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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
Lac La Biche

David Thompson Although the recorded history of the Lac La Biche community begins with David Thompson discovering the Portage from Little Beaver River to a creek and system of small lakes that flow into Lac La Biche on southeast corner, there is good evidence that a community of free-men had already called the area home. Thompson first followed the route in 1798.

At the confluence of Beaver River and Moose River, which flowed out of Moose Lake, Thompson met Laderoote, his pilot. Laderoote, was a free-man who clearly had been to Lac La Biche before, possibly with Aboriginal peoples who already had well-established trade relationships with Fort George. Free-men such as Laderoote were usually voyageurs who were former servants of the fur companies. Retired from service, these men chose to remain and take up residence in the West rather than return to Eastern Canada. The region between Lac La Biche and Jasper became a favoured area of settlement for free-men who often acted as guides or pilots.

For the fur trade companies, the route through Lac La Biche to the Athabasca River was a critical transportation link for a number of years. Eventually, as the area ran low on furs and resources, most of the Athabasca traffic transferred to the Methy portage, and the Clearwater route, which bypassed the area and took the trappers and traders directly into the high north, emerging at present-day Fort McMurray.

Meanwhile, active fur trading commenced at Lac La Biche. In 1798, David Thompson established a post named Red Deers Lake House for the North West Company (NWC) and in 1799, Peter Fidler built Greenwich House, which was the first Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) house outside of the official Rupertsland territory.

Even at that early date, many of the families now living in the area were already present. Such people included: Joachim Cardinal; Antoine and Joseph Desjarlais; Jean Baptiste and Ignace Lavallee; Jean Marie and Francois Boucher; LaFrance; Beauregard; Laboucane; and Parenteau.

After the amalgamation of companies, the HBC retained a post at Lac La Biche, including both it and Lesser Slave Lake in the Saskatchewan trading district. It apparently stayed active for only one year, closing in 1823. The HBC post was re-opened in 1852. In 1856, it was listed by the Select Committee for the HBC as serving a population of 500 First Nations people.

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Liens Rapides

The Mission at Lac La Biche

The Saskatchewan Riel Rebellion impacts Lac La Biche

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