Alexander Mackenzie and David Thompson are legendary heroes in Canada’s history. These men did not travel alone—they were guided by Métis and Indian guides who risked everything to assist the push westward.
Métis families were integral to the settling of the Canadian Rocky Mountain region. North West Company (NWC) Proprietor John Findlay was noted as being in the Athabasca District as early as 1799, along with employee Simon Fraser. The 1804 NWC records lists Francois Decoigne as Commissioner and Jasper Haws as being employed for the Athabasca River Department of the NWC. Ignace Wanyandie, Pierre Delorme, and Jacque L’Hirondelle were listed as voyageurs in the Athabasca River Department in 1804.
Scoto-Indians became especially prominent in the Pacific Northwest. James Findlay, pioneer explorer of Saskatchewan in the late 1700s, had a Métis son called Jacco (Jacques). Jacco and his half brother John Findlay were prominent in the early Canadian fur trade era. For example in 1806 Jacco, a North West Company employee, made a mark in history when he became the first to find a trade route through the Rocky Mountains via what is now known as Howse Pass.
Pierre Bostonais or Tête Jaune is one early historic Métis figure who traveled through the Yellowhead Pass, which now bears his name. Another colourful character, Colin Fraser manned Jasper House with his Métis wife Nancy (Beaudry) and nine children from 1835 to 1850. Later Henry John Moberly rebuilt Jasper House and ran it from 1858 to 1861. He married Suzanne Kwarakwante and the couple’s sons were John and Ewan Moberly. By 1891 other families moved into the Athabasca Valley, like Lewis Swift with his Métis wife, Suzette (Chalifoux) and children.
In 1907 the Canadian Government signed an obscure Order In Council that set aside the Jasper Forest Reserve. Newly appointed Park Wardens sought to remove the Mountain Métis in 1909 and 1910. The new authorities seized the guns of the descendants of Jacco Findlay, Colin Fraser, and Henry John Moberly. “In 1910, shortly after the boundaries of Jasper National Park had been established, J.J. Maclaggan came from Ottawa to buy out claims of residents who had homes in the Jasper area. The families included Lewis Swift, the four Moberlys—Ewan, John, Adolphus, William—as well as Isadore Findlay and Adam Joachim.” 1 Many of these families were forced to move to the Edson, Hinton or Grande Cache areas.
Over the next century, other Métis families settled in the Edson, Robb, Cadomin, Brule, Hinton, and Grande Cache areas, adopting the traditional lifestyle of hunting, trapping, guiding, and outfitting.