"I have been forty-two years in this country. For twenty-four I was a light canoeman; I required but little sleep, but sometimes got less than required. No portage was too long for me; all portages were alike. My end of the canoe never touched the ground until I saw the end of it. Fifty songs a day were nothing to me. I could carry, walk, and sing with any man I ever saw. During that period I saved the lives of ten Bourgeois, and was always the favorite, because when others stopped to carry at a bad spot, and lost time, I pushed on-over the rapids, over the cascades, over chutes; all were the same for me. No water, no weather ever stopped the paddle or the song. I have had twelve wives in the country; and was once possessed of fifty horses and six running dogs, trimmed in the finest style. I was then like a Bourgeois, rich and happy; no Bourgeois had better dressed wives than I, no Indian chief finer horses; no whiteman better harnessed or swifter dogs. I beat all Indians at the race, and no white man ever passed me in the chase. I wanted for nothing; and spent all my earnings in the enjoyment although I now have not a spare shirt on my back, nor a penny to buy one. Yet, were I young, I should glory in commencing the same career again. I would spend another half century in the same way. There is no life so happy as a Voyageur's; none so independent, no place where a man enjoys so much variety and freedom as in the Indian country. Huzza! Huzza! Por de pays Sauvage."
Many were vibrant voyageurs in the northlands of Saskatchewan. Many were the music loving paddlers of Quebec. Many were they who took to wife the fair and strong women of the Cree and Chipewyan. Many were they who had the courage to abandon the peaceful comforts of 'civilization'.
Many were the children - les Metis. Sakitawak, for the wife. Ile-a-la-Crosse, for her Voyageur. Home for their children.
Voyageurs - the word means adventure, daring and romance. The vanguard of an ever-expanding civilization flirts with freedom and awesome power of wild nature. Voyageurs - our parents and grandparents.
Making a Portage. From a painting by Cornelius Kreighoff
(Photo Credit: Romance of Prairie Provinces A.L. Burt, 1948)
Many became parents to the Metis children. Many stayed and found their final rest in the rich earth of Ile-a-la-Crosse. Sakitawak has raised many of their children, and has grown with them. Voyageurs, traders, trappers and explorers all felt the call of nature in their loins and so, took wives.
Wives meant survival. A wife meant good strong, warm clothing. A wife meant less fear in times of accident or illness. A wife meant strength and endurance from good food. A wife meant a warm home. A wife meant companionship through the long, quiet, and lonely winters. A wife meant children.
Hudson's Bay employees on their annual expedition
(Credit: Romance of Prairie Provinces A.L. Burt, 1948)
Luckily we have remembered our family relations. It is with mixed feelings we regard these Frenchmen from Quebec who took our grandmothers for wives. Lost to us are the names of our ancestors of the old times when the "White" man was not in our country. Hidden are the names of our "White" grandparents of the first quarter century of occupation. However, the Hudson's Bay Company kept accounts of all our grandparents earned and spent along with their wages. Much can be learned from these dusty pages of fur trade business. The names and origins of these voyageurs remain for each coming generation to explore and question. Our heritage will not all disappear. Perhaps half is better than none. Perhaps none is better than divided allegiance.
Of the lists of employees for the North West Company, one that suggests possible roots for Ile-a-la-Crosse families was written in 1804. The list contains servants for the whole of the North West. Below are the names of some of these servants-especially those employed at Ile-a-la-Crosse:
|Joseph Roy dit Charou
||Jean Baptiste Lemay
||Jean Baptiste Larocque
||Ignace Lavallee (Jr.)
|Jean Baptiste Gerard
A number of them later work for the Hudson's Bay Company after the union. A few become "free traders" who made their lives a family affair of trapping and hunting with their adopted Indian families.
Joseph Howse kept a list of servants who found employment in the Ile-a-la-Crosse Fort in 1814-15. Among the thirty-three employees are names such as Charles Flett, John Flett, James Gardiner, William Linklater, and Thomas Dumont. Others came to work the following season. Among the twenty-five recorded names are Jean-Baptiste Paul, William Flett, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau and Charles Gauthier. It is important to note that in 1820-21, when the rivalry between the two fur-trading giants was at its peak, the Hudson's Bay Company had over seventy-five people employed in it's service. Many of these men stayed to raise families which have continued to live in Ile-a-la-Crosse until today. Below is a list of these employees of 1820-21:
|Jean Baptiste Bouvier
|Jean Baptiste LePine
Many of these men took wives. One can be almost positive a wife was had and children raised if a man remained in the service for several years. As we'll see later, most stayed for a considerable number of years, and were followed by younger employees bearing the same surname. A few individuals were fortunate to have their marriage contracts entered into the Hudson's Bay papers. Below are two different marriage contracts.
Charles Gauthier and Betsy Englund (adopted daughter of James Englund)
Married by George Keith, Hudson's Bay Factor 1826.
Witnessed by: Etienne Frichette, Jean-Baptiste Le Mays dit Quebec.
Ignace McDonald and Margeurite Paul
(adopted daughter of Joseph Paul and also consent of Baptiste Paul)
Mr. and Mrs. Daigneault
(Courtesy of Alphonse Daignault)
In the list of servants for the years 1824-25, a note has been made of the position held by each employee. They read as follows:
||Jean-Baptiste Bouviere - Middleman
|Joseph Brissard dit St Germaine - Bowman
|Etienne Frichette - Blacksmith
||Charles La Chance - Middleman
|Louis Majeau - Interpreter
||Paul Paul - Middleman
|Francois Paul - Middleman
||Paulet Paul - Middleman
All positions were named according to their position in the boats used to transport the yearly fur trade to the Factory on Hudson's Bay. Mr Patrick Small Jr. who was born at Ile-a-la-Crosse with sister Nancy and Charlotte, returned for a spell in 1826-27 and obtained goods from the Hudson's Bay Fort. This was the last mention ever made of the first Metis family of Ile-a-la-Crosse.
Of interest to those who dwell in genealogy is the fortunes of the various families throughout the years. It is fairly easy to trace backwards to grandparents and possibly great-grandparents. However, any further back takes considerable research. A few notes may help.
Ile-a-la-Crosse Family, 1930s
(Photo Courtesy: Ile-a-la-Crosse Mission)
(Photo Courtesy: Ile-a-la-Crosse Mission)