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Memorable Manitobans: James Sinclair (1811-1856)


Born in Rupert’s Land, the son of an Orcadian Hudson's Bay Company officer and an Indian or mixed-blood wife, he was educated in Scotland. Returning to Rupert’s Land in 1826, he worked briefly for the HBC before entering into private trade, eventually in partnership with Andrew McDermot. In 1841 he led a party of 23 Red River families to the Columbia River. He later fought with the HBC over trading rights and went to London to submit a petition to the British government. He was briefly in California in 1848 and then acted as counsel for Pierre-Guillaume Sayer in 1849. He then decided to migrate to the Oregon Territory and proposed leading another party of emigrants there. He spent some time in Oregon and California before joining the HBC as head of Fort Walla Walla. He was killed in an Indian attack at Walla Walla on 26 March 1856.

Father of Harriette G. S. Cowan.

More information:

West of the Mountains: James Sinclair and the Hudson’s Bay Company by D. G. Lent (1963).

James Sinclair, Dictionary of Canadian Biography VIII, 819-20.


Women of Red River by W. J. Healy, Winnipeg: The Women’s Canadian Club of Winnipeg, 1923.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Page revised: 7 March 2010

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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