BC Metis Federation Contributes Knowledge of Métis history and culture

William Hinds Art

(Hudson Hope, BC) BC Metis Federation and partner community Kelly Lake Métis Settlement Society were recently invited to sit on a BC Hydro WAC Bennett Dam Visitors Centre aboriginal advisory committee. Although not extensive, this is our current submission to enhance education of visitors to the WAC Bennett Dam visitors centre, in regards to the Metis people in British Columbia…

Thank you for the opportunity to put forth information in regards to the Métis in British Columbia, and historical educational information to inform the visitor of the historical significance of the “Métis” in the BC hydro visitor centre. Resources I have currently researched include the BC archives; own family records, and the Alberta Provincial archives. One of the significant challenges for submitting visual data from the 1800 time period is the absence of camera’s, with much of the historical data being in the form of oral story telling.

So with these comments provided I offer a bit of history from my research, it is a monumental task to condense historical references to an overall educational experience, which I appreciate.

I hope to give a short overview of the importance of Métis in British Columbia and to have the team understand the complexity of portraying Métis exploration and role in and around the Peace River country, and the effects the hydro project had on Métis families’ both economically and spiritually. There are many families who have stories and photos to tell to add to the educational experience, not many have come forward to offer this information. Another significant challenge is find our elders who hold important oral history; I hope that Kelly Lake has been able to provide some elders stories in addition to the following.

History of the Peace River and Hudson’s Hope from a Métis perspective

“The Peace” refers to a river, a district and a community. The river, one of the main rivers in the Mackenzie River District, originates in the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia and runs into Lesser Slave Lake in Alberta. The Peace Region runs alongside the Peace River and spans much of north-east Alberta and north-west BC, originating at the western tip of Lesser Slave Lake and running east-west to present day Hudson’s Hope in British Columbia. The name of the area “The Peace River” was taken from a truce forged between the Beaver and Cree at what is now known as Peace Point, near where the Peace River meets with Lake Athabasca.

TBCCWDisplay-300x160Alexander Mackenzie brought the fur trade to the Peace River in the early 1800s. Mackenzie and his partners in the North West Company saw the Peace River as an ideal place for both trade and provisioning, and to that end Mackenzie established Rocky Mountain Fort the following year. The fort ran from 1794-1804 and was then replaced by Rocky Mountain Portage House, which was established in 1804 by John Stewart MacDougall at what is now Hudson’s Hope. Fraser and MacDougall additionally established a new post farther south at McLeod Lake in 1805 effectively opening the fur trade in what came to be known as New Caledonia.

However, both Rocky Mountain Portage and McLeod’s Lake were located in Sekani territory, and made it difficult for the Beaver to trade so Fort St John was established in 1806 at the mouth of what is now known as the Beatton River. Within these fort systems Métis operated, year round, following the river’s and forged trail systems.

Expeditions such as the Sinclair expedition (1841), Palliser Expedition (1857-1860), and McMicking expedition (1862) brought Métis families west on the promise of land by the government, as well as acting as intermediaries, and guides. I note the only visual information from this time period, was expedition artist William Hind’s paintings and sketchbook.

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/hind/” style=”download”]View the Full Sketchbook found on the Canadian Archives Website[/ilink]

William Hinds paintings found on the Mccord Museum website:

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M470″ style=”download”]William Hind 1862 “Pine Forest”[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M472″ style=”download”]William Hind 1862 “The Rocky Mountains”[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/M468″ style=”download”]William Hind 1863 “The Athabasca River”[/ilink]

It is important to note that Fort St. John/Hudson’s Hope (formally known as Rocky Mountain Portage) was administered from Edmonton and Winnipeg, not from Fort Vancouver, Fort Langley or later Victoria. This fact explains why there is so much more historical data from this region in the Alberta archives other than in British Columbia.

Administration was more accessible from Edmonton and Winnipeg due to the mountain pass which had to be crossed to get to the coast, of historical note stories written by Alexander Monkman (Metis) and the development of the Monkman pass to bridge trade to the coast:

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.dailyheraldtribune.com/2009/08/13/monkman-one-of-the-first-to-open-up-the-region” style=”download”]Alexander Monkman One of the First to Open up the Region[/ilink]

Monkman’s journals speak of the displacement of the Métis before and during the Rebellion, by this displacement heading west to participate in the fur trade. In the Peace River areas many of the freemen were Métis, the original families that came to BC are still prevalent with names as Whitford, Testawits, Monkman, Cardinal, Lafleur, Gladue, Lafrienere, Letendre to mention a few.

The River –The Lifeblood of the Métis

As spoken to before, migration was the reaction by Métis who were increasingly confronted with the loss of customary use of the land. Métis who were in the Battle River area moved farther north as white settlers took up homesteads, relocating to the Lesser Slave lake, and Peace-Athabasca delta resources. During this settlement period Métis were known as “The Road Allowance People” landless and mobile depended upon the rivers resources, not only for sustenance but transportation. It is known that the WAC Bennett dam project created disruptions downstream locally and the Peace Athabasca Delta to wildlife and to the transportation systems of not only First Nations but Métis who depended on the resources of the river, an economy forever changed.

Recently I ran across a study done in 1995 between BC Hydro and the Metis in Alberta, named “A way of Life study” (427 pages) which is quite extensive, other than duplicate what has already been done.

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://iportal.usask.ca/docs/ICC_CD/Athabasca%20Chipewyan%20First%20Nation/18/18.pdf” style=”download”]An assessment of the impacts of the WAC Bennett Dam on the People of Fort Chipewyan and the Peace-Althabasca Delta [/ilink]

Links and Books

In research the BC archives has some visual data portraying the Métis way of life, referenced by the archival information provided in this submission. It is noted that they are .gif images, if the team could perhaps obtain larger productions from the archives themselves as these were referenced online.

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/cgi-bin/www2i/.visual/img_med/dir_114/c_05462.gif” style=”download”]Ox Red River Carts[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/cgi-bin/www2i/.visual/img_med/dir_178/i_77414.gif” style=”download”]Artist depiction of Red River Carts [/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/cgi-bin/www2i/.visual/img_med/dir_111/c_01691.gif” style=”download”]Red River Special Farming [/ilink]

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.glenbow.org/collections/search/findingAids/archhtm/peaceriver.cfm” style=”download”]Glenbow Archives Peace River Collections[/ilink]

In addition, I thank the team for viewing the mobile nature of the Métis people when it came to the discussion of pinpointing the communities or territories on a map. To respect Métis community that is diverse and culturally unique which existed in a mobile fashion due to historical displacement, finds it difficult to put a pin on a map to represent a Métis. Although Métis families interacted through intermarriage and economics & trade, respect must be given to the dynamics of location.

I hope this information assists the designers in the overall design. As well, here’s my family history in the region. The Donald Whitford book quoted, is my great grandfather’s brother (John Whitford), whom is also recorded in the Fort st John post Journals.

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.vmcs.ca/Whitford/story.html” style=”download”]Whitford Family History[/ilink]

In conclusion, I can only offer reference from my own family history and research, this submission does not speak for all Métis families, although it is realized that many within our communities moved in family groupings for safety, security and resource sharing.

On August 13th 2013 the BC Metis federation put out a call to our communities via the Federation website to come forward with audio and visual information of the collective history in the Peace River country. We hope other Métis on this team can assist with providing information, and photos, so Métis can be represented accurately to visitors.

I look forward to the finished product.

Thank you,
Earlene Bitterman
Whitford Genealogy
1 (250) 783-4540

BC Metis Federation

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://bcmetis.com/wp-content/uploads/SubmissiontoWACBennettProject2.pdf” style=”download”]Download Submission in PDF[/ilink]

Metis historical reference and other books of interest for purchase – Books (Gift Shop)

[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://books.google.ca/books?id=EnFXAgAAQBAJ&lpg” style=”download”]The Western Cree (Pakisimotan Wi Iniwak) – Donald Whitford C1840-1927 (BC Journey’s)[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=1450″ style=”download”]Overland from Canada to British Columbia[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.amazon.ca/The-Palliser-Expedition-Irene-Spry/dp/1895618525″ style=”download”]The Palliser Expedition The Dramatic Story of Western Canadian exploration 1857-1860[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.amazon.ca/gp/search?index=books&linkCode=qs&keywords=9780806120935″ style=”download”]Fur Trade and Exploration: Opening the Far Northwest 1821-1852[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=1392″ style=”download”]The Lifeline of the Oregon Country: The Fraser – Columbia Brigade System 1811-47[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://www.fabjob.com/bcmetisauthors.html” style=”download”]The Metis in British Columbia~George and Terry Goulet[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://books.google.ca/books/about/Alberta_s_north.html?id=VrSAAAAAMAAJ” style=”download”]Alberta’s North A History 1890-1950[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://books.google.ca/books?id=aQgvB_WUGbIC&lpg” style=”download”]As long as the Rivers Run: Hydroelectric Development and Native Communities[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://books.google.ca/books?id=cRQsHIXr2bIC&lpg” style=”download”]Nature’s Northwest: The North Pacific Slope in the Twentieth Century[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://books.google.ca/books?id=GjGHIOxOCBMC&pg” style=”download”]Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://books.google.ca/books?id=GfkRAQAAIAAJ&q” style=”download”]Buffalo Days and Nights[/ilink]
[ilink url=”[ilink url=”http://books.google.ca/books?id=dAz8w_FmX8oC&pg” style=”download”]Native Chiefs and Famous Metis[/ilink]

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