Admitting Enigmatic Identities [as of 2004*]: Towards studying Métis participation in Transatlantic Shipping as an aspect of North American Aboriginal history from 1815-1914


There is a seeming calm to the historiography about the Métis that belies the existence of deeper currents.[1] In this paper I argue that the issue of Métis identity, a subject very much at the surface of Canadian political debate, deserves to be raised within the historiography about the Métis as well.[2] It is my contention that developing a critical appreciation of the kinds of barriers that emphasizing identity can pose to understanding the past is a necessary step towards enhancing the relevance of the historiography. My basic premise is that through enlarging the scope of a historiography historians bring the nuances of past human behaviour and experience to light. This greater awareness of what occurred in the past allows for more satisfactory explanations as to how human beings got ‘here’ from ‘there.’ It is from that stance that I introduce an argument for admitting Métis participation in transoceanic shipping to Métis historiography, with an indication of future research directions. Although my investigation of the historiography about the Métis rests on having read a wide selection of texts, explicit and extended remarks in this paper are restricted to those mainstream secondary works on Métis identity widely regarded as foundational or most influential; those which pertain directly to Red River Métis identity (Red River being a principal place of interest in terms of my research — both past and proposed); or those which touch on Métis mariners.

The Problem of Persistent Ambiguity

Métis history, entwined with Canadian history, is intriguing on many levels. There are pivotal events in western Canadian geographic, economic, and demographic development to examine; social and political conflicts to explain. Esteemed historians have made admired contributions. Arthur S. Morton, Harold Adams Innis, and George F.G. Stanley waded through the massive Hudson’s Bay Company [HBC] archival collection — it weighs in at about 68 tons — to organize discreet pieces of information into coherent overviews.[3] Sylvia Van Kirk, Jennifer S.H. Brown, and John E. Foster re-examined the same primary sources to produce ground breaking studies of specific subjects.[4] Perceptive, critical thinkers such as Irene M. Spry, Olive Patricia Dickason, and D.N. Sprague introduced arguments and evidence from other primary sources to reinforce intellectual rigor.[5] The works of W.L. Morton, Gerald Friesen, and J.M. Bumsted won acclaim as accessible, readable, and topical reminders of the West’s prairie past.[6] Many others have added dimension to this historiographical inquiry.[7] Yet, there remains an enigma at the heart of the history: the people central to its making.[8] Commonly, they are known as the Métis. Historiographically, the founding group (in terms of consciousness of identity) have been distinguished Red River Métis.[9] Curiously, while the existence of the historical Métis is not disputed, there is no clear admission in the historiography that no consensus exists as to who exactly they were, where exactly they lived, or how exactly they are to be named in the present.[10] There is only an ever-expanding mass of provisionally normative descriptions; sometimes encompassing all, sometimes only a subset, of these people. Métis Studies is a historiographic field where clarity is elusive. Ambiguity is a constant.[11]

The ambiguity is compounded by variable use of terminology associated with Métis identity. The “definition of aboriginal peoples of Canada,” in Section 35 (2), Part II, The Constitution Act, 1982, states that “‘aboriginal peoples of Canada’ includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.”[12] Although current official statements issued by the Canadian government and Aboriginal organizations are consistent with the definition, it has not been universally adopted. For example, Bumsted does not apply the term ‘Aboriginal’ to Métis peoples.[13] His typography differs from the Constitution Act as well. In the constitution ‘aboriginal’ is transcribed in lower case.[14] However, Bumsted and other authors — including those of current government documents — follow a protocol whereby the lower case ‘aboriginal’ is a synonym for autochthonous, while an upper case beginning signals recognition of the sociopolitical status of Aboriginal peoples of North America, past and present.[15]

Use of the term ‘Métis’ shows greater inconsistency — much of it traceable to Canada’s early expansionist, ‘nation building’ project and Aboriginal peoples’ reactions to it. The Canadian government no longer holds to the 1870 definition which described individuals as “Half-breed” — or “Métis” in legal documents written in French — if “descended however remotely, either by father or mother, from any ancestor belonging to any one of the native tribes of Indians, and also descended, however remotely, from an ancestor among the Whites.”[16] In the nineteenth century, the characteristics of these “wild people” were represented as determined by “White and Indian blood” coursing independently, if co-mingled, in their “veins.”[17]

The precept of ‘binary blood’ and its association with “instability” is evident in early academic works which celebrate western Canadian development. Authors such as George Bryce, Stanley, and W.L. Morton, presented inherited biological peculiarity as incompatible with sustaining a group identity.[18] According to their line of reasoning, in 1869-1870 there was no possible outcome other than the displacement of the Métis as the landed polity and political elite of Manitoba by an influx of Canadian “actual” settlers.[19] The historiographical ‘blood’ argument is augmented by an assumption that language and religious differences were divisive enough to warrant ascribing to ‘French’ Métis an identity distinct from ‘English’ Métis.[20] Anthropologist Marcel Giraud took the divide to the point of near speciation in his influential contribution.[21] However, in his estimation, Métis identity was ultimately ephemeral, because as products of miscegenation the Métis were caught in a spiralling devolution leading inexorably to their extinction.[22]

In the 1970s, scholars took a turn away from depicting Métis identity as biologically determined towards emphasizing socialization.[23] Subsequent attempts to develop a fixed taxonomy capable of distinguishing presumed gradations of métissage, by demarcating which social milieux dominated individual experience in the past, are particularly evident in articles written during the 1980s by authors such as Brown and Foster.[24] This move to establish “further subdivisions” of Métis peoples on the basis of “socio-cultural context” has, however, proven problematic.[25]

First, a teleological and highly Eurocentric view of history has been perpetuated. Based solely on attributed European patrilineality, individual authors have assigned differing value systems to separate divisions of Métis, imputing differences in character and motive to their historical subjects. Aboriginal cultural influences have been ignored, as though they were ineffectual — particularly those transmitted by women — and an assumption has remained operational that heterogeneity within a population must inevitably spell socio-political disaster.[26]

Second, because devised with a complicit reliance on concepts of ‘race’ — an increasingly anachronistic construct — there has been no consensus regarding criteria for categorization within ‘fur trade society’ historiography.[27] To review the literature arguing for socio-cultural difference among the historical Métis is to find idiosyncratic systems of typology that may or may not include such designations as ‘metis’ — alternatively italicized or graced by an accent aigu — ‘coureurs de bois’, ‘bois-brulés’, ‘half-breed’, ‘mixed-blood’, ‘country born’, ‘hybrid’, and ‘native’, all of which are subject to capitalization and qualification as either English or French, depending on the author.[28] Names have been assigned to categories that claim and exclude individuals and groups ad hoc, without regard for their status in other systematized treatments. As a result, a person appearing as Métis at one point in the historiography might figure as non-Métis at another.[29] Further, as the work of Sprague and R.P. Frye reveals, nominal duplication among baptized members of Red River’s interrelated, founding families was pronounced, so that instances of identity bifurcation in contending systems of classification only heighten the possibility of one individual becoming confused with someone else.[30] Thus, ironically, historiographical attempts to impose definition on the Métis in a quest for clarity have had the effect of obscuring identity.

Part of the problem facing historians is that Métis communities have historical traditions that, in promoting self-determination, have been more conducive to the amplification of diversity — including linguistic — than its reduction.[31] For example, Spry and Heather Devine have demonstrated that it is possible to find in the historical record, in addition to the terms listed above, Métis subjects using Cree terms of identity such as Otepayemsuak, which translates roughly as ‘free’ or ‘their own boss’; Nechiva, Nichisan, and Nechakos, or English and French equivalents such as brother, cousin, cousine, or kinswoman; and the Anishinaabemowin term Michif, which identifies on the basis of language.[32] As well, genealogical studies indicate that known descendants of any particular Red River Métis family may include individuals representing: an array of First Nations, on- and off-reserve; registered and non-registered Métis, the latter under a variety of appellations; and both ethnically mixed and emphatically homogeneous Canadians, Americans, Britons etc., who may or may not acknowledge any Aboriginal ancestry.[33] Status continues to shift with each generation, disconcertingly to some observers, and at times contrary to various ‘national’ interests.[34]

Take a recent case in point for example: in the 2001 Census, 292,310 Canadians chose to self-identify as Métis on the basis of ancestral origin. This represented an increase of 40 percent over the count recorded in 1996 — the increase occurring during a period when land claims were actively pursued.[35] Corporate entities with an interest in limiting the number of Canadians who might qualify for consideration in Aboriginal rights and claims litigation — specifically the Canadian government and government-recognized Métis organizations (which, incidentally, were already receiving government financial support) — sought to place restraints on definition. Thus, in 2002, delegates to the Métis National Council [MNC], representing communities from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, formally distinguished people who self-identify as Métis from members of the Métis Nation — the registered constituents of the MNC.[36] In 2003, the Supreme Court decided that:

The term “Métis” in s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 does not encompass all individuals with mixed Indian and European heritage; rather, it refers to distinctive peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs, and recognizable group identity separate from their Indian or Inuit and European forebears. A Métis community is a group of Métis with a distinctive collective identity, living together in the same geographical area and sharing a common way of life.[37]

Further, it resolved that: “proof of self-identification, ancestral connection, and community acceptance” were “important components of a future definition” of Métis identity.[38]

On the one hand, therefore, the MNC reserves the term Métis for their membership — without attempting to furnish an alternate term for Métis peoples and persons who do not belong. On the other, the Court defines Métis people as those living in a Métis community, and a Métis community as a group of Métis people, but has left ‘distinctive’, ‘group’, and ‘geographical area’ open to interpretation, leaving unanswered such questions as what it might be about some Canadians that makes them distinctive (remembering and celebrating their ancestry and history despite a national historiography that elided or denigrated it perhaps?), how many people constitute a group, or how many kilometres a geographical area might encompass. Attempts to find answers to debates about who precisely is Métis, or how people of the past are to be named — on whose authority — therefore remain ongoing.[39]

Perspective and Possibilities

Although this is not an easy environment to work in historiographically, it is not devoid of possibilities. To realize these, however, it is necessary to first recognize the barriers inherent in some approaches. The assumption that the delineation of human difference is more informative than a consideration of similarity underpins both the essentialism of Canadian state historiography, and the reductionism of fur trade society historiography. As fur trade historians from the 1970s onward have convincingly argued, the illumination of difference is necessary if universalizing ahistorical, because stereotypical or reductionist, representation is to be avoided. Nevertheless, if criticism levelled against the earlier national historiography — that the imposition of determinist, stereotypical assumptions regarding ‘otherness’ misleads — is to hold, then the more recent practice of delineating distinctions of difference among Métis people must also be suspected of introducing an othering process, a present-minded othering that might be equally misleading if projected uncritically onto the past. To date, approaches that led to the accumulation of greater detail regarding difference have led away from historiographical synthesis. The historical Red River Métis recede further from view.

The hypothesis that other outcomes require other approaches was tested in my M.A. thesis, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’: Red River as a Settler Society, 1810 to 1870,” completed in 2003. The underlying premise of that historiographical exercise is that people, however varied, are at all times ‘ordinary’ in the sense that they are human beings possessed of species specific attributes. Notions of ‘race’, ‘blood’, and a propensity for insularity based on such biologically based properties were eschewed. The thesis incorporates and combines elements from the existing historiography, and is similar to that historiography in relying on HBC archival sources, and in describing the same chronology, events, and consequences.[40] Yet, in “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” the Red River Métis do not appear as abnormally conflicted, possessing unfathomable or misguided motives, or roaming an extemporal, ‘undeveloped’ space. Rather they figure as human beings living in the Colonial era, who, in dealing with the opportunities and constraints particular to their location, forged a collective identity.

Though pleased with the ease with which an interpretation of past Métis activity was arrived at without making recourse to racializing constructs, I am aware the description furnished in “A ‘Perfect Freedom’ is not perfect. I find one point particularly bothersome. Because the population under consideration persisted in a fixed location and formalized a distinct identity as a self-governed nation — and, interestingly, did so without resorting to restrictive definition[41] — I applied to those people the same typography and criteria adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada to designate present-day Métis, though I reversed the direction of ancestral connection.[42] In other words the name I gave to the people of Red River who had both Aboriginal and European ancestry was ‘Métis,’ my rationale being that acknowledging that the Métis of today have Métis ancestors was a convenient means of supplying clarity to historical communication.[43] What continues to bother me, however, is that the employment of circular reasoning — defining present and past Métis on the basis of their mutual connection — has an obvious defect. Overall ambiguity in the historiography is not diminished. It may in fact be increased. As, in consequence, may be the potential for disagreement.

For example, delimiting the Red River Métis community on the basis of a geographically determined way of life — as the Supreme Court definition does — suggests their mobility was limited to a far greater degree than the historiography supports. Despite the persistent occupation of a homeland by a sizable proportion of the historical Red River community, historians of the Métis unanimously agree that a significant number of people found geographic mobility to be advantageous. Thus, not all members of the community lived together at all times in the same area, nor did they share a way of life that was entirely common in all respects.

As historians such as A.S. Morton, Stanley, and Sprague note, under British legal convention Red River was a proprietary colony; an extension of HBC enterprise. It was not officially an imperial project.[44] As a hierarchically structured entity composed of administrative institutions and procedures that could implement and authenticate a rule of force, the state — British or otherwise — was effectively absent.[45] The Métis were free to identify themselves in whatever language(s) they spoke, in whatever manner they chose.[46] The heterogeneous society that formed was self-regulatory out of practical necessity. Negotiations and accommodations between new and seasoned inhabitants gave rise to a distinct, syncretic approach to community in which blended and shifting identities and affiliations were common.[47] Underpinning all, work in support of fur trade pursuits provided the principal source of remuneration for the majority of settlers to 1870 — work that required Red River men, women, and children to travel extensively.[48]

Expending physical labour to secure a livelihood was not the only impetus for travel. A point alluded to throughout the historiography that deserves greater emphasis is that Métis individuals — males at any rate — entered formalized professions. Some rose up through Company ranks to join the officer class.[49] Others, along with sisters or female cousins, journeyed to Europe, the Canadas, and the United States for schooling.[50] Some, such as John Bunn, who trained as a doctor, or James Ross who first entered law and then journalism, returned to Red River and, when at last settled, did not engage in further travel.[51] James Sinclair and Louis Riel were educated abroad, returned for a time, and then relocated to other North American settlements.[52] Solicitor Alexander Kennedy Isbister, though he corresponded with people in Red River, once removed from the Settlement, chose to spend the remainder of his life as an expatriate.[53] Captain Colin Sinclair, after pursuing a lengthy career, returned to Red River upon retirement.[54] Others followed equally wide ranging paths. If, as the Supreme Court definition maintains, geographic location determines attributed identity, then the question raised is whether all of these people were equally ‘Red River Métis.’ Is the designation only applicable to those who traveled in groups? For how long? Over what distances?

Obviously, some members of the Red River Métis community engaged in a ‘cultural exchange’ qualitatively different from that experienced by those who remained in the homeland. At a remove from the Red River environs their community of origin no longer comprised the dominant population numerically or socio-politically. Those who ventured beyond the immediate orbis of Red River had opportunities to learn new ways of being while ensconced in entirely different contexts. They were also able to relay information about encounters with the perceptibly congruous, curious, and deviant to people ‘back home.’[55] Did maintaining communication also sustain a sense of belonging to, and identifying with, the Red River community? Did extended separation attenuate or subordinate this identity? Did different contexts elicit appreciably different responses?

Drawing from historiographical and genealogical texts, it is apparent that one of the first sites of contextual difference that could be entered by Métis individuals was that of shipboard life. In 1670, the HBC was granted the privilege of: “the sole Trade and Commerce of all those Seas, Streightes, Bayes, Rivers, Lakes, Creekes and Soundes in whatsoever Latitude they shall bee, that lie within the entrance of the Streightes, commonly called Hudsons Streightes.”[56] Rights to adjacent landfall — of only dimly perceived dimensions — were also granted.[57] From the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, no formally codified borders interrupted the 700 mile HBC water route from Hudson’s Bay to the Red River region.[58] Nor did the physical geography present obstacles sufficient to deter the impulse to trade.[59] The route from the Bay to Red River was shorter, more direct and easier to navigate than the route used by merchants operating out of Montreal to cross the Canadian Shield.[60] It therefore presented a less expensive alternative for HBC merchants inspired by Canadian demonstrations of surplus value accruing to furs transported well over 1,300 miles to a port.[61] By default of prior decree, the commercial, political and interpersonal affairs of the Métis who settled at Red River in the 1800s were tied to transoceanic corporate concerns.

As landed inhabitants of Red River, while yet asserting entitlement to consideration as “loyal subjects to Her majesty the Queen of England,” and to recognition as “British settlers,” the Métis established a homeland referred to as a “foreign country” in the Canadas, and regarded themselves as its “free born,” representative “nation.”[62] Economic links were established with other nations, but the fundamental connection remained British. The salient point, all but ignored in the historiography, is that this connection was maritime. Transatlantic transport communicated goods, directives, counter-propositions and — in some instances only incidentally, but at the practical level always necessarily — people.

Oceanic voyaging, connected by virtue of cargo to inland shipping by boat brigade, was an employment option for Aboriginal North Americans.[63] Shipping was not a unidirectional form of communication. Population mobility was possible in both directions.[64]

Reminiscent of Innis’ observations on empire and communication over space and time, Eric W. Sager observes that sailors and their water-borne craft were “vehicles of technology and culture as well as carriers of cargo.”[65] He adds, in reference to studying the history of Atlantic Canada, that “in our awareness of the richness of local culture and identity in Canada, it is well to remember that the sources of much of our historical experience lay beyond the region and even beyond the nation.”[66]

It would be equally well to extend that same awareness to the Red River Métis. Studying Red River Métis society and the emergence of a collective identity in the Settlement without factoring in community members who took to the sea is akin to attempting a historical description of the peoples of New France, with an eye to understanding their society and formation of a distinctive identity, without discussing their participation in inland travel.[67] In this respect the historiography about the Métis is incomplete.

Present Perceptions of the Past’s Potential

The desire for a more comprehensive description of the Métis is not mere historiographical caprice. After the failure in 1987 of the Aboriginal Peoples and Constitutional Reform conferences, Aboriginal representatives attested to a need for education of the Canadian population regarding Aboriginal history.[68] This observation was reiterated in 2004 by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, a national organization representing approximately 750,000 Métis and off-reserve peoples. Critical of decisions regarding the fixing of Métis identity, the Congress has objected that before it is possible to “advance legal doctrine into uncharted domains” it is necessary to recognize that “many gaps exist” in knowledge about Métis history.[69] In their view, if identity construction in Métis communities is to be understood, “critical inquiry” must seek to answer the question: “how did the Aboriginal society actually evolve and how did the superior power react to it?”[70] The language of decolonization is visible in the complaint, as is, throughout the document in which it is couched, a mindfulness of the differential relation between defining and identifying.

Historians of the Métis have noted that the power of the state to effect disambiguation by imposing definition — by which is meant a statement of the essential properties of a certain thing — impinges on individual choice.[71] More explicit statements, issued by the Non Governmental Organizations involved in international discussions relating to Aboriginal identity, describe state moves to impose definition as evidence of the “continuation of oppression and colonization.”[72] To protect the freedom of the individual to self-identify — meaning to conceive of oneself as united or associated with a group — is, in their view, to accord value to the “constitutive aspects of cultures,” and to respect Aboriginal persons’ and peoples’ fundamental “right of integrity.”[73] Clearly, to many, there is a lot at stake. A study involving mere adjustment of historiographical nuance is unlikely to garner widespread appreciation as a satisfactory contribution.

For historians of the Métis, therefore, the weight of the present appears to bear heavily on the past. In undertaking a study of Aboriginal participation in transatlantic shipping from 1815-1914, as a move towards addressing ‘gaps’ in the historiography about the Métis, the questions to be asked seem in good part to be already set. But, if past peoples are to be understood “on [and in] their own terms” then those terms have to be explored.[74] Is the concern with Métis identity entirely presentist? What is the nature of the evidence for its existence in the past? Identity has been described as a site of contest between antagonists inhabiting unequal power positions.[75] Who were the antagonists? What constituted ‘power’ and where did it reside? In what contexts did identity matter? 

Existing works within the historiography about the Red River Métis do not provide ready answers. The use of categorization, whether articulated in racialized, socialized, or culturalized terms, as a substitute for rather than as a supplement to explanation, has led to historiographical impasse and calls to abandon Red River as a site for further exploration.[76] To allow frustration to inhibit action is to risk acceding that Métis identity is inconsequential, and to ignore the depth and breath of the history of the Métis and Canada and the fact that it is not finished.[77] There are aspects of works within the historiography that indicate another course is open. To pay attention to overlooked details that have been considered secondary to evidence accumulated to bolster a dominant theme of inherent Métis defeat, is to notice overlooked possibilities regarding how identity was formulated, and to be in a position to posit alternate themes.[78]

Consider for example, non-mainstream author Roy St. George Stubbs’ portrait of Dr. John Bunn J.P. and son Thomas Bunn.[79] Both men are presented as exhibiting ‘middle-class’ outlooks. They are accomplished and convivial heads of households. The doctor is willing to partake in whatever social amusements the ‘ladies’ of Red River might organize or attend, but not above being discovered “in his cups” with the men.[80] Both Thomas and John appear unconcerned with either hiding or vaunting their heritage. Stubbs quotes an observation written in 1845 by non-Aboriginal resident Adam Thom as indicative of a general absence of interest in delineating difference in Red River: “they have almost universally embraced the proffered privileges of British subjects on this congenial spot, where neither prejudices nor law recognizes any distinctions of colour, or origin, or race.”[81] Nevertheless, the Bunns do appear to take pains to address their closest associates as “Esquire” and, when called upon to self-identify, to append both professional standing and principal place of residence to their name.[82] What Stubbs does not explore in any depth is how this ‘middle-class’ status was secured, and at what cost to whom.[83]

John Bunn’s education, and medical credentials obtained from the University of Edinburgh, required a total of four north-Atlantic crossings: in 1809, 1819, 1831, and 1832.[84] Each would have taken about six weeks.[85] At the time of the first he was approximately six years old.[86] Immediately after the second crossing, John entered the landward service of the HBC. According to information compiled by D. Geneva Lent, another historian working outside of mainstream historiography, John’s experience parallels that of James Sinclair, who was sent to Britain to be educated in 1818 at age eight.[87] James was in Edinburgh, apparently enrolled at the university, by 1822. In June 1826, he signed on with the HBC and sailed aboard the Camden to Moose Factory. He then served the Company inland to 28 April 1827 when he secured his release and joined his family in Red River. Questions left unasked in both texts include: to what degree did securing an overseas education require HBC sponsorship or familial connections?[88] Were these young men and boys paying passengers for the sea voyages or was there a stipulation that they would work for their passage?[89] What factors entered into the decision to send children away?

The last question figures in Brown’s mainstream work.[90] Like Stubbs, she notes the use of geographic location as identifier; agrees that Métis children placed in ‘foreign’ contexts expressed “a continuing consciousness of their part-Indian ancestry and identity,” and that the attainment or maintenance of — or in the case of girls, connection to — a “gentlemanly status” was of concern.[91] Family networks appear determinate in terms of where children might be sent, however no thought is given to the fact that people were not transported simply, much less instantly, between far-flung family enclaves.[92] Brown’s racialization focus precludes systematic investigation of any material factors related to relocating children over vast distances. Her primary findings are at best equivocal.[93] While heritage does not appear to have elicited negative consequences for Métis children in Britain, her assertion that the Canadas presented a more hostile context rests on scant evidence.[94] As Brown admits: “references to racial distinction and handicaps are decidedly rare.”[95] The Aboriginal identity of Red River children does not appear to be an absorbing issue for anyone but historians and a very few non-Aboriginal fathers who for whatever reason thought of themselves as “unfortunate parents.”[96]

Almost as an aside, Brown notes that a greater variety of career options were open to children who voyaged away from Red River.[97] Van Kirk, Barry Cooper, and Denise Fuchs appear to concur: dissatisfaction with limited career potential in the HBC led many people to seek opportunities elsewhere.[98] For his part, Cooper points out that there was little to hinder Métis individuals from finding a niche in the “mid-Victorian middle class” in Britain, as it was generally “a class of arrivistes” [italics in source]: social mobility and securing a middle-class identity was achievable for people of diverse antecedents.[99] Brown’s description of Ranald MacDonald — unlucky in love and at perpetual loggerheads with his father — suggests that seafaring offered both an avenue of escape and a means of realizing greater ambitions.[100] Further, the international attention accorded by popular media to the exploits of both Ranald — who jumped ship to teach English in Japan — and Captain Kennedy — hired by Lady Franklin to search for her husband’s missing Arctic expedition — suggests that engaging in seafaring and achieving personal success would not appear to be mutually exclusive propositions to followers of the press in Red River.[101] Was having a seafaring identity perceived as desirable?[102] Did a stint at seafaring figure in personal identity formation or did it represent a transitional occupational phase secondary to a goal such as securing a ‘middle-class identity’?[103]

Presumably, to become a seafarer, an individual from Red River would need experience and a means of getting within range of a ship.[104] Did erstwhile sailors begin as tripmen manning the boat brigades? The secondary literature gives little indication. In The Genealogy of the First Metis Nation, published in 1983, Sprague and Frye list 982 known HBC contract employees recruited from or retired to Red River between 1821 and 1870, including steersman, bowsman, and middleman, as well as labourers, fishermen and others.[105] Except for the first three positions which relate to manning York boat brigades, no distinction is made between landward and water-borne labour. Sailors are conspicuously absent. Before concluding that the Métis were not mariners, it is important to recognize that seafarers such as Captain Kennedy and Captain Colin Sinclair, well-known inhabitants of Red River, likewise do not appear in any of the Genealogy tables. Sprague and Frye warn that their primary sources were neither complete nor error free, and that despite care, mistakes do prevail in computer assisted research. More tellingly, their stated purpose was to link individuals found in HBC and Red River parish registers to households.[106] Looking for sailors was not a priority.

Edith I. Burley does find sailors in a different set of HBC records.[107] Her examination of servant behaviour augments Sprague and Frye’s brief survey of employment patterns. However, beyond inserting descriptions formulated by maritime historians such as Marcus Rediker and Eric Sager, little effort is made to distinguish between landward and seafaring labour.[108] Burley appears to turn David Alexander’s oft quoted line that sailors were “working men who got wet,” into an axiom.[109] All labourers are described as one class, distinct from the HBC on-site managers and the geographically removed merchant capitalists of the London Committee. Burley observes that the workers were recruited predominantly in the Orkney Islands and Rupert’s Land, but does not interrogate possible permutations of individual origin and heritage. There is no attempt to map kinship networks connecting the two geographic sites or to determine the extent of vertical ties and movements between worker and management ranks — much less connections to the London Committee.[110] As Robert C.H. Sweeny and Frank Tough point out, the level of abstraction in Burley’s text, in part attributable to her sampling method, erases context.[111] Contextual absence, although it avoids perpetuating “ethnic stereotypes,” leads to the production of an equally limited dimensionality: that of the worker as an extemporal unit — albeit distinguishable from at least some of his fellows by virtue of a name.[112]

Names of seafarers are important in establishing their “historical, linguistic, and social differences, as well as their varied relationships to the Company and its activities,” according to Judith Hudson Beattie and Helen M. Buss.[113] In Undelivered Letters to Hudson’s Bay Company Men on the Northwest Coast of America, 1830-57, published in 2003, the two archivists bring to light a portion of the HBC archival collection that had been overlooked for 150 years. The letters confirm Métis mobility and participation in a much wider working world than Red River alone presented. As well, for Métis and non-Aboriginal alike, the letters indicate that young men, work, and family constitute a significant topical nexus.[114] Concern with financial solvency, health, and location permeate at all levels.[115] As these are undelivered letters, loss is signalled. Litanies of deaths from home and notifications of deaths at sea accompany repeated expressions of sorrow and regret that basic survival required separation and privation. Each expression of worry is associated with named, often traceable, individuals. Thus Beattie and Buss are able to provide a tantalizing glimpse of Métis seafarers and their family relationships in North America and Britain.[116] As historiographical content is limited to introductory notes and appendices, there is room for greater elaboration.[117]


The possibility of extending Métis studies to follow individuals who travelled extensively and in a maritime direction, and to examine the experience of Red River Métis people from different vantage points exists. Geographer David Harvey observes, “Locating, positioning, individuating, identifying and bounding are operations that play a key role in the formation of personal and political subjectivities. Who we consider ourselves to be (both individually and collectively) is broadly defined by our position in society and the world.”[118] Maritime connections with Britain ensured that the Métis ‘world’ was an expansive one.[119]

Both resident Red River Métis and associated Métis mariners shared geographic mobility and a perception of freedom from restraint — they were after all, in their own terms, by their own estimation otepayemsuak.[120] On the ocean, as on land, borders were invisible to the eye and often formally indistinct.[121] In their homeland and while at sea the Métis inhabited contexts with social systems that differed from the landward societies of Europe.[122] However, taking advantage of an opportunity to engage in seafaring was not without restraints. The ocean, like land, was at various times subject to the imposition of some geographic boundaries, whether these were physical impediments such as ice flows and wind patterns, or observed exclusions reached through international agreement such Britain’s right of access to Hudson’s Bay.[123] There were social boundaries as well.[124]

Van Kirk has shown that the opportunity to travel at sea was subject to gender restrictions by the HBC in different ways at different times and so not equally available to all Red River inhabitants.[125] The gendered nature of seafaring is underscored in maritime historiography.[126] Spry’s research bolsters Brown and Foster’s arguments insofar as kinship networks are demonstrated to be determinate of employment opportunities.[127] Again there is resonance with maritime historiography.[128] Both Sager’s analysis of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and Daniel Vickers and Vince Walsh’s study of Salem Massachusetts, note that shore side family ties could work to advantage.[129] Seafaring historian Valerie Burton argues that identity formulations were related to social hierarchies, contested freedoms and bounded spaces.[130] Janet Ewald and Richard Rice describe the space aboard ship as socially divided and subject to regulation as well.[131] Questions to be asked include whether real or imagined boundaries served as an impetus for a sharper delineation of personal identity among Métis mariners. Did they encounter and internalize perceptions of ‘otherness’ at sea?[132] Is it accurate to describe their loyalties as ‘divided’ between ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds?[133] Perhaps their attitudes were more fluid?[134]

Arif Dirlik has observed, “if history is important to the construction of identity, there should be nothing unexpected about the centering of history around a real or imagined identity.”[135] As with other peoples, Métis “‘self-perception’ has its own history”; one that is not well understood, one that includes confrontation with state power.[136] Studying Métis participants in transatlantic shipping as an aspect of North American Aboriginal history from 1815-1914 allows for reference to political economic structuring and investigation of the relation of identity to positioning.[137] Identity thus becomes more than “simply an intellectual or cultural issue.”[138]

The past experiences of Métis mariners, however, can neither be researched nor described without first coming to terms with the problem of understanding who exactly was ‘Métis,’ and most importantly, why. Before that is possible, identity must be examined as an issue in its own right. Communication is inextricably part of an ongoing process of negotiation and[139] open communication is not possible without a mutual understanding of terms. Where terminological confusion leads to misunderstanding, the process of negotiation is compromised. Impasse is the likely result.[140] Moving beyond impasse requires recognizing that ‘identity,’ as it is used in the historiography about the Métis, is terminologically imprecise. The problem with allowing Métis identity to rest on terminological ambiguity is that different parties bring different assumptions about the properties of identity to discussions. When ‘identity’ is invoked, what connotations are invoked with it? Is identity being understood as a synonym for ‘name’; or as defining a set of essential qualities; or as establishing a relation on the basis of shared characteristics? Or, does the word shift between all three meanings?

That the act of naming is fundamentally political by virtue of the manner in which the power to describe is accessed, wielded, or denied, has been cogently argued by academics in fields where identity is an issue — anthropologists, geographers, and gender historians among them.[141] There is a need to consider their arguments within Métis studies and to examine how identity is being applied conceptually. Is identity understood as an idea: a “publicly stated, recorded, and shared explicit concept”: an ideology: a “constellation of ideas of a sociopolitical kind that states a world-view about history and society and is an impetus and guide to political action?”[142] Perhaps it is culturally determined: part of “wider constellations of belief systems, implicit world views, forms of understanding, rituals and popular artistic expression.”[143] Possibly it is a reflection of ‘mentality’: part of how ordinary people “understand themselves and the world, and how they express themselves through … the external manifestations of mental life.”[144]

My purpose, in arguing in favour of admitting enigmas — in the sense of acknowledging confusion and recognizing an absence — is not to suggest that they can be resolved in the moment of space that a paper such as this represents.[145] The point is to demonstrate that large areas open to constructive discussion and debate exist. Ignoring the centrality of the identity problem in Métis studies is unlikely to make it go away. Historiography does not exist in isolation from its context. Historians are aware that the present exerts pressure on the past, and aware as well of the past’s persistence.[146] They are also are uniquely positioned to study identity as a problem.[147] Identity can be historicized: contexts considered, changes analysed and theoretical formulations tested against primary sources.[148] The work can and should be done.[149] In Thomas R. Berger’s estimation: “The story of the Métis is one of the epics of Canadian history.”[150] I contend that Métis identity is a depth that must be sounded if Métis history is to be sensibly fathomed.

*This version of a paper written in 2004 (in St. John’s, Newfoundland, while I was attending Memorial University), deviates little from the original — though the formatting is different and there have been minor revisions, including updating links to online sources (where necessary and if possible).

[1] See, Michael Payne, “Fur Trade Historiography: Past Conditions, Present Circumstances and a Hint of Future Prospects,” in From Rupert’s Land to Canada, ed. Theodore Binnema, Gerhard J. Ens, and R.C. MacLeod (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2001), 16 n. 24; also, D.N. Sprague, review of From Rupert’s Land to Canada , ed. Theodore Binnema, Gerhard J. Ens and R.C. Macleod, Native Studies Review 14, no. 2, online publication, Native Studies Department, University of Saskatchewan, 2002, 12 Sep. 2003 [Error 404: url not viable, 11 Feb. 2010].

[2] See, Frits Pannekoek, “Metis Studies: The Development of a Field and New Directions,” in From Rupert’s Land to Canada, 121.

[3] Arthur S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870-71, Being a History of Rupert’s Land (The Hudson’s Bay Company Territory) and of the North-West Territory (Including the Pacific Slope) (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1939); Harold A. Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History, (1930; revised ed. 1956; reprint, with revised foreword, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970); George F.G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada: A History of the Riel Rebellions (London: Longmans Green and Company, 1936; reprint, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978). See also, Carl Berger, The Writing of Canadian History: Aspects of English-Canadian Historical Writing since 1900 2d ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), 30, 85-111, 238, 240-41, 247.

[4] Sylvia Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties”: Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670-1870 (Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer Publishing, 1980); Jennifer S.H. Brown, Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980); John E. Foster, “The Country-Born in the Red River Settlement, 1820-1850,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 1973). See, Gail Cuthbert Brandt, “Postmodern Patchwork: Some recent trends in the writing of Women’s History in Canada,” Canadian Historical Review 72, no. 4 (1991): 468; Theodore Binnema, Gerhard J. Ens and R.C. MacLeod, “John Elgin Foster,” in From Rupert’s Land to Canada, ix-xxii.

[5] Irene M. Spry, “The métis and mixed-bloods of Rupert’s Land before 1870,” in The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America ed. Jacqueline Peterson, and Jennifer S.H. Brown (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1983), 95-118; Olive Patricia Dickason, “From ‘One Nation’ in the Northeast to ‘New Nation’ in the Northwest: A Look at the Emergence of the Metis,” in The New Peoples, 19-36, and Olive P. Dickason, The Myth of the Savage, and the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1984); D.N. Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 1869-1885 (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1988).

[6] W.L. Morton, Manitoba – A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957); Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), winner of the 1985 Macdonald Prize; J.M. Bumsted, Trials and Tribulations: The Red River Settlement and the Emergence of Manitoba 1811-1870 (Winnipeg: Great Plains Publications, 2003), the cover notes read: “Bumsted has developed a reputation as a writer of academically sound and highly readable works of historical synthesis,” and “Bumsted … is a prolific author of popular histories on western Canada.” See Berger, The Writing of Canadian History, 238-258, for a description of Morton’s accomplishments.

[7] For a sense of the extent of the historiography about the Métis see, Lawrence J. Barkwell, Leah Dorion, and Darren R. Préfontaine, eds., “Part Three: Annotated Bibliography and References,” Resources for Métis Researchers (Winnipeg: Louis Riel Institute of the Manitoba Métis Federation, and Saskatoon: Gabrielle Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research, 1999), 1-240, online version, cached at 12 Nov. 2004 [Error 404: url not viable, 11 Feb. 2010].

[8] See, Frits Pannekoek,  A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance 1869-70 (Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer, 1991), 1, 5; Jean Friesen, cited in Gerhard J. Ens, Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 3, 191 n. 1.

[9] See, Pannekoek, “Metis Studies,” 113; Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, passim.; and Sprague, Canada and the Métis, ix.

[10] Following  Arif Dirlik, “History without a Center? Reflections on Eurocentrism,” in Across Cultural Borders: Historiography in Global Perspective, ed. Eckhardt Fuchs and Benedikt Stuchtey (New York: Bowman and Littlefield, 2002), 263, this might be characterized as an instance of “the silence of historians over the conditions of their own undertaking”; see also, Bryan D, Palmer, “Of Silences and Trenches: A Dissident View of Granatstein’s Meaning,” Canadian Historical Review 80, no. 1 (1999): 677-678; and Greg Dening, “Writing, Rewriting the Beach: an Essay,” Rethinking History 2, no. 2 (1998): 145-146.

[11] See, Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S.H. Brown, “Introduction,” in The New Peoples, 5-6; and Heather Devine, “Les Desjarlais: The Development and Dispersal of a Proto-Métis Hunting Band, 1785-1870,” in Rupert’s Land to Canada, 129-158. Norman J. Wilson, History in Crisis: Recent Directions in Historiography (Upper Saddle River NJ.: Prentice Hall, 1999), 1, 3; and Keith Jenkins, Re-Thinking History (New York: Routledge, 1991), 28-38, note that ambiguity as one of the constituent facets of history — meaning historiography — generally.

[12] J.L. Finlay, and D.N. Sprague, Appendix II, The Structure of Canadian History, 5th ed. (Scarborough: Prentice Hall Allyn and Bacon Canada, 1997), 646.

[13] Denise Fuchs, “Embattled Notions: Constructions of Rupert’s Land’s Native Sons, 1760-1860,” Manitoba History 44 (autumn/winter, 2002-2003): 11, provides an additional example of exclusionary use of the term.

[14] Thomas Flanagan, Riel and the Rebellion: 1885 Reconsidered (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1983); Norma Hall and Barbara Huck, “Fortitude in Distress: The North West Company and the War of 1812,” The Beaver 82, no.4 (Aug./Sep., 2002): 8-14; and Norma Hall, review of Trails and Tribulations: The Red River Settlement and the Emergence of Manitoba 1811-1870, by J.M. Bumsted, and Archbishop A.-A. Taché of St. Boniface: The “Good Fight” and the Illusive Vision, by Raymond J.A. Huel, The Beaver 84, no. 4 (Aug./Sep., 2004): 45-46, provide additional examples of lower case use within the historiography. In the case of the articles in the Beaver, lower case aboriginal is a matter of the publisher’s style specifications.

[15] See for example, Patrick Macklem, Indigenous Difference and the Constitution of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001); John Burrows, Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002); and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 12 Nov. 2004 [Error 404: page not available, 11 Feb. 2010, although links to the “New INAC Web site” are provided, and those pages still make the same point: Aboriginal is capitalized.]

[16] Archives of Manitoba [AM] MG 2 B3, Document 3, “Instructions to be observed by the enumerators appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor, to take the Enumeration of the Province of Manitoba/ Instructions que devront observer les Enumerators appointes par le lieutenant-Governor de manitoba,” 1870; also “Fort Garry, October 13th, 1870,” Canada Gazette, Sessional Papers, no 20 (1871), 74. Finlay and Sprague, Structure of Canadian History, 514-515, note that overhauls of the Indian Act in the 1920s and 1950s did not substantively alter the 1870 definition. They only affirmed that the Métis were not ‘Indians’ and were therefore without a means to have Aboriginal rights recognized. The withdrawal of the highly unpopular White Paper of 1969 likewise saw the status quo maintained until 1982.

[17] John A. Macdonald, quoted in Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 49. AM MG 2 B3, Document 3.

[18] George Bryce, The Remarkable History of the Hudson’s Bay Company:  Including that of the French Traders of North-Western Canada and of the North-West, XY, and Astor Fur Companies (Toronto: William Briggs, 1900), 459; see also, George Bryce, The old settlers of Red River, a paper read before the Society on the evening of 26th November 1883 (Winnipeg, 1885); and George Bryce, “Intrusive Ethnological Types in Rupert’s Land,” Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Section 2 (1903). Stanley, Birth of Western Canada, 48-49, 88, 179. W.L. Morton,  Manitoba – A History, 138, see also 61-62, 63, 71, 78, 104, 139; see also, W.L. Morton, review of Les Métis Canadien, by Marcel Giraud, in Contexts of Canada’s Past: Selected Essays of W.L. Morton, ed. A.B. McKillop (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1980).

[19] John A. Macdonald, quoted in Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 107.

[20] On perceptions of a Canadian linguistic territorial divide see, William Norton, Human Geography (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1992), 163-165; also Carl Berger, ed., Imperialism and Nationalism, 1884-1914: A Conflict in Canadian Thought (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1969) 6, 9-11, 14-18, 31, 32-35, 66-73, 85-88.

[21] Marcel Giraud, Le Métis Canadien: son rôle dans l’histoire des provinces de l’Ouest, vol. 1 (Paris: Institut d’Ethnologie, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 1945; reprint as, The Métis in the Canadian West, trans. George Woodcock, 2 vols., Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1986), xix, 217-26, 229, 276 (page citations are to the trans. edition).

[22] See, Giraud, The Métis in the Canadian West, vol. 1, 319-330, 352, 355, and vol. 2, 79, 486, 520.

[23] Foster, “The Country-Born”; Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties”; Brown, Strangers in Blood; and Pannekoek, A Snug Little Flock, furnish examples. Along with Foster’s work, the others originated as doctoral dissertations in the 1970s.

[24] See, Jennifer S.H. Brown, “Linguistic Solitudes and Changing Social Categories,” in Old Trails and New Directions: Papers of the Third North American Fur Trade Conference, ed. Carol M. Judd, and Arthur J. Ray (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980), 147-159; Peterson and Brown, “Introduction,” 4-7; John E. Foster, “Some questions and perspectives on the problem of métis roots,” in The New Peoples, 73-91; and Jennifer S.H. Brown, “Diverging identities: The Presbyterian métis of St. Gabriel Street, Montreal,” in The New Peoples, 196-98.

[25] Foster, “Some questions and perspectives,” 78; John Foster, quoted in Payne, “Fur Trade Historiography,” 6.

[26] See, Jeanette Armstrong, “Invocation: The Real Power of Aboriginal Women, Keynote Address: The National Symposium on Aboriginal Women of Canada, University of Lethbridge, 19 October, 1989,” in Women of the First Nations: Power, Wisdom, and Strength, ed. Christine Miller, and Pat Cuchryk, with Marie Smallface Marule, Brenda Manyfingers, and Cheryl Deering (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1997), ix-xi; Patricia Cuchryk and Christine Miller, “Introduction,” in Women of the First Nations, 4, 6; Emma LeRocque, “The Colonization of a Native Woman Scholar,” in Women of the First Nations, 11, 15; Laura Peers, “Subsistence, Secondary Literature, and Gender Bias: The Saulteaux,” in Women of the First Nations, 40, 42-43; Julia Emberley, “Aboriginal Women’s Writing and the Cultural Politics of Representation,” in Women of the First Nations, 97-112; Betty Bastien, “Voices through Time,” in Women of the First Nations, 127.

[27] See, Norma Jean Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’: Red River as a Settler Society, 1810-1870” (M.A. thesis, University of Manitoba, 2003), 14-117; Binnema, Ens and MacLeod, “John Elgin Foster,” xii, xiii, xv. See also, Joy Parr “Gender History and Historical Practice,” Canadian Historical Review 76, no. 3 (1995): 365; Karen Dubinsky and Lynne Marks, “Beyond Purity: A Response to Sangster,” Left History 3, no. 2 and 4, no. 1 (1995-1996): 216, and especially Franca Iacovetta and Linda Kealey, “Women’s History, Gender History and Debating Dichotomies,” Left History 3, no. 2 and 4, no. 1 (1995-1996): 233-235; for an indication that ‘Race’ as discourse is at the very least politically charged. Michael J. Bamshad, and Steve E. Olsen, “Does Race Exist?” Scientific American 289, no. 6 (Dec. 2003): 78-85: demonstrate that from a scientific standpoint, ‘race’ is no more substantial than once equally ‘real’ but now thoroughly rejected properties such as ‘miasma’ or ‘phlogiston.’ Wilfred Laurier University Press, “WLU Press House Style,” 7.1 shml#publish 11 Oct. 2004, cautions prospective authors that, “‘Race’ is no longer considered a valid construct. If it must be used (quotations of course are excepted), it should be put in quotation marks. We can use such terms as racialized minorities when appropriate.” [Error 404: url not viable, 11 Feb. 2010.]

[28] See for example, W.L. Morton, “Métis,” in Encyclopedia Canadiana vol. 7, 1st ed., 1958, 53, who uses ‘Métis’ as a generic term; Jennifer S.H. Brown, “Métis,” in The Canadian Encyclopedia: Year 2000 Edition, 1477-78, who uses ‘métis’ to designate “dual Indian-white ancestry” and describes ‘Métis’ as having political and legal connotations; Flanagan, Riel and the Rebellion, viii-ix, who uses ‘Métis’ when referring to “people of mixed Indian-white ancestry” in a twentieth-century Canadian context, and ‘half-breed’ when referring to ‘English and French mixed-bloods’ of the nineteenth-century; and Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 8, who uses “‘Metis’ (unaccented)” for both “Métis who arose in the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes trading system,” and “individuals of mixed Indian and European ancestry within the Hudson Bay trading system.” Morton and Ens trained as historians, Brown as an anthropologist, and Flanagan as a political scientist.

[29] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 17.

[30] D.N. Sprague and R.P. Frye, The Genealogy of the First Metis Nation: The Development and Dispersal of the Red River Settlement 1820-1900 (Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1983). See also, P.R. Mailhot and D.N. Sprague, “Persistent Settlers: The Dispersal and Resettlement of the Red River Métis, 1870-1885,” Canadian Ethnic Studies, 17, no. 2 (1985): 9-10. Hall, “ A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 17 n. 50 observes: “Margaret Nahoway Sinclair is an example of confused status. Questions arising from contradictory historical assertions regarding Nahoway’s identity, that of her parents, husbands and offspring, continue to fuel seemingly endless genealogical debates among her descendants”; see also, 156-161, esp. n. 77 and n. 96, for a discussion of the deaths of Norbert Parisien and Thomas Scott, where historiographic confusion over nominal duplication must be suspected of having had serious repercussions.

[31] Spry, “The métis and mixed-bloods,” 99; Brown, “Diverging identities,” 197-98; Hall “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 72 and n. 94, n. 95.

[32] Irene M Spry, ed., “The Ethnic Voice: The ‘Memories’ of George William Sanderson 1846-1936,” Canadian Ethnic Studies 17, no. 2 (1985): 123, 125; Devine, “Les Desjarlais,” 152. See also, R. v. Powley, [2003] 2 S.C.R. 207, 2003 SCC 43 (19 Sep. 2003), docket 28533, I (10), cached at , 25 Sep. 2004 [‘404 Error – File not found,’ 11 Feb. 2010]; Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 56, 68 citations n. 67, 75-76; Maurice L’Hirondelle, foreword to The Métis People of Canada: A History, ed. the Alberta Federation of Métis Settlement Associations, R. Anderson and Alda M. Anderson (Toronto: Gage Publishing, 1978[?]), 2. Note that alternate spellings are common and reflect differences in dialect: see for example, R. Faries, ed., A Dictionary of the Cree language as spoken by the Indians in the Provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta: Based on the foundation laid by Rev. E.A. Watkins 1865 C.M.S. Missionary (Toronto: The General Synod of the Church of England in Canada, 1938), 83; Diane Paulette Payment, ‘The Free People-Otipemisiwak ‘ Batoche, Saskatchewan 1870-1930 (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services, 1990); Anne Anderson, Métis Cree Dictionary (Edmonton: Duval House Publishing, 1997), 282; and Gérard Beaudet,Cree-English, English-Cree Dictionary: Nehiyawe Mina Akayasimo-Akayasimo-Mina Nehiyawe-Ayamiwini-Masinahigan (Winnipeg: Wurez Publishing, 1995).

[33] Garry N. Hnatowich, “Descendancy [sic] Chart for William Sinclair,” 27 Dec. 1997.

[34] D.N. Sprague, “Metis Land Claims,” in Aboriginal Land Claims in Canada: A Regional Perspective, ed. Ken Coates (Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1992), 204.

[35] Statistics Canada, ‘The Daily,’ 11-001-XIE, , 21 Jun. 2004; ‘1996 Census Questionnaire,’ 8 no. 17; and ‘2001 Census Questionnaire,’ 10 no. 18, 10 Sep. 2004.

[36] Métis national Council, “National Definition of Métis,” 17 Sep. 2004. See also, Métis National Council, “Initiatives,” 17 Sep. 2004, for a description of people who, though not members of the MNC Métis Nation, were nevertheless counted by the MNC in 2001 as Métis. The MNC action points to the distinctiveness of different Métis groups, and the problems this poses when it comes to qualifying for government recognition. See for example, “Aboriginal Affairs: Metis on the edge,” The Telegram, St. John’s NL., Dec. 2004.

[37] R v. Powley, opening remarks; see also, I (12).

[38] Ibid., I (30).

[39] See, Joseph Eliot Magnet, “Factum of the Intervener,” Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, 2004, CAPftp/Powley%20Factum.pdf> 12 Sep. 2004.

[40] Most divergences in competing versions of Red River history are attributable to differing opinions about who the Métis were, or were not. As the HBC Archive is the main source of ‘factual’ information for the entire historiography, events and chronologies seldom differ. Only two entirely ‘new’ pieces of information were added by “A ‘Perfect Freedom’”: that the fertility of the soil in the Red River Valley accounts for the seemingly ‘small’ amount of cultivated land; and that Thomas Scott’s execution is not without explanation.

[41] Hall, “a ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 162, 165-66; see, W.L. Morton, ed., “Appendix I,” Manitoba: The Birth of a Province, vol. 1 (Winnipeg: Manitoba Record Society, 1965), 242-250. Martin F. Dunn, “Métis Identity,” notes that, “those in Red River who drafted the Declaration of the People of Rupert’s Land and the Provisional Government’s List of Rights did not used the word ‘Métis’ to describe themselves in the document. In fact the only terminology used is that of ‘uncivilized and unsettled Indians,’ ‘male native citizens,’ and ‘foreigners being a British subject’.”

[42] See, and R v. Powley, quoted this paper, 9; also Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 6.

[43] For reasons of clarity I persist in using ‘Métis’ as an inclusive term in this paper, in spite of reservations as to its appropriateness. See, Marc Bloch, Les caractères originaux de l’histoire rurale française (1930; reprint as French Rural History: An Essay on Its Basic Characteristics, trans. Janet Sondheimer, with intro. Lucien Febvre, fwd. Bruce Lyon, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), xxv (page citations are to the trans. edition), who adopts a similar position with regard to discussing past peoples of France.

[44] Arthur S. Morton, History of the Canadian West, 55-59; Stanley, Birth of Western Canada, 3; Douglas Sprague, and Ronald Frye, “Manitoba’s Red River Settlement: Sources for Economic and Demographic History,” Archivaria 9 (winter, 1979-80): 179. See also Bumsted, Thomas Scott’s Body, and Other Essays on Early Manitoba History (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2000), 91, 101, 103. E. Ellice, in Report From the Select Committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company; Together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, Appendix and Index (London, 1857), 328 no. 5824, notes that as of 1857, the HBC was “the last proprietary government in existence.”

[45] See, Leslie A. Pal, ‘From Society to State: Evolving Approaches to the Study of Politics,’ in Canadian Politics 2d ed., ed. James P. Bickerton, and Alain-G. Gagnon (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1994), 39-42, for a comprehensive definition of ‘state.’

[46] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’” ; Arthur S. Morton, History of the Canadian West, 62, 666, 806, 820; W.L. Morton, Manitoba – A History, 68-70; J.E. Rae, “The Hudson’s Bay Company and the North-West Rebellion,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North (summer 1982): 44-45; Robert J. Coutts, The Road to the Rapids: Nineteenth Century Church and society at St. Andrew’s Parish, Red River (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2000), 8; Desmond Morton, A Short History of Canada, 82-84; Bumsted, Thomas Scott’s Body, 21; Sprague and Frye, Genealogy, 20-21; Finlay and Sprague, Structure of Canadian History, 62: that at best the HBC had only “pretended control” over their vast territory and the people in it is an assessment consistent with the remarks, for example, of George Simpson, J.F. Crofton, and Donald Gunn, in Report from the Select Committee, 86, 173, 178, 346; also, David McNab, “The Colonial Office and the Prairies in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Prairie Forum 3, no. 1 (1978): 21-38; and H. Robert Baker, “Creating Order in the Wilderness: Transplanting Law to Rupert’s Land, 1835-1851,” Law and History Review 17, no. 2 (summer 1999): 4-5, 7, 11 cached at lhr/17.2/ baker.html>, (page citations are to the online version). See also, Ronald Robinson, John Gallagher, and Alice Denny, Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism 2d ed. (London: Macmillan Publishers, 1981), 496, for similar observations regarding the “highly superficial”  nature of imperial rule in colonies in West Africa.

[47] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 53-82; Sprague and Frye, Genealogy, 12; Brown, Strangers in Blood, 70; Sylvia Van Kirk, “Tracing the Fortunes of Five Founding Families of Victoria,” BC Studies: Native Peoples and Colonialism 115/116 (autumn/winter 1997/1998):149, 156, 179; Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, 237; See also, Devine, “Les Desjarlais,” 152 n. 1.

[48] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’”; Innis, Fur Trade, 131, 132, 297; Sprague and Frye, Genealogy, 17-19.

[49] W.J. Healy, Women of Red River, Being a Book Written from the Recollections of Women Surviving from the Red River Era: A Tribute to the Women of an Earlier Day by the Women’s Canadian Club (Winnipeg: Women’s Canadian Club, 1923), 149; Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties,” 53-73; Sprague and Frye, Genealogy, 20; Glyndwr Williams, “The Simpson Era,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North, Special Issue (autumn, 1983): 55: by the 1860s, Métis sons “made up one-third of the officers in the Northern Department.”

[50] Jennifer Brown, “Ultimate Respectability: Fur-Trade Children in the Civilized World, Part I,” The Beaver 308, no. 3 (winter, 1977): 4-10; and “Part II,” The Beaver 308, no. 4 (spring, 1978) 48-55; Fuchs, “Embattled Notions,” 10-17.

[51] Roy St. George Stubbs, “Dr. John Bunn,” Four Recorders of Rupert’s Land (Winnipeg: Peguis Publishers, 1967), 91-134; Sylvia Van Kirk, “‘What if Mama is an Indian?’: The cultural ambivalence of the Alexander Ross family,” in The New Peoples, 207-217.

[52] D. Geneva Lent, West of the Mountains: James Sinclair and the Hudson’s Bay Company (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963); George F.G. Stanley, Louis Riel (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1963).

[53] Barry Cooper, “Alexander Kennedy Isbister, a Respectable Victorian,” Canadian Ethnic Studies/Etudes Ethniques au Canada 17, no. 2 (1985): 44-63. See also, Brown, “Ultimate Respectability: … Part I,” 9.

[54] Harry Shave, “The Armchair at Seven Oaks,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 Oct. 1963.

[55] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 81.

[56] “The Royal Charter for incorporating the Hudson’s Bay Company A.D. 1670,” quoted in Stanley, Birth of Western Canada, 3.

[57] Finlay and Sprague, Structure of Canadian History, 62. See also Arthur S. Morton, History of the Canadian West, 256.

[58] Arthur S. Morton, History of the Canadian West, 255; Finlay and Sprague, 63. See, “Traite de paix entre la France et l’Angleterre: conclu à Utrecht le 11. avril, 1713,” Articles 10 and 11, 56-58, cached at 1 Dec. 2004.

[59] Bumsted, Thomas Scott’s Body, 100.

[60] Innis, Fur Trade, 84-145; Eric W. Morse, Fur Trade Canoe Routes of Canada, Then and Now (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1968), 18; Thomas Wien, “Exchange Patterns in the European Market for North American Furs and Skins, 1720-1760,” in The Fur Trade Revisited: Selected Papers of the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1991 (East Lansing/Mackinac Island: Michigan State University Press/Mackinac State Historic Parks, 1994) 19.

[61] Arthur S. Morton, History of the Canadian West, 55, 354.

[62] Louis Riel, quoted in Stanley, Louis Riel (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1963. Reprint, 1972), 65. Harriet Cowan, quoted in Healy, Woman of Red River, 21. John A. Macdonald, quoted in Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 42. A.K. Isbister, A Few Words on the Hudson’s Bay Company; With a Statement of the Grievances of the Native and Half-Caste Indians, Addressed to the British Government through their Delegates in London (London: C. Gilpin, c. 1846). “[O]ne of Sir John Macdonald’s correspondents,” quoted in Arthur S. Morton, History of the Canadian West, 877.

[63] See, AM MG 14, B 30, file no. 38, “Colin Robertson Sinclair, Estate, 1898-1903”; Captain William Kennedy (Winnipeg: Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Recreation, Historic Resources c1985); Edith I. Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company: Work, Discipline, and Conflict in the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1770-1879 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997), 6-7; Ken McGoogan, Fatal Passage: The Untold Story of John Rae, the Arctic Adventurer Who Discovered the Fate of Franklin (Toronto: Harper Collins, 2001); and Judith Hudson Beattie and Helen M. Buss, eds., Undelivered Letters to Hudson’s Bay Company Men on the Northwest Coast of America, 1830-57 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2003).

[64] Phoebe Dey, “Canadian history in Scotland: Native Studies prof finds the connection.” Folio 36, no. 20 (18 Jun. 1999), online publication, University of Alberta, 15 Oct. 2003; also Hnatowich, “Descendancy Chart.” Such productions as, National Film Board of Canada, The Fiddlers of James Bay, documentary (National Film Board of Canada, 1980), testify to the connections as well. The interest in transoceanic familial and cultural connections has resulted in special services and materials being made available to researchers at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the Orkney Library and Archive, Kirkwall, Orkney, see for example chc/archives/genealogy/gen_text /hbca_intro.html>, and .

[65] Eric W. Sager, Seafaring Labour: The Merchant Marine of Atlantic Canada, 1820-1914 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989), 11. See also Harold A. Innis, The Bias of Communication (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1951; reprint with introduction by Marshall McLuhan, 1964).

[66] Sager, Seafaring Labour, 11.

[67] See, for example, Alan Greer, “Fur-Trade Labour and Lower Canadian Agrarian Structures,” Canadian Historical Association Historical Papers(1981): 197-214; and Finlay and Sprague, Structure of Canadian History, 41-62.

[68] David C. Hawkes, Aboriginal Peoples and Constitutional Reform: What Have We Learned? Final Report (Kingston: Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, 1989), 57.

[69] Magnet, “Argument,” Factum of the Intervener, 14 (51).

[70] Ibid.

[71] Pannekoek, “Metis Studies,” 112-113, describes work by Jacqueline Peterson, Vern Dusenberry, and particularly Olive P. Dickason, David Boisvert, and Keith Turnbull by way of example. See also, Devine, “Les Desjarlais,” 151; Gerhard Ens, “Metis Ethnicity, Personal Identity and the Development of Capitalism in the Western Interior: The Case of Johnny Grant,” in From Rupert’s Land to Canada, 164.

[72] Diwata Olalia-Hunziker, ed., “Evolution of standards concerning the rights of Indigenous Peoples: Definition,”  doCip UPDATE No 15 (August/October 1996), Centre de Documentation, de Recherche et d’Information des Peuples Autochtones/Indigenous Peoples’ Center for Documentation, Research and Information/ Centro de Documentación, Investigación e Información de los Pueblos Indígenas, , 25 Oct. 2004: “doCip is a Swiss NGO linking Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations. It is a non-profit organization established in 1978 at the request of Indigenous Representatives to the United Nations.”

[73] Helga Lomosits, “Future is Not a Tense,” Das Verbindende der Kulturen/The Unifying Aspects of Cultures/Les points communs des cultures: Contributions to the conference in Vienna, from 7 to 9 November 2003, in TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15 (Jul. 2003). 15Nr/01_2/ lomosits15.htm>, 25 Oct. 2004.

[74] Thomas L. Haskell, “Responsibility, Convention, and the Role of Ideas in History,” in Objectivity is Not Neutrality: Explanatory Schemes in History (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1998), 281. On the importance of being alert to the reciprocal “pressures” exerted in the relation of the present to the past see, Louis A Montrose “Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture,” in The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Vesser (New York: Routledge, 1989), 24; also, Robert C.H. Sweeny, “The Staples as the Significant Past: A case study in historical theory and method,” Canada Theoretical Discourse théoriques, ed. Jane Greenlaw, Terry Gouldie, Carmen Lambert, and Rowland Lorimer (Montréal: Association d’études canadiennes, 1994), 335, 339.

[75] James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), 21-54; see also Charles Tilly, “Softcore Solipcism.” Labour/ Le Travail 34 (1990): 259-268.

[76] Pannekoek, “Metis Studies,” 111, see also 116; and Thomas Flanagan, review of Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century by Gerhard Ens, Canadian Historical Review 79, no. 3 (Sep., 1998), cached at chr/79/ homeland. html> 13 Nov. 2002.

[77] See, Giraud, The Métis in the Canadian West vol. 1, 319-330, 352, 355, and vol. 2, 79, 486, 520.

[78] See Carlo Ginzburg, “Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes: Clues and Scientific Method,” History Workshop 9 (spring, 1980): 7, also 8-11, 22, 27-29. See also, Ellen Somekawa, and Elizabeth A. Smith, “Theorizing the Writing of History or, ‘I can’t think why it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention,” Journal of Social History 22, no. 1 (fall, 1988): 153.

[79] “Roy St. George Stubbs,” Manitoba Historical Society 5 Nov. 2004, provides the following biographical information: “A frequent contributor to the MHS Transactions, Judge Stubbs graduated in law in 1936, having previously served on the staff of the Winnipeg Tribune as a reporter. He practiced law continuously since that time, with the exception of his Air Force service during World War II, being a well-known barrister, legal scholar, historian, and judge of the Provincial Court, Family Division. In addition to numerous articles in newspapers and learned journals, Judge Stubbs published Lawyers and Laymen of Western Canada, Prairie Portraits, and Four Recorders of Rupert’s Land.”

[80] Stubbs, Four Recorders of Rupert’s Land, 103, see also 106.

[81] Adam Thom quoted in Stubbs, Four Recorders of Rupert’s Land, 96, see additional citations to the same effect, 95-97, 98-100.

[82] Stubbs, Four Recorders of Rupert’s Land, 93, 105, 131.

[83] See for comparison, Martin Lynn, “Technology, Trade and ‘A Race of Native Capitalists’: The Krio Diaspora of West Africa and the Steamship, 1852-95,” Journal of African History 33 (1992): 421-440. Healy, Women of Red River, 164-66: although it may have been common to send children to live with relatives, according to Sinclair family tradition the separation of children from their mothers was a wrenching experience.

[84] Stubbs, Four Recorders of Rupert’s Land,  92, 94, 101.

[85] See, Arthur S. Morton, History of the Canadian West, 354, 549-550.

[86] Sprague and Frye, “Table 1,” Genealogy.

[87] Lent, West of the Mountains, 23, 45, 47, cites HBCA, C 1/228, B 135/a/129, B 3/c/131, B 3/a/132, B 115/a/39: James, born c1810/12, and John, born c1806, were sent in the autumn of 1818 to London in the care of their older brother William Sinclair II, born c1798. Irene M. Spry, review of West of the Mountains: James Sinclair and the Hudson’s Bay Company by D. Geneva Lent, The Beaver (autumn, 1963), 57, cautions that Lent’s book is “a rattling good story. Unfortunately it is not clear how much of it is based on solid evidence and how much on inference. … Even when evidence is adduced it is frequently inaccurately quoted and interpretations are placed on it for which it does not seem to give any sufficient basis. Some of the mistakes are no more than paraphrases but some cause a significant change in meaning.” She further observes that the book exhibits a, “pervasive looseness of documentation.”

[88] See, David Alexander, “Literacy among Canadian and Foreign Seamen, 1863-1899,” in Working Men Who Got Wet: Proceedings of the fourth conference of the Atlantic Canada Shipping Project, July 24-July 26, 1980, edited by Rosemary Ommer, and Gerald Panting (St. John’s: Maritime History Group, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1980), 4.

[89] See, Daniel Vickers, and Vince Walsh, “Young men and the sea: the sociology of seafaring in eighteenth-century Salem, Massachusetts,” Social History 24, no. 1 (Jan., 1999), 19, 25, 29, 37; Valerie Burton, “‘Whoring, Drinking Sailors’: Reflections on Masculinity from the Labour History of Nineteenth-century British Shipping,” in Working out Gender Perspectives from Labour History (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999): 87.

[90] Brown, “Ultimate Respectability … Part I,” and “Part II,”  presaged the publication of her book, Strangers in Blood, in which the same material forms a chapter.

[91] Brown, “Ultimate Respectability … Part II,” 54, see also “Part I,” 8.

[92] See for example, Harriet Cowan, quoted in Healy, Women of Red River, 37-45 and her account of taking her children from Red River to Moose Fort; Moose Fort to Red River; and on two Atlantic Crossings.

[93] See also Brown, “Diverging identities”; Van Kirk, “‘What if Mama is an Indian?’” ; Van Kirk, “Tracing the Fortunes,” 149-79; and Fuchs, “Embattled Notions,”  which deal with the same theme. Van Kirk arrives at similarly limiting conclusions from equally limited instancing. In the case of the Ross family, the father appears a decided bigot. Fuchs attempts to establish the point that parental and contemporary attitudes and the children’s sense of themselves often differed. Note however that preponderantly these studies do not deal with persons of Red River connection who were transported to extra-continental contexts. In instances where exposure to Europe is acknowledged, the logistics involved are ignored.

[94] Brown, Strangers in Blood, 184. Brown, “Ultimate Respectability … Part II,” 48, “Part I,” 9-10. See also, Richard Rice, “Sailortown: Theory and Method in Ordinary People’s History,” review of Jack in Port: sailortowns of eastern Canada by Judith Fingard. Acadiensis 13, no. 1 (autumn, 1983): 154, 157, 162-164, 167, regarding the deficiency of instancing as explanation.

[95] Brown, “Ultimate Respectability … Part II,” 53, 54-55, concludes, “the mixed-racial origins of most Company children did not appear to jeopardize their social standing outside the Northwest.”

[96] Ibid., 48.

[97] Brown, Strangers in Blood, 178.

[98] See, Van Kirk, “What if Mama is an Indian?’”; Cooper, “Alexander Kennedy Isbister”; Fuchs “Embattled Notions.”

[99] Cooper, “Alexander Kennedy Isbister,” 52.

[100] Brown, Strangers in Blood, 178.

[101] Brown, “Ultimate Respectability … Part II,” 50-51; Review of, The Japan Expedition: Japan and Around the World by T.W. Spalding, The North American Review 172, no. 83 (July, 1856): 259; “Americans in Japan: Cruise of the U.S. Sloop-of-War Treble,” Littel’s Living Age 23, no. 284 (27 Oct., 1849): 151; “The Polar Seas and Sir John Franklin,” Putnam’s Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science and Art 6, no.1 (June 1853): 634-35.

[102] See, Alexander, “Literacy among Canadian and Foreign Seamen,” 5, 21; also, Valerie Burton, “Boundaries and identities in the nineteenth-century English Port: sailortown narratives and urban space,” in Identities in Space: Contested Terrains in the Western City since 1850, ed. Simon Gunn, and Robert J. Morris (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), 139; Burton, “‘Whoring, Drinking Sailors’,” 87.

[103] See, Ralph Davis, “Maritime History: Progress and Problems,” in Business and Businessmen: Studies in Business, Economic and Accounting History, ed. Sheila Marriner et al (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1978), 189, 191; Alexander, “Literacy among Canadian and Foreign Seamen,” 3; Daniel Vickers, “Beyond Jack Tar,” The William and Mary Quarterly 50, no. 2, 3d Series, (Apr., 1993): 422; Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 19, 25, 29, 37; Burton, “‘Whoring, Drinking Sailors’,” 87; W. Jeffrey Bolster, “‘Every Inch a Man’: Gender in the Lives of African American Seamen, 1800-1860,” in Iron Men, Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World,1700-1920, ed. Margaret S. Creighton and Lisa Norling (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996), 159.

[104] See, Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 23, 26.

[105] Sprague and Frye, “Table: 3: Contract Employees of the HBC Recruited from or Retired to the Red River Colony, 1821-1870,” Genealogy.

[106] Ibid., 9.

[107] Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company, 249-253.

[108] See, Ibid., 120, 151, 198-99, 203, 240, 276 n. 15, 287 n. 139, 297 n. 16, 299 n. 35, 306 n. 116. For Burley’s reliance on additional maritime history texts by Rediker and other authors to supply explanatory context for sailors’ behaviour see, 128, 129, 176, 206, 225, 240, 243, 278 n. 46 and n. 47, 293 n. 65, 299 n. 41, 303 n. 93, 306 n. 115 and n. 123.

[109] Alexander, “Literacy among Canadian and Foreign Seamen,” 32.

[110] See, Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 23, 30.

[111] Robert C.H. Sweeny, “Understanding Work Historically: A reflection prompted by two recent studies of the fur trade,” review of Servants of the Honourable Company: Work, Discipline and Conflict in the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1770-1879, by Edith I. Burley, and Trading Beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, by Richard Somerset Mackie, Labour/Le Travail 41 (spring 1998): 250-251. Frank Tough, review of Servants of the Honourable Company: Work, Discipline, and conflict in the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1770-1879 by Edith I. Burley, Manitoba History 37 (spring/summer 1999): 47, 49, 51. See also Rice, “Sailortown,” 160.

[112] Sweeny, “Understanding Work Historically,” 244; Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company, 11-12. See also, Vickers, “Beyond Jack Tar,” 421-422.

[113] Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 6.

[114] See, Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 13, 40-43, 47-48, 201, 297-298, 317-318, 320, 323, 326-327-328, 340-341, 343-348, 424, 425, 460, who note that 17 percent of the apprentices, seamen, officers and masters that they sampled were of North American origin. At least 7 of the individuals addressed in the letters are known to be Aboriginal or to have Aboriginal family ties. See also, Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” for a parallel example of young men, work and family as a seafaring theme; and Burton, “‘Whoring, Drinking Sailors’,” 84.

[115] Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 11, 213, 239-240, 336; see also, Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 25; and Burton, “Boundaries and identities,” 143.

[116] See, Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 27, 28; also Vickers, “Beyond Jack Tar,” 423.

[117] Beattie and Buss, Undelivered Letters, 6, 407, note that because their focus is on the Pacific region not all available letters are included in the compilation.

[118] Harvey, Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography (New York: Routledge, 2001), 124.

[119] See, Dirlik, “Reflections on Eurocentrism,” 268; also, Janet J. Ewald, “Crossers of the Sea: Slaves, Freedmen, and Other Migrants in the Northwestern Indian Ocean. c. 1750-1914,” American Historical Review 105, no. 1 (2000): 69.

[120] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 55-56; L’Hirondelle, Métis People of Canada, 2; Devine, “Les Desjarlais,” 152; also, Alexander Ross, The Red River Settlement, Its Rise Progress, and Present State: With some account of the native races and its general history to the present day (1856; reprint, Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1972), 192; A.C. Garrioch, The Far and Furry North: A Story of Life and Love and Travel in the Days of the Hudson’s Bay Company (Winnipeg: Douglas-McIntrye, 1925), passim; Joseph F. Dion, My Tribe the Crees, ed. Hugh A. Dempsey (Calgary: Glenbow-Alberta Institute, 1979), 164-65; Guillaume Charette, L’espace de Louis Goulet, ed. Elizabeth Maquet (1976; reprint in English as Vanishing Spaces (Memoirs of a Prairie Métis), trans. Ray Ellenwood, Winnipeg: Editions Bois-Brules, 1980), vii; Stanley, Birth of Western Canada, 10; Foster, “The Country-Born,” 72 n. 88, 205 n. 118: Cree was the common ‘mother tongue’ of the Red River Métis and the language of trade throughout Rupert’s Land. See also Norton, Human Geography, 162, who notes that language is often “the primary basis of identity.”

[121] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 45-46; Jeremy Adelman, and Stephen Aron, “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in between in North American History,” The American Historical Review 104, no. 3 (Jun. 1999): 815; Martin W. Lewis, “Dividing the Ocean Sea,” The Geographic Review 89, no. 2 (Apr., 1999): 189-190, 196, 199, 210-211.

[122] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 27-30, 32, 36. Elizabeth Mancke, “Early Modern Expansion and the Politicization of Oceanic Space,” Geographic Review 89, no. 2 (Apr., 1999): 225; Vickers, “Beyond Jack Tar,” 420; Davis, “Maritime History,” 188-189; Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 18, 36; Judith Fingard, Jack in Port: sailortowns of eastern Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), 3; Sager, Seafaring Labour, 4, 6-7, 10, 44; and Margaret S. Creighton, and Lisa Norling, eds., Iron Men, Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World, 1700-1920 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996), ix: indicate that seafaring communities were not mere microcosms of European societies, simply replicating ordained patterns of authority and control, but neither were they entirely extraordinary.

[123] Sager, Seafaring Labour, 16-20; Ewald, “Crossers of the Sea,” 70, 72.

[124] Davis, “Maritime History,” 188-191; Alexander, “Literacy among Canadian and Foreign Seamen,” 5; Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 18; Ewald, “Crossers of the Sea,” 90.

[125] Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties,34, 48-49, 173-177, 249 n. 20; Women were prohibited from travelling to or from Britain on HBC ships to 1812, due to fatal and expensive incidents during the early years of trade. However, at least one woman is thought to have made the journey disguised as a man.

[126] Vickers, “Beyond Jack Tar,” 419, 422; Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 20-21; Burton, “Boundaries and identities,” 139; Burton, “‘Whoring, Drinking Sailors’,” 84-98; Creighton and Norling, Iron Men. Wooden Women, vii, ix, xii; and Margaret S. Creighton, “Davy Jones’ Locker Room: Gender and the American Whaleman, 1830-1870,” in Iron Men, Wooden Women, 121, 136-137; Bolster, “Every Inch a Man,” 141.

[127] Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 112; Pannekoek, Snug Little Flock, 9; Spry, “The métis and mixed-bloods,’ 104-113.

[128] Davis, “Maritime History,” 189. Alexander, “Literacy among Canadian and Foreign Seamen,” 30.

[129] Sager, Seafaring Labour, 47-48, 50-54; Vickers and Walsh, “Young men and the sea,” 21, 23, 24, 34-35; See also, Davis, “Maritime History,” 189; Ewald, “Crossers of the Sea,” 88-89; and Burton, “Boundaries and identities,” 143.

[130] Burton, “Boundaries and identities”. See also, Burton, “‘Whoring, Drinking Sailors’,” 88-92, 96.

[131] Ewald, “Crossers of the Sea,” 70, 72; Rice, “Sailortown,” 156; See also, Michael Quinlan, “Regulating Labour in a Colonial Context: Maritime Labour Legislation in the Australian Colonies, 1788-1850,” Australian Historical Studies III, no. 29 (Oct., 1998): 322-323.

[132] Ann Laura Stoler, and Frederick Cooper, “Between Metropole and Colony,” in Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, ed. Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 7; Burton, “‘Whoring, Drinking Sailors’,” 86-87; Ewald, “Crossers of the Sea,” 70, 72, 75-77, 87, 90; Sager, Seafaring Labour, 11. See also, Dening, “Writing, Rewriting the Beach,” 171.

[133] Ned Landsman and H.V. Bowen, cited in Jerry Bannister, The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 3. See also, Ewald, “Crossers of the Sea,” 72, 80.

[134] See, Devine, “Les Desjarlais,” 158 n.73. See also, Thomas King, Green Grass Running Water (1993; Toronto: Harper Perennial Canada, 1999), for a literary exploration of the fluidity of Aboriginal and other identities and contexts over space/time; and Greg Dening, “Deep Times, Deep Spaces: Civilizing the Sea, Encompassing Oceania,” Sea Changes: Historicizing the Sea, Greifswald, July 19 2000, 2-4, 8, 11, 12, 16. Also Bolster, “Every Inch a Man,” 144, 146.

[135] Dirlik, “History without a Center?” 251.

[136] Ibid., 261.

[137] See, Vickers, “Beyond Jack Tar,” 421.

[138] Dirlik, “History without a Center?” 262.

[139] James W. Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (New York: Routledge, 1989), 4-5, 13-18, 22, 25, 30-33.

[140] See, Edmund S. Glenn, “Sematic Difficulties in International Communications,” in The Use and Misuse of Language, ed. S.I. Hayakawa (New York: Fawcett Publications, 1962), 47-69. S.I. Hayakawa, like his contemporary, Harold A. Innis, displayed a consuming interest in language and culture as promoters or inhibitors of communication; the reciprocity of their relation; and the differing ways in which orality and written communication confer power. Hayakawa served as editor of the quarterly journal, Etc: A Review of General Semantics, from its founding in 1943. A collection of essays from Etc was published as The Use and Misuse of Language. A review of the arguments it presents reveals that beyond a change in labeling, very little in subsequent discussions about language, communication and power appears conceptually ‘new.’

[141] See, Dening, “Deep Times, Deep Spaces,” 2-4, 8; also, Dening, “Writing, Rewriting the Beach,” 170; Marcel van der Linden, “The Globalization of Labor and Working-Class History and its Consequences,” International Labor and Working-Class History 65 (spring, 2004):147; Joan Wallach Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,”  in Gender and the Politics of History (1985; revised edition, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 49; Constance Backhouse, Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 6-9; Frances Henry, Carol Tator, Winston Mattis, and Tim Rees, The Colour of Democracy: Racism in Canadian Society (Toronto: Harcourt Brace and Company Canada, 1995), 2-4; Lewis, “Dividing the Ocean Sea,” 189; Hawkes, ‘Final Report,’ 56-57; see also, Susan D. Phillips, ‘New Social Movements in Canadian Politics: On Fighting and Starting Fires,’ in Canadian Politics, 189, 193, 194, 197-98.

[142] Christopher Lloyd, The Structures of History: Studies in Social Discontinuity (Cambridge: Balckwell, 1993), 97.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Ibid.

[145] Berger, Imperialism and Nationalism, 5, observes that such a task is not quickly and easily done as it is “like trying to nail jelly to the wall.”

[146] W.L. Morton, “The Relevance of Canadian History,” The Canadian Identity, 2d ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), vi; see also, Lewis Wurgaft quoted in Dirlik, “History without a Center?” 251; and Dening, “Writing, Rewriting the Beach,” 160.

[147] Palmer, “Silences and Trenches,” 686.

[148] Dening, “Deep Times, Deep Spaces,” 11; see also Dening, “Writing, Rewriting the Beach,” 159.

[149] See, Davis, “Maritime History, 192; Vickers, “Beyond Jack Tar,” 424; also David Natcher and Norma Hall, “Reading List for a Field in Aboriginal Studies, Compiled for Norma J. Hall,” submitted to the Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Nov. 2004; and David M. Hopkin, “Storytelling, fairytales and autobiography: some observations on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French soldiers’ and sailors’ memoirs,” Social History 29, no. 2 (May, 2004): 197-198; Hall, “A ‘Perfect Freedom’,” 35; Sprague and Frye, “Manitoba’s Red River Settlement”; Sprague and Frye, Genealogy, 9; Burley, “A Note on Sources,” Servants of the Honourable Company, 249-253; and Barkwell, Dorion, and Préfontaine, Resources for Métis Researchers.

[150] Thomas R. Berger, “Foreword,” in Canada and the Métis, vii. See also, George F.G. Stanley, “Foreword,” in The Collected Writings of Louis Riel/ Les Ecrits complets de Louis Riel, vol. 1, ed. Raymond Huel, and George F.G. Stanley (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1983), xxxii; Flanagan, Riel and the Rebellion, vii; Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 1; Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 3; Bumsted, Thomas Scott’s Body, ix, 11.


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