Métis interpreter and guide Jean-Baptiste “Waccan” Boucher is one of the founding fathers of the Quesnel area. Boucher’s father was French-Canadian and his mother was Cree. Born in about 1789, he spoke the languages of both his parents, along with Carrier, Michif and others. This ability led to him becoming a valued interpreter for the North West Company at a very young age, probably in his early teens.
He came out to New Caledonia in 1806 and by the time he accompanied Fraser on the trip down the river, Boucher was already an accomplished trader, who enjoyed a fierce reputation as a company man.
Originally married to the daughter of a Carrier chief, his second marriage was to Nancy McDougall, the daughter of North West Company clerk James McDougall. When the North West Company merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821, Boucher was eagerly taken on with the HBC. In 1823 Chief Factor John Stuart said that Boucher “has been in New Caledonia since its first establishment and is the best of the class I ever met with, invariably performing the duty of an Intepreter, Canoe, Train and Snow Shoe Maker and as a common labourer does more than any other man in New Caledonia, he has now the charge of [Fort] Alexandria. ”One of Boucher’s duties was that of policeman and it is said that his nickname “Waccan” is a derivative of “watchman.” Others think it is a Cree word of undetermined meaning.
Waccan and Nancy had 17 children, some of whom also worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Boucher’s name is often spelled Bouche, Bouchie or Buschie and this name can be found in various place names in the Quesnel area. The strong and mighty Waccan succumbed to the measles in 1849, and was buried at Fort St. James. His grave is unmarked, as are most of the others at Fort St. James, but his legacy lives on in the hundreds of descendants that live in the Cariboo area today.