The Temiskaming Metis People
Historically, the Temiskaming region is home to the Temiskaming Metis community. Fur trades were active in this region for almost three hundred years, beginning in the 1670’s. Similar to Red River, Manitoba, intermarriage between trade personnel and local Algonquin gave rise to identifiable groups of Metis or “country-born” people. The size of the Metis population here was much smaller than in Red River.
Because of the establishment of the two forts at the narrows of Lake Temiskaming, many voyageurs and coureur des bois were drawn to the area to engage in the trading of goods. This also encouraged intermarriage between these individuals and the Algonquin of Temiskaming.
Picture supplied by Archives Cananda
The men in these families worked as voyageurs, guides, boat-builders and carpenters. The women fished, hunted small game, cultivated, and produced beaded moccasins, mittens and other items for the fur trade.
Until the Mid-1880’s, most people of mixed ancestry in the Temiskaming region lived (especially from spring through fall)) in the immediate vicinity of Fort Temiscamingue. Their family names included McKay, Louttit, Thompson, Taylor, Mcdonald, Petrant and Langevin.
Many descendants of the Temiskaming Metis or country-born are now considered status Indians. Some of these First Nation’s descendants blended into the general population. In Ontario and Quebec (unlike what is now western Canada) provincial governments did not usually recognize the Metis or country-born as a distinct people.
When treaties were made with the Ojibway and Cree in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, people of mixed ancestry were told they had a choice. If they wanted treaty benefits, they would have to settle on Indian Reserves and be acknowledged as Indians. Otherwise, they would simply be treated as white people. On the other hand, many First Nations and their descendants were forced to live and adapt to the European and French societies which occupied the lands outside the reservations. This became known as the Residential School era. The government initiated the Residential School program by taking First Nation children from the reserves where they lived and forcing them to live in Residential Schools where they were not allowed to practice their culture, but that of the European and French settlers.
In Temiskaming, many chose to live as Metis and formed the Metis community in Temiskaming which still exists today. In recent years there has been a renewal of pride and identity among the Metis population in the region. This is evident from the large numbers of individuals wanting to reclaim their traditional Metis history, culture and customs.
The Forts at the Narrows
There are many documents produced from the past about Metis people in Temiskaming. Most notably our the notaries found in log books of both Fort Temiscamingue, located in Ville-Marie, Quebec, and the Oblates Mission church which was located on Lake Temiskaming, South Lorrain Township, in Ontario. Both Forts face one another with only a mere ½ mile or so of open water to divide them up.
Quick Facts about Fort Temiscamingue
In 1679, the government of New France established a fort on Lake Timiskaming to compete with the English posts on the Hudson Bay, but was destroyed by the Iroquois in 1688.
In 1720, a new Fort Témiscamingue was founded by French merchants on a strategic location where the two shores of Lake Timiskaming come closer than 250 meters (820 ft) to each other, a former Algonquin encampment site called "Obadjiwan Point" (meaning "the strait where the current flows"). This became a centre for the fur trade route from Montreal to Hudson Bay, roughly located halfway between these two. Both about 20 days of canoeing and portaging away.
After the fall of New France in 1760, the North West Company took over the fort and gained a virtual trade monopoly by the 1790s. In 1821, the fort came into the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company.
In 1864, it became the seat of its district. By the end of the 19th century, lumbermen, missionaries, and settlers succeeded the fur traders and the fort's role as a trading post gradually became obsolete. In 1902, it closed down. There is not much information available about the HBC Fort at the Old Mission. Most notably is the diary of Father Charles Paradis of the Oblate Missionaries who logged most of the forts activity in his diary. He wrote about many different families which crossed the lake working from one fort to the other. According to Founding of New Liskeard, in 1658, Jesuit missionaries explored the region and by 1863 Oblate missionaries established a mission to the Algonquins, Mission St. Claude, on the Ontario side of Lake Temiskaming, which was opposite of Fort Temiskaming. The mission would close in 1887 when missions were established at North Temiskaming, for the Algonquins, and at Ville Marie, Quebec, for the French-Canadian settlers.
Between 1873 and 1889, the chief trader at the local Hudson’s Bay Company fur-trading post was Charles Farr. He was also the founder of New Liskeard.