legends and history from 1604 to 1784 ([2nd ed.], ed. J. C. Webster, Sackville, N.B., 1943; repr. 1950); “The Indians after the coming of the English: continued,” Saint Croix Courier (St Stephen, N.B.), 16 June 1892: 1; “The old Meductic fort,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 1 (1894–97), no.2: 221–72.

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Cite This Article

Vincent. O. Erickson, “TOMAH, PIERRE, Governor Tomah,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 9, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tomah_pierre_6E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tomah_pierre_6E.html
Author of Article:   Vincent. O. Erickson
Title of Article:   TOMAH, PIERRE, Governor Tomah
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   December 9, 2023