top of page
  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

The Real history, in Brief of Ontario Metis

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

There seems to be a false narrative about anyone outside of Red River wanting to "steal" history because they call themselves metis. This is not true. I will tell you the history of the Ontario Metis with very little mention of Red River and it's people.

In the late 1700's the Scottish and french traders in Montreal decided to organize a company to rival the Hudson Bay Company. (HBC) This company, the Northwest Company (NWC) would trade and even trap in areas not monopolized by the HBC.

This would lead many traders and trappers south and west to lands called Louisiana. This trade would prosper, which would not go unnoticed by the American's. There are many reason's for the war of 1812, but in the west, Louisiana and it's environs were a big reason.

As the war was declared, a conversation was had and voyageurs of the Northwest Company were dispatched to the Great Lakes. At the same time a note was sent to Robert Dickson to bring his friends. This resulted in voyageurs of the NWC and native allies accumulating on the Great Lakes and capturing Mackinac before the American Forces there knew war was declared.

Without getting to much into the war, the voyageurs had choices to make. A voyageur corps was started and used as a military force, but the British were disappointed in the lack of subservience's of the voyageurs. The frustration was surmounted by the fact the voyageurs were supported by the native forces, who would side with the metis when issues arose.

So, the voyageurs were given a choice, in essence, become part of a militia protecting Mackinac from recapture or becoming part of the commissariat voyageurs, who ran supplies to British bases. Many of the metis, those who had native wives in particular, became the occupying militia on Mackinac.

After the war these metis warriors were disappointed in the results. The British unable, or unwilling to advance into Louisiana as promised settled for a static border. This border was enforced however, so the metis travelled with the British to Drummond island and survived on trade and travel from there.

Drummond island was not a final destination, the border did not give Drummond Island to the British, so once again, they pulled up stakes, abandoned homes and moved to Penetanguishene. There, the people were separated from each other. Whether by design or folly, the natives were given land in Coldwater, where they would follow an agrarian community, the metis were placed along a road that entered the area for defensive reasons and the mostly British followers, although some were metis, settled near the British fort.

So unwittingly the British started a metis community. This community, unhappy with the situation as they received far less land than they were probably promised wrote petitions and had letters of support from the local native councils. Determined to make their living regardless, some would move on to nearby Lafontaine, while others would spread out across the Great Lakes, as well as some uprooting and travelling farther west. (Yeah there too)

The metis on the Great Lakes having knowledge of British ways were often elected as chiefs to negotiate treaties for the various tribes, they also at one time took up arms when miners tried to strongarm the natives off the Land on Lake Superior. (sound familiar)

So that is my history without mention or theft of anything from "the Homeland". It is a honorable history. One you can be proud of. But does it connect to RR?

Well, when the war ended those who were on the Great Lakes, such as the Nolin's and the Grant's to name a few left their brothers on the Great Lakes and headed west. That some would continue back and forth is inevitable, among them six of my ancestors show up in census in the west. Some families who settled in Lafontaine, unhappy with the results also went west, to Saskatchewan.

When the issues arose out west, in the 1870's and 80's families were known to have gone to help their brothers in the west. At that time it was known we were one. Then around 1986...

Art Duval

Pipesmoke of the past

729 views1 comment

1 Comment

Aug 11, 2020

Really interesting. I love the way you tie in local history in with the larger context of the time.

bottom of page