Southbranch Settlement was the name ascribed to a series of French Métis settlements on the Canadian prairies in the 19th Century, in what is today the province of Saskatchewan. Métis settlers began making homes here in the 1860s and 1870s, many of them fleeing economic and social dislocation from Red River, Manitoba.
The Settlements stretched along both sides of the South Saskatchewan River in river lot style from Fish Creek north through Batoche and St. Laurent to St. Louis which was its northern boundary. They included Duck Lake 12 kilometers from St. Laurent accessed by the St. Laurent Ferry. The distance from Fish Creek to St. Louis was less than 50 kilometres. They were proximal to several Cree reserves, as well as Anglo-Metis settlements to the north around Prince Albert.
Batoche and St. Laurent de Grandin were founded by French Métis hivernants from the Red River settlement. Hivernants were hunters and trappers who spent the winter on the prairies and returned to the Red River settlement in the spring with their winter catch.
Gabriel Dumont was the leader of the buffalo hunt for his group of 200 hunters living in the Southbranch settlements from 1863 to the end of the Métis buffalo hunts in about 1875. In 1873 the Southbranch settlements organized a form of local government, under Gabriel Dumont, based on the laws of the buffalo hunt.
In the 1880s the population of the Southbranch settlements may have been as high as 1300 with 40 to 60 families living in each of the four largest communities.
The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 was a traumatic event for all the Southbranch communities, and they had passed their prime by the 1890s when the railway brought in increasing numbers of new immigrant settlers. Some of the settlements, such as St. Louis still remain however.
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate established missions in the settlements during the 1870s and 1880s.
- St. Laurent, the oldest of the settlements, was originally the wintering home of Métis plains buffalo hunters. A mission was established in 1873 by Father Andre o.m.i..
- Duck Lake Mission (St. Sacrement) was also established by Father Andre o.m.i. in 1874.
- Batoche Mission (St. Antoine) was established in 1882 by Father Vegreville o.m.i..
- St. Louis de Langevin Mission was established in 1886 by Father Lecoque o.m.i.
- Fish Creek Mission was also established by Father Lecoque o.m.i..
By 1888 all the Missions except Fish Creek had schools. St. Laurent had a post office, a telegraph office and a store. Duck Lake had a post office (called Stobart) a flour mill and a trading post. Batoche had three stores, a post office and a saloon. St. Louis had a store (at McDougall's crossing) and a post office (called Boucher).
- "Canadian Plains Research Center Mapping Division". Retrieved 13 Sep 2013.
- John Welsted (1 January 1996). The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People. Univ. of Manitoba Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-88755-375-2.
- "The Bison Hunt". Virtual Museum. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
- "DUMONT, GABRIEL". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved 2014-01-06.
- "FRENCH AND MÉTIS SETTLEMENTS". Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina. 2006. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
- Henry Thomas McPhillips (1888), McPhillips' alphabetical and business directory of the district of Saskatchewan, N.W.T.: Together with brief historical sketches of Prince Albert, Battleford and the other settlements in the district, 1888 (pages 93-97), Prince Albert, NWT: Henry Thomas McPhillips
- Batoche National Historic Site of Canada
- Detailed report upon all claims to land and right to participate in the North-West Half-Breed Grant by settlers along the South Saskatchewan and vicinity, west of Range 26, W. 2nd Meridian, being the settlements commonly known as St. Louis de Langevin, St. Laurent or Batoche, and Duck Lake