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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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The BeginningsThe People and Their CommunitiesCulture and Lifeways
St. Paul de Métis

Today, where Highway 36 crosses the North Saskatchewan River, situated across the river from each other are the two communities of Duvernay and Brosseau. It was in this area where St-Paul-des-Cris was established.

Before any of the Europeans arrived in this area of Canada, it was known as atapeskuteweyak (the prairie which comes out of the river). About a kilometretre upstream of the two communities was a shallow in the river that was used for thousands of years by the original inhabitants of this territory who were of Chipewyan and Blackfoot descent. The high concentration of travellers in the area was one of the main reasons that this site was chosen for a mission by the late Father Lacombe. The missionary had come to the region in 1864 to introduce the Métis and First Nations peoples to the European concepts of agriculture and religion.

In 1866, there was an attempt at settlement in this area. The mission of St-Paul-des-Cris was established, but was eventually abandoned. The local Cree populations had not adopted the agricultural lifestyle promoted by the clergy and, with the consistent failure of crops, there was an apparent lack of enthusiasm for farming on the part of the community. After a devastating smallpox epidemic that decimated the colony's Cree population, the mission was closed in 1874.

The final name change came in the early 1900s and was named after the first homesteader Edmond Brosseau, whose descendents still live in the immediate area.

Today a historical monument sits on the north bank of the river in remembrance of the late father and his contributions to the people and the area.

St. Paul des Metis, Alberta:

In 1884, St. Paul (Meoomen) Cardinal, a Métis soldier and veteran of the Red River Resistance, settled at the Métis wintering spot that was to be named after him. For 20 years after the failure of St-Paul-des-Cris, various legal difficulties kept Father Lacombe from beginning another project.

In 1895, Father Lacombe managed to convince Father Thérien to work in what some called the Métis utopia. Father Lacombe and the Métis favoured the Buffalo Lake region, but Fathers Thérien and Morin favoured the Morinville area. All men finally agreed upon St-Paul-des-Métis.

Obstacles related to land grants were dealt with through Ottawa. In 1895, Father Lacombe approached the federal government about the establishment of a Métis Reserve in Northern Alberta. His efforts paid off, and in 1896, the federal government agreed to lease four townships to the Oblate Fathers. The Church was granted a 21-year lease by the Federal cabinet, and the colony was known as St-Paul-des-Métis until 1913.

In January 1896, the colony of St. Paul-des-Métis was declared officially open by Father Albert Lacombe. Fathers Lacombe and Thérien attracted the Métis to the settlement with the promise of land (lots of 80 acres) and Catholic schooling for their children. Small farming parcels were then sublet to Métis families. The necessary farming implements and supplies were never provided and many families experienced a difficult time. Regardless, some families became quite adept at agricultural pursuits and had large herds of cattle and horses.

In January 1896, following the recommendation of Father Lacombe, Bishop Grandin appointed Father Adeodat Thérien as the spiritual caretaker of a colony for the Métis population.

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