Migration of St. Denis/Fleury from St. Laurent de Grandin to Montana

the-baptiste-metis-fleury-settlement.jpg

These moves followed the turmoil at Red River in 1869-70. “…They sought a new life in a region unencumbered by settlers. They were a politically conscious group, most of whom had witnessed infringements on their rights by newcomers in Montana. They relocated to traditional lands further west to avoid discrimination, maintain their identity and culture, and diversify their economic activities.”  (Italic mine. The Free People – Li Gens Libres Diane Payment, 2009. p. 28)

I am interested in tying the experience of the broader Metis community illustrated above to the journey of the St. Denis from Saskatchewan to Montana. Specifically, how did these folks view themselves? Why did they seem to deliberately avoid involving themselves in the “political turmoil” that seemed to imbue the actions of the Metis in the area? The record shows they were comparatively much poorer than their neighbours; and I know they surrendered their many children (including the new-born Marie-Louis St. Denis) to the US authorities. Explore this alarming and heart wrenching move. If they had any of the ‘folk’ sentiments of their community, the loss of their children to the settler/Christian education system must have been a desperate move to keep their children alive, even if it meant loosing their culture. Here might be a chance to show how the loss of their family’s future reveals the depth of their Metis identity. Tragedy and mourning are occasions that shape exact clarity and truth. They must have suffered the whole way south. Did they decide to give up their children before they left? Along the way? At the last minute? Where did they go after their children were gone? Did they have any contact with them? They must have felt depths of failure and disorientation, in fact loosing their place in any future their way of life might have amid the Settler Society that was encroaching its way Westward. Never mind forever loosing your flesh and blood. How horrible.

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First thoughts on chapter sketch

1. St. Denis/Fleury migration of 1872. The Metis settlement at the St. Laurent de Grandin Mission, near Ft. Carlton, on the Western S. Saskatchewan River, numbered 322, according to the 1871 HBC census of the area.

2. Instead of relocating more permanently to Batoche with the rest of the growing community, the St. Denis family migrated south to Montana via Cypress Hills; Marie-Louis St. Denis born along the way.

3. The abject poverty of the St. Denis family forced them to give up their children to US Residential school system; Marie-Louise St. Denis to Chemawa.

4. Marie-Louise St. Denis left Chemawa, and married Thomas Fleury in Montana.

5. Marie-Louise and Thomas Fleury moved to Alberta and lived in hiding from the Canadian government, knowing the aim of social services c1900 was to ‘integrate’ Indians into settler society. Flora Fleury, among a dozen or so surviving children, born in St. Paul, Alberta.

7. Marie-Louise Fleury took her daughter Flora Fleury to Calgary to marry a Chinese man named Kimmie Yee (in previous chapters weave his story of immigration to Canada and life in Calgary to this meeting).

8. Start family in Calgary: April and Tookson are born. Family moved to RMH… 

First Interviews

A short note to say that I completed the first three interviews a few weekends ago. Uncle Tookson, April, and her second cousin Gladys all had very interesting and unique things to say to me. Tookson had the most to say about Kimmie. This grandfather apparently did come to Canada but hid off to Vancouver to avoid the railway gangs. At any rate, Tookson emphasized this Chinese heritage over our Metis line.

Before I forget, I talked to my cousin Terri for the first time the other night  as well. The most remarkable thing she said was the Cree/Chinese magio-medicinal sharing between Kimmie (Cree medicine) and his mom (chinese medicine) when she eventually moved to Canada. This has enormous implications for the story that I will explore. Namely, that the family hid to protect its Metis heritage from the Government but that their actions also allowed a non-Western cultural synergy to occur, particularly around magical medicines, here in the Canadian plains. Whoa.

Bibliography…A Work In Progress

Today I’m going to start accumulating my bibliography of research for the book. I have a Word document on my computer but I think it is a good idea to post the literature on my blog instead. Far from the prying eyes of academic supervisors, the following list is inconsistently based around the Chicago Manual of Style.

Adams, D. W. Education for Extinction. 1995.

Adams, Howard. “Tortured People” (Penticton: Theytus Press, 1995, 2000).

—–. “Challenging Eurocentric History,” in Expressions in Canadian Native Studies, ed. Ron F. Laliberte et al., 41-53 (Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan ExtensionPress, 2000).

—–. “The History of the Métis Nation” (1936) in French. Translated in 1982. Based on interviews of the participants and witnesses of the Métis rebellion in 1885.

Ahern, William H. The Returned Indians. 1983.

Bourgeault, Ron. “Louis Riel: Hero of his People?” In Expressions of Native Studies, ed. Ron F. Laliberte et al., 222-26. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan Extension Press. 2000.

——-. “The Struggle for Class and Nation: The Origin of the Metis in Canada and the National Question.” In 1492-1991: Five Centuries of Imperialism and Resistance, ed. Ron Bourgeault et al., 153-88. Socialist Studies, vol. 8 and 9 (Winnipeg: Society for Socialist Studies, Fernwood Publishing. 1992.) (U of C)

Brogden, Mike. Law and Criminal Labels: The Case of the French Metis in Western Canada (1990).

Campbell, Marie. Halfbreed (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1973).

Child, Brenda.  A Bitter Lesson. 1993.

Elis, Clyde. 1996. To Change Them Forever. 1996.

Coleman, Michael C. American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930. 1993. 

Department of Indian Affairs, National Archives of Canada, RG 10 Bluebooks, Item 50, March 12 1935.

Department of Indian Affairs, Interior, Agriculture, and Northwest Mounted Police. Canadian Sessional Papers, 1890s and thereafter into the early twentieth century.

Devine, Heather. “The People Who Own Themselves” (Calgary: University Press, 2004).

Elis, Clyde. 1996. To Change Them Forever. 1996.

Holtgen and Molen, 1989.

Hyer, 1990.

Lindsey, 1995.

Lowmawaima, 1993 and 1994.

Malmsheimer, 1987.
McBeth, 1984.
 
Olive, Dickason.  Canada’s First Nations (1992a) Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Palud-Pelletier, Noelie. Louis: Fils des Prairies (1983) trans. In 1990 and 2005 (Pemmican Publications)

Poirier, Thelma. The Bead Pot (Pemmican Publications).

Ray, Arthur J. “Periodic Shortages, Native Welfare, and the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670-1930.” In Shepard Krech (ed.) The Subarctic Fur Trade. (Vancouver: University of B.C.  Press) and Trade In The Industrial Age. (Toronto: University Press).

Szaszy, 1977.

Trennart, 1988.

Wall, Denis. The Alberta Metis Letters: 1930-1940 policy review and annotations (U of C)

Welsh, Christine. “Voices of Our Grandmothers: Reclaiming Metis Heritage,” Canadian Literature 131 (1991): 15-24

——. Keepers of the Fire (Montreal: National Film Board, 1994) with Christine and Signe Johansson (producers) and Norma Bailey (director), Women in the Shadows (National Film Board and Direction Films, 1993).

The Year of the Yee?

Greetings. I have started this blog to help me sort out the path towards writing my historical fiction about my paternal Metis ancestry. In starting this I can reflect that this is one of those moments in life that we start not really sure we will see the intended end. For me that end is a novel that dramatizes the migrations and struggles of my Metis family that settled in central Alberta amid the settling of the Western Canadian plains. I am drawn towards needing this book finished, and for a few very good reasons.

One: to pull together the narratives of my uncles, biological father, and aunt in a way that they never had as adults. My aunt April, the oldest of the Yee children, is my conduit and contact to their stories. Having spent two decades in counselling and herself working as a life coach in a corrections facility in Yellowknife, my dear aunt April has spent years trying to heal her broken family. Her brothers Tookson, Bingson (my dad), and Willy rarely see each other. Tookson and April live in Wetaskwin and have had recent contact but, as April says, Tookson hates the Fleurys and seems to despise April because she looks like her Metis mother. Instead, April tells me Tookson embraces the Chinese heritage of their father, Kimmie Yee, an immigrant from China who worked many years as a cook and is now buried in Wetaskwin. April gave up years ago trying to bring her brothers together for any occasion, big or small, and now lives a happy life with her dear Stan Mercredi, who he married decades ago in Yellowknife. They are so cute.

So my book will bring together those four children, at least in writing, and do what April has not been able to work out here in the real world.

The second reason for writing my book is that it will provide a long term way for me to work out my place in the Metis family and sort through my identity. WHy am I here? Where did I come from? THese are all questions that are requiring more adult answers, explanations that will help guide my trajectory for the next decade or so. There are loose ends or parts of me that seem out of place if you look at just my mother’s side of the family. So many. For now, lets start with a general feeling of, well, craziness, that seems to cause me to think differently than the rest. Or so it seems that way I guess. Life never seemed simple to me, and my single parent upbringing created many problems and contributed in a big way to chronic underachievement and low expectations for myself. Back to the crazy. How did I put it to April when I tried to describe this all to her? That as a youth I was a trench-coat wearing/cigarette smoking/guitar playing/misfit/high-school drop-out/poet/artist/snooker-playing/social outcast/broken family/insecure/weirdo/rebel kind of guy. These words did not fit my cousins or uncles, well not entirely. After all, as Douglas Coupland says, all families are psychotic.

After meeting April and hearing more about her siblings, including my dad, I have discovered the other half of me and why I have always been crazy. I feel like I belong with them and I feel out of place with my mom’s side of the family. That is not to say I feel not loved or wanted or that I don’t love or appreciate my Mom or her siblings, my uncles and aunt. The opposite. I wouldn’t be where I am without the kind of stability, support, and especially unconditional love they gave me.

What I mean is that each person is the sum of the two people that brought them into this world. And behind each of those parents stands generations of people that lived in a particular arc of time and experience of history. We are all standing in the stream of history, both in a broad way and in minute ways, we carry and are effected by the lives of individuals and the lives of the large forces of history. The simplest lesson in any history department is that all people and organizations need to know their past to understand their current identity and thus have the tools to know where to go in the future. For me, until I learned that my artistic impulses and overall peculiarities are direct connections to my dad’s family, I have never been at peace with thinking myself as a musician, artist, writer, or even mystic even though those features have been shaping my life for as long as I can remember.

Thus,…

To research Metis history in Western Canada and find the connections in that story to what I learned as a Masters of Arts student about Colonialism helps me know how my Metis ancestry and is bound up in the remarkable settlement of the plains of Western Canada.

To interview as many living relatives as I can about my Great-Great Grandmother and Father (Marie-Louise Fleury and Tom Fleury) reveals the personal connections between my ancestry and the little admitted experience of colonialism in Canada.

I think my first steps in these blog postings is to collect a bibliography of sources I will need to support the academic history end of the book. Moreover, I will set in motion the building thoughts and ideas for the book and its structure.