Our Métis Settlements-now a thriving, culturally-rich land base home to 1/10th of Métis people in Alberta-began to take shape in the late 19th century and continued for more than 100 years because of the brave individuals who came before us.Métis Nation of Alberta Métis Settlements General Council Centennial Book
The R v. Powley decision in 2003, was the first Supreme Court of Canada judgement to address the question of whether Métis have aboriginal rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The unanimous decision recognized that the Powleys, as Métis, had a constitutionally protected Métis Aboriginal right to hunt for food-This officially declared that Métis are Aboriginal people with their own unique, collective rights.
This decision had specific implications on the Métis way of life, as it outlines legal tests to prove the connection to a historic Métis community and traditional linkages to historic land uses in specific areas–not an easy test to prove as the Métis people were forced to move from place to place throughout history.
The Delgamuukw decision delivered by the Supreme Court in 1997, provided another important decision which helped define the nature of Aboriginal title. Most significantly, this decision set a precedent that oral histories are just as important as written historical record.
Other important legal decisions in recent history have provided the legal recognition of the rights of Métis:
- Blais Decision (2003): Métis must have a substantial connection to a hunting ground
- Laviolette Decisions (2005): Métis, historically, have been a highly-mobile people and therefore Métis
communities extend beyond areas classified as Métis Settlements
Ultimately, these court decisions have implications far beyond harvesting rights, and is argued to give Métis people the right of consultation for any major land use projects such as pipelines, hydro dams and more.
Further provincial legislation has been enacted throughout the years. You can find links to these below, or you can view the timeline in the next section to learn more.Métis Settlements Act Métis Settlements Land Protection Act Métis Settlements Accord Implementation Act Constitution of Alberta Amendment Act
Today, the eight Métis Settlements found uniquely here in Alberta, cover a land base of 1.25 million acres and include more than 6,500 members. These eight Métis Settlements make up the Métis Settlements of Alberta, and are Canada’s (perhaps the world’s) only legislated, land-based, independent Métis Government.
This unique history officially began in 1985, but some records and oral histories date this back hundreds of years.Western Canada Traditional Land Use Maps Alberta Archival Settlement Map
The first Métis Settlement at St. Paul des Métis was established by the federal government. At this time the Fishing Lake region comprised a community of approximately 150 people spread between Frog Lake and Moose Lake
St. Paul des Métis was terminated and the land opened for public homesteading
Métis leaders formed the Métis Association of Alberta to lobby the Alberta government for better living conditions
The Ewing Commission was established to investigate socio-economic conditions for Métis people living in Alberta
The Ewing Commission recommends the establishment of Métis colonies on crown land, but for exclusive use of the Métis
The Alberta Government enacted the Métis Population Betterment act which led to the creation of twelve Métis settlements across northern Alberta
Between 1938 and 1961, the number of Métis settlements was reduced to 8
The remaining 8 settlements formed the Alberta Federation of Métis Settlements Association in order to protect land, autonomy and legal rights
Review of the Métis Betterment act and associated regulations were conducted after the formation of the MacEwan Joint Métis Government Committee
Fishing Lake history
This settlement, our ancestral land since time immemorial, has been our mother earth. This land has provided us with food, shelter, economic opportunity, spiritual fulfillment, and a place for us to grow as a unique cultural union of Aboriginal and European people coming together.
The history of our community dates back to the time when fur traders travelled across our land and has unique connections with historic events like the Métis Rebellion led by Louis Riel. As with many western settlements the allure of the fur trade drew many people to this land, but our community in particular had an abundance of jumbo whitefish-the fish that gave us our name Packechawanis or Puktawhanis, meaning “a small place for netting.”
By the beginning of World War II, a collection of families were living in the Fishing Lake area and building log homes. This log home building era gave way to logging and timber cutting programs that were held each winter as community members came together to support each other. Even in the mid-20th century, many of the families in our community were hunting, trapping and fishing-living off the land as they had traditionally done for centuries. Some of the earliest recorded residents of Fishing Lake came from Fort Chipewyan as early as 1819, and Edmonton as early as 1807.
Even though FLMS was establish in 1938, it wasn’t until 1949, after much organizing and petitioning, that Fishing Lake Settlement was given title to the boundaries we have today. Today, our community is a growing, ecologically and culturally rich area, with over 400 community members. The history of our land, has given rise to the prosperous future of our people.
Member Storytelling series
Like Father, Like Son by Shaun Anderson
Old Joe and the Song in his Heart by Matt Lajimodiere