Description of Historic Place
The Baptiste River Metis Settlement Site (also known as the Rocky Mountain Metis Heritage Property) represents a settlement occupied by the extended family of Tom and Louise Fleury, located on the Baptiste River northwest of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. The site was occupied by the Fleury family between 1930 and 1945. It contains the partially standing remains of five log cabins and several associated structures, as well as archaeological deposits. The designated area is roughly 80 hectares and is situated on a level terrace on the south side of the Baptiste River, near its confluence with the North Saskatchewan River in the Rocky Mountain Foothills of central Alberta. Artifacts collected from this site are housed at the Royal Alberta Museum.
The heritage value of the Baptiste River Metis Settlement lies in its representation of a narrowly defined period of time in the life of an extended traditional Metis family.
The Baptiste River Metis Settlement consists of at least five log cabins which were the residences of Tom and Louise Fleury, their daughters Virginia, Sara and Rose and their son Walter, all with their spouses and children, as well as Tom Fleury's mother Sara Bushy. A sixth cabin, belonging to their daughter Rose and her husband, may also have been on site, although its location has not been found. In addition to the cabins, the settlement included a communal barn, a chicken coop and an additional outbuilding. All structures were built on Crown Land adjacent to a wagon trail leading between the town of Rocky Mountain House and the Sunchild and O'Chiese Indian Reserves (I.R. 202 and I.R. 203).
Tom and Louise Fleury moved to the Baptiste River region in the 1930s, after having resided at Frog Lake for 30 years. Occupation by the Fleury family at the settlement was reasonably continuous throughout the 1930s and 1940s, interrupted only when family members left temporarily to seek outside employment. During these times, however, the elder members of the family stayed behind to take care of the children. Ceremonial and celebratory occasions with extended family living elsewhere also sometimes necessitated vacating the site, although this was never on a permanent basis. In 1947, Tom and Louise Fleury were offered the opportunity to join the Sunchild Indian Reserve. As they could not negotiate the same opportunity for their children and grandchildren, however, they elected not to join. By the late 1940s, as they had no ownership rights due to building their settlement on Crown Land, they vacated the location to move closer to Crimson Lake, 23 kilometres to the southwest.
Archaeological investigation of the site was conducted in 1995, including mapping, excavation and the interview of a number of Fleury family members raised at the settlement. Excavations indicated that the site had not been disturbed and that many artifacts representing the daily lives of the Fleury family were still present. Items collected during excavations included hardware and domestic items, including cans, cooking pots, fragments of metal, glass and ceramics, auto parts, bucks, stove parts, nails, leather and beads. The Baptise River Metis Settlement represents one of the only 'Metis' sites from the 1930s and 40s known in Alberta and may provide valuable information about the daily lives and subsistence practices of the Fleury family.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1907); Hrychuk, Beth 1996, the Baptiste site, Alberta, FdPs-1 Reconstructing twentieth century Metis lifeways in Alberta, permit 95-067, on file Archaeological Survey, Historic Resources Management Branch, Edmonton; Reeves B.O.K. 1997, Baptiste River Metis Provincial Historic Resource Site historical resources impact assessment final report, permit 97-081, on file Archaeological Survey, Historic Resources Management Branch, Edmonton
The character-defining elements of the Baptiste River Metis Settlement include:
- the partially standing remains of five log cabins (and affiliated structures) which represent occupation by a single extended family and which allow for architectural study as well as comparative analysis of the economic activities and social relationships of the family members;
- the information potential of the archaeological remains at the site due to their undisturbed association with a single extended family during a limited period of time, permitting the possibility of investigating an uncompromised 'slice of time' in the history of an aboriginal family with a blended cultural heritage living in a remote settlement;
- the archaeological, photographic and oral history information that has been collected about the site and which, through additional analysis, may permit a more complex understanding of the daily lives and economic and subsistence practices of the Fleury family, as well as the socio-cultural environment in which they lived, and may assist in recognizing material culture patterns distinct from comparable non-aboriginal and First Nations occupations.