“We Are Children of the River”: Toronto’s Lost Métis History

Authors

  • Jesse Thistle

Keywords:

Toronto, Métis history, fur trade, French river system, Upper Canada, Toronto Carrying Place

Abstract

This essay investigates how Toronto was connected to the French river system fur trade emanating from Montreal via the Toronto Carrying Place and how that connection gave rise to a proto-Métis population between the years 1620 and 1821. The takeover of New France in 1760, and the merger of the Hudson’s Bay Company with the North West Company in 1821, among other geopolitical factors, ended Toronto’s 175 year involvement with the fur trade, yet an impression of Métis presence remained in the city until the 1880s. The British agricultural and treaty era in Ontario, beginning in 1793 and lasting until the 1850s, was so rapid and absolute that, I contend, it erased the older French and proto-Métis history from the city’s historiographical memory and imagination. Remnants of it do nevertheless exist in archives and older primary and secondary literature, and it is an erasure that wrongly assumes that the city had no Métis history.

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