All of the families evicted from Jasper between 1906 and 1910 were Métis and, in some cases, had homesteaded in the Athabasca Valley for more than a century.

This is an untold story of how the west was opened by Mountain Métis freemen.

Many of these mixed bloods had legendary forefathers who were unsung heroes of the fur trade, some of which were Alberta's first businessmen known as free traders.

These were men of Indian, French and Scottish bloodlines. The Mountain Métis  are the descendants of the fur trade who have over 200 years of wildlife and wilderness management on Alberta’s eastern slopes.

JASPER NATIONAL PARK was established in 1907 and is the largest national park in the Canadain Rocky Mountains.

Families were force to leave, and some left right away, however some of the families refused to leave.

In 1910, shortly after the boundaries of Jasper National Park had been established, J.J. Maclaggan came from Ottawa to buy out claims of residents who had homes in the Jasper area.

The families included the four Moberlys: Ewan, John, Adolphus, William (Bill), as well as Isadore Findlay and Adam Joachim. Lewis Swift was the only one to stay, as he had registered his homestead.

Our Story

An excerpt from a document in the Alberta Provincial Archives of Alberta reveals some of the historic stories of the Rockies. “At the end of the eighteenth century (circa 1770s), three Iroquois came to what is now known as Alberta. These three, Louis and Ignace Karakwante and Ignace Wanyandie came from the Indian Village of Caughnawaga, nine miles east of Montreal, Quebec. They followed the customary water route from Montreal to Fort Garry, now known as Winnipeg, Manitoba. At this point they joined Joseph Belcourt and continued west by way of Cumberland House, up the Churchill River to Beaver River, to Lac La Biche. From there they portaged to the forest of the Athabasca.”[1]

“In the Athabasca the three Iroquois took wives of the Sekanaise tribe of the Montagnais Nation. Roaming the country, they did much of the early exploring of the Rocky Mountains and its passes and of Lesser and Greater Slave Lakes. They were reported to have gone down the Mackenzie River and to Great Bear Lake. Later they were the guides of Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson, Cheadle, and others.”[2]

Archival documents reveal that the North West Company was the first fur trading company to arrive in the Athabasca District. Early records show the list of coureur des bois (independent trader or freeman) or voyageurs (canoe men or travellers) and Bourgeois (District Officers) in the North West Company, came into the Athabasca District as early as 1804. The Hudson’s Bay had the monopoly on the land that drained into Hudson’s Bay. The Athabasca District drains into the Arctic Ocean; therefore, was under the jurisdiction of the North West Company.

The 1804 Compagnie du Nord-Quest List of Voyageurs records show that some of the mixed blood voyageurs in the Athabasca River District included Ignace Wanyandie, Pierre Delorme, Joseph Haws, and Jacques L’Hirondelle. Others who followed later included mixed blood characters like Jacco Findlay, James Findlay, Charles Loyer, and Louis Loyer, to name a few. The language of these men was French, and their faith was Catholic. The 1804 List outlines proprietors, clerks and interpreters. It details that John Findlay was the proprietor in the Athabasca District. His half-brother Jacques (Jacco) was noted as one of the highest paid clerks or interpreters at Upper Fort de Prairie (Edmonton). These two men were the sons of James Findlay.

Scotsman James Findlay a North West Company man, was a pioneer explorer of Saskatchewan in the mid 1700s. He sired a mixed blood son Jacco, who made a mark in history when he, with his wife and children, followed the Blaeberry River. Jacco and his family were the first to reach the upper Columbia River on a round trip over the Rockies in 1806. Findlay’s party, accompanied by Kutenai Indians, traveled by way of what was later called Howse Pass in search of a route to the Pacific Ocean. Explorer David Thompson followed Findlay a year later in 1807. Joseph Howse, a Hudson’s Bay Company trader first traveled his namesake’s route in 1809—guided by Jacco. Jacco Findlay left the Kootenay Plains area and moved to the Athabasca Valley, where his descendants resided for a hundred years. Jacco and his band of Mountain Métis became some of the first businessmen in Alberta. In 1824, when Sir George Simpson was visiting Jasper House, he ran into Jacco and wrote the following:

“Jacco Findlay and a band of followers (Freemen) were here watching the Shuswaps in order that they might trade their furs before they got to the Establishment and thereby make a profit on the jaunts of these poor Indians, but I gave them notice that the practice must be discontinued. We should not allow Freemen to interfere with and impose on Natives, and I addressed a circular letter to Messrs. Clarke, McIntosh, Rowand and Laroque begging they would narrowly watch the conduct of Findlay’s band.[3]

Hudson Bay Company records, Church records, scrip, archival, journals, and census records clearly show that the original voyageurs descendants lived in the Athabasca Valley until they were evicted in 1907. The 1906 Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta showed that the first Mountain Métis families to leave the Jasper area included John Findlay and family, Mary and son Julian Gauthier, Elizabeth and Joseph Gauchier, Paul Gauchier and family, Baptist and Adelaide Gauchier, Albert Gauchier and family, Adam and Eliza Cardinal, Angelica Tappe, John Gregg and family, Vincent (Basa) Wanyandie and family, Kenny Kenny and family, Mary Cardinal, Henry (Ewan) Moberly and family, Martin Joachim and family, Lewis and family, Albert Norris, Adam Joachim and family, Isadore Findlay and family, Louis Karakuntie. There were many other families in the Athabasca Valley as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway construction began in 1905 and was completed by 1913.

[1] Alberta Provincial Archives: Accession No 71.185

[2] Alberta Provincial Archives: Accession No 71.185

[3] “Overland by the Yellowhead” James McGreggor – Page 33

[4] “Overland by the Yellowhead” by James MacGregor