McKay, James

James McKay, trader, guide, entrepreneur, politician (b at Edmonton House, NWT 1828; d at St James, Man 2 Dec 1879). Son of a Scottish boat-brigade guide and Métis mother, McKay spoke English, French, Ojibwa, Cree and Sioux. A massive, powerful man, he was Hudson's Bay Co postmaster and clerk 1853-60 before starting his own business, freighting, trading, carrying mails, running a stagecoach from Winnipeg to Edmonton, and outfitting and guiding hunters and travellers.

On the Council of Assiniboia 1868-69, McKay played a moderating part at the time of the first RIEL rising. He served Manitoba as president of the Executive Council, Speaker of the Legislative Council and minister of agriculture, and was on the Council of the North-West Territories 1873-75. As adviser for Treaties No 1, 2 and 3 and commissioner for Treaties No 5 and 6, he played a crucial role.

McKay converted from Presbyterianism to Catholicism and his marriage to a daughter of John Rowand brought him wealth and social status. His home, Deer Lodge, became a meeting place for the Indian and Métis and elite newcomers from Ontario. His career linked the old fur-trading, buffalo-hunting West to the new order of business, settlement and organized government.