Joseph La France

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Joseph La France
Born c. 1707
Fort Michilimackinac, Québec
Died c. 1745
London, England
Nationality Métis
Occupation Fur Trader
Years active 1739-1742
Board member of The Hudson Bay Company

Joseph La France, (c. 1707 – c. 1745), was a Metis fur trader in Canada, and an explorer of the inland route from Montreal to Hudson Bay.

Background[edit]

La France was born at Michilimackinac, the son of a French fur-trader and an Ojibwa woman, in the area where Fort Michilimackinac was founded when he was a child. He became a trader early in his life working with his father and had a varied and extensive training.

In 1739, having been refused a license to trade on the grounds that he had been selling brandy to the Indians, he decided to align himself with the English traders at Hudson Bay. He began his trek toward there following the route of Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye through Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River to Lake Winnipeg. He must have made contact with some the La Vérendrye forts although no written record can confirm this assumption.

La France wintered in 1740–41 with natives of the Lake Winnipeg region. In 1741–42 he wintered further west and north in the region of Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis and the lower Saskatchewan River. He reached York Factory on Hudson Bay via the Hayes River in June 1742. He was traveling with a large band of Indians and furs for trade.

London[edit]

Because the Hudson's Bay Company could not shelter French or Canadien traders, La France was sent to England later in 1742. In London he met Arthur Dobbs who was crusading against the HBC monopoly of the fur trade and their apparent reluctance to open up the northwest with interior forts. La France supplied crude maps as well as much information concerning the geography and demographics of the region. He recommended that the HBC meet growing French competition in the west as it was rapidly developing through the efforts of the La Vérendryes.

Legacy[edit]

The La France trip is considered today as an important step in the exploration of the northwest. At the time it was discounted because Dobbs’ evidence was considered suspect.

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