Metis

1700 - 1749

METIS HISTORY ...DETROIT 1700-1710

The English historians say that the French are adventurers, not builders. They didn't colonize the land; at best they garrisoned it. They cut few roads and built few towns, for they are travelers who did not propose to stay. As such, they carried their beliefs, values and wars into New France and had little interest in Native culture. It is interesting that the French use similar words to describe the English. The Jesuits consider the English as worse than the savage heathens. As the French and English continue to squabble, the Metis and Coureurs de Bois are building a nation with their Indian allies.

The Hudson Bay Company had to borrow 100 pounds to pay Pierre d'Esprit Radisson (1640-1710), their founder, and owed 600 pounds in back pay to their only Chief Factor, Anthony Beale, of their only surviving Fort at Albany. The Company is almost constantly in arrears for Radisson's pension. The Company is technically insolvent, and its only salvation is to lobby the King for return of the Northern Bay (Hudson Bay) from the French. It is noteworthy that the Hudson Bay Company's claim to the Hudson Bay trading posts only rested on a seven year renewable charter and not a monopoly or claim of possession.

The Voyageurs and Coureurs de Bois are a different breed of man. Voyageurs, also called engages or canotiers, should not be confused with the more numerous Coureurs de Bois. The Coureurs de Bois, from a French or Church perspective, is anyone who is illegally away from the settlements without permission. If caught, they are forced to serve in the Mediterranean galleys for life to a more lenient thousand pounds fine and/or public whipping. Permission is in the form of travel permits and, in theory, only 25 permits or less per year are granted. Montreal, Louisiana, Detroit and Michilimackinac issued permits for the Nord Ouest (North West). Permits are issued, this century, during the periods of 1716-1718 and 1726-1760. The Voyageurs, as a group, in the latter part of this century, are further divided into two groups: "les mangeurs du lard" or pork eaters who worked the Great Lakes, and the "les hommes du nord" or Northmen who worked the North West Interior of the continent. Mackinac or Grand Depot is the main staging point this century for servicing the West. Grand Pointe (La Pointe, Wisconsin) and Green Bay are secondary staging depots for the Northwest. In the second half of this century, mostly Frenchmen are engaged for five year terms. Their indebtedness usually ensures their employment for life. Many, however, escaped to become Coureurs des Bois. The Coureurs de Bois would eventually evolve into the Metis culture. Peter Fidler, at the end of this century, summarized this century by saying: The Ojibwa are, from their infancy, acquainted with the (French) Canadians as they come from towards their Country, which makes them so much attached to them. The French seldom ventured into the North West without the Metis, Ojibwa or Courier de Bois as guides, interpreters and protectors.