Tête Jaune: Pierre Bostonnais
The Leather Pass or Tete Jaune Cache Pass is know after Pierre Bostonnais, a Métis. Pierre had constructed a cache in a storage shed in the Pass. The above was painted by William George Richardson Hinc, circa 1862.
Tête Jaune is long forgotten as a man but was a legendary pathfinder of the Yellowhead Pass. The Leather (Yellowhead) Pass through the Rocky Mountains was first used by the Iroquois and Métis traders of the North West Company in the early 1800s. It was later named Tête Jaune (Yellowhead) Pass after Pierre Bostonnais, a Métis, after he built a fur cache on the Grand Fork of the Fraser River in order to hide his furs. Pierre Bostonnais was an Iroquois Métis with white blood and yellow blonde hair that earned him the nickname Tête Jaune. He was one of the unsung Métis who stood out in Canada's fur industry.
The Hudson's Bay Company, a rival for the North West Company erected St. Mary's House on the Peace River in 1819. The post was at the mouth of the Smoky River. In December 1819, Ignace Giasson took charge of a push up the Smoky (River) and enlisted the help of what he described as "Tête Jaune a free Iroquois." Pierre Bostonnais assisted in the trek upstream and enlisted the help of some other Iroquois who lived on the Smoky in the spring of 1820. The party traveled across the mountains to make friends with the Indians who lived on the Fraser River, upstream from present-day Prince George. "On October 29, 1820, Giasson was back at St. Mary's House and planned to return for some furs that they were obliged to leave in a cache (Grande Cache). About that time, in the process of exploring the Smoky River, the Hudson's Bay Company built an outpost in the vicinity of Grande Cache; however, the post was closed in 1822." (Quote from "Overland by the Yellowhead" by James MacGregor.)
Pierre Bostonnais traveled, hunted and trapped in the triangle between the Smoky River Post, Jasper and Fort George, and from time to time, he accepted employment with the Hudson's Bay Company.
Pierre Bostonnais or Tête Jaune died in 1828. "Years after he had served the white fur traders by leading the way over the (Yellowhead) Pass and building what they called Tête Jaune’s Cache, he lay in some unknown mountain valley scalped and dismembered. He was seen as an immigrant from the east and had fallen prey to the Beaver Indians whom he antagonized.
Behind the Beavers’ hatred is a story of Iroquois influx into the valleys of the Smoky, the upper Peace and the upper Fraser Rivers. Before that influx, a few Shuswap lived in the Jasper and Mt. Robson area. Because the white men came carrying trade goods, the local natives welcomed them. Because the immigrant Indians, particularly the Iroquois, came as interlopers, killing their game and trapping on their ancestral lands—every Beaver hated them.” (Quote from "Overland by the Yellowhead" by James MacGregor.)
James McGregor wrote about Bostonnais demise. "During the fall of 1828, Simpson called at Fort St. James on Stuart Lake to see Chief Factor William Connolly. About the time he was there, or perhaps soon after he left, Connolly received news about Tête Jaune. John Todd, writing from McLeod Lake, advised him that the venturesome Iroquois was reported dead. The Beaver Indians' enmity had finally overtaken him and somewhere in New Caledonia (B.C.) they killed Quote from "Overland by the Yellowhead" by James MacGregor, his brother Baptiste and their wives and children. Tête Jaune who had served the white man well, the man who had led the way through the Yellowhead Pass had come to the end of his travels, all unaware that because of his cache, his name would pass down the ages." (Quote from "Overland by the Yellowhead" by James MacGregor.)
Jacco Findlay and Tête Jaune are long overdue in receiving recognition for their contribution in opening the Canadian West, yet both of these Métis frontiersmen have remained unsung heroes of the fur trade.
In 1917 a descendant of the Jasper fur trade called Louis Loyer provided a first person interview stating that he was the grandson of Tête Jaune. Yvette Vinson is a descendant of Louis Loyer. The Vinson family lives in Brule, on Alberta's eastern slopes, still living a Mountain Métis lifestyle.