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Visiting lord fascinated by community’s history
It takes a thousand years to define a clan, but only the short span of a lifetime to define a man.
On July 14, Sir James Grant of Scotland stood near the waters of Sturgeon Creek at Grant’s Old Mill, his first glimpse into the life Cuthbert Grant helped build in the early settlement of the Red River Valley.
"It’s fascinating. I want to learn more. Keep the old throgs going," Grant laughed during an interview with his wife Judy at the mill’s park in St. James.
"I give the man full honours for doing this. He brought people together and organized people for doing different things. There’s not that many people, in those days, who could organize people."
Grant, also known as Lord Strathspey, made a historic first visit to Winnipeg to declare Cuthbert Grant descendants an official sect of the Grant clan.
Born in 1793 to a Scottish father and Métis mother, Cuthbert Grant was a revered Métis leader in Manitoba and is considered one of the founding fathers of St. Francois Xavier, originally named Grantown in his honour.
He also built a mill in the town in 1816, a replica of which sits on Sturgeon Creek north of Portage Avenue near Grace Hospital.
The Grant clan traces its history back 1,000 years, with bloodstock from the Vikings. There are about half a million Grants in the world.
"I feel it’s important to reconnect with people from all over the world. There are not many clan chiefs that are doing this," Strathspey said.
Hundreds of people helped turn the weekend celebrations into an international affair, drawing descendants from across Canada and the United States.
Emerald Grant travelled from Browning, Mont., to learn more about the Grant side of his lineage.
Emerald traces his genealogy back to Cuthbert Grant’s great-grandfather — William — whose son’s eventually mixed blood with the Blackfoot Indians in the state.
In Montana, the Grants were instrumental as pioneers and established destinations such as the Grant-Kohr’s Ranch, a 1,500-acre working ranch and national historic site, he said.
"Everywhere the Grants have gone, they’ve always stepped up to the plate and done their civic duties," Emerald said.
"They’ve been out front, done a lot of stuff and been successful."
Cameron Murray, who travelled from Scotland for the event, was in Manitoba until July 22, visiting forts and areas that played pivotal roles in the settlement of the Red River Valley.
Murray, a history buff who manages a radio station, learned about the ceremonies online. He plans to share the information with his listeners back home and hopes to help start a historical interpretive centre.
"I’m getting a bit more of an idea (about the culture), instead of reading it in print or seeing it in video. Seeing it in front of me is a great thing to do," he said.
Even though he has no blood relation to the Grant clan, he was made to feel a part of the familial celebrations, he said.
"As a Scot, I’ve been made to feel involved and have part ownership of what’s happening," Murray said.
Sandra Horyski, a Cuthbert Grant descendant who helped organize the event through the museum, hopes the event will draw more interest to the mill, which operates as a museum.
"Our past sometimes gets forgotten," said Horskyi, who lives in the North End.
"It’s important to keep it preserved for future generations. It’s important not to have only parts of the story, but the whole story."
On July 16, Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) presented Strathspey with a key to the city.
For more, visit www.cuthbertgrant.ca.
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