The Métis and the Cypress Hills
The Métis, a people of mixed native and European ancestry, resulted from the fur trade in the Red River area of Manitoba. After the failed Red River Rebellion of 1870, these people moved to Fort Edmonton and to the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.
For a time, they would gather together for communal buffalo hunts. In the early 1870s, the buffalo herds were quite diminished. The now smaller groups of people were nomadic, following the herds. The men hunted the buffalo, and the women stayed behind to cure the hides and to dry the meat. The dried meat would be pounded and mixed with lard to make pemmican. This was stored in air-tight skin bags and provided the main winter diet.
When winter came, the people would build a winter village in a sheltered valley or in wooded hills where water, wood, game, and horse pasture were nearby. Each family had a one-room cabin, made of pine logs chinked with mud and roofed with sod. These hivernants (winter residents) often spent their nights with dances, games, and gambling. With the passing of winter, the Métis would pack their Red River carts, leave their villages, and follow the buffalo.
The Cypress Hills were a popular place for the winter villages. There were many trees, elk, and deer. Furs trapped here were used for trading purposes. The Métis wintered here from the late 1860s to the early 1880s. The decline of the buffalo herds and the arrival of settlers and ranchers with the coming of the railway to Medicine Hat brought an end to the Métis winter villages in the Cypress Hills.
Return to Cypress Hills Provincial Park, in the Parks section of this website.
(This site was updated in October 2012.)