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Joseph William McKay
Nanaimo Historical Society meeting October 14, 2021
Joseph William McKay: A Métis Business Leader in Colonial British Columbia is an intriguing look at the accomplishments and contradictions of Joseph William McKay (1829–1900), best known as the founder of Nanaimo, BC, and one of the most successful Métis men to rise through the ranks of the Hudson’s Bay Company. At age twenty-three, McKay was given the job of building the city of Nanaimo from the ground up and establishing its coal mines.
Mckay was eventually promoted to Chief Factor, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s highest rank. After leaving the company in 1878, McKay began a second career in the Department of Indian Affairs. He was a federal Indian Agent and later the Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs for British Columbia. In this position, he advocated on behalf of Indigenous Peoples when he tried to prevent the trespass of CPR crews and European settlers on their ancestral land. Between 1886 and 1888, he personally inoculated more than a thousand Indigenous people with the smallpox vaccine. Yet, he also participated in a system that did untold harm to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people. This fascinating new biography sheds light on an accomplished and complex man.
Author Greg N. Fraser is an educator with a long-time interest in the history of western Canada. For thirty-three years, he taught Canadian, BC, and Indigenous history in the Vernon and Nanaimo school districts as well as a first-year Canadian history course at Okanagan University-College. Since retiring from full-time teaching, he has continued his career at the post-secondary level, including a course on Canadian prime ministers at Vancouver Island University Elder College, where he was on the board for ten years. Joseph William McKay: A Métis Business Leader in Colonial British Columbia, published by Heritage House, is his first book.
Watch the YouTube video here: