. The women were essential in making birch bark canoes for traversing waters, identifying poisonous or edible plants, and healing wounds and sickness of inflicted trappers. I believe Margaret to have been one of them. I am here to tell the tale of her – her offspring – their offspring – and finally much later, me.
The Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Moose Factory (an island approximately 10 miles from the mouth of James Bay) was John Thomas who arrived in 1769, initially as a writer. Although married in England, he took a Cree wife sometime in the 1780’s. Her first name was likely a given Christian name, Margaret, but the last name Indian, recorded by the Hudson’s Bay Company would be intentionally incorrect. She died of consumption some years later, a condition more commonly known as tuberculosis. What she did during her lifetime, or why she had the favor of a prominent positioned man of the Hudson’s Bay Company, I do not know. Tender ties – such as love would seem reasonable. Perhaps she was so knowledgeable that he needed her for significant guidance and consulting.
As well as John Thomas who was a writer, one of their children, Charles Thomas is whom I so humbly thank for the inspiration for me to write. He became a writer for the Hudson’s Bay Company as early as 1808 – and indeed a traveler. He visited the Red River Valley (near Lake Winnipeg) twice in his lifetime from Moose Factory, to Vaudreul, Quebec, and settled in Eastern Ontario for his late years. I imagine he must have traversed the lake and rivers by birch bark canoe to have traveled so far. And I believe he must have had his indigenous wife beside him – he married Hannah who was also considered a ‘half-breed’. He became an important figure in Eastern Ontario, and the Algonquin Indians accepted his family as their own. He named the town Golden Lake for its beauty of sunlight’s golden reflection on the waters and sandy shores.
from pride to pity
Now, knowing what I know – I am proud. I am proud, especially of the indigenous women – one woman in particular, Margaret Indian - the Swampy Cree as they are called in Moose Factory for the spirit of the land that dwells within me – and her offspring who’s writing lives in the archives in Ottawa. I am his ancestor with story-telling in my blood.
from perils to peace
I was fortunate enough to publish The Pack – Perils and Peace of Nature. Like my ancestors, I sought adventure. My partner and I with our Alaskan Malamute pioneered a remote island on Lake of the Woods. There were harsh realities and lessons from nature as we struggled through intense storms of life that challenged our existence. But there was also peace. The beauty of our surroundings on Lake of the Woods allowed us to embrace the little things in life with gratitude - so that we could face the big things that otherwise may have broken us. If you recognize the stirring inside you of nature’s call, you will want to read The Pack – Perils and Peace of Nature – Lake of the Woods.