No Love for the White Man

While relations between European settlers and the Metis were generally amicable -- Metis often serving as employees of fur posts, as hired hunters, guides, and even protectors for the various explorers who ventured into the vast expanses of forests and prairies of the northern US and southern Canada -- this was probably the exception rather than the rule.


During the 1870s, Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl (aka Lord Dunraven) spent much of his leisure time hunting wild game in various parts of the world. After hearing of the fine hunting in the American West, he decided to visit. He first arrived in 1872, and met and befriended a frontiersman named Texas Jack Omohundro, who traveled with Dunraven's party on various buffalo and elk hunts. In 1874, the Dunraven again reunited with Texas Jack on his second visit to the American west, when he was additionally guided by some Montana Metis. With this group, Dunraven explored the Yellowstone area, including the area that would later become Yellowstone Nation Park. He wrote about his trip in his book “Hunting in the Yellowstone or On the Trail of the Wapiti with Texas Jack in the Land of Geysers”.


Dunraven made a few interesting observations about the region and about how vital the Metis were to acting as guides for explorers such as himself. In discussing his route and itinerary to the west, Lord Dunraven explained:


"​I should advise [anyone seeking to travel west] to go up by canoe to Fort Garry (Manitoba), visiting Kakabeka Falls, passing through the soft beauties of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake and River, stopping a day or two at Fort Francis, if many lodges of Chippeways or Saulteaux happen to be congregated there, and traversing the wild grandeur of the Winnipeg Rivers. From Fort Garry they could either ride or drive in about three weeks to Fort Benton (Montana), following the Assiniboine River, and shaping their course gradually south by Qu’appelle Lakes; or else, riding up the valley of the Saskatchewan to Fort Carlton, they could thence strike due south to the South Saskatchewan, and onwards by the Cypress Hills to Milk River, and so to Benton. Good men, understanding the natives and well-acquainted with the country [i.e. the Metis guides], are to be found at Fort Garry; and there ought to be no danger from Indians, except perhaps a little just in crossing the boundary. But the risk would be so slight that it is scarcely worth considering. Indians who are hostile in the States are friendly in the British possessions; and, though going from Benton north might be uncomfortable, I should have little apprehension in crossing to Benton from the Canada side in the company of a single half-breed upon whom I could rely."


Even though the Metis were sociable enough with Europeans when it came to work or paid labor, Lord Dunraven made it clear that their feelings were not entirely wholehearted, as few felt any measure of true affinity to the white man:


"…feelings of contempt for white men [are not] confined to the pure-blooded Indian. I have never seen a half-breed that did not cleave to the savage and despise the civilized [white] race. Many children of mixed marriages cannot speak a word of English; and the half-breed, whether Scotch, American, or French, invariably prefers the society of his relations on the mother's [Indian] side. Many of them, too, have had ample opportunities of understanding all the benefits of our system. But the one sentiment is almost universal. They will admit that the benefits which our advanced state of society has poured upon the human race are numerous and great. They will allow that there is much to be admired in the order of our lives; but, all the same, give them the forest and the prairie, the mountain and the vale. Let the rushing of great rivers, the wailing of the wind be their music; let their homes be the birch wigwam or skin tent; let trees, and stones, and flowers, and birds, and the forests and the wild beasts therein, be the books for them to read. The two lives are different utterly; both are good they will say, but the wild life is the best."


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Read More:

​Earl of Dunraven, Hunting in the Yellowstone or On the Trail of the Wapiti with Texas Jack in the Land of Geysers, The Macmillan Company, 1925

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