This is the story of Therese Laroche, a Metis woman from northern Saskatchewan. It will be your story during this activity.
My name is Therese Laroche. I am a 47 year old grandmother with 2 daughters and 2 sons still alive. My husband, Jean-Louis, and I have 5 grandchildren already. So many changes have I seen in my years. I don't know if I am ready for more. There never seems to be much of a choice. But I know we cannot continue as we are. There is just too much hunger, disease and poverty. Things were better for our people when I was a little girl. Then, there were so few White settlers. We didn't feel threatened by them.
I remember when I was a girl we packed up all our stuff and moved out to Saskatchewan from the Red River. We settled along with many other Metis families like ours near Batoche. Then we had all that trouble in 1885. My husband wanted to fight beside Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, but I convinced him that his children needed him, so he stayed home and did not join the Metis warriors. Maybe I was wrong to keep Jean-Louis home, I don't know.
After the defeat we were a broken people, and again we had to move. This time we went to Green Lake in northern Saskatchewan. We have tried to keep to the old ways, the hunting and fishing and trapping ways. But we cannot find. the animals and fish. We cannot survive this way. Every day, the White settlers come from far away to settle on the Prairie lands. They come in trains and wagons, bringing their ways and their animals and pushing us farther and farther off our lands. We cannot stop this White settlement so we must find a way for our family to survive.
I pray for my family every day, although there is no church or mission to go to. I used to go to the Catholic church very often but it is very lonely here. There is hardly enough food, no school, no doctor. We are not like the Indians who can get support from the Canadian government through the Indian Act. We are not considered Indians under the government's definition so we do not qualify for treaties or reserve lands. Some church groups tried to set up some communities for our people, but these have failed. I cannot go to join them. We must find some other solution for our problems.
I have heard some people talking
about land for our families. They say that we can get a piece of paper from
the government that we can trade for some land. We can take this government
scrip to the Land Office to get a lot. With plenty of work, that lot would
become our farm. A man came through and offered us money for our paper, so
I guess it's true. I worry about my children. I want to do everything I can
to help them. But we are so poor. I must talk more about this with my family.
Should we move from our camp to a farm lot, and clear the land to grow crops
and raise animals? Or should we stay in our more familiar community camp and
try to make a living?