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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 1851-
1858. 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