Gabriel Commanda

The man who sparked the gold rush in the Abitibi region

Gabriel Commanda, the uncle of the well-known Algonquin William Commanda, was a person who strongly influenced the development of Abitibi. In 1920 he was the first to report to prospectors the location of the famous Lamaque gold deposit, which was the origin of the gold rush in northern Quebec.

Born in 1891 in the Anishinabe community of Kitigan Zibi, Gabriel Commanda was a trapper, fisherman, logger, guide and prospector. Commanda would even volunteer in 1915 to fight in the Canadian army during the First World War Despite his participation in the Canadian army; he was never recognized amongst the veterans since he was not considered Canadian.

He was mainly known as a prospector and for several years he guided prospectors to the best gold veins, as told through many legends. They say he knew instinctively where to find the deposits, using a form of divining rod made from a moose horn. Once the instrument was pointing to the ground, he took a pickaxe and reveled the precious deposit.

Moreover, a legend says that a spirit appeared to him in the form of a moose that he followed up to a deposit that bears his name today. This is where he discovered the precious metal in 1923 and when he indicated the location to the prospector Robert C. Clark. This discovery would cause a real gold rush. Expelled from his land to allow mining operations, Commanda never benefit from the riches within the deposit.

Passing in 1967, Commanda would finally be recognized many years later by the city of Val-d'Or where he is now considered as one of the founders of the city. Moreover, a park and a street are named after him.