In an earlier blog, I wrote about the fur trappers who explored of the lands west of the Mississippi River. The voyageurs (“travelers” in French) worked for the fur trade companies to transport trade goods throughout the territories to rendezvous posts, connecting two worlds: the Native Peoples and the Europeans.
These intrepid entrepreneurs were often the first Europeans that the First Nations people of North America encountered. The voyageurs, many from Scotland, England or France, traded with native tribes for valuable fur pelts that were fashionable in the East and in Europe.
They exchanged trade goods — and also ideas. It was literally two worlds coming together.
Oftentimes, these men started families with native women. The mixed-heritage children of these unions were known by many names. In Canada, they were called “Metis,” which is now used widely. In Ojibwe, the children were “one who is half.” And the Lakota referred to these children as “half-burnt thigh.”
The hero in Proving Her Claim is from just that type of union. Two Hawks’ father, James MacKenzie was a Scots fur trapper and trader. Two Hawks’ mother, Yellow Bird, was a Lakota woman from the fictional Deer Creek Tribe. As a young boy, Two Hawks accompanied his father into the mountains to trap beaver. Thanks to his parents, Two Hawks met many kinds of people which helped shape his world view. He also was a scout for the Union Army.
Eventually, the Metis served a valuable role in this new world of Europeans and First People. They were often the translators, the recorders and the treaty negotiators. In addition, they served as military scouts for the US Army. Finally, they were the tribal leaders who helped their people adjust to a new reality — and sometimes, new lands.
The bi-racial children played an important part of the new frontier — both for the First People and for the settlers.