Lower Fort Garry – Historic Fur Trading Post

St. Andrews, Manitoba.

On our first visit to Manitoba in over 30 years, we returned to one of our favorite places to refresh our memories. In the summer, you can tour the grounds and meet staff members dressed in correct period costumes, role playing their particular position in the daily life of a fur trading site in the 19th century. You can even take advantage of daily guided tours at certain times of the year. One post on the Canada Park site says the buildings are open year round, but a notice on the Parks Canada website says they are closed for the season and will re-open in Spring 2020. Check the Parks Canada website for specifics on hours, things to do, etc. here.

The fort is located along the Red River near the community of St. Andrews and is about 30 minutes north of Winnipeg. Over the years, Parks Canada restored many of the stone buildings, some of which were original and still standing. The original Fort Garry was located near the forks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. Destroyed by a flood in 1826, then-Governor George Simpson found the new location on the higher banks at this location downriver.

Nearly every building on the fort featured costumed workers who started every conversation with, “Hello; Bonjour”. The costumed staff went about their “daily work” as they explained to visitors about life at the fort in the mid-19th century. Looking over their website as I write this post in early December, the site doesn’t yet have a schedule of activities or fees for 2020 online yet. Guided tours will be available for reservations and other descriptive information including dates, times, and fees.

You can expect to spend 3-4 hours there, especially if you talk to the staff members and give a listen to their descriptions of duties and history in the old world fort.

The fort features a number of historic firsts including the first training site for the Northwest Mounted Police and the signing of Treaty 1 (first treaty with the native Ojibway and Swampy Cree tribes that opened expansion of the western territories.) For a time, it was site of western Canada’s first prison, and it also became the first asylum for the mentally ill.

During the Red River Rebellion of 1870, Louis Riel and his faction occupied then Fort Garry at Winnipeg and the Quebec Rifles took over Lower Fort Garry. That rebellion made Louis Riel a local hero and an outlaw to the Canadian Government. The uprising ultimately led to the creation of Manitoba and the eventual hanging of Louis Riel.

All aspects of life at the fort including a section dedicated to learning about the local native Americans are presented by the staff. On the day we were there, it wasn’t too crowded and we had plenty of time to ask questions and interact with the costumed actors at each station. I submit for your review a gallery of images captured on that beautiful day in late July. As usual, if your browser supports it, you can click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner

 

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