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Iroquois and Ojibwa

Iroquois and Ojibwa (or Salteaux) who came to Alberta shared a similar history arriving in the company of early fur traders. They were skilled paddlers and hunters and were contracted to work in Alberta for the fur trade companies (Dempsey, p. 88-90). When their contracts expired many returned to their homelands of the Great Lakes. However, some remained to hunt and trap in the west (Dempsey).

Iroquois freemen trapped and hunted along the foothills as far north as Peace River but mostly they lived in the Jasper-Grande Cache areas (Dempsey, p. 88) which seem to have been unpopulated by other Indians.13 Those who established themselves in the Grande Cache area were the forerunners of a Metis community which, in 1975, was still estimated to number over two hundred (Nicks and Morgan, p. 171).

Grande Cache area Metis evolved from intermarriage between people of numerous Native origins. "Among the groups represented, primarily through female founders, are Sekani, Beaver, Cree and Ojibwa" (Nicks and Morgan, p.168). The Cree language was adopted early on as witnessed by Dr. James Hector of the Palliser expedition in 1858-59.

Those Iroquois who established themselves in the Peace River region proved to be of great use to fur trade companies. "During the winter of 1903-04, Iroquois on the Upper Peace accounted for more than a third of the North West Company's returns from the Athabasca District" (Francis and Payne, p. 112).

Ojibwa who remained after their contracts expired with the fur trade companies also took up hunting in Alberta (Dempsey, p. 83). They were noted in many historical accounts but it seems there are few extant place names known to be derived from them.

According to Dempsey a number of Ojibwa in 1794 were known to be trapping in the Edmonton area while, at the same time, "an active band of Ojibwa and Ottawa Indians were in the Lac La Biche district" (Dempsey, p. 83). In 1821 there were an estimated thirty Ojibwa hunters in the Peace River area (Dempsey, p. 83). Chief Big Bear, later involved in Riel Rebellion and the Frog Lake incident, was born into a tribe of mixed Ojibwa-Cree. His father, Chief Black Powder, was an Ojibwa, who's band hunted in the area of modern Wainwright, Sandy Lake and Empress. Alberta (Dempsey, p. 84).

There are eighteen official place names in Alberta which could be described as being of Iroquois or Ojibwa origin. Several topographical features were named after the first Iroquois trappers or their descendents. These naming often commemorated their accomplishments as guides or outfitters.

Mount Adam Joachim, sixty-five kilometres southeast of Jasper, was named for Adam Joachim (1875-1959) a guide, hunter and trapper (DB) whose grandfather was likely one of the first Iroquois canoemen. Nicks and Morgan (Nicks and Morgan, p. 167) report that among the first Iroquois freemen to trap in the Grande Cache area was a Joachim Tonatanhan who signed on with the NWC in Montreal in 1818. "Over the years his descendants have come to be known by his first name, Joachim." Adam Joachim was educated at Father Lacombe's St. Albert Mission (DB).

Adolphus Lake, seventy-seven kilometres northwest of Grande Cache, was named after Adolphus Moberly, a guide of mixed Iroquois-white background, who guided the explorer A.P. Coleman to Mount Robson in 1908.14 Adolphus Creek, five kilometres southeast of Grande Cache, may have been named after the same man but it may also have been named after Adolphus Agnes, a settler of Stoney heritage in the Grande Cache region (DB).

It's not clear with whom the name Yellowhead originated, however, Pierre Bostonnais, an Iroquois, may have been the man who came to be known by that name. If so, Yellowhead Pass would have been named after him (Dempsey, p. 59).

Other place names of Iroquois or Ojibwa origin include Calahoo, a hamlet about sixteen kilometres northwest of Edmonton, was named for William Calahoo an early Iroquois (DB). His descendants lived in the Lac Ste. Anne area and were allotted a reserve after the signing of Treaty Six (DB). At the time their leader was Chief Michel Callihoo (or Calehouis) for whom the nearby Michel Reserve was named. Father Lacombe wrote of the Iroquois at the Michel reserve saying their language was almost extinct, replaced by Cree or French (Dempsey, p. 90).

Saulteaux River just east of Lesser Slave Lake is named after the Ojibwa, likewise the nearby train station of Saulteaux (DB).

Names such as Smoky River or Grande Cache, appear to have roots in the early days of the fur trade or even earlier, but whether they are Native names or derivatives of Native names, is uncertain. For example, the name Grande Cache is said to derive from one of the first trappers to travel up the Smoky River. We are told he accumulated so many furs he had to cache them before returning to St. Mary's Fort on the Peace River (DB). We are also told the Smoky River was known by the Indian names "Swo-da" (Stoney) and "Kas-ka-pi-te si-pi" (Cree) (DB).

There is one reserve in Alberta where the residents are descended from Ojibwa and another reserve no longer in existence which was occupied by descendants of Iroquois. The Michel Reserve, as mentioned above, came into existence because of Iroquois-descendants from the Grande Cache area who often visited the Lac Ste. Anne mission. A number of them "opted to settle near the missionaries and in time signed an adhesion to Treaty Six as the Michel Band" (Peterson and Brown, p. 168). The Michel Reserve was established just northwest of Edmonton but after numerous requests from band members it was eventually dissolved in 1958,

The O'Chiese, or O'Chiese-Sunchild Cree Reserve, west of Rocky Mountain House was established in the 1930s for the O'Chiese Ojibwas (by this time mixed with Cree and perhaps Stoney) and a band of non-treaty Cree (the Sunchild band) (Dempsey, p. 84). The "O'Chiese Ojibwa" seem to have come from the Buffalo Lake area near Stettler and from the plains of Saskatchewan before that (Dempsey, p. 86).


13.Nicks and Morgan write that Shuswap Indians were known to have come into Jasper House to trade well into the nineteenth century and it may be they who are referred to in local legend as the Snare Indians (Peterson and Brown, p. 179). It is believed that Snaring River is named to commemorate these Indians who, according to legend, were massacred by Assiniboine (DB).

14."The McDonald and Moberly families were founded in the mid--nineteenth century when immigrants to the area married Findlay and Cardinal females, respectively, who were descendants of freemen who had come to the area early in the century." John Moberly was an Ontario-born postmaster at Jasper House in the 1850s, (Peterson and Brown, p. 168).

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