Great Canadian RIVERS 


Marie-Anne Gaboury, 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.

Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site
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.

Adventures and Exploits: 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.

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 Rivers.

Scottish Settlers, 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.

Aboriginal Heritage in Lockport Provincial Park
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.

The Battle of Seven Oaks: 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.

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.

Selkirk to the Rescue: 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 West Companies.

Lord Selkirk's Sacrifice
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 wealth.