Francophone ranchers in BC!? Mais oui! Francophones have been in the territory that would become British Columbia since the 1790s — as voyageurs, traders and gold prospectors whose personal stories are but sparsely documented in our history books.
Several Francophones established large cattle ranches in the province’s Interior during the 1870s and 1880s. Beyond the importance of their ranches to the province’s economy, most of these families also showed the resiliency of mixed-ancestry couples, commonplace in a new province.
Successive generations of francophone ranching families made incisive contributions to the development of the province. Here, you will discover their accomplishments — an acknowledgement of the adventurous spirit of their forebears.
Their story is definitely a story of colonialism, of settlers reorganizing land use away from First Nations. It is also a story in which women, of Indigenous and European ancestry, played a powerful role in this transitional process and in the remembering of Indigenous roots.
All but two of the families whose stories are presented in this story were intercultural unions of Indigenous women and men of European descent. These ranchers’ families underwent cultural adaptations, transforming the status of their descendants over a century from “half-breed” to Indigenous, from First Nations and “White” to Métis in some cases. Only two of the families maintained their French language, but all retained pride in their Francophone heritage.
These families left no facet of our culture untouched. Some of their achievements will surprise you, as will their path in accomplishing them.
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