Search for "south asian canadians"

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James McGill

James McGill, fur trader, merchant, politician, philanthropist (born 6 October 1744 in Glasgow, Scotland; died 19 December 1813 in Montreal, Lower Canada). James McGill was one of Montreal’s most prominent citizens in the 18th and early 19th centuries. He grew a successful career as a fur trader into a business empire. McGill also held various positions in public office, including three terms in Lower Canada’s legislature. His will contained the endowment for McGill University. James McGill’s achievements cannot be separated from the fact that he enslaved Black and Indigenous people and profited from this practice.

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Joseph Lewis

Joseph Lewis, alias Levi Johnston, also Lewes and Louis, fur trader (born c. 1772–73 in Manchester, New Hampshire; died 1820 in Saskatchewan District). Joseph Lewis was a Black fur trader, originally from the United States, who participated in the fur industry’s early expansion into the Canadian Northwest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is one of very few Black people involved in the fur trade whose name was documented in existing texts. Joseph Lewis is further notable for being the first Black person in present-day Saskatchewan, as well as, in all likelihood, Alberta.

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Black Fur Traders in Canada

The role of Black people within the history of the fur trade is rarely considered. Black people were rarely in a position to write their own stories, so often those stories went untold. This owes to a complex set of factors including racism and limited access to literacy. Black people are also not the focus of many historical documents. However, historians have identified several Black fur traders working in different roles, and even an entire family of Black fur traders who left their mark on history.

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Peter Fidler

Peter Fidler, fur trader, mapmaker, explorer (b at Bolsover, Eng 16 Aug 1769; d at Fort Dauphin [Man] 17 Dec 1822).

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Louis-Joseph Gaultier de La Vérendrye

Louis-Joseph Gaultier de La Vérendrye, explorer, cartographer, fur trader, military officer (born 9 November 1717 at Île aux Vaches, Quebec (New France); died at sea off the coast of Cape Breton 15 November 1761). Known by his title Chevalier, the youngest son of Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de la Vérendrye led the first European exploration across the Missouri River into the Great Plains. He served New France in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War.

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Pierre Dugua de Mons

Pierre Dugua de Mons (or Du Gua de Monts), colonizer, explorer, trader (born c. 1558 in Royan, France; died 22 February1628 near Fléac-sur-Seugne, France). Pierre Dugua de Mons oversaw the founding of Port Royal, in Acadia (present-day Annapolis Royal), and Quebec City, Quebec. These two places were the first successful French settlements in North America. At a time of significant religious tension in France, there were few people involved in that kingdom’s exploration and settlement of North America that better represent the social, political and religious context of the early 17th century. Both Samuel de Champlain and Mathieu Da Costa, who are better known from this period, were de Mons’s employees and acted under his direction. De Mons’s legacy has been overshadowed by Champlain in part because Champlain wrote extensively about his work, whereas de Mons did not. In addition, in some of Champlain’s writings he replaced de Mons with himself.

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Médard Chouart des Groseilliers

Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers, explorer, fur trader (bap at Charly-sur-Marne, France 31 July 1618; d at New France 1696?). A man of courage who valued personal freedom and initiative, Des Groseilliers opened Lakes Michigan and Superior to the fur trade and Jesuit missionaries.

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Ounanguissé

Ounanguissé (“Shimmering Light of the Sun,” also spelled Onangizes, Onanguisset and Onanguicé) was wkama (leader) of the Potawatomi ca. 1660s–1701. He was an important figure in the alliance between the French and Indigenous people of the Great Lakes region during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He is most well known for a speech he gave regarding this alliance during a meeting he had with the governor general of New France, Louis de Buade de Frontenac in 1697. He also made an important contribution to the establishment of the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701.

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Louis Jolliet

Louis Jolliet, explorer, cartographer, king’s hydrographer, fur trader, seigneur, organist, teacher (baptized 21 September 1645 in Québec City; died between 4 May and 18 Oct 1700 likely near Île d'Anticosti).

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Voyageurs

Voyageurs were independent contractors, workers or minor partners in companies involved in the fur trade. They were licensed to transport goods to trading posts and were usually forbidden to do any trading of their own. The fur trade changed over the years, as did the groups of men working in it. In the 17th century, voyageurs were often coureurs des bois — unlicensed traders responsible for delivering trade goods from suppliers to Indigenous peoples. The implementation of the trading licence system in 1681 set voyageurs apart from coureurs des bois, who were then considered outlaws of sorts. Today, the word voyageur, like the term coureur des bois, evokes the romantic image of men canoeing across the continent in search of furs. Their life was full of perilous adventure, gruelling work and cheerful camaraderie.