First Peoples

Ojibwa birch bark tents on banks of Red River, 1858

The region near the La Salle river has been home to people since at least 6000 BCE. The hunters would travel from the forest to the grasslands to hunt buffalo. Where the La Salle and Red River meet was a popular trading and socializing spot. The First Nations people that lived in this area would trade with groups as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

In the 17th and 18th century, fur traders married First Nations peoples, namely the Cree, Ojibwa (Salteaux) and Assiniboine people. The fur traders were often of Scottish or French descent and their children called themselves “Métis”. The Métis people were very skilled at the fur trade.

In the 19th century, many people began buying lots to farm along the La Salle river. The Métis people were very opposed to this because it would disrupt the buffalo hunt. Many Métis people were hired by the Hudson’s Bay Company as freighters, trip men or buffalo hunters. They manned the York boats that took supplies to and from the Hudson’s Bay as well as other areas that did business with them. The use of rail lines increased and so they began using Red River carts to transport their supplies.

Not all Métis people were hunters, but most were involved with living off the plain, freighting, trading and agriculture.