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Joseph Francis Dion.

Joe Dion was a founder, organizer and president of the Metis Association in Alberta
from 1932 to the spring of 1940 when a provisional Executive Council proclaimed itself
and Malcolm Norris was elected Chairman. From the 1940s to 1960 the association was
in a state of disorganization; Adrian Hope became president in 1960 and the association
became more organized and was finally registered in 1961. The Association was known
by various names such as the “Half-Breed” Association, The Half-Breed Association of
Northern Alberta, the Metis Brotherhood of Alberta, L'Association des Métis d'Alberta et
des Territoires du Nord-Ouest after a meeting December 1932, and l’Association des
Métis d’Alberta by 1935 dropping the reference to the NWT, or the Metis Association of
Alberta, 1961; and eventually the Metis National of Alberta Association.
Joe was born at Onion Lake on July 2, 1888, the oldest child of August Dion a Metis
and Marie Mountain. Marie was part Cree and part Saulteaux. The Dion’s were
descendants of Paul Blanc Dion who emigrated from France to settle in the Onion Lake
area of what is now Saskatchewan. At the signing of treaty, many of August’s brothers
chose different names. His third brother chose the surname Blyan, the fourth chose the
name Paul and the fifth chose the name of his wife’s family, Buffalo. August and his
family moved to the Kihewin area in 1903 after losing a member of the family to the
epidemic at Onion Lake.
Joseph was educated at Onion Lake Mission School to grade nine and finished his
schooling by correspondence. In 1912 he married Elizabeth Cunningham of St. Albert.
The Elizabeth Metis Settlement came to be
named after Elizabeth Dion.
Joe was a teacher and served 24 years
at the Kihewin Indian School. He was also
the first teacher at the Elizabeth
Settlement. In 1920s he started to get
involved with Treaty and Non-Status
Native organizations. As noted above, he
was instrumental in forming the
L’Association des Metis d’Alberta des
Alberta des Territories du Nord-Ouest that
evolved into the Metis Association of
Alberta. He was elected president of this
former Association in 1928 and served
until 1958. Joe was never paid for his
community activities, the people of
Elizabeth and Fishing Lake raised money
for his travelling expenses.
All the while he was politically active,
he and Elizabeth were supporting their
family on a tiny farm overlooking Long
Lake. Elizabeth Dion suffered greatly
because her husband was away from home
so much of the time, which left her with
the responsibility of raising their children

and looking after the livestock alone. She used to sell cream to help raise money for her
husband’s travelling expenses.
Joe was always active in the Roman Catholic Church and was involved in annual
pilgrimages to the high hill near his home that was called Mount St. Joseph. In the 1930s
he organized a group of Metis dancers and fiddlers who toured Eastern Canada. In 1957,
Bishop P. Lussier awarded Joseph the “Benemerenti” gold medal from Pope Pious XII.

Anderson, Anne. The First Metis… A New Nation, Edmonton: UVISCO Press, 1985: 189-193.
Jacknife, Albina. (Coordinator), Elizabeth Metis Settlement: A Local History. Altona, Manitoba: Friesen
Printers 1979.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell

Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research
Louis Riel Institute