Metis Community of Île-à-la-Crosse


The town of Île-à-la-Crosse was founded as a trading post by English trader Thomas Frobisher in 1776. It is the second oldest settlement in Saskatchewan, after Cumberland House. It was considered one of the most important fur trading posts of the North West, and is also a birth place of the Metis as many marital/co-habiting partnerships between French traders and Indigenous women began here. However, the majority of Metis residents in the Ile-a-la-Crosse community are descended from French-Canadian and Scottish ancestors/Metis of the Red River Settlement. Located on the Upper Churchill River, it was originally established in response to the increasing demand for meat produced on the Plains to sustain the increasing number of non-Indigenous traders who were moving into the beaver-rich country of the Athabasca. Spaulding (see "relevant resources" section below) notes that these non-Indigenous traders thoroughly exploited the fur, fish and game resources in the region, eventually leaving the Metis without a livelihood. Preceding this resource exhaustion, fur trade combat at this particular post existed between competing establishments such as the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Trading Company. Spaulding also details attempts at assimilation and conversion made by Catholic missionaries in the village, as well as notable transitions of jurisdiction in 1870 and 1930. Another important date is the 1944 election of the CCF within the provincial government. This change in power resulted in the expansion and imposition of colonial bureaucratic policy to Northern Saskatchewan. Although the CCF government briefly engaged in consultation with Metis peoples in the area, this was quickly superseded by an assumption that these citizens would be best served by assimilationist government policies which "bring the Metis into closer alignment with the larger society".

The loss of traditional Metis livelihoods, in combination with CCF regulation of fur-trading and other forms of non-consultative bureaucratic interference resulted in deeply entrenched disparities in quality of living standards for Metis and non-Indigenous residents of Ile-a-la-Crosse. This manifested in a widespread reliance on social assistance for Metis people in the area. Further detail is included in excerpts from source material, contained below in the "relevant resources" section.