Smith, Joseph (fl. 1753-65)

Joseph Smith's three journals, although poorly written, provide us with one of the earliest glimpses of Cree life and of the French traders on the northern plains. In 1756 Washcabitt, a Sturgeon Cree leader from the Assiniboine River, asked the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) at York Factory to send men to oppose the newly arriving French traders. Smith and Joseph Wagonner, a Métis, went with him in 1756-57 and again in 1757-58. The group traveled out to the plains near Good Spirit Lake by way of Red Deer River and returned down Swan River. Smith casually mentions bison pounds, the earliest such reference, but does not describe them. Apparently, neither Smith nor Anthony Henday kept a journal of their 1759-60 inland journey, probably to central Alberta. Smith's third journal is from 1763-64, when he wintered with Cree leader Meesinkeeshick, apparently near the Eagle Hills. Smith returned inland in 1764-65, but died on his return to York Factory. The HBC gave his furs, which he had traded illegally, to “the Woman who was his Cannoe Mate & Tent Mate … & his Child.”

Dale Russell

Further Reading

Russell, D. 1991. E ighteenth-Century Western Cree and their Neighbours. Archaeological Survey of Canada Mercury Series, Paper 143. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Civilization.