Joseph Bertrand


Another “first” settler and fur trader, Joseph Bertrand and his wife Madeline, were the river valley's most prominent fur trade family. Joseph and Madeline Bertrand reestablished the type of Catholic fur trade community that had existed during the lifetime of Marie Madeline L'archevêque Chevalier, with kinship, Catholicism, and trade inextricably intertwined. 

Bertrand's efforts to negotiate treaties between the Potowatomi Indians and the US Government thwarted, first, the wholesale cession of lands and then, later, helped to shape the final treaty concessions that prohibited the forced removal of Catholic Indians. With Bertrand in attendance, Potawatomi village councils began to meet repeatedly and formulate a uniform set of demands. Official American observers resented the secrecy surrounding these meetings and they were frustrated by an inability to learn anything about these conversations. 

The Bertrands helped forge the Catholic community that figured prominently in the resistance effort. Their efforts were neither radical nor innovative but, rather, followed the patterns established by generations of Catholic fur traders. Madeline functioned in the catechizing role by serving as a baptismal sponsor while her children were frequent godparents for Indian converts.