Historic Metis Community: St.

Joseph, now Walhalla, North Dakota:
The first Northwest Company fur trading post, established at St. Joseph’s in 1797 by David Thompson. St. Joseph was one of the starting points for the large Metis buffalo hunts. One of the community patriarchs and hunt leaders was Jean Baptiste Wilkie. Wilkie was known as Chief of the Metis at St. Joseph, in what was then the Minnesota Territory. Wilkie established himself at St. Joseph, about 1847. His house was the stopping place for both Metis and Indians passing through the town. Antoine Gingras associated with Norman Kittson’s trading company was a leading merchant of St. Joseph. He established his trading fort there (northeast of present day Walhalla) in 1843 and it functioned up until 1873. St. Joseph was home to large numbers of Metis families and at its peak in 1858 St. Joseph had a population of 1,200. For over two decades St. Joseph was the centre of Metis culture in Minnesota and North Dakota. Antoine Gingras served as a member of the Minnesota Territorial Legislature from 18511858. At the time of his death in 1877, at age 56, Gingras was a wealthy man with a chain of stores in Winnipeg, Pembina and St. Joseph. He also had a trading post on the Souris River. His home and trading post are preserved northeast of Walhalla, North Dakota at the Gingras Trading Post Historic Site.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute