The history of the Métis began with the fur trade in the late 1700s. One of the first colourful characters was Jacco Findlay who made a name for himself by being the first to blaze a trail over Howse Pass. In 1806 Findlay, accompanied by his wife, children and Kutenai Indians, blazed a trail in search of a route to the Pacific Ocean. Explorer David Thompson followed Findlay a year later. This mountain pass was later named for Joseph Howse a Hudson’s Bay Company trader who, guided by Jacco, traveled the route for the first time in 1809.
Jacco lived in the Athabasca Valley during the 1820s with his band of Métis. While records show his moving to Spokane after that, his son James Findlay is reported to have remained in the Jasper Valley during Colin Fraser's time. Jacco's descendants continued to reside near the present-day town of Jasper, on the south side of the Athabasca River, until 1909 when his progeny Isadore Findlay and his family were forced out of the area after the creation of "Jasper Forest Park." Alvin Findlay grandson of Isadore Findlay resides in Grande Cache and is President of the Mountain Métis.
In 1813, the NWC built Rocky Mountain Portage House on Brûlé Lake as a provision depot for brigades crossing the Athabasca Pass to the Pacific. When Jasper Haws took command of the post in 1815 it became known as “Jasper's House,” to avoid confusion with Rocky Mountain House on the North Saskatchewan River. Under the trained eye of Jasper Haws, the post became the centre of a modest and diverse community responsible for meeting transportation and supply needs, caring for horses grazing in the valley, and trading goods for meat and furs with Aboriginal groups, including Iroquois and Métis
Jasper married an Iroquois woman and fathered
no less than five children - three boys and at least
two girls. Heremained at Jasper House until 1821.
When the NWC was forced to amalgamate with
the Hudson's Bay Company, he was suddenly
without work. Leaving his wife and daughters
with family, Jasper returned with his sons to
Quebec. They homesteaded in Hinchinbrooke,
Quebec until his death in 1855.
Tête Jaune or Pierre Hatsinaton was another notable figure who was an Iroquois Métis. Tête Jaune is long forgotten as a man, but was a legendary pathfinder of the Yellowhead Pass. In 1825 Hudson’s Bay Company governor George Simpson ordered chief trader James McMillan to explore the Yellowhead Pass. At Jasper House, McMillan hired Tête Jaune as guide. They left Jasper House on October 18, and by October 24, after a trip of about 120 miles, they reached Tête Jaune Cache. In his report to William Connolly, McMillan specifically mentioned “Tête Jaune’s Cache,” which is the first recorded reference to this place name. He served the white fur traders by leading the way over his pass and storing his furs in what is known today as Tête Jaune Cache. Some of his descendants include Yvette Vinson and her children who still live on Alberta's eastern slopes.
Colin Fraser a man from the Highlands of Scotland made his mark running the post at Jasper House. Colin ran the remote post from 1835 to 1850 with his Métis wife Nancy Gandry. The couple had nine children by the time they transferred to Fort Assiniboine where he remained until 1853. By the time that Colin assumed the post at Lac Ste. Anne, their family had grown to number twelve children.
Colin Fraser left many descendants, one of which was Adam Joachim. Throughout his life, he played a key role as a leader of the Mountain Métis. Adam was one of the Métis forced to leave Jasper in 1909 and 1910 after the creation of "Jasper Forest Park." Many of Colin Fraser's and Adam Joachim's families reside in Grande Cache and include the Delorme and Joachim lineage.
Henry John Moberly arrived in Jasper in 1858. Henry John married a Métis woman by the name of Suzanne Kwarakwante who was the daughter of a famous Iroquois freeman from the fur trade by the name of Louis Kwarakwante. The couple had two sons by the names of Ewan and John. Henry John stayed at his Jasper post until 1861 before moving on, leaving his wife and sons. Suzanne raised her two sons in Jasper and died there in 1905.
Moberly's Métis offspring John, Ewan, and grandsons Adolphus and William (Bill) were four of the seven families that were affected by the creation of the "Jasper Forest Park." An Order in Council was passed in September 1907 by the Canadian Federal Government to create this national park. This secretly passed legislation had long lasting implications for the seven Métis families because the Canadian Government did not want to have privately-owned land within the national park boundaries.
Lewis Swift was drawn to Jasper and the Athabasca Valley in 1893. During a trip to the Edmonton area in 1897, he met and married Suzette Chalifoux, a woman of mixed blood. In 1907 the Dominion (Canadian) Government set aside the vast area east of the summit of the Rockies as a national park and had selected an area some six miles south of Swift's ranch for its headquarters.
Swift thought that he too would lose his land and, like the other Métis families, only be paid for the improvement he had made to the land. Lewis was fortunate to negotiate the title granted on his 160 acres of land. Once he received that, he absolutely refused to sell out to Park authorities. Lewis spent his life on his land and it was purchased by Parks Canada after his death.