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Backgrounder

François Beaulieu II (C. 1771-1872)

François Beaulieu was a founding father of the Métis in the Northwest Territories. His life spanned a century that began with early European contact with the Dene, followed by the competitive years of the fur trade, and ultimately witnessed the end of the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly and the birth of Confederation. A member of one of the oldest families established from the union of coureurs de bois and Chipewyan women in the 18th century, Beaulieu emerged as a dynamic leader who helped forge a clear sense of identity among the Métis of the Mackenzie District.

As one of the pre-eminent Métis leaders of his age, Beaulieu's work, both for the fur companies and later as an independent trader, helped to establish the economic and social links between the people of the Mackenzie River Basin and what, in his lifetime, became Canada. His success and influence as a free trader in the age of the fur monopoly was critical to forging an independent economic base for the Métis of the Far North.

François Beaulieu also played an important role in the evolving European understanding of the western Arctic region, first through his critical associations with the First and Second Franklin expeditions, then subsequently through his communications with ethnographer Father Émile Petitot. His role as a champion of the Roman Catholic Church in the Athabasca and Mackenzie districts was a factor in its rapid establishment and strong influence in Métis society in the North.

François Beaulieu remains a revered figure among the Métis people of the Far Northwest.


News Release associated with this Backgrounder.