Métis leader Joseph LaRocque was born on November 26, 1881, at Lebret, Saskatchewan. A founding member of the Métis Society of Saskatchewan (MSS), LaRocque was one of Saskatchewan’s foremost Métis leaders of the early 20th century. In the 1930s he worked tirelessly alongside Joe Ross and Joe McKenzie to organize Saskatchewan’s Métis, creating a provincial political organization to lobby government in order to address Métis grievances and raise awareness of Métis issues. In 1937, LaRocque was elected MSS president and quickly took government to task regarding the failure of the Scrip system to provide the Métis with a land base. He also toiled to eliminate the Métis’ extreme poverty and their lack of educational opportunities. In 1938–39, he lobbied the province to grant the Métis a land base, similar to the Alberta Métis Colonies established under the Metis Betterment Act. In 1939 LaRocque and the MSS eventually received $10,000 from the W.J. Patterson government to pursue their land claim against the federal government. Unfortunately, the claim was never pursued, as the lawyers hired by the MSS felt that the Métis land entitlement had been extinguished by the scrip system. In 1939, LaRocque was named honorary president of the MSS for his tireless efforts—only to see the organization disband during World War II, when most MSS members enlisted. Following the war, the MSS quickly rebuilt itself. LaRocque was politically active as late as 1954, when he was still corresponding with Métis community leaders, addressing such issues as the government-sponsored experimental farms and the Métis relocation to Green Lake. J.Z. LaRocque married Mary Salamon of Lebret in 1914. He died in Lebret on January 2, 1964.

Cheryl Troupe

Further Reading

Barron, F.L. 1997. Walking in Indian Moccasins: The Native Policies of Tommy Douglas and the CCF. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press; Dobbin, M. 1978. “Métis Struggles of the Twentieth Century: Saskatchewan Metis Society 1935-1950. Part One: Early Beginnings,” New Breed (August): 16–19.