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CADOTTE (Cadot), JOSEPH, office holder, interpreter, and fur trader; fl . 1814–22.

It is probable that Joseph Cadotte was Métis and possible that he was related to Jean-Baptiste Cadot* of Sault Ste Marie (Mich.). On 24 Oct. 1814 he was appointed lieutenant in the Indian Department of Upper Canada. He was employed as an interpreter under Lieutenant-Colonel Robert McDouall*, commandant of the British garrison at Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island, Mich.). In 1814 and early 1815 Cadotte was sent by his superior on various missions to the Indians of the Grand River. He returned to Michilimackinac from the last of these with 84 Indians intended to bolster the defences of the fort. They arrived on 3 May 1815, two days after the news of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent had been received. In October a British court of inquiry held at Drummond Island (Mich.) cleared him of charges made by the Americans that he had acted improperly while on the expedition, undertaken after the official end of the war. McDouall recommended that Cadotte be retained in the “peace establishment” of the Indian Department and described the interpreter as a young man “of education & respectability” who did credit to the department. How long after this Cadotte worked in the Indian Department is not known.

Cadotte’s involvement with the North West Company seems to have begun in 1816 when he was charged with several drafts paid by the company to Sault Ste Marie fur trader John Johnston. That August he was at the NWC post at Bas-de-la-Rivière (Fort Alexander, Man.), where a council of Métis from the Red River settlement was held under the direction of Archibald McLellan of the NWC. McLellan was interested in recapturing Fort William (Thunder Bay, Ont.) from Lord Selkirk [Douglas*], but most Métis at the council declined to participate. Some time in late August or early September McLellan led a scouting group, which included Cadotte, Cuthbert Grant*, and Charles de Reinhard, in a light canoe to Rainy Lake (Ont.) and Minnesota. On 11 September, during the expedition, Reinhard and a Métis named Mainville, under the direction of McLellan, killed an employee of Lord Selkirk, Owen Keveny*, who had been captured by McLellan in yet another incident in the conflict between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the NWC. Cadotte did not participate directly in the murder. He had, however, berated one of the men who had charge of Keveny for not having allowed Keveny to be killed by an Indian who had offered to do the job. Later in the fall Cadotte was said to have the key to Keveny’s trunk in his possession.

Around 26 September Cadotte went with McLellan and Grant to the NWC post of Fort Gibraltar (Winnipeg, Man.), where he probably spent the ensuing fall. Cadotte was there when Miles Macdonell, governor of Assiniboia, and a party of soldiers captured the post on 10 Jan. 1817. At this point Macdonell knew nothing of Cadotte’s involvement in the murder of Keveny. Perhaps in part through the influence of Macdonell’s interpreter, Louis Nolin, who may have been Cadotte’s half-brother, Macdonell put Cadotte to work helping to make an inventory of the fort. While other Nor’ Westers were held under lock and key, Cadotte was set at liberty within the fort. On 24 January he was allowed to visit the Métis, including his wife, then on the Qu’Appelle River. Macdonell sent with him a letter for Grant in an attempt to make peace with the Métis leader.

In the months that followed Grant, Cadotte, and other Métis made several trips from the Qu’Appelle to the Red River, attempting to obtain the release of McLellan and several others held by Macdonell. Throughout, Cadotte was always more violently inclined than Grant. He proposed attacking several HBC posts and in early March, after a second unsuccessful attempt to win McLellan’s release, he instigated the killing of HBC cattle. According to NWC employee Frederick Damien Heurter, as the Métis set out to return to the Qu’Appelle, Cadotte proposed “to go to Pembina, and to kill a party of Lord Selkirk’s people who were there, saying that they must not return home without striking a blow to maintain their warlike reputation.” Grant led the group in turning down the proposal: “We are not barbarians.”

Towards the end of March 1817 the earlier activities of Grant and Cadotte became known to Macdonell, who offered a reward for their capture. The support of the Métis prevented their being seized near Fort Gibraltar on June 21. Commissioner William Bacheler Coltman persuaded the two men to give themselves up on 27 August, apparently by assuring them that they would not be imprisoned if they went back with him to Montreal. The two men went east with Coltman, arriving in Montreal on 10 November. Despite the agitations of the HBC, Cadotte, like Grant, was not put in prison until his indictment in early March 1818 for participation in the murder of Keveny. Soon afterwards he was released “on recognizance” and by early June he was said to have gone to Sault Ste Marie. Neither Cadotte nor Grant was ever brought to trial. Reinhard did stand trial and was convicted, but was never executed.

In the fall of 1818 Cadotte was sent by the NWC as a clerk and interpreter to the post at Rainy Lake (later named Fort Frances, Ont.). The HBC traders found him to be an energetic opponent who was apparently successful in obtaining the furs of many Indians indebted to the HBC. Cadotte continued there until 1821, when he was dismissed after the merger of the NWC with the HBC. While at Rainy Lake in July 1821, Nicholas Garry*, sent by the HBC to implement the merger agreement, reported Cadotte as declaring “that he would shoot Mr [James Bird*] and myself. He went about in a state of intoxication with loaded pistols.”

Cadotte left Rainy Lake for Sault Ste Marie, where he obtained the backing of John Johnston. In the fall he set out with three canoes of merchandise and 12 men. Leaving a small contingent at Lac des Mille Lacs (Ont.), he established himself at Crane Lake (Minn.) in November, in competition with the HBC post at Rainy Lake. Cadotte’s HBC opponent, Roderick McKenzie Jr, referred to him as a “Hero of Romance,” an object of fascination not only for the Ojibwas of the region, with whom it was said he had great influence, but also for many former Nor’Westers in HBC employ, several of whom attempted to desert to his side. According to McKenzie, one of Cadotte’s various means of intimidating the HBC traders was to tell them that he was “an American subject . . . vested with authorities to seize all persons illegally trading within their territories together with whatever property may belong to them.” He also threatened to set fire to the HBC mill and buildings and kill the company’s cattle.

The report that two of Cadotte’s men at Lac des Mille Lacs had been killed by Indians during the winter of 1821–22 caused the abandonment of the post. In the fall of 1822 Cadotte helped establish an American Fur Company post at Rainy Lake, in competition with the HBC. Nothing is known of him after that date.

Bruce M. White

PAC, MG 19, E1, ser.1, 13: 4964, 5065; 33: 12285–86, 12297; 45: 17185–86, 17189, 17193, 17207, 17212, 17229, 17231–32; 46: 17804, 17806; RG 8, I (C ser.), 258: 81, 86; 283–323; 688D: 130. PAM, HBCA, B.105/a/6: ff.17–18, 20; B.105/a/8: ff. 2, 9, 25, 27; B.105/a/9–18; D.4/116: 29, 45–50; F.4/10: f.40; F.4/32: f.180. U.S., Congress, American state papers . . . in relation to public lands, ed. Walter Lowrie (5v., Washington, 1834), 5: 258, 262, 264, 267. John Halkett, Statement respecting the Earl of Selkirk’s settlement upon the Red River . . . (London, 1817). HBRS, 2 (Rich and Fleming). John Tanner, A narrative of the captivity and adventures of John Tanner . . .°, ed. Edwin James (New York, 1830). Montreal Gazette, 11 March 1818. Marcel Giraud, Le Métis canadien; son rôle dans l’histoire des provinces de l’Ouest (Paris, 1945). M. A. MacLeod and W. L. Morton, Cuthbert Grant of Grantown; warden of the plains of Red River (Toronto, 1963).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Bruce M. White, “CADOTTE, JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 20, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cadotte_joseph_6E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cadotte_joseph_6E.html
Author of Article: Bruce M. White
Title of Article: CADOTTE, JOSEPH
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1987
Year of revision: 1987
Access Date: September 20, 2014