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James McKay MLA (b. 1825)

James McKay MLA (b. 1825)

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Metis trader, interpreter and politician James McKay is profiled. McKay served in riels Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia in 1870.
Metis trader, interpreter and politician James McKay is profiled. McKay served in riels Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia in 1870.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Lawrence J. Barkwell on Mar 18, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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James McKay,
(1825-1879)James McKay, born at Fort Edmonton, was the son of James McKay Sr.
(an itinerantScottish fur trader) and Marguerite Gladu
,a Métisse daughter of Charles Gladu andMarguerite Ross. He spent most of his life in what is now Manitoba. McKay was anexpert guide, woodsman and hunter.James McKay was educated at Red River and began working for the Hudson's BayCompany in 1853 and had postings in the Swan River district, Qu'Appelle Lakes, FortEllice, Fort Pelly and the Shayenne River region. McKay began work with the HBC in1853. It is a tribute to his skills that many distinguished visitors sought him out as aguide. He often met the HBC governor,George SimpsoninCrow Wing, Minnesota and escorted him toUpper Fort Garry. In 1857, while atFort Ellice,he was engaged to guide theJohn Palliser party from Fort Ellice (now St. Lazare, Manitoba) through theSaskatchewan plains to its winter quarters atFort Carlton,Saskatchewan.James married Margaret Rowand in June of 1859 and as a result of his wife’sinheritance, the family established itself at Deer Lodge and McKay had an active business career at Red River. Margaret was born on July 5, 1825, at Fort Edmonton, theMetis daughter of Chief Factor John Rowand (b. 1787) and Louise (Lizette) Humphyville(Metis), the daughter of Edward Humphryville and an unknown Native woman. Margaretmarried James McKay, the son of James McKay and Marguerite Gladu. Her cousinMaria Rowand married John HenryMcTavish. He was a Roman Catholic andspoke French fluently. He was a sympathizer of the Métis. He was in charge of Upper FortGarry after the departure of Governor WilliamMcTavish (no relation) in 1870.Children of James McKay and MargueriteRowand:
Augusta, born December 5, 1856, shemarried Richard Lapoudre dit Power.
Marie Sophie, born November 8,18612, died October 21, 1862.
John Henri, born August 23, 1863 atSt. Boniface, died October 26, 1866.
Jane Dallas, born August 23, 1863 atSt. James, she married Louis Gagnon.
James Alexander, born March 10,1866 at St. James.
John Auguste, born May 31, 1870 atSt. James.
James McKay Sr, Was born January 13, 1797 in Scotland, he died in 1887 at Prince Albert and is buried on the Mistawasis Reserve.
Marguerite was born in 1809 at Cumberland House
James and Margaret built the famous Deer Lodge Mansion as their home on the banks of the Assiniboine River. They owned thousands of acres of land and at one timehad a stable of horses valued at more than $100,000. The McKay’s kept a largeestablishment at Deer Lodge, with a staff of servants, two kitchens and two cooks. Thefamily cook was an American woman whom McKay had bought from the Sioux after theMinnesota massacre of 1852. He also bought at that time a white child named Augusta,whom they adopted and educated at the Convent in St. Boniface.A huge man of 340 pounds, McKay was impressive in every way. His strength waslegendary. Once while riding on the plains he was attacked by a prairie grizzly bear, aspecies, which preyed on the buffalo herds and is now extinct. He responded by lassoingthe bear and subduing it. On another occasion, he came across a couple in a horse drawncart stuck in the mud. McKay unhitched the horse, put himself between the shafts and pulled the vehicle out. As a member of the Palliser expedition, he is said to have ridden a buffalo. He was so physically agile that he was able to leap over the back of his horse. Hewas also considered a champion dancer of the Red River Jig, a dance requiring both graceand agility. The Earl of Southesk, supplies a full description of James McKay as heappeared on their trip from Crow Wing (Minnesota Territory) to Upper Fort Garry:[He was] immensely broad-chested and muscular, though not tall, he weighedeighteen stone; yet in spite of his stoutness he was exceedingly hardy and active, anda wonderful horseman. His face—somewhat Assyrian in type—is very handsome:short delicate aquiline nose; piercing dark grey eyes; long dark-brown hair, beard,moustaches; white small, regular teeth; skin tanned to red bronze from exposure toweather. He was dressed in Red River style—a blue cloth “Capot” (hooded frock-coat) with brass buttons; red and black flannel shirt, which served also as awaistcoat; black belt around the waist; buff leather moccasins on his feet; trousers of  brown and white striped home-made woollen stuff. (
Saskatchewan and the Rocky Mountains: A Diary
. Edinburgh: Edmonton and Douglas, 1875)
James McKay (l) and Patrice BrelandPAM, H. Letourneau Collection. # 17, Negative 14318.
The McKay’s deserve a special place in history for preserving the buffalo. Theyrealized they were becoming scarce and after capturing some calves began raising a herdat Deer Lodge. Later they split this herd and sold some to Donald A. Smith. Portions of his herd were used to stock Assiniboine Park and Banff National Park.Because of his facility with the French, English, Cree, Ojibway and Dakotalanguages, McKay played an active role in the western treaty making process and wasinvolved in the negotiations of Treaties I to IV. He was president of the ExecutiveCouncil of the Manitoba government and later became Speaker of the Upper Chamber of the Manitoba provincial legislature. In 1874 he was appointed to the North West Council.McKay opposed Louis Riel and the other Metis resisters in 1869-70. He chose toleave the community for a short time to avoid the controversy. He was a brother to AngusMcKay who was also active in the political unrest of the time. Angus was opposed toLouis Riel’s methods for dealing with the Canadian government and he was arrested byRiel in March 1870. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia torepresent the Parish of St. James. It was this assembly that brought Manitoba intoConfederation (it functioned between March 9, 1870 and June 24, 1870). He was alsoappointed to the Judiciary as President of the Manitoba District Court and was aMagistrate of the White Horse Plains District Court. He held the executive office of Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the Provisional Government of Assiniboia. Later hewas elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in the riding of Lake Manitoba and

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