Acomb - Sputinow
FISHING LAKE, ALBERTA
INTRODUCTION - Here is an attempt at the history of Fishing Lake. It is not a complete nor a critical history, but a thumbnail sketch, and the professional historian will probably be furious at the lack of references. I do not intend to teach, but to interest the people who asked for notes on the history of Fishing Lake, so my information comes mainly from the "old timers" who were here in the early days.
My definition of Metis - To fully grasp and appreciate a people, their culture and their situation, one must understand their historical evolution. The Metis people were the product of two merging cultures, the Indian and the non-Indian. The blending of the French and Indian gave birth to a new race of people called "Metis", while the interbreeding of Scots, English, and Irish with Indians resulted in the "half-breed." Whatever term is employed is inconsequential. Why should we concern ourselves about what degree of mixture we possess of either European or Indian blood? I ask, as did Louis Riel, "If we have ever so little of filial love and gratitude should we not be proud to say, "We are Metis?"
Fishing Lake, Alberta is located eight miles north of the Historical Site at Frog Lake. It is situated between two very beautiful lakes: Fishing Lake on the southeast side, Frog Lake on the west. This is a small community with a population of three hundred, and was officially opened as a Metis colony in 1939.
First settlers were Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Delorme, Jack Desjarlais, and Simon Morin. Those people settled here in about 1912, before the Colony was formed. Most of the new settlers who were of French-Cree extraction moved here from a French Metis settlement, St. Paul-des-Metis, known now as St. Paul, Alberta. Felix Calliou, Joseph De- champs and Thomas Poitras were some of the new settlers. Naturally the languages spoken were French and Cree. Today, the same as in many other cultures, English is the main language, and very few if any of our young people today can speak the Cree or the French languages.
The main occupation of those early settlers was trapping; fur-bearing animals were quite plentiful at that time. Fishing was also another source of livelihood. Timber was sawed for the construction of buildings; what lumber was not used they sold.
The first store was located by Fishing Lake. Bruce Desjarlais now has his house built on the same place. The storekeeper was a man by the name of Kennedy; then there was Jack York; Mac Inglis came in 1936. Louis Daniels ran the store for Inglis. It was mostly for fur trade. Martineau's store was there, also. Joe (Joker) Anderson operated a little store in the Colony, which the Provincial Government bought from him in 1958. The Government built a store, completed in the fall of 1958 and opened in March 1959. Two of the men who helped build it were Francis Dufresne and Tommy Daniels. The store was first run by Mrs. William (Bill) Woods, and her husband was appointed Colony Manager. After they left Mr. and Mrs. Trygve Kjenner ran the store until it was closed out and sold by tender. In 1974 a tender from Mrs. Oliver (Florence) Parenteau was accepted. She also ran the Sputinow post office in the store. The building was burned down that same year. It was rebuilt by the Parenteaus, and they still operate it.
We have come a long way since 1939. Today at Fishing Lake people are given a loan to build new houses and have electricity installed. They have five years to have that loan repaid. There is also an annual levy on every quarter of land, so you see, people on the Colony have to pay for what they get. Loans may be extended, but all the same they must be repaid "by the people." The Colony land has been leased to the Metis people. As for fish and wild life, people on the Colony cannot go and shoot any ducks out of season. The lakes have been reserved for them, but there again they must abide by the rules.
People outside the Colony are quite confused when it comes to differentiating between people who live on the Colony and those who live on the Indian Reserve. There certainly is a difference, although a lot of people call the Colony a Reserve. Well, you certainly cannot call something a Reserve when it has not been reserved. The Indian Reserve has been reserved for the purpose of the Indian people (Treaty).
We have a Metis Act which says we have to have a Colony Manager, appointed by the Provincial Government, and from three to five councilors nominated and elected by the people of the Colony. The executive is elected from the councillors for a three-year term. Monthly general meetings are held where things are voted on; majority vote carries. Executive meetings are also held monthly where final decisions are made on such things as work projects.
The Colony Manager used to have more power, but now can be overruled by the Council. He sits in on the Executive Meetings for only one hour, no matter how long the meeting takes. His work is mostly to do with land operations, schools, the signing of government documents, and other business pertaining to the government.
At this time Mr. Howard Lett is Colony Manager. We have five councillors: Chairman Louis Dumont, Vice Chairman Dave Calliou, Richard Souray, Roy Cardinal and Maurice Cardinal. I am hired as Secretary.
The people who live here are colonists, people of the same background who have settled and grown in this northeast part of Alberta. Most people who live here still refer to their home as Fishing Lake rather than Sputinow, but — we are Canadians.
The first school was built of logs in 1939. Then again the men hauled the logs. The first teachers to teach in the new log school were Mr. and Mrs. Durand, in about 1939; then Stella Chodin; next Mabel Kinch (Mrs. Mabel Dumont) and