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Our Homeland

Many questions remain regarding the loss of our homeland. Lewis Swift thought he would lose his homestead and, like the other six Métis families, would only be paid for the improvement he had made. Lewis was fortunate to negotiate the title granted on his 160 acres. Once he received that, he absolutely refused to sell out to Park authorities. Lewis spent his life on his farm, and it was purchased by Parks Canada sometime after his death.

The Mountain Métis acknowledge that their ancestors were paid for the improvements on their home land. J.J. Maclaggan had come from Ottawa to buy out the claims of the residents in the Park. Beside Swift, there were six other families and they were only paid for the improvements. This land base had been inhabited by the Mountain Métis for close to a century.

Writings of George Simpson of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1824 clearly show that Jacco Findlay and his band of Métis were living and working in the Athabasca Valley. Simpson made the following note in his journal at Jasper House. “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.” (Quote from "Overland by the Yellowhead" by James MacGregor.)

Despite a hundred years of living, working and operating businesses in the Jasper Region, the six Mountain Métis families were given nothing for their land from the federal government. We have official documentation on what compensation Isadore Findlay received. This married man with five children and ten horses was paid $250 for his improvements as follows:

We can only imagine what the four Moberly families and Adam Joachim received. Luckily the seventh family, Lewis Swift received title to his 160 acres.

There are many unresolved issues with regards to the Mountain Métis and their home land. Over and above the seven families named by J.J. Maclaggan of Ottawa, there were many women who had families that failed to be mentioned in his report. Some of these women included Clarisse Moberly, Louise Findlay and her two sisters, one of which was Madeline who married Ewan. One thing we know for sure was that the Mountain Métis were not treated fairly with respect to their home land. This is an issue that will be dealt with in the future.

The Mountain Métis is a community of people who have a rich history of land management—trapping, guiding and outfitting. During the 1950s, many lobbied MLA Norman Willmore to protect the eastern slopes, which resulted in the Willmore Wilderness Act. This sophisticated mountain society has been successful in protecting this 4500 sq kilometres of mountain wilderness because of foresight and activism.

Our rights are protected under Canada's Constitution.