UNBC professor co-authors book on Métis history

A University of Northern British Columbia professor has co-authored a book that argues there is a historical Métis community to the north of Ottawa.

Anthropology professor Michel Bouchard worked with Sébastien Malette, an assistant professor of law and legal Studies at Carleton University, and Guillaume Marcotte to produce Les Bois-Brûlés de l'Outaouais.

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They contend that a regional Métis culture and community formed in the valleys of the Gatineau and the Lièvre, a community fully integrated within a Métis diaspora found across North America.

One of the families even seems to have had an ancestor, François Beaulieu, who accompanied Alexander Mackenzie to the Pacific Coast.

"Through a detailed analysis of unpublished sources, we demonstrate that the 'freemen' of the fur trade, as well as their spouses and children, constituted a core of families that would soon form a historical Métis community in western Québec," said Bouchard.

The content of the book may surprise many. The history of the Ottawa region is known for forestry, while the Métis are invariably depicted as bison hunters in the western prairies.

"The Métis of the Outaouais came into existence in the era of the fur trade, when French-Canadian and Scottish traders took as wives indigenous women while continuing to pursue trade whether as employees of the fur trade companies or in competition with these very same companies, notably the Hudson's Bay Company," said Marcotte. "They forged a life in trading, often clandestinely, or in working for forestry companies or as guides and interpreters, but always as Métis."

Malette said their work found that Louis Riel was reputed to have spent some time in the area whe he was pursued by bounty hunters during his exile after the resistance of 1869-70 which led to the creation of the province of Manitoba.

"The local oral history testifies to the fact that he found refuge among these Métis families of western Québec," Malette said.

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