Until recently, I was among the many Manitobans who did not know the spot at which our first step to gaining provincial status took place.
Sure, we were told that on Oct. 11, 1869, André Nault crossed the Red River seeking the aid of his cousin Louis Riel to stop surveyors hired by Canada to plot Rupertsland, which had just been purchased from the Hudson Bay Company.
Oral history suggests that the event occurred on Nault’s farm, but the notebook of surveyor Adam Clark Webbe indicated otherwise. We have since learned that it occurred on the community pasture at the west end of Nault’s farm, near what is now Brady Road.
Even the provincial government was unclear of the spot — a marker was placed in Whyte Ridge purporting to be on the spot. In reality, the marker was about three kilometres north of where the event occurred.
At the time, Riel, one of the few members of the métisse community who could speak English, was living in his mother’s house on the Seine River, east of St. Anne’s Road and north of what is now John Bruce Road. The area was known as St. Vital East while Nault’s farm was located in St. Vital West. The farm, just south of Bishop Grandin Boulevard, ran west from the Red River to the community pasture.
The secret of where Riel stopped the surveyors became public knowledge on June 23, when members of the l’Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba braved a howling wind and rain to erect a marker on Brady Road, about three kilometres north of the Perimeter Highway.
Because the exact spot is located on private property, the marker was erected on the road allowance in the RM of MacDonald, about 45 metres away.
Researchers used old and new technology (surveyor’s notes and GPS) to locate the spot, which was unveiled by former Manitoba Lieutenant Governor Yvon Dumont.
Unlike our American cousins, most Canadians have little or no knowledge of local history. It is time for a change.
Bob Holliday is a community correspondent for St. Vital. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org