First White Woman of the North West
Marie-Anne Gaboury, born in Trois-Rivière,
Quebec in 1780, was no ordinary, stay-at-home
voyageur wife. When she married fur trader
Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière at the
age of 24, she accompanied him as he canoed
his way from Montreal to Fort Gibralter
at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine
Rivers. As the couple moved on through Saskatchewan,
Alberta, and North Dakota in pursuit of
beaver and buffalo, Marie-Anne was an ongoing
curiosity, the first white woman to be sighted
by people of the First Nations.
When the Lagimodière family received
word of Lord Selkirk's new Red River Settlement,
they returned to Manitoba. Caught in a violent
confrontation between settlers and fur traders,
Marie-Anne and her children took refuge
with Chief Peguin and his Salteux tribe.
Her husband, Jean-Baptiste, carried out
a secretive, daring and legendary dispatch
mission to Montreal. Captured at Fort William
while returning and dramatically freed by
Lord Selkirk's raid on the Fort, Lagemodière
became a hero and celebrity, and was rewarded
with a generous grant of land on the east
bank of the Red River.
Fort Garry National Historic
Drop into the "Big House"
and have a chat with the Governor
of the Hudson's Bay Company,
circa 1850. You may be surprised
to learn that at this 19th century
Hudson's Bay complex, north
of Winnipeg, fur trading was
not the most important activity.
Instead, the Fort served as
an agricultural and industrial
supply centre, shipping surplus
Red River farm produce on river
routes to far-flung trading
posts. Located on higher ground
than the flood-prone Upper Fort
Garry, the lower Fort included
a gristmill, sawmill, brewery,
distillery, blacksmith shop
and lime kilns, as well as housing
for hundreds of hired trip men.
In 1871, Treaty #1 between the
Ojibwa and Swampy Cree was signed
at the Fort.
Despite the hardships of her adventurous
life, Marie-Anne lived to 95 years of age.
Her daughter Julie, one of 8 children, became
the mother of the famous Métis leader,
Louis Riel. Today, the larger-than-life
voyageur couple are remembered in Winnipeg's
Lagimodière Gaboury Historic Park,
at the confluence of the Seine and the Red
Furious Fur Traders
In the spring of 1812, shivering Scottish
farmers were camped on the chilly shores
of Hudson Bay, waiting for a spring thaw
to carry them to the Red River Valley. Little
did they know that they would be as unwanted
by western fur traders as they were by the
callous highland landowners who had forced
them from their homeland.
: It didn't take long for the
new immigrants to find out. As they laboured
to clear fields and build homes on the 40
hectare river lots granted to them by their
Scottish benefactor, Lord Selkirk, they
felt the wrath of North West Company traders.
Threatened by the settlers' intrusion into
an untamed, ungoverned territory they regarded
as their own, the fur traders began a campaign
of fear and intimidation. Despite the agricultural
promise of their new home, the terrified
farmers deserted the colony.
Heritage in Lockport Provincial
View one of Manitoba's most
important archaeological sites,
located on the lower east bank
of the Red River at Lockport.
Tour the Kenosewun Centre, a
museum of artifacts and displays
that trace the development of
the many aboriginal groups that
inhabited the shores of the
Red River before 1750. The museum
also contains exhibits describing
Manitoba's "first farmers.
When a new group of immigrants arrived
in 1815, the fur traders were enraged. On
June 19th of 1816, a group of normally peaceful
Métis, inflamed against the settlers
by the North West agents, and angered at
a Settlement prohibition against pemmican
export, confronted a group of settlers led
by the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company.
At least twenty of the settlers, including
the Governor, died in the Seven Oaks battle.
Two Métis men lost their lives.
In retaliation for these losses, Lord Selkirk
himself travelled to the west, seizing furs
and posts belonging to the North West Company
and arresting two of the Nor'West leaders.
Though he succeeded in preserving the Red
River Settlement, thereby securing its future
as one of the most successful agricultural
communities in Canada, Selkirk himself suffered
catastrophic financial losses in the legal
battles that resulted from his clash with
the rival fur trading company. Broken in
both health and spirit, he died in a French
hospital just months before the historic
1821 union of the Hudson's Bay and North
Refined, intellectual and titled, Thomas
Douglas, Fifth Earl of Selkirk, was a Member
of the British Parliament, a successful
farmer and a powerful, controlling shareholder
of the Hudson's Bay Company. Although he
could have lived out his life in the comforts
of Scottish high society, Selkirk's social
conscience and concern for the plight of
Scottish farmers (forced from their land
during the sheep farming "Clearances"),
led Douglas to secure a massive grant of
land known as Assiniboia in present-day
Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota. His
efforts to relocate his disenfranchised
countrymen to the Red River Valley, and
to personally defend them against hostile
fur trading interests, sowed the seeds of
the great grain fields of western Canada,
but ultimately cost him his health and his