GUIBOCHE (Gibotte), LOUIS, also known by the Indian name of Nemisses (Minissis) and the nickname Little Pigeon (Petit Pigeon), fur trader and interpreter; b. c. 1785 in Rupert’s Land; d. before 13 Oct. 1859 in the vicinity of the Red River settlement (Man.).
Louis Guiboche represents the first generation of Métis in the northwest descended from the fur traders and the Indians of the trading regions. Although his origins cannot be precisely identified, presumably he was born of a French Canadian father and an Indian mother. In March 1779 Philip Turnor* of the Hudson’s Bay Company met a trader named “Gibosh” employed by Jean-Étienne Waddens*, in the area around Upper Hudson House (near Silver Grove, Sask.) on the North Saskatchewan River. Some years later, in May 1788, a Louis Guiboche of Berthier-en-Haut (Berthierville), Que., was taken on as middleman paddler by McTavish, Frobisher and Company, a co-partner in the North West Company. Both references may well be to Louis Guiboche’s father. On the other hand, the Louis Guiboche working for the NWC in the Lower Red River department in 1799 is equally likely to have been the subject of this biography or his father.
Guiboche is known to have been employed in 1804 as an interpreter by the NWC in the English (Churchill) River department. Its accounts for 1805 show that his contract had three years to run and that he owed the company 1,487 livres, while his wages totalled only 500. It may have been this situation that prompted him to leave the company and enter the service of its rival, the HBC, around 1810.
From 1815 to 1818 Guiboche was an interpreter for the HBC at Lesser Slave Lake (Alta), and in 1818–19 he was in the Athabasca country. The following year he seems to have settled in the Red River colony, but during the 1820s he travelled regularly for the HBC to York Factory, on Hudson Bay, as well as in the English River district. Guiboche had a special role during these years. With Cuthbert Grant, he was an independent merchant who contracted to carry the company’s trade goods and supplies between the colony and Hudson Bay. George Simpson, the HBC’s governor, appealed to Guiboche and Grant in 1826 to stem the opposition to the company’s monopoly mounted by the American fur traders from the south. The two were fitted out by the company and authorized to trade in the region between Turtle Mountain (Man.) and the Qu’Appelle River, with the object of acquiring the furs coveted by the independent traders. Probably in recognition of the success of this venture, Guiboche was appointed interpreter-clerk for the Winnipeg district in 1828. The following year he held the position of postmaster and winterer at Netley Creek, but in 1831 he retired and returned to the Red River settlement.
When the colony’s first census was taken in 1827, Guiboche had declared himself married and the father of seven; a census in 1832 showed that his possessions included a house, four horses, seven oxen, four carts, and two canoes, but that he did little farming, and this suggests that his livelihood came mainly from hunting and transporting goods. He owned properties on the Assiniboine River west of the colony, and near the fork of the Red and Seine rivers. However, around 1835 he began to dispose of these, keeping only one lot for himself at St Boniface, where he lived. Meanwhile, his work obliged him to travel. Nothing further is known of his pursuits until 1859, when a note in the colony’s records dated 13 October states that Guiboche had died and that his sons wished to sell his land.
There is little information about Guiboche as a person, except that he was a decent and conscientious employee. Governor Simpson, not normally lavish with his compliments, said in 1830 that he was “very steady and correct, well qualified as Postmaster.” His role as an interpreter for the Indians was considered indispensable by those running the HBC and, during the period of rivalry between that company and the NWC before 1821, his ability was such that in 1820 the NWC wished to secure his services “at any price.”
ANQ-M, CN1-74, 3 mai 1788. PAC, MG 19, C1, 55. PAM, HBCA, A.16/52–53; A.32/30: f.180; A.34/1: f.25; A.34/2: f.52; B.4/d/22: f.12d; B.235/a/6: f.9; B.235/d/60: f.33; D.4/7: ff.196–96d; D.4/90: f.30; E.5/1; E.6/2: f.137; E.24/4; MG 2, B3; MG 7, D8. Les bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest (Masson), vol.1. HBRS, 2 (Rich and Fleming); 3 (Fleming). Le Manitoba (Saint-Boniface), 14 août 1883. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Répertoire des engagements pour l’Ouest . . . ,” ANQ Rapport, 1942–43; 1944–45. G. C. Davidson, The North West Company (Berkeley, Calif., 1918; repr. New York, 1967). Marcel Giraud, Le Métis canadien; son rôle dans l’histoire des provinces de l’Ouest (Paris, 1945). H. A. Innis, The fur trade in Canada: an introduction to Canadian economic history (rev. ed., Toronto, 1956)