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  • Writer's pictureOntario Métis Facts

Historical Records of Métis in the Mattawa Region

In letters, journals, and reports from the 1820s through the 1850s, missionaries, government officials, and Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) personnel frequently identified Métis people and families in the vicinity of Mattawa-area fur trade posts on the Ottawa River.

Métis people in the Mattawa region were often documented and referred to by various names such as ‘bois brulees’ and ‘halfbreeds’.

For example, in the journal of his 1821 tour of Canada, Lord Dalhousie, the new Governor General of Upper and Lower Canada, visited a Mattawa-region HBC fort, calling it “a resort of bad Indians & all sorts of the cast off Red River servants & voyageurs.”

In 1829, another traveller through the region, Alexander Sherriff, commented that the place was, “a nest of old trading people… French, or Bois Brulées”—the latter a well-known term used to identify Métis people in places like Red River and the Upper Great Lakes during this time.

As the head of the HBC post at Mattawa, Colin Rankin interacted regularly with people in the Mattawa area, including members of the Mattawa Métis Community. For example, in November 1848, Rankin wrote that, “A. McDonald (half-breed) came up today and I made him a present of an old horse. He traded 1 otter and 2 martens.”

In addition to identifying McDonald as a “half breed,” Rankin named many other individuals in his journal that were Métis or forebearers of Métis families.

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