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Samuel Hearne and Matonabbee's Trek to the Arctic Ocean


Samuel Hearne (born 1745, died 1792) and Matonabbee

Samuel Hearne was an explorer, fur trader, author, artist and naturalist. He and Chipewyan Chief Matonabbee's expedition to the Arctic was hardly noticed in their day, but was a very important achievement.

Graphical element: Samuel Hearne

Hearne became the first British citizen to reach the Arctic Ocean travelling overland and the first European to cross Great Slave Lake. He is also remembered for his writings about the Chipewyan Nation and the plants and animals of the North.

Matonabbee was the son of a slave woman who had been traded to the Hudson's Bay Company. A young orphan, he was brought up by Richard Norton of the Hudson's Bay Company. He spoke three languages -- Athabaskan (learned from the Chipewyan), Algonquin (learned from the Cree) and English. Being both an intelligent man and a peacemaker, he was very important to the Hudson's Bay Company.

Hearne's Opinion of Matonabbee
Hearne described Matonabbee as "nearly six feet tall, finely proportioned, courageous, and defiantly agnostic…. A fierce warrior, an adept politician, and a practiced guide."

Gillmor, Don and Pierre Turgeon. Canada: A People's History. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, ©2000, p. 191-192.

The Lone Ranger
Hearne chose to travel alone with Native people only, either by following a canoe route or dragging a one-man sledge overland.


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