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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
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Portrait of Gabriel DumontA fur trader with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), Jean-Baptiste Dumont came west towards the end of the 18th century.1 In 1794, he married Josette "Sarcisse," who had previously had a child with a fur trader named Bruneau and "given" the child to Dumont to care for. Dumont and Josette had two children at Fort Edmonton between 1795 and 1801 (Gabriel and Jean-Baptiste) but returning to the East, he confided her to a colleague, Paul Durant. Two years later, Dumont returned and when Durant refused to give her back, he abducted her. A third child, Isidore, was born of the couple in 1806.

When Dumont returned from the East, he remained an independent contractor, doing various tasks with the HBC in the North Saskatchewan valley until the end of his days. After the amalgamation of the HBC and the North West Company (NWC) in 1821, many workmen from the two companies were left without work. This was the case for Jean-Baptiste’s three sons who became buffalo hunters, selling the meat to the HBC to make a living. The eldest, Gabriel, was a natural leader and had a large group of people who hunted with him, as this was necessary for defence on the Prairies at the time. Gabriel established a permanent settlement at Lac St. Anne, or Manitou Lake, as it was known at the time. Over 200 people resided in the area around 1850.

The third brother, Isidore, was initially less successful at the hunt and settled at the Red River colony for a time. In the 1840s, he profited from the rising market for buffalo hides in the United States. A son, who he named Gabriel, was born in the colony, but the family moved to the Fort Pitt region to better capitalize on the buffalo hunt. Gabriel became Louis Riel’s second in command in 1885, and eventually settled near Batoche where he kept a ferry and worked as a supplier of men and overseer for the HBC.

The descendants of the voyageur Jean-Baptiste are dispersed all across the Canadian West.

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