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Nurturing Earth: A Fertile Soil

Photograph of a woman, man and child picking up hay on a cart pulled by two horses.

Haying season at Blais Farm in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery, Abitibi. Photo taken in between 1930 and 1950.

Like the native communities of the past, Abitibi-Témiscamingue’s natural wealth serves as an invaluable and vital commodity for the native communities that have settled here. The territory offers rich forests and soils which is the very foundation of their livelihoods and the regional industries since the colonization.

A steel stump puller made of two pieces of hooks joined together with a moving eyehook.

This kind of stump puller was used during colonization.

The soils found in Abitibi-Témiscamingue are rich in wide deposits of clay left behind by the retreating glacial ice cap, over 8,000 years ago. This clay plain, infused with several areas of less rich sandy soils, represents the second largest area of cultivatable land in Quebec after that of Saint-Laurence Valley.

A museum interpreter is holding a red wooden seed planter with a metal rotary distributor and a cotton pouch.

A manuel seed drill.

Praised by the already settled religious communities, the richness of témiscabitibien soils became objects of advertising propaganda on the behave of government authorities, as indicated in “Un royaume vous attend” (a paradise awaits you) published in 1950 by the Ministry of Colonization. It was as of 1870, while the rest of Quebec moved forward with industrialization and faced a massive wave of its citizens immigration towards the United States, that hundreds of  colonists began to congregate in Abitibi-Témiscamingue in order to clear and cultivate the land. Many municipalities were founded between 1870 and 1950, such as Ville-Marie, Laverlochere, Barraute and Senneterre, these towns were established by the agricultural colonization.

A French pamphlet's cover page. We can see a goddess holding objects symbolizing wealth. She is walking on a land where we can see the names and places of colonization villages following the rail road in Abitibi before the rising run. The motto Seize the Land is at the top.

An image of colonization propaganda.

Back cover of a brochure in french. We see passengers getting off the train in front of large doors opened by a winged goddess. She points to a landscape representing a rural village and a rising sun where it is written Abitibi. At the top of the image it is written Fortune opens its doors to you.

An image of colonization propaganda.

Even if agriculture played and still does play a rather marginal role in this region’s economy which is mainly dominated by forestry and mining industries, it has left a considerable mark on its people. At the very beginning of the colonization of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the souvenir left by the glacier’s offered to newcomers a modest income and ideal opportunities to support life within the community.

Coloured picture of two people overlooking the production of a hay bale. We see a bale being ejected in a wagon.

Farmers overlooking the mechanical production of hay bales. Picture taken in 1978.