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Panis was a term used in Quebec for slaves of First Nations descent.[1][2][3] The term is widely described as a corruption of the name for the Pawnee, a First Nations people.[4]

According to the Canadian Museum of History, 35 individuals were held as slaves in Quebec, from its founding, to 1699.[1] Eighty percent of these individuals were slaves of First Nations' origin.

From 1700 to 1760, the Museum estimated 2000 slaves were held in Quebec - two-thirds of whom were First Nations people.[1] The museum reported most slaves were very young, that the average age of First Nations slaves was just 14 years old. Their mortality was high, as most came from the interior, and lacked immunity to European diseases.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography profiled the case of a First Nations slave who had been christened Pierre, whose original owner challenged Pierre's sale to settle his debts.[5] He argued that Pierre's sale should be declared “invalid and harmful to religion", because he had converted to christianity, and had been baptized. Pierre was born around 1707, was baptized in 1723, was sold to satisfy his owner's debts in 1732. He died in 1747, the property of his second owner.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Population: Slavery. Canadian Museum of History. Retrieved on 2019-06-15. “In Canada, the majority of slaves were not of African, but rather of Aboriginal origin. Native populations customarily subjugated war captives before the arrival of the French, but this practice acquired new meanings and unprecedented proportions in the context of western expansion. Beginning in the 1670s, the French began to receive captives from their Aboriginal partners as tokens of friendship during commercial and diplomatic exchanges. The Illinois were notorious for the raids which they led against nations to the southeast and from which they brought back captives. By the early eighteenth century, the practice of buying and selling these captives like merchandise was established.”
  2. Robert Everett-Green. 200 years a slave: the dark history of captivity in Canada, Globe and Mail, 2014-02-28. Retrieved on 2019-06-15. “Many in Quebec had to be content with captives stolen or bought from indigenous peoples, some of whom practiced slavery before the Europeans arrived. About two-thirds of the slaves in Quebec were native people, mostly from the Pawnee nations of modern-day Nebraska, whose French Canadian name – Panis – became a synonym for an indigenous slave of any origin.”
  3. Signa A. Daum Shanks. A Story of Marguerite: A Tale about Panis, Case Comment, and Social History, Native Studies Review. Retrieved on 2019-06-15. “As typically experienced by other slaves in the New World, panis were not considered persons with respect to legal rights, but they could still be evaluated under the law in criminal matters.”
  4. George E. Hyde (1988). The Pawnee Indians. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806120942. Retrieved on 2019-06-15. “The raiders carried off such great numbers of Pawnees into slavery that in the country on and east of the upper Mississippi the name Pani developed a new meaning: slave. The French adopted this meaning, and Indian slaves, no matter from which tribe they had been taken, were presently being termed Panis. 
  5. Michel Paquin. PIERRE, Comanche Indian, slave; b. c. 1707; baptized 11 Sept. 1723 in Montreal; buried there 5 Aug. 1747, Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved on 2019-06-14. “In 1732 Pierre, as he had been baptized, was the subject of a legal struggle which obliged the authorities of New France to pronounce more definitively on the legality of slavery in the colony than had Intendant Jacques Raudot* in his ordinance of 1709.”