Our Métis Ancestors during the War of 1812

Like much of Métis history in Ontario, Métis involvement in the War of 1812 has not been well documented. We would like to thank those few Métis Nation of Ontario citizens who were able to submit information about their ancestors to be included in this special feature on the War of 1812. Some simply reported that although there were some family stories about the War of 1812, nothing could be verified. In some cases, however, it can be established that their European or First Nations ancestors (or sometimes both) participated in the War of 1812.

Lt. Colonel William McKay, an ancestor of Senator Bob McKay of Thunder Bay, for example, served during the war and afterwards became a “Superintendent of Indian Affairs” in Upper Canada. Grace LeBlanc of Guelph, and Cora Bunn, President of the MNO Grand River Métis Council, are related to the family of Charles and Louis Langlade, both of whom served in the War. Louis Langlade’s role is documented on a Government of Canada monument located near Niagara-on-the-Lake. The monument describes the Battle of Butler’s Farm and states in part: “On the 8th of July, 1813, an outpost of the invading force, encamped near Fort George, was defeated by a band of Six Nations and Western Indians led by Chiefs John Norton and Blackbird and interpreters Michel Brisebois, Louis Langlade and Barnet Lyons.” Bruce Poitras of Brantford is a descendant of Colonel Robert Dickson, who worked directly under the command of Isaac Brock. Poitras reports that Dickson was also a fur trader who married a First Nations woman and their family eventually found its way west to the Red River Settlement and the Qu’Appelle Valley. MNO Historic Sault Ste. Marie Council reported a fur trader named Francois Biron who married a Métis woman from Sault Ste. Marie in 1822, and that Biron participated in both the capture of Fort Mackinac in 1812 and the battle at Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin in 1814.

These anecdotes represent only the tip of the iceberg of Métis involvement in the War of 1812. Métis heroism and courage have been under-represented in the many histories written about the war, so it is important that Métis speak out and demand that our history not be ignored any longer. The stories about the role of our ancestors “in the defence of Canada” during the War of 1812 are important and must be remembered.