Noel John (Gohn)

Noel John was a chief of the Buctouche-Richibucto Mi’kmaq from 1821 to 1841. Following the establishment of an Indian reserve by the province in 1810, tracts were laid out in 100-acre lots held for a term of years by individual Mi’kmaq. By 1821, Noel John lived in a house on one of these lots.

A man of some education, John wrote in his own hand to Provincial Secretary William Franklin Odell that “some of the Frenchmen,” namely Charles Surat, John Surat, and Joseph Broe, had been petitioning the Crown since 1820 for the right to take over Cocagne Island, the only place where his people could cut hay. To compel the Mi’kmaq to give up the island, he explained, would be to force them to give up farming. His plea was met with some success as the Mi’kmaq were permitted to continue using part of the island.

Chief John also played a role in selling reserve lands. In 1832, he sold a mill site on the Bouctouche River to John McMillan and confirmed the transaction in a petition that he signed as chief, marking the Xs of 14 men in his community. When additional portions were sold in 1837 and again in 1839, the proceeds went to the province. Between 1810 and 1867, the reserve land was reduced from its original 3,500 acres to 2,700 acres.

Moses Perley, New Brunswick’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs, highly regarded Noel John, describing him as “well informed as to Indian affairs [and] very intelligent.” Regarding Noel as a leader who “possesses much influence with the Indians,” and as a man with “a perfect knowledge of the dialects spoken on the Coast,” Perley employed Noel as an interpreter in his 1841-42 survey of the conditions of the colony’s Aboriginal people.