McKay, Joseph William
b. 1829
d. 1900
Joseph William McKay was born in Rupert's Land on January 31st 1829 to a Métis family.1 McKay was educated at the Red River Academy and joined the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) when he was 15 years old, spending the rest of his life west of the Rocky Mountains.2
In 1848, Roderick Finlayson appointed McKay as postmaster of Fort Victoria.3 McKay was promoted to apprentice clerk a year later, breaching the unwritten HBC policy that prevented mixed-blood males from rising above the postmaster position.4
McKay went on to work as James Douglas's clerk, known by his superior as an active, faithful, and trusty servant.5 During Douglas's creation of the Fort Victoria Treaties, McKay assisted with translation.6 As an avid explorer, McKay provided Douglas with valuable maps, information, charts, and reports.7 In Douglas, Chief Factor Governor Vice-Admiral Sir James to Labouchere, Henry 6 September 1856, CO 305:7, no. 10152, 94 McKay accompanies Douglas on a raid to capture an Indigenous prisoner.
In 1849, The Nanaimo Chief Kietsakum mentioned a region filled with black stone.8 McKay told the Chief that if he brought back some of the stone for sampling he would be gifted a bottle of rum and his gun would be fixed for free.9 McKay went on to claim the Nanaimo coal for the HBC, leading the development of mines in 1852.10
In June of 1860, McKay became Chief Trader of Fort Victoria, married Helen Holmes, and was relocated to Fort Kamloops.11 After a decade of developing Fort Kamloops and exploring the Interior of British Columbia, McKay transferred back to Victoria to work as head of sales for the HBC shop.12
McKay continued to work in various roles for the HBC in the 1870s, and became a Federal Government civil servant in the 1880s.13 He worked for the government as an Indian Agent and as the assistant superintendent of Indian Affairs in British Columbia.14
Joseph William Mckay died on December 20th, 1900.15
  • 1. George & Terry Goulet, Joseph William McKay- Métis Founder of Nanaimo, in The Métis in British Columbia: From Fur Trade Outposts to Colony (FabJob Inc.: Calgary, 2008), 131.
  • 2. Ibid. 131-132.
  • 3. Ibid. 133.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid. 134.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Ibid. 134-135.
  • 11. Ibid. 140-141.
  • 12. Ibid. 140-143.
  • 13. Ibid. 144.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid.
Mentions of this person in the documents