You are on page 1of 3

Women of the Fur Trade - Exhibit to Honour

Magdeleine Poitras
Native Women's Role in Early Survival - The Making of Pemmican : Staple oo! of the
Metis "oyageur - ur Tra!e e#hi$it no% at Mac!onell-Williamson &ouse 'uly ( )ugust

ur Tra!e $lanket capotes an! Native $ea!%ork on !isplay
PRLog (Press Release) - Jul. 5, 2013 - Along the Ottawa River and just beside the Carillon Da
sits one o! the best e"a#les o! a $eorgian ansion that was built in %&%' !or !ur trade #artner
(ohn Ma)donell and his Metis wi!e Magdeleine *oitras+ The sound o! the water rushing through
the da is a reinder o! da,s when that s#ot was a !or)ed #ortage area !or ever, -o,ageur
heading west out o! Montreal+
Thousands o! en got out o! their )anoes at that s#ot. and )arried it and their #rovisions a)ross
the area where the house sits. its stone walls thi)/ and )ool gre,. it0s shuttered windows o#en !or
another suer season+ 1ut it0s not just an histori) site be)ause o! its lo)ation. nor due to the
ajest, o! the house itsel!+ The !ail, it was built !or were #art o! the ost i#ortant !ur trade
!ailies in Canadian histor,+ It0s se)rets. in)luding !ail, ties in the thi)/ o! the *ei)an 2ar
,ears. are now being revealed in the !or o! a new e"hibit at the house. a#tl, )alled 3*ei)an 4
Sta#le Food o! the Metis -o,ageur3+ The reasons #ei)an was a big #art o! this !ail, are
First. #ei)an was the sta#le !ood !or an,one travelling b, )anoe to the west+ Thousands o!
en too/ #ei)an with the in order to survive. and thousands o! 5ative Aeri)an and Metis
woen just li/e Magdeleine *oitras ade #ei)an so that these en would survive+ This was
a tie o! #ros#erit, !or both Euro#ean settlers and 5ative Aeri)ans who wel)oed the and
their trade+ Magdeleine *oitras. having been born o! a Fur Trade #artner and 5ative other. had
all the s/ills o! a !ur trader0s wi!e on the trail be!ore she arrived at *ointe-Fortune to the house
the, had naed 3*o#lar -illa3. now /nown as Ma)donell-2illiason 6ouse+
The e"hibit show)ases #ei)an -- how it0s ade. its i#ortan)e and its #oliti)s -- between the
!ailies o! Magdeleine and her husband (ohn Ma)donell+ 6is brother was Miles Ma)donell. !irst
$overnor o! Assiniboia and the an who de)lared the 3*ei)an *ro)laation3. banning trade
or sale o! #ei)an out o! Red River+ 5ewl, arrived S)ottish to Sel/ir/ Settleent had been too
late to arrive and needed the hel# o! the Metis to survive that !irst winter+ The !ollowing suer
saw snow!all. e!!e)tivel, destro,ing )ro#s+ Miles Ma)donell de)ided to se)ure the #ei)an
su##l, !or the S)ottish settlers. but this eant it was )ut o!! !ro the 5orthwest Co#an,
vo,ageurs. who de#ended on #ei)an !or survival+
A #ei)an ban surel, eant the deise o! the Metis #eo#le and their !ur trade. that o! the
5orthwest Co#an,. sin)e the, needed vo,ageurs !ro 7uebe) to #addle thousands o! iles to
get !urs+ That ,ear the !ur trade nearl, ended. be)ause !ood su##l, was so low the en )ouldn0t
leave Montreal+
Considering Cuthbert $rant (r+. !irst leader o! the Metis in the resistan)e to the #ei)an ban at
Sel/ir/ Settleent. was a )lose relative o! Magdeleine0s 8and that0s a stor, in itsel!9. and adding
that (ohn Ma)donell had been a #artner in the 5orthwest Co#an,. this ban ust have brought
)ause !or ver, interesting dis)ussion at the dinner table in their household+ It was a tie when the
Metis in the west ade #ei)an !or trade with en who went west. and a tie when the Metis
were !ree-ranging on those lands+
The Ma)donell. *oitras and $rant !ailies. their trade. their lives. their histor,. and the histor, o!
our !irst international e)ono,. that o! the !ur trade. are now on dis#la, in the grand ansion that
sits toda, !or all to )oe visit and reeber+ 2h, not ta/e a drive out and see it !or ,oursel!:
The Ma)donell-2illiason 6ouse 6eritage Site is o#en Saturda,s and Sunda,s in (ul, and
August onl,. !ro %; - <#+ There is also a general store. tea roo and other e"hibits. in)luding
the %&==s hoe o! luber industr, !ounder 2illia 2illiason. and a lo)al ilitia e"hibit+
B about 1"17# $c%onell had established himself on the &pper 'anadian side of (ointe-
)ortune# where he built a large house# (oplar *illa# and started farming. +o this home
,$c%onell- brought his $.tis wife# $agdeleine (oitras# whom he had married according
to the custom of the countr some time before 1797. /n 0une 1"12# when he was on his
wa bac1 from the interior# he had written to $iles that she had been with him for 1"
ears since coming 2under m protection3 in her 12th ear. 4lwas conscious of his dut#
he had no intention of following the practice adopted b man other fur traders of lea5ing
their countr wi5es behind when the retired in the east# a custom $c%onell found
2cruel.3 /nstead# he had determined to ta1e $agdeleine with him and to pro5ide his
children with a 2common education so that the ma wor1 their wa thro6 life in some
honest calling.3 +hree children had alread been sent east to be educated and the
remaining three had accompanied 0ohn and their mother to the 'anadas in 1"17. (rior to
his departure on the $ac1inac expedition the pre5ious ear# $c%onell had drawn up a
will di5iding his propert e8uall among the children and pro5iding for an annuit of 9:;
for $agdeleine. <et he ma ne5er ha5e ta1en proper steps to ensure their rights to his
propert. 4lthough a marriage contract had been drawn up on 17 4pril 1"17# =ust before
he purchased the land at (ointe-)ortune# there was e5identl no marriage. >n
2? 4pril 1":7# three ears after $c%onell6s death# $agdeleine went through an act of
posthumous marriage to ensure that she and her children would be his legal heirs. +he
had had four sons and two daughters.
Source: %ictionar of 'anadian Biograph
'ompiled and Adited b Bawrence Bar1well
'oordinator of $etis Ceritage and Cistor Desearch
Bouis Diel /nstitute