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Origins of St. Paul

Many Red River Métis spread out over the west after the Red River uprising. They moved to the western areas of the Northwest Territories. In 1905 these areas became the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Alberta and Saskatchewan were not yet open for homestead settlement. The Dominion Land Act 1879 had not been discussed with the Métis. Nonetheless, the act had been passed by the government. Surveyors began mapping the land for settlers. The surveys began at the south of the prairie provinces. The survey teams quickly worked their way north. This troubled the Métis and others who were already living on the land.

The Métis were skilled at agriculture, transportation of goods, hunting, and using the resources of the land. Many small communities emerged near the old fur trade routes. However, there wasn't much left of the fur trade or the buffalo hunt where they now lived. One of those areas was the Lac la Biche area in central northeast Alberta. In the area lived several clusters of Métis families.

Following the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, the Métis in the region had little left of their old way of life. Life was not easy, and Father Lacombe wanted to help. He and other missionaries in the area had tried to help through their churches. They were interested in preserving the French language and culture, and in growing parishes. But more was needed than small missions.

In 1896 Father Lacombe got approval to build a mission to the Métis. The name St-Paul des Métis was chosen. Over the next twenty years the mission offered school to the children. It also provided adult training in agriculture. It was an attempt to help the people in the area to have successful farms and build a vigorous community. There were eighty families living there in 1904. It failed shortly after that. Markets for farm produce were too difficult to get to, and there was little external support to build the community.

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