Émile Jean Baptiste Marie Grouard was born in Brûlon, France, on the 2nd
of February, 1840. He remained in France until 1860, when he ventured
across the Atlantic to Quebec for studies at Laval University. He joined
the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and, in 1862, was welcomed into the Roman
Catholic Church as a priest. Grouard would serve the balance of his life
and career as a missionary in northern Alberta. He came first to Fort
Chipewyan, then moved further west into the Athabasca and Peace River
country. He spent time at the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires mission in Lac La
Biche, St. Charles mission at Dunvegan and St. Bernard mission on the shores of
Lesser Slave Lake. The Church eventually named Grouard bishop then, in 1910, vicar apostolic in the Athabasca country.
Grouard was a promoter of the arts and their spiritual applications. On
a return trip from Europe in 1877, he brought a printing press to the Lac
La Biche Mission and worked on the production of religious texts, which he
had translated into the Cree and Chipewyan languages. In 1884 he painted
the iconography of the St. Charles Mission church at Dunvegan. Elements of
this original work can still be seen in the restored church at the Fort
Dunvegan Historic Site.
Grouard's impact upon the peoples of northern Alberta was substantial,
giving 60 years of his life in their service through the Roman Catholic
Church. He also left his mark upon the treaty-making process. Believing
that it would better their conditions, he encouraged his region's First
Nations people to take treaty, and was present for the initial signing of
Treaty 8 at Lesser Slave Lake in the summer of 1899.
In 1923, Bishop Grouard published his memoirs, entitled "Souvenirs
de mes soixante ans d'apostolat dans l'Athabasca Mackenzie,"
(Recollections of sixty years in Athabasca - Mackenzie). He passed away
eight years later, on 7 March 1931, on the shores of Lesser Slave Lake, in
the town that now bears his name.