Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records at the South Peace Regional Archives

Buffalo Lakes Lumber Co. 1913. SPRA 001-2001.01.169 Part of Pioneer Museum Society of Grande Prairie and District fonds.

The South Peace Regional Archives initiated a survey in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) call to actions to locate records within our holdings related to Indian Residential Schools. We found very few records related to residential schools, but we did find several records related to Indigenous people and communities in our region. We decided to expand the scope of our research to look for any records we may have related to Indigenous peoples.

Thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers, we now have a small database of material to share. While we pursue avenues of access, we would like to start sharing some of these images and documents.

The caption for this photograph reads, “First sawmill of Buffalo Lakes Lumber Co., taken about 1913 north of Buffalo Lake, with Jim Evans, Mr. Caddy and Mr. Ferguson? as crew. This sawmill was started in 1912, and was preceded by the Argonaut mill on the Smoky.”

This is one small part of the history of Indigenous economic life outside the fur trade and hunting and guiding. Much like the white settlers, Indigenous peoples, both those with long ties to the land and those moving in from the east and the south, took up employment not traditionally associated with them. Their labour helped build the economic prosperity most of us enjoy today.

We are not sure who this Mr. Ferguson is, but if he was St. Pierre Fergusson, not only was he involved with lumber, he also, during his lifetime, operated a stopping place, clerked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, owned a pool hall, and carried out the 1901 Census for the Athabasca region.

If you have any stories you would like to share about the history of local Indigenous labour or entrepreneurship, we would love to hear from you.  Please contact us at or 780-830-5105.

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