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Battle River Metis Settlements

The Battle River (Notikiwin Seppe in Cree) originates south from Battle Lake in central Alberta, east of Winfield and flows east into Saskatchewan, where it discharges in the North Saskatchewan River at Battleford. Battle Lake, Samson Lake, Driedmeat Lake and Big Knife Lake are formed along the river. Battle River was named after a long time war between the Cree and Blackfoot bands over the hunting area. In the mid 1800s, several Mtis families the Salois and the Laboucanes, settled at Battle River, in Alberta, establishing a trade route for transporting merchandise in the famous Red River carts, as well as raising livestock and horses. Known as the Laboucane Settlement, many years later, it was renamed in honour of Bishop Thomas Duhamel from the Archdiocese of Ottawa. In 1881, Father Beillevaire was asked to start a mission along the south side of the Battle River. He named this settlement Duhamel, after Archbishop Duhamel of Ottawa. Metis' families had begun settlement as early as 1870 in Duhamel and in the valley of Battle River supplying Fort Edmonton with buffalo meat and supplies with their Red River carts along side their cousins, the Cree and Saulteaux Bands. With the arrival of homesteaders in the region, in 1896, a number of the families from the Laboucane Settlement moved to new colony of Saint-Paul-des-Mtis north of the Saskatchewan River with their large herds of livestock to join the other Mtis settlers and because there were still large expenses of Crown lands available for pasture for their herds of horses and cattle. Duhamel Settlement, Alberta: The early trading post of Duhamel was situated two to three miles northwest of the hamlet's current site, directly on the main local fording of the Battle River. Around 1886, the post was moved to the site where highway 21 now crosses the river. Buffalo Lake and the Battle River Valley came to prominence as a Metis gathering places after the great small-pox (la picotte) epidemic of 1870. The Metis fled from locations such as St. Albert, Lac St. Anne and Edmonton to escape the disease. There were four nearby Metis wintering sites: Salois Crossing near Duhamel, Tail Creek near Boss Hill, Todds Crossing near Ponoka, and Dried Meat Hill. The Buffalo Lake site is located between Lynn and Buffalo Lakes southeast of Edmonton. Franois Gabriel Dumont was the founder of what was to become the Laboucane Settlement, later known as Duhamel Settlement. This Metis community was located at the point where the Saddle Lake Battleford Trail crosses the river. It is on the stretch of the Battle River between the modern day cities of Wetaskiwin and Camrose. Francois was born at Old Fort Edmonton in 1825, the son of Gabriel Dumont Sr. and Suzanne Lucier. He married Nancy Gladu of Slave Lake at Lac Ste. Anne in 1849. Franois Gabriel Dumont, Abraham Salois (the brother-in-law of Francois), George Ward, and James Richards were the great buffalo hunters of Alberta. Francois was a leader of the Metis operating out of the Edmonton area and Boss Hill and Tail Creek. Francois was the person who travelled to Winnipeg to bring the first priest back to establish a mission at St. Albert. He also brought the first plow, which he used on his farm at Lac St. Anne.

In the early 1870s Francois moved from Lac St. Anne to the Battle River. At the time he was accompanied by his brother-in-law Abraham Salois and Salois two sons, Laurent and Gabriel. The first year after they moved the government appointed Francois to be the agent paying out Treaty money to the Indians. He did this in the area known as the Laboucane Settlement, later known as the Old Duhamel Settlement. Laboucane Settlement or Lafournaise Settlement, Alberta: In 1878 six brothers of the Laboucane family left White Horse Plain in Manitoba and headed west for the Battle River (Alberta). They were the sons of Jean Baptiste Laboucanne dit Lafournaise born 18151 at St. Boniface and his wife Marguerite Gosselin born 18192 at Red River. The brothers were accompanied by members of the St. Germain and Poitras families. Three Laboucane brothers, Jean Baptiste, Gabriel and Elzar settled on land north of the river crossing and the other three, Jerome, Pierre and Guillaume settled on the south side. Todds Crossing, Alberta: In the early 1870s, Donald Todd established residence on the Battle River at what became known as Todds Crossing. It is located on the stretch of the Battle River between the modern day cities of Wetaskiwin and Camrose. Donald Todd was born August 4, 1855 at St. Clements, the son of William Todd (born 1823 at York Factory) and Sarah Jane Johnstone. In 1875, he married Suzanne Durand dit Dumont at Bears Hill, Alberta.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute

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He died circa 1876 in Smokey River, Alberta. She died in 1887 at Duhamel, Alberta.