Government of Canada commemorates the national historic significance of James Isbister

Government of Canada commemorates the national historic significance of James Isbister

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by ahnationtalk on November 22, 202220 Views


From: Parks Canada

James Isbister was an influential leader of the English-speaking Métis, fur trader, farmer, and founder of the Isbister Métis Settlement (present day Prince Albert, Saskatchewan).

November 22, 2022

National historic designations tell the stories of who we are and connect us to our past, enriching our understanding of ourselves, each other, and our country. James Isbister guided his people through the 1870s and 1880s, helping to unite French-speaking and English-speaking Métis in their many attempts to have Canada recognize their land rights.

Today, the Government of Canada commemorated the national historic significance of James Isbister with a special ceremony to unveil a plaque in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Isbister was born at Oxford House (Manitoba) in 1833 to a Scottish father and Métis mother. It is believed that he obtained an education at Red River Settlement and was fluent in many languages, including Gaelic, Cree, and Michif, the language of the Métis Nation. At 20, Isbister followed in his father’s footsteps as an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, remaining with the fur trading organization for most of the next two decades. Due to ongoing discrimination against Métis employees and his father’s low Company rank, Isbister never rose above the position of clerk.

In 1862, Isbister and his Métis spouse, Margaret Bear, founded the Isbister Métis Settlement, leading the community and establishing several farmsteads in the region over the ensuing decades. The Isbister Métis Settlement would eventually become the City of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the federal government began land surveys that encroached on Métis land and Isbister became a leader in the movement to gain redress for Métis grievances. Isbister was one of four Métis delegates who travelled to Montana to ask Louis Riel to return from exile in the United States in order to lead the Métis protest movement in Canada. Isbister supported the Métis cause but did not join the Northwest Resistance of 1885 after the Batoche-area Métis reluctantly took up arms. Throughout the struggle, he remained loyal to the Métis Nation and is recognized today as one of its influential leaders.

The Government of Canada is committed to connecting Canadians to the significant places, persons and events that shaped our country’s history and to implementing the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Parks Canada is committed to working with Indigenous peoples to recognize, commemorate, and share the stories of Indigenous peoples. Collaborating with numerous Indigenous groups across Canada, Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples are partners in conserving, restoring, and presenting Canada’s natural and cultural heritage.

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Quotes

“As an advocate for Métis land rights and founder of the Isbister Métis Settlement of Prince Albert, James Isbister was an influential leader who exemplified the resilience and determination of Métis peoples. By sharing these stories with Canadians, we hope to build awareness of both the triumphs and the struggles that have led us to the Canada of today.”

The Honorable Steven Guilbeault,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“I am always excited to have an opportunity to lift up and recognize a person who has contributed to our society in such a positive and impactful way in an effort to make things better in the future.”

Greg Dionne,
Mayor, City of Prince Albert

Quick facts

  • In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the federal government began land surveys in modern-day Saskatchewan (then part of the North-West Territories) to create 160-acre, square homesteads for newcomers to the region, encroaching on Métis lands with traditional long, rectangular river lots. Isbister became a leader in the movement to have Canada recognize Métis land rights. In 1883, Isbister took a leading role in the Settlers’ Union, an organization established at Prince Albert to advocate for redress of land grievances.
  • Isbister supported the Métis cause but did not join the Northwest Resistance of 1885 after the Batoche-area Métis reluctantly took up arms. Nonetheless, upon his return to Prince Albert after the Resistance, Isbister was arrested and temporarily jailed. Throughout the struggle, he remained loyal to the Métis Nation and is recognized today as one of its influential leaders.
  • After 1885, Isbister remained in Prince Albert where he farmed, engaged in Anglican parish life, and taught Indigenous children on local reserves. He died at Prince Albert in 1915.
  • Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.
  • The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a place a person or historical event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn/application

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Associated links

Contacts

Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
819-230-1557
Kaitlin.power@ec.gc.ca

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency
855-862-1812
pc.media@pc.gc.ca

NT5

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