Métis Role in 1812 Commemorated

Years of research went into exhibit in Welland Museum

Originally published in Niagara This Week.com and can be viewed at: http://www.niagarathisweek.com/community/article/1410573--metis-role-in-1812-commemorated

Métis role in 1812 commemorated Barbaranne Wright at the Welland Museum’s Display commemorating the Métis role
in the War of 1812

In 1812 when American forces crossed the Niagara River into Upper Canada the Métis were there to stand in defence alongside British forces.

Barbaranne Wright, Métis Chair of the 1812 Bicentennial Committee, knows it, and she’s done the research to prove it. Her findings, a list of Métis names who fought, can be found at the Welland Historical Museum’s Infinite History exhibit.

“I knew it was there,” said Wright, who spent nearly two-and-a-half years pouring through genealogies at the National Archives in Ottawa, archives at Fort Niagara, the internet and the research of Lawrence Barkwell to un-earth the role of the Métis in the War of 1812.

Wright, who earned a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her dedication to Métis history, has certainly had her time pay off, her list contains 36 names of Métis men who fought for Canada.

For example there were the Caldwell’s Western Rangers, lead by Métis loyalist and trader Billy Caldwell. That small unit participated in the Battle of Lundy’s Lane amongst others.

Another Métis man, Jean-Baptiste Askin, who was originally born in Detroit led a small band of natives to the aid of Major-General Isaac Brock at Detroit. While that battle would end before he and his cohorts arrived he would go on to serve as an interpreter for Colonel Henry Procter.

Augustine Barthe Shingwaukonse fought at Detroit and in the Battle of Queenston Heights.

The list continues.

Francois Dominique Ducharme, after learning of an American attack, lead a group of Kahnawake Mohawks in an ambush of American troops marching of the British garrison at Beaver Dams and Louis Langlade served in the Battle of Butlers Farm amongst other engagements.

The Métis son of a Cherokee father and Scottish mother, Major John Norton was adopted as a war chief of the Six Nations when the war broke out and fought in nearly every Niagara engagement.

“He fought next to Brock,” said Wright.

All 36 names share similar records of service.

Herself a historian and genealogist Wright said it is important to record the contributions of the Métis. She noted the task was difficult however as many Métis, due to racial stigma at the time, covered or hid their heritage.

“Half breeds like the Métis were shunned,” said Wright, adding many Métis hid their heritage right up until the present day.

“I didn’t know until I was 46,” she said, adding, “my family buried it.”

Wright noted, while they may have been shunned, the Métis played a crucial role in the formation of Canada, acting as guides, interpreters and traders. She hopes that her research can demonstrate another important role the Métis played in regards to the conflict.

“It’s an important part of our history that makes us proud,” she said, adding, “it had to be publicly discovered.”

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