A Haven in the Bush: The Baptiste River Métis Settlement

Editor’s note: Tanisi! This is the concluding post in our series recognizing June as National Indigenous History Month. We hope these posts and resources have helped you learn more about the many diverse cultures, histories and achievements of First Nation, Inuit and Métis Peoples across what is now Canada. Banner image: The remains of Charlotte’s cabin at the Baptiste River Métis Settlement (Source: Laura Golebiowski).

Written by: Laura Golebiowski, Indigenous Heritage Section

It’s a Sunday afternoon in late May. Despite forecasted rains, it is a beautiful day, and the sun shines through the forest canopy of balsam poplar, trembling aspen and tall pines. Sandwiches are pulled from a cooler atop a striped wool blanket, and tea is poured. Family photographs are passed around: black-and-white images of babies bundled in snowsuits and bucking broncos at a rodeo.

We sit down on the soft ground. Gladys motions to the moss surrounding us, noting how it was used by women as menstrual products and to line the moss bags that held babies safe and snug. Wild berries, Labrador tea, mint and medicinal plants are also found here: a reminder that this landscape, almost one hundred years ago, sustained an extended family of Métis matriarchs for more than a decade.

This place is known as the Baptiste River Métis Settlement: a remote location north of the Town of Rocky Mountain House and west of the North Saskatchewan River. Here, three generations of Métis women and their families established their home in the 1930s. They built cabins, raised children, cared for livestock and developed self-reliance, living off the land. Now—nearly a century later—the descendants of these women, along with representatives of the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3 and Local 845, return to the site via the old wagon trail (ruts still visible) to tell the story of the ones who lived here. 

George Moritz, Paul Bercier and Bernie Ouellette share stories in front of the remains of Charlotte’s cabin at the Baptiste River Métis Settlement. Source: Laura Golebiowski.

Louise Fleury (née Boushie) was born in Montana in 1875, the great-granddaughter of a Canadian-born Frenchman and a Cree woman. At a school in Chemowa, Oregon, she met Thomas (Tom) Fleury, a man born at Frog Lake. Once married, the couple moved from Montana to Frog Lake, then travelled west with Thomas’ mother, Sara Bushy, to the Rocky Mountain House area to be closer to Louise’s relations.

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