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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund

 

Francophone Edukit

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Métis Communities
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Métis Communities

Colonizing Priests

Immigration
(Quebec and New England)

First Settlements

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With the arrival of the Catholic missionaries, during the 19th century, several communities created by the early fur trade voyageurs and their Métis descendants, were well established, such as Lac La Biche and Lac St. Anne. Other Métis communities came and went, as is the case for the colony of Lac-La-Vache, which existed for only a few years as a wintering camp for the processing of buffalo hides for the robe trade. Both the trade and the fashion came to an abrupt halt in 1876 with the extermination of the buffalo, and almost at once, the community was abandoned. Straddling the border of present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Cypress Hills were also the site of a Métis settlement. The Laboucane Settlement (now Duhamel) is another example; in this case, a small group of Métis settled on the crest of the south side of the valley of the Battle River. Most were freighters and their source of work ceased with the arrival of the railroad. Their land was divided into strips during the scrip settlement, but without a source of income, many decided to leave the area.

In this little community, the Laboucane family had considerable herds of cattle, but the family decided to move on following the arrival of settlers who took homesteads. The Laboucanes headed for Saint-Paul-des-Métis in 1896 (where Métis settlers were in demand), taking with them their large herd of 1,200 cattle and several hundred head of horses which they put to pasture on both Crown and unsettled lands. In 1896, Laurent Garneau left Strathcona for the Métis colony, as well. He too brought his considerable livestock holdings. Nevertheless, the colony proved to be too much of a challenge and was eventually dissolved. The town of St. Paul grew in its place.

There had been a considerable French-speaking Métis population in the Fort Edmonton area, but many left following the decline of the fur trade in central Alberta, heading northwest towards Lesser Slave Lake, Grande Prairie and even further. As for the colony established at St. Albert, many Métis moved there from Lac St. Anne, although for a long time a small colony persisted there. St. Albert became a very prosperous town. As for Lac La Biche, there was always a Métis community, but settlers (many of whom were French Canadian) came and took homesteads only to find the soil was not very good and frost came early, a discouraging discovery.

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