Most historical narratives have overlooked women’s roles in and Indigenous peoples’ relationships with the Roman Catholic church, such as that of Lac Ste. Anne, a 19th century Roman Catholic community in Alberta. Lac Ste. Anne was the first permanent Catholic mission west of the Red River settlement and frequently appears in historical documents and missionary histories. Women and Indigenous peoples, however, are scantily mentioned. In contrast to the dominant patriarchal narratives built from decades of male-based stories, I propose that women’s accounts from the settlement illuminate life and relationships between its inhabitants. Drawing on historical sources left by three Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns), who maintained the chapel and founded the school and hospital in 1859, and oral histories from Victoria Callihoo, a Métis woman who lived in the settlement as a young girl, I will argue that the Catholic Fathers conflated women’s lives at Lac Ste. Anne into one over-simplistic patriarchal narrative. Additionally, when re-examined with a 21st century lens, these stories can inform the anthropological study of women at Lac Ste. Anne including their roles and responsibilities, living conditions, physical and social mobility, and relationships with colonialism.
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