Thursday, 2 February 2012

Ile a la Crosse in 1862

Ile a la Crosse mission buildings in the 1860's
Father Emile Petitot travelled through Ile a la Crosse with the Portage La Loche Brigade in 1862. Twenty years later he wrote his impressions of this trip.

Note: While somewhere there may be an English translation of the following book it is not available to me. Instead I have translated some pages that may be of interest.
Note: Petitot describes the population of the Mission of Ile a la Crosse which was a large area holding many villages including Ile a la Crosse.

Author's translation from the French book "En route pour la mer Glacial" by Emile Petitot    pages 266-267

"The land around the lake is very fertile. Wheat, barley, potatoes and all sorts of vegetables are grown. The fort and the mission raise nice herds of cows and horses. We see pigs, chickens and I believe a few sheep.
Fish are plentiful in the lake and make up almost the entire diet of the inhabitants along with potatoes since big game has almost disappeared from the countryside. There is a large number of game that flies or swims. In the month of September 1873, I saw two Cree sell the missionaries five hundred ducks that they had hunted in just a few days. During one week, priests, nuns, orphans and students ate only ducks in all kinds of sauces."

“The native population of Ile a la Crosse come from two roots. There are 230 Wood Crees from the Cree family and 600 Chipewyan from the Dene family. This last group have all been Christian for a number of years and are a brave lot. They received the faith in 1845. Their good humour, their gentleness and their honesty meant that Fort Ile a la Crosse could go without a stockade or fortifications. It is a factory open to all.”

“Many of these Chipewyan are also Metis with French names, such as Maugras, Pattenotte, Jolibois, Gladu, Janvier, Lafleur, Poitras, etc. They have relatives of the same name among the Cree. Other tribes nearby are also of this mixed blood. These mixed Indians or rather nomads are therefore descendants of French or Canadian voyageurs or coureurs de bois who came before the Hearnes, the Frobishers and the Mackenzies into this country and who then became the first servants of the North West Company.”

“That is what a Canadian author, who wrote with spirit and elegance on the North West, had noticed with simplicity, instead of being amazed at the blue eyes, the brown hair, the European traits and the light skin of these “natives”. The traveller may notice the same phenomena among the Cree. The same can be said of Europe and everywhere where people have been similarly mixed.”

Forts at Ile a la Crosse by Sir George Back in the 1820's.
In the 1860's there were no fortifications.