Metis 1850 - 1854




Joseph Gurnoe (Garneau) (1790-1863) was employed for many years by the Government and worked as an interpreter out of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. He made the yearly list of names for annuity payments which included lists of mixed and full blood Chippewa of Lake Superior. He would play a significant role in the activities which had resulted from the 1854 Treaty with the Chippewa of Lake Superior. He traveled to Red Lake, Pembina and Fort Garry on the Red River but did not state the purpose of these trips. The population of Minnesota is only a few thousand (likely excludes Metis and Indians) but would increase to one hundred and seventy thousand in just ten years; by 1860.

Prior to 1850, Ontario was called Upper Canada. After this date it was called Canada West. Some documents even referred to Ontario as the Province of Canada West. By 1857 only Western Ontario was referred to as Canada West. When this failed they tried to label the North West as Canada West, but this also failed. Father Christian Hoecken, a Catholic missionary on the Missouri River, noted that the Half-Breeds existed in great numbers everywhere. The Metis had settled the Flathead valley and the Bitterroot valley of Montana, Fort Owen (Stevensville, Montana), Hell Gate and Frenchtown (Missoula, Montana).

The Metis were at Fort Owen (Stevensville, Montana), Hell Gate and Frenchtown (Missoula). These include such family names as: Bercier, LeClair, LeGris, Decoteau, Descheneau, Broun, DuCharme, Reeves (Revais), Peletier, Deschamps, Lucier, Boyer, Hameline, LaPlante, Montour, Findlay, McDonald, McKenzie, Stuart and Ashley.

Captain William McNeil of the H.B.C. Ship, Beaver, married a Haida woman at an unknown date, but it would be post 1787. Upon her death he said she was a good and faithful partner to me for 20 years and we had 12 children together. She was a most kind mother to her children and no woman could have done her duty better; although an Indian.

This is a Metis skin coat worn by traders, trappers and freighters of the Red River and Upper Missouri River regions. It is noteworthy that some of the Dakota Sioux also adopted the styles of the Metis. This is from an engraving by Hildebrand.

The Red River Metis Nation, centered at Fort Garry, numbered over five thousand bustling dynamic people who were mostly engaged in the fur trade, providing pemmican for the fur trade, freighting and farming. They are boisterous men whom the local priest referred to as the one and a half-man, half-Indian, half white and half devil. The Cree, however, said they are half wagon and half man, being inseparable from their unique Red River Carts.

The Metis all use Red River carts while engaged in buffalo hunting, trading and freighting. Those employed in freighting are carving overland routes from Fort Garry, Portage La Prairie, Fort Ellice, Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt, Fort Victoria and Fort Edmonton. Some would later refer to this route as the Touchwood Trail, as it passed the Touchwood Hills. Metis traders, as early as the 1830's, used this Saskatchewan to Red River overland route. The Natives and Metis had many other over land trails depending on the nature of their business. Father Lacombe accompanied the Metis on their summer buffalo hunt which was commanded by the Metis Wilkie. The discipline of the Metis military camp greatly impressed Father Lacombe. The prevailing English and Church opinion of the Indian and Metis is that they lacked the intelligence for organizational design. Unknown to these bigots is the realization that the Prairie Indians, for thousands of years, had organized major, complex buffalo hunts. Lacombe estimated that the number of buffalo killed by this group was eight hundred.

Most Metis thought of the buffalo hunt as a grand experience but the report of this years hunt had a darker side. About 400 Metis on a Bison Hunt out of Red River saw 23 horses and riders all sprawling on the ground having fallen. One horse was gored by a bull and killed on the spot. Two more horses were disabled by the fall and one Metis broke his shoulder blade, a gun burst and lost three fingers, another was shot in the knee.

Tension was mounting in the capital of the Metis Nation as recently arrived English born women wanted to exclude Natives or Half Breed people from the upper echelons of Red River society. The Native Red River people wanted R.S. Ballenden of the Hudson Bay Company, removed because of the racist activities of his wife. The sex scandal of July 16, 1850 culminated the clash between the recent immigrant women from Britain and the Native women of Red River. Anne Clouston, daughter of Hudson Bay Company agent, assumed her husband's position would place her at the top of the social register. Her uncompromising European ways resulted in her being ignored. She then accused Sarah Ballenden, the beautiful Metis daughter of Chief Trader Alexander McLeod, of unfaithfulness. Anne Clouston had to pay three hundred-pound's sterling for defamation of character. Anne Clouston, however, continued to harass Sarah Ballenden till the end of her life. She died three years later, and some believed it was as a result of this harassment. The affair had pitted the white minority against the Metis majority; church against laity, and had placed the Hudson Bay Company right in the middle of things.

The Red River Metis Nation is attempting to integrate five distinct cultures:

The Scottish, of Frog Plains (Kildonan) who speak Gaelic, Cree and some English. They feel isolated from the rest of the French speaking community. They feel morally superior but are too proud to acknowledge their declining influence and numbers. They are generally poor dirt farmers, having been forced from their homes in Scotland.

Eleanor Thomas, a Swampy Cree (Muskegon) Metis, is from this community.

The Traders, of Red River proper, are mostly composed of retired Hudson Bay Company and North West Company men. These self appointed leaders treat Red River as a giant fur trading post, reliving past glories and living on their pensions while conducting trade on the side. Most are Metis who speak French, English, Ojibwa and Cree and who form a unique company type sub-culture.

The Metis of the upper settlement and White Horse Plains are the most dynamic. They focus on the seasonal buffalo hunts, freighting, trading, fishing and farming- in that order of preference. They also engage in more farming than they like to admit. Some Metis have increasing militant aspirations to control their own destinies as a New Metis Nation. They are the majority and speak French, Chippewa (Ojibwa), English, Cree, and some Gaelic.

The Swampy Cree (Muskegon), of St. Peter's, above the Red River delta, are in a cultural transition but still tenaciously cling to hunting, fishing and trading.

The Saulteaux (Ojibwa) of Baie St. Paul, Red Lake, Missouri Territories and up the Assiniboine, are hand in glove with the French Metis, or so proclaimed the Dakota Sioux. They are still engaged in hunting, fishing, and trading to augment their rice and corn farms. They often join the Metis on the annual buffalo hunts.

Also listed are one Pole, a Danish, a Norwegian and one Dutch man. The Swiss, who arrived in 1821, had all left for St. Paul, Missouri Territory, as would many others from the Red River of the North. The Protestants accused Roman Catholics of taking a light view of pagan practices, while Roman Catholics accused Protestants of condoning polygamy. The Roman Catholics and Methods are accused of administrating baptism indiscriminately.

The Hudson Bay Company is still employing boatmen and canoe men but they are Orkney men, Metis and Iroquois from Red River rather than from the St Lawrence Valley.

By this year 12,000 European settlers had streamed into the Oregon Territory, mostly settling in the Willamette Valley. The British were not prepared to go to war to protect this Canadian territory so they relinquished their claim to Oregon and Washington. In so doing they had also relinquished claim to Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas, which were still considered Indian Territory. The British commitment to protect the rights of the natives of America was also relinquished. It is noteworthy that Oregon immediately passed their Donation Land Act, granting every white settler and American half-breed Indian above age 18 who was already living in Oregon, a free half-section of land if single, or a full section if married, with half the land in the wife's name. Those arriving after 1850 received 1/2 of these amounts. A total of 7,437 patents were issued under this law. After 1854, land was no longer free, being set at $1.25/acre with a 320 acre limit. It is noteworthy that the Dominion of Canada would not allow Metis land rights until after armed conflict broke out in 1885.

All the focus on the fur trade fails to realize that thirteen million bushels of wheat are harvested in the Metis Northwest Country this year.

The Americans passed the infamous Fugitive Slave Act which was a disgrace to civilization. It basically declared open season on runaway slaves, even those in the North; slaves that included Africans, American born Blacks and First Nation Peoples of America. Over the next decade some 40,000 to 60,000 American slaves, an exodus of near-biblical proportions, found refuge in Canada. It is not known how many of these slaves are of mixed blood. The Europeans called themselves civilized yet subjected some 10 million Africans to slavery worldwide with a conservative death of over one million during the slave trade period.

The Michigan Constitution reads in part: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime, shall ever be tolerated in this state", thereby legalizing slavery as an appropriate punishment for crime. This law was not changed until 1963.

The American Government, as part of their Land Clearance Policy, changed the distribution point of treaty payment to the Ojibwa from the historic distribution point of La Pointe, Wisconsin to Sandy Lake, Minnesota. They were hoping that some of the Ojibwa would relocate to Sandy Lake to make room for white settlers.

Mount Baker in Washington experienced a minor eruption.

June: Father Albert Lacombe (1827-1916) embarked on the most thrilling adventure of his life- his first semi-annual buffalo hunt. He was a welcomed guest of the most skillful of all hunters, the mostly deadly of warriors, yet the kindest, most generous people he had met. They were some 1,300 souls in all, with 1,100 carts. The first run saw several hundred mounted Metis charge into the midst of the buffalo heard, dealing death with every shot. What a scene! What confusion! Within twenty minutes 800 buffalo were down. The women commenced the butchering. Each downed buffalo had been tagged with an owners marker. It took 3-4 days to process the kill. The Metis then moved on to the next hunt. Father Lacombe would remember his first buffalo hunt long into old age.

October: About 4,000 Ojibwa went to Sandy Lake, Minnesota from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to receive their treaty supplies. The Government didn't turn up, and they had to wait two months for partial settlement. During this period, 170 died of disease, exposure, starvation and other causes, as they hadn't planned on being in the area this long.

December 2: The Ojibwa finally received partial supplies and many headed for their homes. The low temperatures had frozen the water ways and a foot of snow was on the ground. About 230 died en route. The 400 dead Ojibwa are largely ignored by historians.


Red River Metis clothing

This sketch by F.B. Myer is labeled a Red River man, half-breed, in winter attire, of buffalo skin, with a mention of the typical sash and the fur collar. The model is likely a European representing an Orkney Metis, and the attire is likely a composite.

Henry Fisher is promoted to Chief Trader for the Red River District. Henry Fisher, born Prairie du Chien, son of an American Fur Company agent and Marienne Lasaliere(great-granddaughter of an Ottawa chief). Fisher had joined the North West Company in 1816 and he had many wives, contrary to the advice of his uncle, Chief Trader Alexander Fisher. It is not clear how many wives he has, but it's between four and seven.

July 12: One hundred Metis, under the command of Pierre Falcon (d-1876) at Grand Coteau, North Dakota encountered 500 lodges of 1,000 Dakota warriors. The Metis only had 77 guns. Gunfire from within the circle of Metis carts was so deadly that successive waves of Dakota attackers are cut down. Father Lafleche was taking an active part in the defense. The battle lasted 6 hours on July 13 and two hours on July 14. Three Metis were wounded. Fifteen Dakota and may horses were dead, and 18 Dakota were wounded. He would again raise his gun in 1869 with Louis Riel.

Frog Plains, the Presbyterian community, with the assistance of Alexander Ross and Reverend John Black, built a church this year. More than one thousand Metis, French, English and Indian men, women and children left Red River on the annual buffalo hunt. They filled the Prairies as far as the eye could see. Their expectation was to kill eight hundred buffaloes. The expansion westward of the White Horse Plains group and the killing of buffalo in their territory riles up the Blackfoot confederacy.

The Hudson Bay Company, at this time, had no more than three thousand employees scattered thinly over its immense domain. The total Canadian population is 2,436,000, and approximately fifty percent would move south of the medicine line (49the parallel). In reality the line had little implication on these early peoples as they followed the buffalo and water ways of the west with little or no regard to boundaries or nationality.

Pierre Garreau, the half-breed, camped on the Missouri with his employer D.D. Mitchell. Their camp was forty miles down river from the mouth of the Yellowstone River (North Dakota). Mitchell is in charge of Fort Clark near Fort Union (North Dakota).

The Fort Laramie Treaty of this year is to assure safe passage for white American settlers along the Oregon Trail and to secure that Territory. The Hudson Bay Company still considered the Oregon Territory as Canadian Territory. They would not give up on the area until paid compensation.

Bishop Anderson reopened his Boarding School for girls after the scandal of 1849. He hired a Mrs. Mills and her two daughters to run the school. William Todd and Donald Ross sent three daughters to the school. Chief Factor George Barnston parted most reluctantly with his girl. Sixteen girls are in attendance. Mrs Mills disliked the school and did not conceal this dislike. She departed in 1855. Her successor, Mrs. Oldershaw, was in sad distress, as the pupils did not like her, and left the school, accusing her of interference and carelessness. By 1858 only four young ladies remained in the residential school.

The Hudson Bay Company men in central and southern Labrador married, what Rev. Henry Disney called, Esquimaux women. The modern Metis (1975) trace their aboriginal roots to these unions. The term Metis was first used in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1975.

June 16: Father Lacombe (1827-1916) went on his second Buffalo hunt with Father L.F. Richer, 200 carts and 250 brigade. Jean Baptiste Falcon, Metis, son Pierre Falcon, led the White Horse Plains group. They were soon joined by the Pembina group. Jean Baptiste Wilkie led the much larger Pembina group. They decided this year to split forces and travel about 20 miles apart, yet maintain close contact.

July 12: The Metis scouts reported a Dakota Sioux camp of 2,500 warriors. Hostilities started with the Dakota capturing the five scouts. Two escaped to spread the alarm.

Counting boys over 12 years of age, the defending Metis numbered 77 men. Peace was proposed but the Dakota wanted to crush the camp. All day long attack after attack was repulsed by the Metis. The Metis moved camp and were attacked the second day.

July 14: A large force of several hundred mounted Dakota Sioux warriors attacked a small band of fifteen Metis freighters. The attack is south west of the Red River settlement at a place called Grand Coteau (Big Hillock) which is southwest of Mingt, North Dakota. The Metis freighters placed their carts in a circle to protect the women and children and to serve as rifle pits. The Metis lost only one man after six hours of siege, whereas the Dakota Sioux lost twenty. Another account places the Metis as seventy guns from White Horse Plains, and the one Metis killed is one of the three scouts taken prisoner. Attempting to escape, the Dakota Sioux inadvertently shot him during the confusion. This encounter, which some refer to as the Grand Coteau, decisively established the Metis in a much higher regard with the Dakota Sioux. This exchange would lead to future permanent peace treaties between the two peoples. The Dakota Sioux had repeatedly stated that they really had no grievance with the Metis, only with the Ojibwa Nation who are their long standing adversaries. The First Nation peoples, from this date forward, accepted their children, the Metis, as equal Masters of the Great Plains (Prairies). The Dakota declared that never again would they attack the Metis. The other buffalo hunters arrived with 318 hunters and an equal number of Ojibwa, with the main force following. The Ojibwa wanted to deal decisively with the Dakota but are talked out of this course of action. The Dakota had already been humbled. Word spread far and wide of the victory of the Metis. Father Lacombe would write: "How good these Metis of the plains were, these fervent Christians, these fine, fine people, these people with the hearts of gold."

July 23, and August 5: The American Treaty of Travese Des Sioux and Mendota (Heights), at a cost of 6 cents per acre, effectively dispossessed the seven thousand Dakota Sioux (Wahpeton, Sisseton, Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands) of their claims to Minnesota. The newly created reservations are Yellow Center at the mouth of the Yellow Medicine River below Granite Falls and Redwood near Redwood walls. The former Natives appeared satisfied, but the Redwood group voiced their displeasure. The displeasure of the Dakota Sioux revolves around the Trades Paper which, unknown at the time of signing, gave $400,000 of their settlement to the traders and Mixed-Blood (Metis) for alleged trading claims. Some contend that the action is deliberate in order to drive a wedge between the Metis and the Dakota Sioux, undermining their long standing peace treaties.

December: St. Boniface becomes the Roman Catholic Diocese of the North West Territories.


A major Flood again hit Red River and the loss is estimated at 25,000£ (pounds).

James Grant, who had expectations of inheriting money, married Esquimeaux Bay's Isobel Hardisty. He immediately regretted the marriage because he thought he was too young. The marriage was pushed by the Hardistys. The couple separated, apparently by mutual consent, almost at once. Part of the pressure was that one daughter of Hardisty had recently married Joseph Macpherson. Mrs. Grant stayed on at North West River where Donald A. Smith (1820- )was in charge of Esquimeaux Bay as Chief. In March of 1853 Mrs. Grant married Donald A. Smith (1820- ).

Pierre Bottineau Metis (1810-1895) 2nd marriage Martha Gervais of Osseo born 1837 children of this marriage include Charles, Mathilde, Henry, George, William, Norman, Laura, Jennie, Agnes and Noah.

Severe Bottineau Metis b-1814 Red River married at St. Anthony Falls, Minnesota Julie Chenevert

John Linklater, a.k.a. Little White Man, an Orkney man, is in charge of the Kootenay Post, a.k.a. Tobacco House.

The New York police estimate that 10,000 abandoned, orphaned and runaway children are roaming the streets of the city.

A French Canadian discovers gold on the Pend Oreille River, Oregon starting a gold rush.


Mr. Black erected a Church at Little Britain, fourteen miles down river from Frog Plains. This would be the church that Lawrence Garneau (1840-1921) and (IV)-Eleanor Thomas married in about 1868. Bishop Provencher died June 8, 1853 and Alexander Tache' became Bishop of St. Boniface, having arrived in the Metis settlement, Red River in 1845.

Father Remas settled at Notre Dame Des Victoires (Red Deer Lake) among the Metis, Cree and Montagnais from Athabasca. The Ile-a-la-crosse Indians are also living there.

He wanted to settle in Fort Pitt but found little encouragement, as drunkenness prevails to a shameful extent both among the Company servants and the Indians. The Hudson Bay Company claimed to discourage all ministers from settling near their forts because it affected the work ethic. The Hudson Bay Company rejects the Protestant's requests more often than Catholic's, or so they claim.

Baraga became the first Catholic Bishop of upper Michigan. The establishment of Fort Ridgely as an army post in the northwest corner of Nicollet County is to keep an eye on the Dakota Sioux.

Many of the North Slave Metis trace their roots to Louison Lafferty and Marie L'Esperance who are associated with Old Fort Rae about this time.

Illinois passed a law that required any black entering the state and staying more than ten days to pay a $50 fine. If he could not pay, he could be sold into slavery.

October 20: James McKey (1828-1879), a Metis, is hired by the Hudson Bay Company's Chief Factor John Black. He spent his first year on the St. Paul to Red River transportation route then was posted to the Swan River District.


Fifteen hundred Red-River Carts a year are making the trip between Red River, North West Territories and St. Paul, Missouri (Minnesota) Territories. This trading route is Metis controlled. The semi-annual bison hunt is also Metis controlled. A report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs noted that a hunting party of 824 (Red River) carts and 1,300 Michif (Metis), led by Governor (leader of the hunt) Wilkie, are residents of Pembina and its vicinity (Red River); on the Pembina river and on the Pembina mountain.

Whilst at home, they engage in agriculture, cultivating their farms and raising their crops of wheat, corn, potatoes, and barley. They raise about twenty-five bushels of wheat to the acre; cultivating an average of about fifteen acres. They are industrious and frugal in their habits, are mostly of the Romish (French Roman Catholic) persuasion, and lead virtuous and pious lives.

Pere Belcourt reported that there were 2,000 Metis living at Pembina, Red River.

The Territory of Nebraska included within its limits that portion of what is now Dakota, which lies west of the Missouri River. Minnesota attempted to control the balance of the Dakota Territory. The German colonization societies from Chicago and Cincinnati established New Ulm near the junction of the Cottonwood and Minnesota Rivers.

Charles Thomas, a Metis, is employed with the Hudson Bay Company.

James McKey (1828-1879), a Metis, is postmaster at Qu'Appelle Lakes from 1854 to1855, then he moved to Fort Ellice (1855-1858).

Alexander Ward led 21 emigrants into the Boise Valley, Idaho and are killed by the Snake River Indians.

Shinguacouse or Little Pine, an Indian leader and medicine man born 1773, died Garden River, Canada West son of likely Lavoine Barthe a trader and an Ojibwa woman.

September 30: At La Pointe, Wisconsin, the American Government entered into Treaty with the Chippewa (Ojibwa) of Lake Superior, of Mississippi, of Pillager, of Red Lake and of Pembina. The Chippewa of Lake Superior numbered four thousand and was represented by the following bands:

La Pointe, Wisconsin near Bayfield Ontonagon, Michigan

L'Anse, Michigan

Viex de Sert

Grande Portage, Minnesota

Fond du Lac (Cloquet), Minnesota

Lac Court Oreille, Wisconsin

Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin

Bois Fort


This treaty also applied to Mixed Blood Chippewa as follows: Each head of family or single person over twenty one years of age at September 30, 1854 was entitled to eighty acres of land according to the Secretary of the Interior as recorded on April 21, 1871 and printed on 1874. The treaty interpretation included married women, widowed women and persons under twenty one who are raising a family. Louis Garneau and some of his family qualified for land script and appear under the family name of Gurnoe. Lawrence Garneau would be fourteen years of age and therefore not entitled to Mixed Blood script. This probably accounts for his migration life style when most of the Lake Superior peoples settled into a more sedentary life style.

General Luther E. Webb, Indian Agent for the Lake Superior Chippewa and Mixed Blood Chippewa (Ojibwa), issued script or certificate for script to the following Mixed Blood Chippewa at Sault Ste Marie, as witnessed by James Chapman and Joseph Gurnoe:

Roulleau (Rolleau) Archange, (alias Gourneau) a married female

Edward Ashman, brother-in-law to James Chapman

Amanda Ashman, married sister of James Chapman

Joseph Boudrie

Angelic Boudine, married

Charlotte Boudine, married

Josette Boudine, married

Marie A. Boudine, married

Joseph Boudrie

John Baptiste Boudrie, white man

George Brown

Betsy Brown, married

Charlotte Boucher

Charles Cadotte of Sault Ste Marie

Archange Cadotte (also married to Gurnoe) of Sault Ste Marie

Lewis Cadotte

Isabel Cadotte of Sault Ste Marie

Susan Cadotte (Cardotte), married, of Sault Ste Marie

Reuben Chapman, brother James Chapman

Charlotte Contoix

Felicite Contoix

Lewis Contoix

Julia Contoix, married

Catherine Contoix, married, a cousin of Joseph Gurnoe.

Henry Cotte, a brother-in-law of Joseph Gurnoe.

Marie Dufault

Genevieve Ermatinger

Charles Gurnoe, brother Joseph Gurnoe

Francois S. Gurnoe, age 48, brother Joseph Gurnoe

Louis Gurnoe, father of Joseph Gurnoe, not classified as a white man

Jane Gurnoe, married to a Chippewa Chief, sister Joseph Gurnoe

John B. Gurnoe, age forty plus, brother Joseph Gurnoe

Simon Gurnoe, age 40, brother Joseph Gurnoe

Charlotte Gurnoe, married applied at Du Luth, Minnesota

Jane Jeasson, widow

Joseph Jibway

Charlotte Jiroux, cousin of Joseph Gurnoe

Justine Johnson, married

Sophia Johnson, married

Polly Johnson, married

Angelic La Coy, married

Angelic La Coy, married

Charlotte McFarlain

Peter McFarlain

Joseph Meniclier

Nicholas Menicher, died before application

Charles Menielier

Calastique Miron, married

Louis Nolin

Francois Nolin

Julia Nolin

Angelic Ojibway, Married, died 1858

Mary Piquette

La Louise Piquette

Francois Piquette

John Baptiste Piquette

Charles Roussin, now in Canada

Justine Roussin, married

Charlotte Shaw, married

Marie Shaw, married

Julie Sutherland, married

Mary J. Stafford, married, sister Joseph Gurnoe

Margaret Severt, married

Mary L. Warner, married

Paul Lizer, moved to Red River after application

Louis Cadotte of Sault Ste Marie or Mackinac

Charlotte Cadotte of Sault Ste Marie or Mackinac, Joseph Gurno thinks she belongs to the Mackinac Cadotte's.

Most of the above applicants received certificate for script within one year.

Conversion of certificate to script, then into cash or for land, would follow later. Many applicants selected and squatted on land pending the process of application. Some applied twice under different names, maiden names and Indian names, or applied for land in Michigan and Wisconsin. General Luther E. Webb, Indian Agent, encouraged the Natives to defraud the Government.

It is most probable that the Garneau clan began selecting their homesteads (script land) this or next year. Asaph Whittlesey settled in Ashland just south of Bayfield, Wisconsin. Many, however, did not make their final selection until 1856.