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History of the Catholic Church in Western Canada from Lake Superior to the Pacific, 1659-1895 with maps… Morice, A. G. (Adrien Gabriel), 1859-1938 1910

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From Lake Superior to the Pacific
EQstorical and
■'t ^-i*n
Jy" 01 Manitobifj <|| the
; tbe Art, Hfel  ïim.1 and
pnver ;  tÉPi Éataral
b-- de l'&m Noir;
Western Dénés,;
With Maps and Illustrations
1910 M
-£^y§f'-  .''"' HISTORY
Catholic Church
From Lake Superior to the Pacific
Member of the Historica! and Scientific Society of Manitoba; of the
Société Historique de Saint-Boniface; the Art, Historical and
Scientific  Association of Vancouver;   the Natural
History Society of British Columbia;  the
Philological Society of Paris, etc.
Author of "The History of the Northern Interior of British Columbia";
Dictionnaire Historique des Canadiens et des Métis Francais
. de l'Ouest; Aux Sources de l'Histoire Manitobaine;
Au Pays de l'Ours Noir; "Notes on the
Western Dénés," etc.
With Maps and Illustrations
tti Copyright. Canada, 1910
/SS, 9-?-/
e<oit>' 1* TO HIS GR ACE
L. P. Adélard LANGEVIN, O.M.I., D.D.
Archbishop of St. Boniface
The history of the Catholic Church in Western
Canada is the history of deeds of heroism, devotion
to dnty under the most nntoward circnmstances, stir-
ring adventures and hair-breadth escapes scarcely
paralleled in modern times. To improve the moral
and material condition of the lowliest in the scale of
hnmanity and gather them into the f old, missiönaries
bade an everlasting f arewell to home and friends,
and buried themselves in the snows of the North, the
sombre forests of the Far West and the wind-swept
prairies of the Centre or Middle West, leading there
a life of sacrifice nnknown to most men, hut precious
in the eyes of God.
The history of our Church in those boundless
regions is practically that of the country itself. First
in the field of discovery and exploration, Catholics
long remained the only representatives of civiliza-
tion there, and when people of other denominations
flocked to the land of promise, the descendants of the
pioneer explorers and coureurs de bois knew how
to assert their right not only to existence in the country of their birth, but even to an adequate share of
influence in the direction of its public aiïairs.
To mention but what applies to the territory now
called Manitoba, the first governor of the colony out
of which that province was evolved was a staunch
SSiBÉH vin
Catholic; the first missiönaries of the Gospel within
its boundaries were Catholics, and the first institu-
tions of education which were ever established for
the benefit of its inhabitants owed their origin to
Catholic effort. Freedom from the fetters of commercial monopoly was wrenched from the then gov-
erning body by Catholics, who afterwards took an
honourable part in the counsels of the incipient
nation, and it is the same class of people that Mani-
tobans must to-day thank for the constitutional
liberties under which they live, or to which they can
legitimately lay claim.
Even in far-off British Columbia we see Catholics
acting everywhere as pioneers. The exploration of
the north of that province and the appalling descent
of its great fluvial artery, the torrent-like Fraser,
were the work of a Catholic, seconded by a Catholic
and accompanied by Catholic boatmen. The first
resident whites on mainland and island were Catholics, as were also the first missiönaries who took the
Gospel to either part of that country. Nay, even
within our own times we find that the first child
born in the commercial metropolis of the Canadian
Pacific, Vancouver, was the offspring of Catholics
and received baptism at the hands of a Catholic
From the foregoing it will be gathered that it is
none too soon to put on record what the Church has
done for those immense regions. Conversely, it
may also be permitted to hope that, unless we have PREFACE
egregiously failed in our task, our work contains
elements of interest for the most different classes of
people. The historian should find in it data implying
a most satisfactory evolution from savagery to com-
parative civilization, order from practical chaos,
progress and organization succeeding the most
primitive stages of human society.
Apart from the satisfaction to be derived from the
contemplation of such achievements and the study
of the many steps that led thereto, the general reader
should find in our pages sufficiënt items of interest to
make up for such of their contents as might not
appeal to his own personal tastes. In this work as
in our " History of the Northern Interior of British
Columbia," which found such favour with the public, it has been our aim to add readableness to im-
portance and value as a record of past events. With
this end in view, we have not deemed it inconsistent
with seriousness and sound criticism to occasionally
enliven the relation of the deeds of the apostolic
labourers in the Lord's vineyard by the introduction
of details concerning minor, but more striking, inci-
dents in their careers. The true physiognomy of a
portrait, the real characteristics of a picture often
result from apparently useless, yet well directed,
strokes of the brush.
This consideration will explain the presence in our
narrative'of the somewhat elaborate accounts of, for
instance, the massacre of Father Aulneau and com-
panions; the episode of Saint-Pierre and his expe-
asaaafcs^B^       - x PREFACE
dient to get rid of the Assiniboine braves; the de-
plorable afïair of Seven Oaks; the rising of the
halfbreeds to avenge the assault on one of their
fellows and, later on, to put an end to the exactions
of the trading company; the murder of Eev. Mr.
Darveau; the battle of a handful of halfbreeds
against two thousand Sioux; the adventure of
Bishop Grandin with the bogus Son of God, and
afterwards, of the same in the midst of the Great
Slave Lake blizzard; the terrible night spent by
Father Lacombe with two contending war parties;
the freezing of Eev. Mr. Goiffon and the consequent
destruction of the St. Boniface cathedral; the un-
timely death of Fathers Eynard, Lamure, Hert and
Chapelière, of Eev. Mr. Graton, Brother Hand and
Louis Dazé f the awfui fate of Brother Alexis j Father
Lacombe 's interven tion with the Blackf eet on behalf
of the Canadian Pacific Eailway; the sad exper-
ience of Father Lefebvre abandoned by the Eskimos
on the inhospitable shores of an Arctic river; the
shooting of Eev. Mr. Brabant by a Pacific coast
Indian; the episode of Chcennih and the suppositi-
tious sack of flour; the Frog Lake massacre; the f oul
murder of Bishop Seghers, etc.
The lover of purely secular lore will find in our
pages a reliable account of the discoveries and ex-
plorations of the French in the Canadian West;
unpublished details on the establishment of the Eed
Eiver Settlement and the state of the country at the
time it was attempted.   He will witness the dawn PREFACE
and development in the centre of the North American continent of colonial institutions which culmi-
nated in the incorporation of a petty commonwealth
within the new Dominion of Canada.
Above all, the English reader will be for the first
time furnished with what we have endeavoured to
make a dispassionate account, after unimpeachable
sources of information, of the Eed Eiver Insurrec-
tion. We venture to bespeak for that part of our
book the closest attention, fondly hoping that the
new light thrown on those momentous events will
contribute to do away with the dark legends and
unfounded surmises which so many English authors
have so far given as undoubted history.
The Fenian scare and the aftermath of the move-
ment of protestation against the encroachments on
the rights of the original Manitobans will likewise
receive proper treatment, and even through our
relation of the noble deeds of the rank and file in
the Church's army on the western plains of Canada,
we fancy that the reader will perceive the growth
and evolution of the population, the share of the
Catholics in the direction of public affairs in Mani-
toba and elsewhere, as well as the róle they played
in the foundation of new centres of human activities.
Finally, we flatter ourselves that even the reader
with antiquarian or scientific aptitudes will welcome
the autographs of the principal heroes, both lay and
clerical, of our narrative, as well as the account and
practical illustration of the means resorted to by the
'imif'ifffiTe" •
msmg^m Xll
missiönaries in the religious and secular instruction
of their charges.
Speaking of illustrations, we might perhaps take
the liberty of pointing out two which we think de-
serve special mention. We refer to that which
represents the famous cathedral with the "turrets
twain" of the poet Whittier, now for the first time
shown in its authentic garb, and the portrait of the
halfbreed leader of 1869 and 1885, which is from an
actual and most resembling photograph, instead of
a more or less fanciful sketch intended to represent
him either as he was at the time of the troubles, or
when he had to conceal his identity under a disguise
for the sake of personal safety.
Another point which we may mention will appeal
to .the people of special localities. How many Cal-
garians, for instance, know the origin of their beautiful city? They will find it explained in our pages.
So will the inhabitants of such places as Winnipeg,
St. Boniface, Eegina, Prince Albert, Edmonton, St.
Albert, Végreville, and Morinville find therein that
of their respective localities.
Throughout the forty-three chapters of this book
we have endeavoured to be as impartial as possible.
We do not believe in panegyrics any more than in
persistent vituperation. Likewise, we realize that
uniform success in things mundane is very far from
common. When it is a question of human deeds,
even though they be undertaken for the greater glory
of God, failures are not unknown.    These but too PREFACE
often follow successes; but they serve only to accent-
uate the merit of the latter.
On the other hand, because our aim has been to
give each one his due, we sincerely wish we had not
met in our way a certain class of people, whose do-
ings and sayings could not possibly be passed over
without a word of blame. For this reason some non-
Catholics will probably be tempted to see traces of
sectarian animus in our strictures on the same, in
spite of the very character given those who were
responsible therefor by their own co-religionists, as
will appear in the following pages. We prefer truth,
even when accompanied by the apprehension of such
criticism, to condoning words and deeds which do
not conform to received professional ethics. More-
over, far from seeking out the occasions of animad-
verting on antagonists in the missionary field, we
have avoided them as much as possible, consistent
with the exposition of our own men's labours. When
some mention of the former was unavoidable, we
have striven to be as discreet as we could with the
wealth of information at our command.
But we should like it to be distinctly understood
that the prime merit of the present work, if it has
any, must lie in the originality of its contents. It is
a first-hand book written after hitherto unknown, or
at least unutilized, sources of information, not a
rehash of matter already published by various
authors. Even in connection with historical ques-
tions which have been treated by specialists, such as XIV
the French origins of the Middle West, we have made
it a point to go for our authorities to the very first
sources, Lavérendrye's manuscript letters, memoirs
and journals, as well as those of Governor de Beau-
harnois, Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, etc.
For our account of the foundation of Lord Sel-
kirk's Settlement we have carefully perused the
voluminous correspondence of that truly great man,
as well as that of his lieutenant, Miles Macdonell,
and others. With regard to the permanent establishment and the history of the first thirty years of the
Church in the Canadian West, we have based our
entire narrative on the originals of the letters ex-
changed between the Bishops of Quebec and their
representative and clergy on the western plains. The
official publication of the Oblate Order—which does
not circulate outside of its various posts and, on that
account, is as little known to the general reader as
any manuscript in the dust of an old library—has
furnished us with most of our data concerning the
labours of its members within the territory em-
braced by our book.
These are all primary, or first-hand, sources of
information. Apart therefrom, we have occasionally
had recourse to such secondary works of reference as
the more or less complete histories of Manitoba, the
West and British Columbia by Eoss, Gunn and Tut-
tle, Hargrave, Hill, Begg, Bryce, Dugas and ourself,
without neglecting books and pamphlets of more
limited scope, or of only partially historical char- PREFACE
acter, as Dom Benoït's monumental Vie de Mgr.
Tachê, the latter's invaluable Vingt Années de Mis-
sions, and the works or compilations of Masson,
Eoss Cox, Southesk, Milton and Cheadle, Mayne,
Macfie, W. Pike, Petitot, Prud'homme, Laut and perhaps a score of others.
For the political troubles of 1869 and 1885 our
authorities have been most abundant. The reader
will often be referred thereto through the copious
footnotes that accompany the chapters hearing on
those subjects.
We are the happy possessor of all the printed
documents we have made use of. But it stands to
reason that the numerous manuscripts we have ex-
amined while preparing this History are out of the
reach of profane eyes. We have, however, found no
uncompromising Cerberi guarding them, but, on the
contrary, most obliging gentlemen ever ready to
allow of a good long peep at their treasures. It is
therefore our agreeable duty to publicly thank in
this connection Eev. Dr. L. St.-Geo. Lindsay, the
keeper at Quebec of the most precious collection of
manuscripts north of Mexico, if not in the whole of
America; Father A. E. Jones, S. J., the learned arch-
ivist of the Jesuits in Montreal; Drs. Doughty and
Eoy, respectively the head and assistant of the
Department of the Archives at Ottawa, as well as
Dr. Jos. Prud'homme who, at the bidding of Most
Eev. L. P. A. Langevin, O.M.I., has let us have free
access to the valuable documents in his keeping at
St. Boniface. XVI
Others, too numerous to mention, have likewise
lent their valued aid by furnishing us with replies
to occasional queries concerning points within their
personal competence. Very Eev. H. Leduc, O.M.I.,
Vicar-General of St. Albert, deserves in this con-
nection the special'thanks of the author. Last, not
least, we beg to acknowledge our many obligations
for favours conferred by our worthy archbishop,
who, in conjunction with our kindly provincial, the
Very Eev. Prisque Magnan, has encouraged us by
word and deed while engaged in the preparation of
this work, which may God bless and prosper, for
whose glory and honour it was undertaken!
Winnipeg, October 9, 1909. TABLE OF CONTENTS OF VOL. I
The aborigines—Their manners and religion—Radisson and Des-
groseillers—First contact—Foundation of the Hudson's Bay
Company—The Western Sea—First establishment       1
Lavérendrye—Setting out for the West—Forts St. Pierre and St.
Charles—Pecuniary difficulties—Father Aulneau—Bourassa and
the Sioux—Massacre of the Lake of the Woods     15
Consequences of the massacre—Resumption of discoveries—Fort
la Reine and its chaplain—Results of Lavérendrye's activities
—De Noyelle—Death of Lavérendrye—Legardeur de St. Pierre
and his chaplain—Getting rid of the Assiniboines     33
The Coureurs de bois and the halfbreeds—First English-speaking
traders—The Northwest Company—Influenoe of the French on
the natives—John Macdonell and the Hudson's Bay Company   53
[xvii] xviu
Miles Macdonell and the Red River Settlement—Mr. Bourke—
Some more colonists—Hostility of the halfbreeds—Protective
measures of the Governor—First conflicts     65
New Conflicts—The Battle of Seven Oaks—Death of Governor
Semple—Wrongs on both sides—Lord Selkirk to the rescue—
The need of religion—Tabeau and his mission—A permanent
post decided on     79
Rev. Mr. Provencher—Directions and commendations—Going
west—Arrival at "The Forks"—The situation there—First
churches and schools—Opposition—Successes     95
Provencher appointed bishop—Difficulties concerning Pembina—
St. Francois-Xavier founded—Dumoulin returns east—Schools
and college—The education of girls—New priests—Good citizen-
ship recognized  113
The stone cathedral—The Indians and Mr. Belcourt—Trials and
reverses—The assault on Larocque—Belcourt intervenes—Arrival of Mr. Thibault and other missiönaries—Belcourt's ac-
tivities   132 CONTENTS
The first Council of Assiniboia—Provencher and industry—
Belcourt and his indifferent charge—Protestant rivalry—
Indian tale—Rev. Mr. Darveau—John Rowand and the first
missionary of the western prairies—The Blackfeet  151
The liquor e vil—Darveau's pluck—Antagonism of the Protestant
catechist—Darveau is done to death—Steps taken to get nuns
—The first sisters in the west  171
The western missions dreaded—The Oblates accept them—Arrival of the two first Oblates in the west—The Dénés—Activ-
ities everywhere—Epidemie at Red River—Fathers Bermond
and Faraud—De a la Crosse  187
Material cares—The Company's exactions—Petitions and in-
vestigation—Exit Mr. Belcourt—The question of a coadjutor
—Arrest of Sayer—His forced liberation—Taché appointed
coadjutor „  209
Missions of Taché and others—Taché's conse era tion—Antagonism
of the Hudson's Bay Company—Grants for education—Mr.
Laflèche as peace-maker—Battling with the Sioux—Arrival
of Lacombe and Grollier—Death of Bishop Provencher 228 XX
The diocese of St. Boniface in 1853—Bishop Taché in the north
—Arrival of Father Grandin—Lac la Biche founded—Father
Faraud's missions—Poverty and enterprise—Statistics of De
a la Crosse  246
Taché goes to France for a coadjutor—Preaching and printing—
Missiönaries come by way of Hudson Bay—Taché becomes a
" counsellor "—The nuns appreciated—Grandin appointed bishop
-The bogus Son of God,
Developments in the north—Ste. Anne's Mission—Poor fare of
the missiönaries—Bishop Grandin returns with new priests-—
Foundations—Travelling—First evangelization of the Eskimos 280
Bishop Taché at Lac la Biche—Mr. Goiffon caught in a blizzard
—The palace and cathedral on fire—New legal holidays—In-
undation—Father Lacombe and St. Albert—Civilizing influence
of the missiönaries—Unfounded charges against the halfbreeds. 294
Bishop Grandin starts on a series of visits to the missions—Old
Beaulieu—Site of Providence chosen—The Indians and the
ministère—Hardships on the way—Typical mission house and
travelling costume—Lost in a blizzard—Mr. Ritchot—Protestant bait for the Loucheux  309 CONTENTS XXI
Reconstruction of the cathedral—Death of Father Grollier—Visit
of Father Vandenberghe—Bishop Grandin appreciated—Bishop
Faraud in search of a coadjutor  330
Father Petitot's travels—Mr. Bompas—Father Lacombe's camp
attacked—New recruits—Bishop Grandin becomes vicar of
missions—Five new priests—Recapitulation  340
Appendix A—As to the time of the Lake of the Woods Massacre 355
Appendix B—The Discovery of Fort St. Charles  357
Appendix C—The Red River Voyageur  361  LIST OF AUTOGRAPHS IN VOL. I
Lavérendrye's  16
Father Mesaiger's :... 17
Father Aulneau's  30
Father Coquart's  39
Miles Macdonell's  66
Rev. Mr. Provencher's •  102
Rev. Mr. Belcourt's  137
Rev. Mr. Thibault's  167
Rev  Mr. Darveau's  177
Rev. Mr. Laflèche's  203
Father Faraud's  256
Father Grollier's  292
Bishop Grandin's  310
Bishop Clut's  339
Father Lacombe's  348
Contemporaneous Map of Lavérendrye's Discoveries  44
Provencher's Passport  98
Rev. A. G. Morice, O.M.I Frontispiece
An Indian of the Canadian Plains       4
An Old Squaw     32
An Indian of the Far Northwest     50
A Shaman, or "Medicine Man"     74
Bishop Provencher   116
Rev. Mr. Belcourt   138
John Rowand 1   164
Rev. Mr. Thibault    170
Rev. Mr. Laflèche    184
Father Aubert   204
Rt. Rev. Charles J. E. de Mazenod   230
Rt. Rev. A. Taché, O.M.I   250
Present Mission Buildings at Fort Chippewayan, L. Athabasca. .  258
The Beginnings of a School in the West   270
Bishop Grandin, O.M.I   286
Rt. Rev. Bishop H. Faraud, O.M.I   292
The Church with the "Turrets Twain"   298
First Mission House at Hay River   312
Northern Déné Boys -.   330
Rev. Father A. Lacombe, O.M.I   348
First Origins in Middle West
Three hundred years ago the vast region between
Lake Superior and the Eocky Mountains was indeed
a lone, silent land. Neither the sombre forests to
the east of Eed Eiver, nor the boundless prairies to
the west of that stream knew aught of what we now
complacently call civilization. Here and there only
hordes of unsophisticated Indians, numerous in comparison to what they are now, though by no means
commensurate in numbers to the expanse of land
over whicli they roamed, alone disputed with the
bouncing Durfal o the f ree possession of the soil.
South of Churchill Eiver, on the one hand, and the
north branch of the Saskatchewan, on the other,
these were divided into four principal tribes, which
could be reduced to two ethnic families.- From.Sault
[il 2
Sainte Marie to the Lake of the Woods, the Chippe-
ways or Sauteux (from the name of their main seat)
held sway, to the number of at least 35,000, and peo-
pled after a way the rocky shores of the lakes and
the dark retreats of the woods.
North and south of the present boundary line,
their immediate neighbours and congeners in the
west were the Crees or Christinaux, as the French
originally called them, after one of their bands.
This was a powerful tribe, active and energetic,
which ranged over the territory south of Churchill
Eiver, from the Lake of the Woods and Hudson Bay,
in the east, almost to the Eocky Mountains, in the
west, where they met their hereditary foes, the
famous Blackfeet, a warlike, division of the same
Algonquin race which was as essentially a plains
tribe as the Crees were originally denizens of the
The former at first dwelt along the Saskatchewan,
numbering some 20,000 souls; but, at the time of
which we write, they had just been driven to the
southwest, and now occupied the region extending
from slightly north of the Bow Eiver to the upper
Missouri and beyond. This result had been accom-
plished by an alliance of the Crees with a branch
of the Sioux at first called Assiniboels, and now better known as Assiniboines, " those that cook by
means of stones.'l Having become dissatisfied with
their brethren of the great American plains, those
aborigines moved north, and were vouchsafed a gen- rnmmn».
erous hospitality by the Crees, who made room for
them, at first between Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba
and the basin of the river to which they gave their
name; after which they gradually drifted towards
the headwaters of that stream and its tributaries.
At the time of their separation from the main
stock, the Assiniboines may have been 14,000 or 15,-
000 strong, while the Crees boasted probably over
three times that number.1 In common with the lat-
ter they were constantly at war, not only with the
Blackfeet, but even and mostly with their own blood
relatives, the Sioux, who from time immemorial had
likewise endured the enmity of the Chippeways of
the east.
North of these important tribes ranged the num-
berless bands of the great Déné race, of which
further mention shall be made later on.
All the tribes of the Middle West agreed more or
less in their sociology and religion. When fully
dressed—a rare occurrence for the men in summer—
they wore in the guise of a cloak the skin of the buf-
xThe Crees are now about 15,000. Yet, writing in 1797, a fur trader
by the name of John Macdonell stated that "owing to their wars
with their neighbours, the smallpox of 1780-81, and other misfortunes,
the third of the nation does not now remain,, (in Masson's "Les
Bourgeois du Nord-Ouest," vol. L, p. 277). Considering that civili-
zation has not, as a rule, inereased the native population, this would
give 45,000, and more, as the correct figure to represent the number
of Crees even as late as 1780. But it is known that another visita-
tion of the plague in 1838 swept off at least half of the prairie tribes.
From this it would seem that 50,000 would be a very moderate figure
for that tribe previous to the advent of the whites. It is commonly
divided into the Crees proper (of whom there are the prairie and the
wood branches), the Muskegongs, and the Monsonis.
falo, on the flesh of which mostly they subsisted,
while leggings and moccasins of the same material,
or of some other skin, sometimes in conjunction with
a shirt-like piece of apparel worn with the hair on,
completed- their costume. During the warm season
the men quite often contented themselves with the
breech-clout and moccasins, while the women wore
a short petticoat, always of skin, fastened to the
waist by means of a leather belt.
They dwelt in skin tepees, conical lodges mounted
on poles, the lightness of which allowed of easy displacement, and, besides the meat of the buffalo,
which were then to be found in immense herds, they
lived on nsh, a species of wild rice, and berries,
according to the season.
No tribe was noted for the purity of its morals or
the honesty of its code, and polygamy was general,
while a temporary exchange of wives was often con-
sidered the greatest token of friendship. Hence
woman's lot was generally very wretched, and
divorce was a common occurrence.
Though to the Blackfeet of the Far West Natus,
or the Sun, would seem to have been the suprème
Deitv, from the yearly festivities celebrated in his
honour, celebrations which had a counterpart in the
thirst-dance of the Crees, Kichi-Manitou, or the
Great Spirit,2 was very generally, at least at the time
of the discovery of their country, regarded as the
2Several English authors wrongly translate this expression: the Mas-
ter of Life.   THE PEOPLE AND THE FUR TRADE       5
Master of Life, who created the world and all that is
good in it, while evil and the miseries to which human
flesh is heir were attributed to the opposite principle,
Machi-Manitou, or the Bad Spirit.
The Bad Spirit had to be propitiated by incanta-
tions, the ministers of which were supernaturally
endowed shamans, or medicine-men, whose dancing
and insufflations were accompanied j by vociferous
singing and the beating of drums. The Great Spirit
was honoured by periodical celebrations, when the
chiefs or the old men thanked him publicly for past
favours to the tribe, and implored his assistance
against their enemies. After some sacred chanting,
the feast was crowned by a banquet and several
rounds of smoking, in the course of which the stem
of the pipe was first inclined to the south, the home
of the Deity, then successively toward the earth, the
rising sun, and the west.
This was the only collective worship known to
them, and it was not frequent. Individuals preferred
addressing their homage to the Evil One, because he
alone was supposed to be disposed to do harm. In
such cases a dog would be sacrificed, or pieces of
personal property, part of the hunt or any valuable
object, were offered up by being left on scaffolds,
out of the reach of the wild beasts.
This aboriginal population was thus spinning out
its simple life in alternate spells of peace and war—
which, in the latter case, meant ambuscades and mas-
sacres of the weak by the strong—perfectly uncon- 6
scious of other worlds beyond the "Great Lake,"
and of the blessings the Eedeemer had brought them,
when it gradually dawned upon them that, in the
far south, people hailing from distant lands, pale-
faced and bearded, had made their appearance, who
had at their disposal wonderful fabrics and terrible
Some of these foreigners were soon to pass
through their own country in the persons of two
French adventurers, Pierre Esprit Eadisson and
Ménart Chouart, Sieur Desgroseillers. The former
was a native of Paris,3 and was born in 1636, while
the latter came from Charly-Saint-Cyr, near Meaux,
where he first saw the light of day about 1621.
Desgroseillers having married Eadisson's sister, the
two Frenchmen became bound by family ties which,
added to a similarity of inclinations, prepared them
for the wonderful career which was to be theirs.
Both have been represented as Protestants by Dr.
George Bryce4 and others, and, while disclaiming for
Desgroseillers any such affiliation, even Abbé George
Dugas declares that "it cannot be doubted that Eadisson was a Huguenot."5 Yet both adventurers
were   Catholics.    Desgroseillers passed his early
sHe lived a long time at Saint Malo, hence probably the lapsus
calami of A. C. Laut, who states (''Pathfinders of the West," p. 6.
Toronto, 1904) that he was born there.
4"The Remarkable History of the Hudson's Bay Company," p. 3.
Toronto, 1900.
*L'Ouest Canadien, p. 22. Montreal, 1896. Such is also the opinion
of Father Lewis Drummond, S.J. ("The French Element in the Can
adian Northwest/
p. 2.
youth with the Ursulines of Quebec, and Mother of
the Incarnation speaks of him in the highest terms.
Later on he became a sort of lay brother, giving his
time and work to the Jesuit missions. Furthermore,
when grown up and in the midst of his peregrina-
tions, it is on record that he one day exhibited to the
gaze of wondering Indians a picture of the Flight
into Egypt, which he would scarcely have kept had
he been a Protestant. But an irrefutable proof of
his Catholicity rests on the f act that his name is
found in the registers of Three Eivers as godfather
to several children.
As to Eadisson, he commences his journal with
the well-known formula "To the Greater Glory of
God,"6 which of itself betrays his familiarity with
the Jesuits, who are known to have favoured him
both with useful advice and with pecuniary assist-
ance. Here is what he writes in his memoirs concerning these much maligned missiönaries: "Their
only desire is the coming of the kingdom of God.
They give evidence of a truly admirable charity
towards all who work and show themselves worthy
of help by their honest conduct. This is the mere
truth. It is the answer I give to all those who would
ever pretend to the contrary. I speak here from
personal knowledge."7
If we consider that this is from a private document
6The motto of the Jesuit Order.
TQuoted from L. A. Prud'homme, Notes Historiques sur la Vie de
P. E. Eadisson, pp. 27-28.
1 8
which was not to be published during the lifetime of
its author, and from which, therefore, he could ex-
pect no earthly returns, it will be easy to decide
whether Eadisson was or not a Protestant. More-
over, as Miss Agnes C. Laut observes,8 he admits
having gone to confession to the Jesuit Father Pon-
eet.   This alone ought to decide the question.
However, we may as well admit that he was not
the soul of honour, nor were scruples much in his
way when it was a question of attaining his ends.
Twice traitor to his own country, he does not seem
v   7
to have been much more sensible to the requirements
of truth with regard to his travels than to the neces-
sity of a dutiful allegiance to the land of his birth.
His journal, besides being so vague in its topogra-
phical details, contains statements which scarcely
command belief, as when he mentions, for instance,
having one day met a pack of three hundred bears !9
Another time, having reached a lake in the vicinity
of James Bay, he would make us believe that, with
Desgroseillers, he had killed six hundred moose.10
Hence no wonder if some of his other computations
smack of exaggeration. For instance, it is hard to
believe him when he speaks of a village near Lake
Superior that contained "more than seven thousand
warriors,'m that is, at least, twenty thousand souls.
"'Pathfinders of the West," p. 41.
9In Prud'homme's Notes Eistoriques, p.  19.
MIb*d.t p. 33.
Be this as it may, it appears that the two Frenchmen were the first visitors to the land of the Crees,
wherever they may have met them. This was in
1659-60. Leaving the shores of one of the great
lakes12 in company with twenty-seven fellow coun-
trymen, they pushed to the southwest, going possibly
as far as the upper Mississippi, and returned to the
north by way of the territory of the Crees. More
than this we cannot say with any degree of certainty.
This voyage of the two friends was that of adventurers and coureurs de bois rather than of explorers.
It left no traces behind, neither did it enlighten the
civilized world on the nature of the country and people they had visited. Therein does not lie Eadis-
son's claim to immortality; we must seek it else-
Displeased at the treatment he had received at the
hands of the French authorities, he turned to the
English for assistance, and told them of the fabulous
amount of valuable furs they could get if brought
into contact with the tribes of the great Canadian
plains. His intrigues caused in course of time the
formation of a trading association which was destined thenceforth to have on that immense region the
most lasting influence. We mean "the Governor
and Company of Adventurers of England trading
into Hudson Bay," commonly called the Hudson's
Bay Company.
This was at first composed of Prince Eupert, the
12Which Radisson calls Lake of the Hurons. 10
Duke of Albemarie, General Monck, and fifteen other
noblemen or merchants, who were granted by
Charles II. a charter embodying such vast powers
that, in after years, its validity was more than once
contested. This comprehensive document gave the
Company "the whole trade of all those seas,
streights, and bays, rivers, lakes, creeks, and sounds,
in whatever latitude they shall be, that lie within the
entrance of the streights commonly called Hudson's
Streights, together with all the lands, countries, and
territories upon the coasts and confines of the seas,
streights, bays, lakes, rivers, creeks, and sounds
aforesaid, which are not now actually possessed by
any of our subjects, or by the subjects of any other
Christian prince or State, f j
This was generous indeed. But some there are
who, remembering the axiom "nobody giveth what
he possesseth not," may find this liberality of a
cheap kind, since never beïore had an English monarch claimed as his what, on the 2nd of May, 1670,
Charles II. so kindly bestowed on his kinsman and
future associates in the fur trade.
These, however, lost no time in improving their
opportunities. Thenceforth ships would leave the
Thames for the frozen shores of Hudson Bay, laden
with muskets and ammunition, axes and hatchets,
knives and kettles, together with tobacco and spirits,
ready-made coats and various fabrics, which they
disposed of, at an enormous profit, to the natives
who soon hurried thither.   In return they received THE PEOPLE AND THE FUR TRADE
from their dusky customers the choicest peltries of
what is now the Middle West of Canada.
The English traders established posts at Albany
and Moose rivers, and then at Eupert Eiver, Port
Nelson and New Severn, calling Eupert 's Land after
their patron the region tributary to Hudson Bay.
These forts, quite primitive at first, were gradually
enlarged, until some of them became worthy of their
name. Nay, one of them, Prince of Wales' Fort, at
the mouth of the Churchill Eiver, was built of stone
in the form of a large quadrilateral with regular
bastions, and boasted the possession of numerous
But the French, who claimed priority of discovery,
could not help seeing these establishments in the
light of an intrusion upon their rights. Several
times did they capture some of them from their own-
ers, after daring exploits by the Chevalier De
Troyes, D'Iberville, and La Pérouse, which cannot
but excite genuine admiration. However, these had
to be returned, or were retaken, and political com-
plications in Europe finally confirmed the English
in the possession of the same.
Hence the energies of the French were, from that
time on, bent towards diverting from English channels all they could of the spoils of the woods and
Another motive for the extension of their activi-
ties towards the west lay in the f act that, after many
fruitless attempts at discovering a passage to Asia
Ui- 12
through Hudson Bay and the north of America, the
CJ v 7
directing minds of the time had become convinced
that this was to be sought overland, instead of by
an imaginary water route the existence of which
some still persisted in affirming, but which nobody
could find.
Useless to remark that geography was still in the
dark as to the North Pacific coast. It was known that
there was a sea beyond the American continent as
far north as 43° and what was then called the
Strait of Avian, after which it was supposed there
was a Gulf of Love (Golf e d'Amour), folio wed by an
isthmus which united the land called "Bourbonia,"
in the southeast, to the steppes of Tartary, in the
northwest. In April, 1718, a priest of the Congrega-
tion of the Mission,13 Father Bobé, wrote a most
learned dissertation embodying all that was known
or conjectured at the time concerning the geography
and ethnology of that part of the world, not omitting
to submit that it was through the above mentioned
isthmus that Tartars and a few Israelites had
crossed into America. The ponderous document
ended by declaring that the discovery of the Sea of
the West would be glorious for the King, useful to
France, and meritorious in the eyes of God.14
As a practical result of this and previous agita-
18Or Lazarist, not ! $ one of the Jesuit missiönaries of New France,'!
as Mr. Lawrence J. Burpee has it, p. 195 of his "Search for the
"Western Sea."
^Mémoire pour la Découverte de la Mer de l'Ouest, in Canadian
1 Q
tions on the subject, it was decided that a prelimin-
ary step should be the founding of three posts, one
of which it was resolved to establish on Lake Superior, the other on the Lake of the Christinaux (Lake
of the Woods), and the third on that of the Assini-
boels (Lake Winnipeg).
In furtherance of this plan Zacharie Eobutel de la
Noue, a French Canadian who had fought in 1680
against the English of Hudson Bay, left Montreal
in July, 1717, and built a house at Kaministiquia, on
Lake Superior, which was to be the embryo of the
far-famed Fort William of later years. He even
tried to push on to Lac la Pluie, or Eainy Lake; but
the hostility of the Sioux prevented him from accom-
plishing his end. So that, as he confined his exer-
tions to Kaministiquia,15 he was replaced in 1721 by
a Captain Deschaillons de Saint-Ours, who did not
venture any farther west and was himself removed
four years later.
Meantime, other counsels had prevailed. The discover^ of the Western Sea, which was uppermost in
the thoughts of the authorities at Paris and Quebec,
was to be attempted by way of the territory of the
Sioux. With this end in view, the celebrated Father
de Charlevoix was sent to reconnoitre, and, as a
"It might be remarked here that a Mr. de Noyon was credited with
having reached the Lake of the Woods as early as 1688, as appears
from a passage in a memoir by Michel Begon, dated 17th Nov., 1716:
* l The Assiniboile Indians wanted to take to the Western Sea De
Noyon, voyageur, twenty-eight years ago; he then wintered at the
entrance of the Lake of the Cristinaux, on the Ouehichiq River, whieh
leads to the Lake of the Assiniboiles, and hence to the Western Sea.'' 14
result of his report, though against the dictates of
his better judgment, a mission was established
among the Indians on Lake Pépin (1727). Those
terrible lords of the American plains had just mas-
sacred some Frenchmen on their way to Louisiana,
and it was deemed expediënt to pacify and civilize
them to some extent before parties could pass
through their lands with any degree of security.
And as the fur trade was by no means superseded
by the craving for geographical discoveries, or the
interests of religion, a company was at the same
time formed whose operations were to be carried on
side by side with the efforts* of the missiönaries.
This gave birth to Fort Beauharnois, on Lake
Pépin, an expansion of the Mississippi in what is
now Wisconsin and Minnesota. This establishment
soon numbered ninety-five lodges of Indians within
the shadow of its walls. Yet all these arrangements
were to come to naught, for reasons which we shall
have to exposé further on. CHAPTEE n.
The right man for such a perilous undertaking as
the discovery of the Far West had not so far been
tested out. Such a one was now at hand in the per-
son of a noble-minded Canadian who had embraced
the career of a fur trader more as a matter of neces-
sity than out of a personal inclination. His name
was Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, and he had
assumed the surname of De la Vérendrye (which
he generally shortened to Lavérendrye) by which he
is known in history. Born at Three Eivers, November 17, 1685, of a French gentleman, Eené Gaultier,
Chevalier de Varennes, and of a young Canadian
lady, Marie, daughter of Pierre Boucher, the first
of the celebrated family of that name, Pierre Gaultier, had served in the French army and been left for
dead on the battlefield of Malplaquet, after having
received nine wounds.
Yet the reward for his devotion to the French
Crown had consisted merely in an empty title, and,
in common with other Canadian nobles, he had
practically been forced to turn to the fur trade as
a means of subsistence. Endowed with a tireless
energy, a rectitude of mind and honesty of purpose
[15] 16
hardly common at the time among the upper classes
of Canada, and, above all, possessed of strong relig-
ious convictions, Lavérendrye was indeed an ideal
lavérendrye's  signature.
man for the pursuance of the projects of the French
Court and its representatives on the banks of the
St. Lawrence.
In 1727, being stationed at Lake Nepigon, he had
heard through the Indians of a way to the Western
Sea, and had in consequence formed a plan which
he submitted to the French governor, Charles de
Beauharnois, through Father Nicolas Degonnor,
S.J., one of the missiönaries of the west.1 This
priest having gone to Montreal, he pleaded the
cause of Lavérendrye who, in 1730, was in charge
of Fort Kaministiquia. The result of his interven-
tion was that on the 8th of June of the following
year the latter left Montreal for the unknown West,
at the head of fifty men, and accompanied by three
of his sons and his nephew, Christopher Dufrost de
la Jemmeraye.
xFather Degonnor (whose name is usually spelt De Gonnor) was born
in the diocese of Lu§on, France, 19th Nov., 1691 (some say 1671),
and had entered the Order at Bordeaux Sept. llth. 1710, reaehing
Canada in 1725.   He died at Quebee 16th Dec, 1759. HERALDS OF THE CROSS
Unable to obtain any funds from the Court to
defray his expenses, he had, instead, been granted
the monopoly of the fur trade throughout the coun-
tries he was to discover, a privilege which was
expected, quite wrongly as we shall see, to advant-
ageously make up for any monetary grant then in
the power of the Paris authorities to offer. This
circumstance, however, made rapid progress impossible, though it contributed towards Lavérendrye
coming in contact with the aborigines of the west,
and acquiring an efïective influence over them.
On his way west Lavérendrye took as chaplain to
the expedition Father Charles Michel Mesaiger, a
Jesuit born in  France,  March  7, 1706, who  had
arrived in Quebec in the course of 1722.2 Father
Mesaiger was the first priest to see the Lake of the
But, long before he could get there, Lavérendrye
was to have a foretaste of the many unpleasant-
nesses that were to be his lot in the course of his
explorations. On August 27th, when fifteen leagues
to the southwest of Kaministiquia, on Lake Super-
*Feb. 2nd, 1726, he pronounced his four vows and was sent to the
Miami Indians. He returned to France Oct. 20th, 1749, and died at
Rouen 7th Aug., 1766. His numerpus letters, still extant, stamp him
as a most evenly balanced, and even jovial. man.
B 18
ior, his crew, terrified at the prospect of a nine-mile
portage, and perhaps also under the influence of the
evil counsels of envious traders, refused to go
farther. But, writes the explorer, "with the aid of
our missionary father, I found the means of coaxing
some of my employees into going with my nephew
La Jemmeraye, who was my lieutenant, and my son
to establish the post of Lac la Pluie."3
With these men of good will he equipped four
canoes, and thus was Fort Saint Pierre founded, at
the outlet of the lake, some time before the winter of
1731, while the leader of the whole expedition had to
return and winter at Kaministiquia. During his
stay there, La Jemmeraye was not idle at Fort St.
Pierre. He invited the Indians he met to barter
their pelts with him. Unfortunately the arrival of
the French having become known only to a limited
number, trade at the new post could not have been
very brisk.
On June 8th of the following year (1732) Lavérendrye set out again with the missionary, his
nephew, who had joined him again, two of his children and seven men in canoes. After having been
entertained by a large crowd of natives at Fort St.
Pierre, Eainy Lake, the little troop pushed on as
far as the Lake of the Woods, on the west side of
which they erected Fort St. Charles, so named after
8In Pierre Margry's Mémoires et Documents pour servir d l'Eistoire
des Frangaises des Bays d'Outre-Mer, vol. VI., p. 586.
the patron saint of the chaplain as well as of the
Governor of New France.
Speaking of the latter, a memoir he addressed to
the Minister of the Colonies in Paris initiates us into
the misgivings, based on a quite excusable ignorance,
which were then common, as well as to the real
object which the French Government had in view by
furthering the contemplated discoveries. Beauhar-
nois had thus written concerning Lavérendrye and
his undertaking.
"He must also have very accurate maps of New
Mexico and California, so that he may not go and
throw himself into the Mer Vermeille, [Gulf of
Mexico] whereinto the Eed Eiver of which he
speaks has all the appearances of disemboguing
itself. . . . To these considerations I add one
which will no doubt be of great weight with a minister who has, like you, so much at heart the preach-
ing of the Gospel to numerous nations who have not
yet heard of Jesus-Christ. It is that, on the way, it
shall be possible to take measures to prepare
throughout these vast regions establishments
equally useful to religion and to the State. Nay, it
would be difficult for a friar to pass three or four
years travelling through these countries without
finding occasions ef procuring by baptism an entrance into heaven to several children in danger of
Then, coming to his own experience, the pious
governor adds: " I have several times had this con- 20
solation in the course of my career, and none is more
flattering for persons of my condition."4
No contemporary document is known to establish
the fact that others than the French Canadian gentlemen and voyageurs were vouchsafed the minis-
trations of the early Jesuit missiönaries at Fort St.
Charles or elsewhere in the west. But it is incon-
ceivable that, with the large numbers of Indians who
constantly pressed on their footsteps, none should
have been baptized. Nay, the late discovery of the
remains of three Indians who had been buried within
the fort, alongside of Canadians, clearly proves that
some of them had received the sacrament that gives
a right to Christian sepulture.
Fort St. Charles was a long square, of which one
side was one hundred feet long, built of a doublé
line of pickets some fifteen feet high and so planted
in the ground that one of them stood up against the
junction of two others. Inside of this enclosure
were to be found a church, a house for the chaplain
and another for the commander, as well as four
cabins with chinmeys for the men, a store and pow-
der house, all of which were built of logs and clay,
and covered with bark.5 Lavérendrye states ex-
plicitly that he adopted the site pointed out by
Father Mesaiger, who based his-preferences on the
abundance of fish and game.
*Unsigned and undated contemporary document in the Canadian
Archives, Ottawa.
5Beauharnois, 28th Sept., 1733; also letter from Father Aulneau to
Father Bonin ("The Aulneau Collection," p. 72). HERALDS OF THE CROSS
This foundation took place in the autumn of 1732.
The lack of provisions for so many men precluded
the possibility of going farther. In the following
spring, the explorer sent his nephew to Montreal, to
report on the progress of his expedition. Father
Mesaiger, whose health was unsatisf actory, returned
with him.
On September 27th, the canoes that had been
despatched to Michillimakinac, at the western end
of Lake Huron, for provisions and merchandise,
came up. It was soon discovered that the goods they
brought were ill-assorted and of little use for the fur
trade. Yet as both the Crees and the Assiniboines
of Lake Winnipeg were clamouring for a trading
post nearer home, Lavérendrye established one, in
the fall of 1734, at the mouth of Winnipeg Eiver,
which he called Maurepas, after the French Minister
of Colonies who had scarcely done any thing for him.
His eldest son, Jean-Baptiste, superintended the
erection of that fort. As to the leader of the expedition, pressed by heavy debts and consequent dinicul-
ties with his men and his outfitters, he feit it necessary to repair to Montreal, which he reached August
25,1734. He had then to his debit as much as 43,000
livres, or French pounds. To satisfy his creditors
he had no assets but the expectation of the numerous
packs of furs which he anticipated as the natural
outcome of his discoveries. So far his three posts
had yielded but 600 packs.6
•Beauharnois to the French Minister. 22
He went as far as Quebec, and had to lease for
five years his establishments to his creditors, with
the right to exploit them by means of agents, while
he, free of all business interests, would devote all
his energies to further the discovery of the West.
At the time that he was thus sacrificing himself, his
youngest son, a lad of eighteen, named Louis Joseph,
was at Quebec preparing himself by serious study
for the task of mapping out the country where he
was to join the exploring expedition.
Then, to replace Father Mesaiger, who could not
return, Father Jean Pierre Aulneau de la Touche,
S. J., was ordered to go west.7 His ultimate mission
was the evangelization of the Mandans of the upper
Missouri, who from their quasi-sedentary habits
were believed to be more amenable to Christian
ideals and civilized ways than the nomadic hordes of
the Canadian plains.
Born in France, April 25 (or 21), 1705, at Mou-
TFather Aulneau's name has been written in many ways, Arnaud
having, down to a comparatively recent date, been the commonly ac-
cepted spelling of the same. Father Petitot (En route pour la Mer
Glaciale, pp. 192-23). Paris, 1877) contends that it should be Arneau,
and quotes in support of his a'ssertion from an old document which
he says exists at York Factory, on Hudson Bay. There, he adds, is
also to be found a breviary printed at Rouen in 1701, with the name
Arneau written on the first leaf, and, underneath, references to Rouen,
1705, and Paris, 1698, together with such phrases in French as . . .
'' on the north coast of Lake Superior, 1729. All the Indians love me,
and repose great trust in me . . . the winter of 1728 very long and
severe . . . P. F. Arneau, Rouen."
From the particular mode of death which he attributes to the Father
Arneau of the Fort York manuscript, it is plain that Petitot does
refer to the second Jesuit companion of Lavérendrye. But the very
phrases and dates we have reproduced after him make it as evident
that that Father Arneau was an entirely different man. The auto-
graph of Father Aulneau, of Fort St. Charles, will settle the question
as to the correct spelling of his name. HERALDS OF THE CROSS
tiers-sur-Lay, Vendée, of a good family which gave
to the Church two other priests and one nun, Father
Aulneau had been admitted into the Society of Jesus,
December 12, 1720, and, having left La Eochelle,
May 29,1734, he had arrived in Canada August 12th
of the same year, after having won golden opinions
for his devotedness to the victims of the plague
which had broken out on board his ship.
Eager for the conversion of souls, the young missionary wrote from Quebec, April 25, 1735, of the
plans he should f ollow out once arrived in the west.
He intended to winter among the "Assiniboels"
and the "Christinaux"; then make for the land of
the "Ouant Chipouanes," that is, he adds, "those
who dweil in holes,'' and he rejoiced in the thought
that "if our good God so will it . . . I shall be
the first to bear to them the tidings of the Gospel.' '8
God, in His inscrutable designs, had ordered
otherwise. Father Aulneau left Montreal for the
west with Lavérendrye on June 13, 1735, happy and
contented, though his joy was incomplete for the
lack of a priestly confrère to accompany him.9
Blessed with a delicate conscience, he scarcely rel-
ished the idea of being deprived so long of tHose
consolations of religion which he was himself to con-
fer on others. These scruples were ultimately to
seal his fate.
"Letter to Father H. Faye, 25th April, 1735  ("The Aulneau Col-
lection." p. 34.   Montreal, 1893).
9Fatljer Aulneau to his mother, 29th April, 1735  (Ibid., p. 45). 24
Meantime the explorer's troubles were not at an
end. The canoes loaded with his provisions having
failed to arrive in time, the winter was passed at
Fort St. Charles in economizing, though he had pre-
viously sent to Fort Maurepas his nephew La Jemmeraye, two of his sons and as many employees.
As to our missionary, he was acquiring scraps of
the Cree language, much against the will of the
Indians themselves, who did not appreciate the gift
of God. In a letter to Father Bonin, of Michilli-
makinac, he frankly admitted that he built no hopes
on those who traded at Fort St. Charles, since, in
addition to their superstitions and depraved natures,
the curse of strong drink had put them almost be-
yond the pale of redemption. "Both English and
French, by their accursed avarice, have given them
an appetite for brandy," writes the young priest,
who shortly after feels in duty bound to add: "I
must, however, say in justice to the French with
whom I have journeyed that they have not mingled
in this infamous traffic, and that, in spite of all the
reiterated demands of the Indians, they have pre-
ferred to ignore all offers of barter from the tribes
to giving them brandy in exchange.' '10
To those who know the lengths to which all subse-
quent traders found it necessary to go in this matter,
the remarks of Father Aulneau add to Lavérendrye's memory a halo of uprightness sufficiënt in
10The same to Father Bonin, 30th April, 1736 {Ibid., p. 75). HERALDS OF THE CROSS
itself to stamp him as an exceptionally conscientious
In the spring of 1736 provisions were at a premium at Fort St. Charles. To cap the commander's
misfortunes, he was startled on June 4thlx by the
news of the death of his nephew, which the starving
little party at Fort Maurepas brought him. La
Jemmeraye had expired May 10, 1736. He was the
first Christian buried within what is now Manitoba.
His cousins erected a wooden cross over his grave,
and left for Fort St. Charles.
Embarrassed by the lack of provisions which this
accession to his personnel rendered still more pressing, Lavérendrye was obliged to dispatch three
canoes to Michillimakinac, his nearest base of opera-
tions. This was for Father Aulneau too good an
opportunity to revisit his brother priests, and profit
by their ministrations, to be neglected. He imme-
diately made up his mind to embark with the men,
and begged for the company of the explorer's eldest
son, Jean-Baptiste, which Lavérendrye could not
refuse him. They left on June 8, 1736, in canoes
manned by nineteen12 voyageurs, following in the
nL. A. Prud'homme says June 2nd (Fierre Gaultier de la Vérendry e,
in Mémoires de la Société Boyale du Canada, p. 32); but the dis-
coverer is explieit on this point; he mentions the 4th (see Margry,
vol. VI., p. 589). Beauharnois must likewise have been mistaken
when he said the 5th (Letter to the Minister, 14th Oct., 1736).
"Contemporary documents are not quite agreed on the number of
voyageurs in the party. Some say eighteen, others twenty, most of
them have it nineteen, and one puts at twenty-four the entire force.
The discoveries of the site of Fort St. Charles make it clear that,
besides the priest and the gentleman, there must have been nineteen
1 26
wake of five other French employees, who had left
for the same destination on the third of the same
Innocent of any reprehensible intentions and little
knowing as yet the treachery of the plains Indians,
they did not dream of any danger as they paddled
over the island-studded waters of the Lake of the
Woods. Yet the commander had advised them to
be cautious. They might also have remembered a
recent occurrence, insignificant in itself, though
fraught with most serious possibilities. A small
party of Crees, the inveterate foes of the Sioux,
proud in the possession of a few guns obtained at the
fort, had been firing from its stockade on some of
the prairie Sioux passing by.
"Who fire on us?" inquired the southerners.
"The French," jeered the Crees.
Fatal words, dictated by cowardice, what unfore-
seen consequences they were to have! The party of
five that preceded that of Jean-Baptiste Lavérendrye and Father Aulneau had not gone far when, on
the 4th of June, they came in sight of thirty canoes
manned by ninety or a hundred Sioux warriors, who
at once surrounded them, and tied them up prepara-
tory to torturing them.
"Eevenge!" they cried. "These shall pay for the
attack on our people at the white men's house."
'' But neither we nor our friends ever did you any
harm," pleaded Bourassa, one of the voyageurs. m
"The French fired on the Sioux," declared the
painted warriors.
"You are mistaken," replied Bourassa, "it was
the Crees that did so. If you want to make sure of
the truth of my words, and must avenge the insult
done your nation, go to our fort. There you will
find five or six tepees of Crees, the guilty party."
So spoke the poor voyageur, in his name and in
that of his companions. Yet the Sioux were but half
"The French favour our enemies," they objected.
"They sell them arms and ammunition and the son
of their commander has been made the chief of the
"I know nothing of this; but you must be aware
that you get yourselves at the fort all the arms you
can pay for, when we have them. Besides, I have
many a time heard the commander of the whites
preach peace to the Crees and others."
Just then a slave woman rushed out crying:
"What would you do, my relations? I owe my
life to this Frenchman. He did me nothing but
This intervention, joined to the prospect of a more
worthy prey, made the Sioux relent. They released
Bourassa and his companions, but not before they
had appropriated their arms and plundered their
stores.   Then they made for the fort, where, how-
V 28
ever, they failed to find the wigwams of the Crees,
who had moved off after Bourassa's departure.18
Unable to wreak their revenge on their hated foes,
the Sioux retraced their steps, their thirst for vengeance whetted by disappointment, and probably in-
tending to fall on the voyageurs by whom they
thought they had been wilfully deceived. Bourassa
and companions had promised to wait for their return, with the understanding that they were then to
receive back their arms; but they had, instead, hur-
ried to Michillimakinac.
The blood-thirsty savages found something better.
On an island about twenty miles south of Fort St.
Charles, they espied the fire of a large party, which
they soon identified as containing Jean-Baptiste de
Lavérendrye, the adopted chief of their enemies. It
is likely that, blinded by the glare of the names to
what was transpiring on the water, the French were
taken unawares. In an instant, arrows,14 tomahawks, daggers and even the working tools of the
13These details are taken from two sources: MSS. documents (vol.
XVI., fol. 189) in the Paris Colonial Archives of the Marine, and the
Report of Governor de Beauharnois, dated Quebec, 14th Oct., 1736.
The latter, written apparently just after the first news of the oecur-
rence had transpired, does not seem accurate in every partieular.
Thus, it says that "the prairie Sioux, to the number of 130, found
Father Aulneau's canoe manned by a certain Bourassa," and ascribes
the Frenchmen's liberation solely to the intervention of a squaw, who
told the Indians to go on and they would find 24 Frenchmen to de-
stroy. How that woman could know of Father Aulneau's party, who
left only four days after the Sioux's encounter with Bourassa, is not
clear. It was, moreover, impossible for the savages to meet Father
Aulneau 's party on their way to the fort. They must have found it on
their way. back, perhaps after having foliowed it at a distance ever
since its departure.
14At least one, of iron, has lately been found stuck in the skull of
a voyageur unearthed at Fort St. Charles.
camping party were set at work. The whites were
killed to the last man, but not before the Sioux had
experienced the courage of their victims, if we are
to judge by the f act that, ten days afterwards, two
Monsoni Crees found over twenty Sioux canoes still
besmeared with blood, and, near by, human limbs
buried in the sand. The identity of these craft was
certain; side by side with the Sioux canoes were two
that belonged to the French.15
A few days after the massacre, the bodies of the
slain were discovered by a party of Frenchmen.
Their heads, most of which had been scalped, were
placed on robes of beaver. The Sieur de Lavérendrye was stretched on the ground, face downwards,
his back all hacked with a knife, and a hoe sunk in
his loins.16 His headless trunk was decked out with
garters and bracelets of porcupine quill.
As to Father Aulneau, he was resting on one knee,
an arrow in his side, a gaping wound in his breast,
his left hand to the ground and his right raised as if
in the act of giving absolution.17 It was said afterwards that the majority of the aggressors were
MSee Appendix A.
"Others say "with a big hole in his loins." This depends on the
way we read the original French MSS. Trouée (hole), et houe (hoe)
are very much alike in cursive writing. The cut in the sternum of
Lavérendrye's skeleton, which the writer has seen, looks very much
like the result of a large and more or less dull implement.
"The York Factory document, to which we have already alluded,
after describing as above the condition of Lavérendrye's body when
found, and adding the information that it was headless, goes on to
say: "Father Arneau, not decapitated, had a terrible wound in the
ab domen, whose entrails had been torn out and spread on the ground.
His left hand was cut off" (En route pour la Mer Glaciale, p. 192).
f 30
averse to putting him to death, and that it was only
through sheer bravado that a crazy-brained Indian
set at naught the consequences which others
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/**-*>*t    tVïf
d-f C 3.9. /*U#. *>J.
My dear Mother.
The long stay which, against my expectation, I have been obliged
to make at Montreal, procures me once more the pleasure of giving
you new assurances of my respectful attachment.    I depart thence HERALDS OF THE CROSS
The first of these consequences, if we are to believe
the same informants, was a deafening clap of thun-
der, which struck terror into the hearts of the whole
band. They precipitately decamped with their
booty, among which were the sacred vessels which
the missionary had used for divine service. These,
or at least the chalice, feil to the lot of a widow who,
in an incredibly short time, lost almost all her sons.
So impressed was she by the malediction that
seemed to attach itself to the mysterious vessel, that
she threw it into a river.
Thus ended Father Aulneau's dreams of evange-
lization among the Mandans. It seems that, in his
latter days, he had some sort of premonition of his
forthcoming fate, since, but a fortnight before his
death, he had written to Father Degonnor: "Continue, my dear Father, to pray God for me and
to-morrow, having, thank God, no other care than that of going too
far to be in a position to send you letters and receive any from
you as often as I should like. Perhaps when 340 leagues from here
will it still be possible for me to write to you. I shall do so with
the most sensible pleasure. Here is a great eareer into which Provi-
dence leads me; pray to God, my dear Mother, that He may grant
me the graCe of going through it in a manner worthy of Him. I
hope that, deprived for His sake of all human consolations, I will not
be forsaken by Him, and that if, in the midst of the forests in which
I am going to spend my life with the wild beasts, I do not find the
means of satisfying my self-love, I shall at least find wherewith to
destroy and annihilate it by means of my sufferings. Beseech the
Lord to send me many, and to give me patience to bear them with
resignation to His most holy and divine will. I pray almost every
day for you during the holy sacrifice of the mass, and I shall continue till my death to give you this only token in my power of my
dutiful gratitude. I am, my dear Mother, with profound respect,
Your most humble and obedient servant and son,
Of the Soc. of Jesus, Ind. Miss.
At Montreal, the 12th of June, 1735.
fl 32
recommend me to the Blessed Virgin. I hope soon
to finish my course, but dread lest I finish it badly.,m
Refined, devoted to duty, and filled with a sense of
man's wretchedness in the eyes of God, he passed
away without any of those pangs of apprehension
with which those of his parts are familiar. His
previous life had been a good preparation for that
abrupt ending.18
lsSee Appendix B. AN OLD SOUAW.  CHAPTEE  III.
The tragedy of Massacre Island had in the south
the injurious efïects which it was easy to foresee.
The news of what was called the defeat of the
French under Lavérendrye reached Fort Beauhar-
nois, where Legardeur de Saint-Pierre commanded,
on August 23, 1736. On the 16th of September, a
Sioux chief went to the fort with a silver seal sus-
pended from his ear, which, on examination, proved
to be that of Father Aulneau. At this sight the
French commander, who was more of a soldier than
of a diplomat, tore it off with part of the Indian's
Shortly thereafter the Sioux burned the fort of a
tribe allied to the French, and, tearing up the fence
of the Catholic mission on Lake Pépin, made a bon-
fire of its pickets. Thenceforth it was nothing but
a series of overt acts of hostility against both fort
and mission, and, after a consultation with Father
Guignas, the superior of the latter, Saint-Pierre
evacuated his establishment, and the priest his mission, on May 30, 1737.1
aGovernor de Beauharnois wrote in his Report of 1738 that "that
oflicer had added that it would be advantageous to destroy that
nation," an undertaking the magnitude of which impetuous Saint-
Pierre little realized.
c [33] 34
When Lavérendrye heard of the calamity that was
added to his many misfortunes, he was nearly
crushed by the blow. In the first moments of dazed
consternation, he would fain have listened to the
earnest solicitations of the Indians to put himself
at their head, and avenge such an unprovoked crime.
But he soon thought better of it, and, in order to
allow the first efïervescence of passions to calm
down, he gave strict orders that nothing should be
done before he had heard from the Great Father in
the east, meaning Governor de Beauharnois.
Meantime, on September 17, 1736, he sent for the
remains of the slain, namely, the bodies of his son
and of the missionary, as well as the heads of the
voyageurs,2 to which he gave a decent burial in the
chapel of his fort.
From that time on many and loud were the cries
for a war of extermination on the Sioux. Lavérendrye never countenanced such an undertaking. Yet,
in the autumn of the following year, some of the
murderers, among whom was the Indian who had
killed the priest, were captured by a party of
Frenchmen. But as the latter were on the point of
taking them to their own settlements, in order to
make them undergo the penalty they so richly de-
served, the prisoners were rescued by Indians akin
in blood and possibly confederate in crime.8
sThe bones of these must have been brought later on to Fort St.
Charles, as some have been found there in such a pell-mell condition
that it is clear the bones, not the bodies, had been gathered in.
8"The Aulneau Collection," p. 106. PROGRESS AND DECLINE
Nothing daunted by this disaster, Lavérendrye
turned his attention to the resuming of his discover-
ies. But, in answer- to the incessant solicitations of
Crees and Assiniboines, he thought it best to repair
first to Montreal. His financial situation, which was
critical, likewise demanded such a step. De Beau-
harnois received him well, and strongly urged the
advisability of a peaceful course, but the merchants
were pitiless. They clearly hinted that mismanagement alone could have brought him to such a pass.
On the other hand, the envious were complaining
that he looked more after pelts than after new lands
to add to the colony. However, by dint of expostula-
tion and self-control, he finally succeeded in outfit-
ting some canoes with which he returned west,
reaching Fort St. Charles September 2, 1738.
Meantime three hundred Monsoni warriors had,
in company with two hundred and fifty other Crees,
left for the land of the Sioux, determined to avenge
on their own account the wrong done the French.
Shortly thereafter eight hundred Assiniboines had
taken the same direction with a like purpose. Bilt
smallpox, brought from Hudson Bay, broke out
among them and paralyzed their movements. God
reserved to Himself the right to avenge the death
of His priest and companions.
On the other hand, the Indians, desirous of having
the French at the "Great Forks of the Assiniboels " 36
erected for them a fort with their own hands.4 It
therefore behooved the explorer to do something in
the direction of their wishes. In the fall of 1738 he
left for Lake Winnipeg, and ascended the Eed
Eiver, reaching the confluence of the Assiniboine
24th September of the same year. He was then on
the exact site of what was, in after years, to become
<the metropolis of the Middle West under the name
of Winnipeg City.5
|p Thence, in spite of low water, he went up the
Assiniboine as far as a point where it was customary
for the Indians to strike overland for Lake Mani-
toba, to-day Portage la Prairie. There he built a
fort which he called Fort la Eeine, after the Queen
of France. This was to become his second base of
operations in the west.
|ij-;lt is foreign to our purpose, and beyond the scope
of this work, to follow Lavérendrye and his sons in
all their explorations or narrate each one of their
4As early as 14th October, 1737, it was intended to transfer Fort
Maurepas to "the Great Forks of the Red River, to facilitate navi-
gation and eommerce" (Lavérendrye's Journal, as quoted by Beau-
harnois). Tb'hasten the realization of this plan the Indians "built
a large fort at the Foiks of the Assiniboels, therein to lodge the
Freneh" (Gov. vde Beauharnois to the French Minister, lst Oct.,
1738). The native structure must not have been up to the Standard
of the French trading posts, for in his Journal for the years 1738-39
Lavérendrye states explicitly that "Mr. de la Marque told [him] he
had brought Mr. de Louvière to the Forks with two canoes, there to
build a fort for the eonvenience of the Red River people,'' adding:
"1 found that expediënt, provided the Indians were warned" (of
it). This new establishment was the Fort Rouge whose*name is now
known to all the Winnipeggers.
5It is to be hoped that, when the memory of the great Lavérendrye
is honoured as it should be in Manitoba, this memorable day, 24th
September, may be recognized by some sort of civic celebration in
commercial ventures. We will simply mention the
elder Lavérendrye's great voyage to the land of the
Mandans, October, 1738, to February, 1739, and the
scarcely less important journeys of his son the
Chevalier6 to Lakes Manitoba, Dauphin, Winni-
pegosis and Bourbon, as well as to the lower Sas-
katchewan. Chevalier de Lavérendrye was the first
white man who ever set his eyes on those important
geographical points.
In the spring of 1741, his father had again to
repair to Montreal, whence he brought Father
Claude Godefroy Coquart, S.J., whom, however,
some intrigue prompted by jealousy forced him to
leave at Michillimakinac.
In the course of the following year (1742) took
place that famous voyage which culminated in the
Chevalier and his brother Francois de Lavérendrye discovering the Eocky Mountains, a spur of
which they even partially climbed, after having
faced numberless perils among hordes of uncouth
savages (January, 1743). The explorers must have
reached a point in the southwest corner of what is
now Montana.
Eeverting to the missionary they had left at Fort
la Eeine, we find that Father Pierre Du Jaunay, of
Michillimakinac, had volunteered to evangelize the
Mandans, abandoned to their fate since the untimely
end of their prospective missionary.   jji There was a
•Pierre Gauthier, his eldest son since the death of Jean-Baptiste.
■jp^nÉiw** 38
great likelihood that our religion would take deep
roots among these people, to judge from the char-
acter attributed to them and their seven villages, the
least of which contains fifteen hundred souls," had
written Governor Beauharnois, under date August
14, 1739. But Father Du Jaunay's presence was
deemed necessary among the Indians who knew him
already, and a new man was preferred for the missions of the Far West. Yet he could not go imme-
diately, "to the great regret of everybody and espe-
cially myself,'' laments Lavérendrye.7
When did he go 1 The explorer adds in the mem-
oirs just quoted that "we possess him to-day to the
great satisfaction of everybody." Unfortunately
that document bears no date. As this missionary
was the first priest who ever reached the site of Winnipeg and resided at Fort la Eeine, or Portage la
Prairie, the question of his arrival in these places
is not entirely devoid of importance.
Justice Baby asserts8 that Father Coquart was at
the latter post from the summer of 1741 to that of
1744, which contention is certainly wide of the mark.
We have seen by Lavérendrye's own testimony that
Coquart did not accompany him farther than Michillimakinac in 1741. On the other hand, documents
are not wanting which peremptorily show that he
was in that mission in 1742, and as late as Jury 27,
'Margry, vol. VI., p. 594.
8"The Gazette," Dec. 13th, 1899. PROGRESS AND DECLINE
1743.9 His sojourn in the West must have been very
brief, for on Jury 21, 1744, we see him again at
Michillimakinac, where he supplied the ceremonies
of baptism on the child of Jacques and Marie
Dumée. All circumstances point to his having left
for Fort la Eeine in the summer (probably August)
of 1743.10 He cannot have stayed there more than
eight or nine months.
Father Coquart was then thirty-seven years old,
having been born at   Calais   (others say Melun)
January 31st (or February 2nd), 1706. He had
entered the Society of Jesus on May 14, 1726, and
had been sent to Canada twelve years later. Useless
to remark that, in the short period of time he passed
at Fort la Eeine, his ministrations must have been
8From the registers of Michillimakinac, which are* still extant, we
gather that, July 20th, 1742, he made a baptism there, another on the
lOth of September of the same year, and a third on Jan. 19th, 1743,
so that he was certainly not in the west during the winter of 1742-43.
He did indeed take a flying trip to Kaministiquia in September-
October, but on the 9th of the latter month he was already back at
his post, as is proved by a letter he then wrote from there to the
Governor (Beauharnois to the Minister, 12th Oct., 1742).
10This view is strengthened by the f act that, according to a document dated June 13th, 1743, "on the demand of Father Saint-Pé,
Superior of the Jesuits in Canada, the sum of 1,000 livres, which
was granted to the two missiönaries to the Sioux, and which had been
withdrawn, is restored in favour of the missiönaries at the posts of
Mr. de la Vérendrye" (The President of the Navy Board to Mr.
I! 40
entirely confined to Lavérendrye's little Canadian
Its commander was himself greatly in need of a
mind that could understand him, and in his distress
he must have particularly welcomed the consolations
of religion. False reports emanating from jealous
rivals had embittered Minister de Maurepas against
him to the extent that the Canadian governor had
feit it his duty to defend him against the charge of
peculation, at a time when the poor explorer owed
40,000 livres, and after his creditors had instituted
against him a lawsuit for the recovery of the funds
they had lent him (August 25, 1740). "Lawsuits
for me who abhor them," exclaimed the distracted
gentleman in his memoirs." At Michillimakinac
goods to the value of 4,000 livres had been seized
from his outfit, thereby imperilling his chances of
suceess in the west, which depended so much on the
presents he had to make to the Indians and the
regularity with which his men were paid.
Finally, so harrowing had become his trials that,
in April, 1742, a suggestion had been made to the
effect that an officer able to second him should be
attached to his expedition. A Sieur De Muy had
even been proposed for the position. Lavérendrye's
debts then aggregated 50,000 livres, and his returns
were almost insignificant.
No wonder, therefore, if, disgusted at the inces-
sant bickerings of his creditors and the intrigues of
rival traders, he asked to be relieved of responsibil- PROGRESS AND DECLINE
ities which brought on his shoulders nothing but
trouble, anxiety and contumely.
This was in the fall of 1744. He had been giving
to the work of discovery and settlement the last
thirteen years of his life.
When he retired from the unequal contest, six
establishments stood to attest his efficiency as an
organizer. These were Forts St. Pierre, founded
in 1731 on Eainy Lake; St. Charles, on the Lake of
the Woods (1732); Maurepas, at the mouth of Winnipeg Eiver (1734); Eouge, at the confluence of the
Eed and Assiniboine Eivers; La Eeine, at Portage
la Prairie (1738), and Dauphin, established in 1741
in the northwest corner of the lake of the same
name. Fort Eouge had been erected in October,
1738, but, owing to its proximity to Forts Maurepas
and La Eeine, its usefulness did not last long.
By himself or through his children, Lavérendrye
had not only explored, but mapped out several times,
the country between Lake Superior and the Eocky
Mountains, and from the Missouri, in the south, to
the Saskatchewan, in the north.
Aud yet no effort had been made in Paris to help
him out of his difficulties, after he had personally
defrayed the expenses of so many foundations and
explorations. He was a military man, and a com-
missión in the army would have considerably eased
his financial budget. Governor de Beauharnois was
therefore perfectly justified when he wrote, October
27, 1744, to   the   French   Minister, after   a frank
SÜSS! 42
BI  ▼
defence of the explorer's conduct: "I beseech you
to give him tangible tokens of your kindness, in
efrecting his promotion on the first occasion, as
[would warrant] his seniority over those who have
been appointed to vacant companies this year. . . .
Six years of service in France, thirty-two in this
colony, without any cause for reproach (at least I
know of none that I could lay at his door), and nine
wounds in his body, were motives that could not
make me hesitate to propose him for one of the
vacant companies."11
Captain Charles Joseph Fleurimont de Noyelle
succeeded him in the direction of the western explor-
ations. Born in 1694 or 1695, of French parents, he
had seen service at the head of an expedition against
the Fox Indians. He did his best to keep the aborigines of the Middle West from the war-path; but he
could not be expected to have possessed over them
the influence of Lavérendrye, and even that gentleman did not always succeed in keeping them at
peace. Moreover, Noyelle was constantly staving at
one or another of the eastern posts, not feeling any
personal inclination to exert himself as his predeces-
sor had done.
But he had the good sense to call to his assistance
the sons of Lavérendrye. The absence of that gentleman from the western plains was bitterly re-
gretted by Beauharnois, who wrote, October 15,
1746: "I will state, my Lord [the French Minister],
"Margry, vol. VI., p. 597.
that that officer is better qualified than anybody to
pursue this discovery and that, at the Sieur de
Noyelle's request, I shall not hesitate to send back
the Sieur de la Vérendrye."
The recall of Beauharnois himself prevented the
execution of this plan. His successor, the Marquis
de la Galissionnière, must also have been labouring
under the impression that some wrong had been
done in the administration of the West, when he thus
addressed the Minister in Paris, October 23, 1747:
"What has been written you with regard to the
Sieur de la Véranderye having worked more for his
own interests than for the discovery is very false.
All the officers who will ever be employed there will
of necessity always have to bestow a part of their
attention to commerce, as long as the King does not
furnish them with other means of subsistence."
This was, of course, nothing but sheer common
sense. Yet the wrong done was left unrepaired.
After some more lingering in the east, Noyelle had
at length to proceed to the seat of his ill-favoured
dominions. In the summer of 1748 he saw Fort la
Eeine for the first time, arriving there in the company of the Chevalier de Lavérendrye, but not
before the latter had rebuilt, on his way west, Fort
Maurepas, which had been burnt down by the Indians.12   Pierre Gauthier rendered a similar service
^Rev. Geo. Dugas contehds (in L'Ouest Canadien, pp. 109 and 125)
that De Noyelle never went farther west than Michillimakinac, though,
p. 112 of the same work, he implicitly admits that he did go to "the
western posts."
Si.  --.. -
■ i-T*^- 44
to the buildings of Fort la Eeine, which were crumb-
ling to ruins. Then he went north, and erected that
same year a post on Lake Winnipegosis, which became known as Fort Bourbon, and another called
Fort Poskoyac, near the forks of the Saskatchewan.
Then Noyelle stepped out of a place for which he
had no aptitudes (1749).
This was a good opportunity to send back the vet-
eran discoverer, whose rights to public recognition
had been partially ackuowledged in 1746 by his pro-^
motion to a captaincy, and quite recently (1749) by
his appointment to a knighthood of St. Louis. As a
matter of fact, in a letter of September 17, 1749,,
Lavérendrye mentions the order he has received
from La Jonquière, the new governor, to resumé his
discoveries. He had then sent the latter a map of
the route to follow (of which accompanying document is probably a reproduction), and had communi-
cated to him his plans for the future. But even at
this suprème moment of tardy justice, another dis-
appointment was in store for him. He died, December 6, 1749,13 aged sixty-four, and was buried in the
vaült of Notre-Dame, at Montreal.
Lavérendrye was, according to De Beauharnois
who knew him intimately, " a meek, yet firm, man,
much more able to draw from the Indians the information necessary for the purpose of this discovery."14   Posterity, whose horizon is less limited be-
3Not the 5th, as a few authors have it.
4To the French Minister, Quebec, 15th Oct., 1746.   PROGRESS AND DECLLNE
cause not so close to the hero, and who can appre-
ciate at their just value the sterling qualities of this
really great man, good Christian and patriot, will no
doubt decide that full justice has not been done his
memory until a statue is raised him in the territory
that was the theatre of his achievements.
His eldest son, the Chevalier, who had already
done so much for the Canadian West, seemed to have
a right to his succession. Other counsels prevailed.
A man who had never seen the country was declared
"the officer in the whole colony who had the best
knowledge of these regions."15 This was Jacques
Eepentigny Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, the fiery
soldier whom we have seen constrained to abandon
Fort Beauharnois, as a result of the massacre of the
Lake of the Woods.
Frustrated in his most legitimate expectations,
the Chevalier begged to be allo wed to serve under
him. St. Pierre refused. A ruined man, with debts
amounting to 20,000 livres and credit given the Indians which he was denied an opportunity to
retrieve, the Chevalier had no resource left him but
to apply for redress to the minister in Paris. This
he did in a letter which, for dignified pathos and
stern logic, has few equals (September 30,1750). All
was in vain. Intendant Bigot had then the keys of
the colonial coffers in Quebec, and it was freely cir-
culated that he wanted at the head of the undertak-
ing somebody less scrupulous than a Lavérendrye.
"La Jonquière, Quebec, 27th Feb., 1750. 46
Fur trading and peculating, not exploring, was his
real object.
Legardeur de St. Pierre was a native of the seig-
nory of Eepentigny, where he was born in 1701. He
certainly must have had some experience in the Indian ways, for since his fifteenth year he had lived
in contact with the American aborigines. When, in
1737, circumstances forced him to evacuate Fort
Beauharnois, among the Sioux, he was entrusted
with an expedition against the Chickasaws, and ever
since he had seen fire in many a battle with savages.
Yet this was hardly the training that best fitted a
man for his new position. He endeavoured honestly
to impress upon the natives he now met the necessity
of putting an end to their suicidal warfare. But his
ways were not winning. Instead of succeeding, he
alienated the sympathies of Indians who had remained loyal to Lavérendrye, even when that gentleman had feit it his duty to give them the same advice.
Father Jean-Baptiste de la Morinie (whom St.
Pierre calls de la Morénerie) had taken the place
of Father Coquart at Fort la Eeine, arriving there
in the summer of 1750, along with the new commander. Dissatisfied with the ways of the latter,
the Assiniboines, on whose lands his establishment
stood, were very little disposed to listen to a minister
of religion bound to him by so close associations.
The priest was cüscouraged at the little amount of
good he could do. Perhaps also did he find life with
St. Pierre uncongenial. So he made his way back to
Michillimakinac, whence he had come, leaving Fort PROGRESS AND DECLINE
la Eeine June 22, 1751.   He was to be the last missionary in the West for about sixty-five years.16
We seem to recognize a feeble echo of past misun-
derstandings between the two gentlemen in the following passages of St. Pierre's journal: "Tired of
the wretchedness against which I have been unable
to protect him, he [La Morinie] made up his mind
to return. ... I would have been sensible to his
departure, if it had been in my power to render life
more easy for him. I think that he will not forget
this caravan, and that he will not consent to have
me for a companion except with proper guarantees.
I cannot speak of his labours. He took no latitude
and made no [astronomical] observations. It is true
that he had left without the least mathematical instrument, something I did not expect. It is also
impossible for me to speak of any progress in the
religious line, since he could not speak any Indian
tongue, and moreover neither his eloquence nor his
piety could have enlightened barbarians who are
hardened in their blindness. "17
18Father de la Morinie was born at Périgueux, France, 24th Dec,
1705 (others say 1704). He entered the Society of Jesus Oct. 6th,
1724; arrived in Canada in 1736, and returned to France in the
spring of 1764.
"Margry, vol. VI., p. 641. In the face of these explieit statements
of the only one who could speak from personal knowledge, and did
so at a time when Father de la Morinie was still living, it is hard to
see on what authority L. A. Prud'homme can base the following asser-
tion he published lately: "The Indians have always contended that
these two missiönaries visited them and gave them the first notions of
the Gospel. They did profit by the teaching they received, for, over
half a century after the departure of those religious, the traders who
crossed this valley remarked to their great surprise that these poor
Indians, in spite of such a long neglect, stiül remembered their prayers" (Bevue Canadienne, 1908, p. 460). We have already seen that
evangelizing the natives had been an impossibility for Father Coquart. 48
Possessed of an excellent opinion of himself St.
Pierre did not confine his criticisms to his chaplain.
He alone held the secret of the way to the Western
Sea. This was, he avers, through the source of the
Missouri, wherefore he feit that "the plans of Mr.
de la Vérendrye were not solid, since it was not
possible to succeed by another route."18 What a
pity the good man did not live to hear of Mackenzie 's
discovery of that much wanted sea by a still more
northern route than that advocated by Lavérendrye !
St. Pierre had for a lieutenant the Chevalier
Boucher de Niverville. He ordered him to the Sas-
katchewan, with directions to establish a post three
hundred leagues farther up than Fort Poskoyac. In
consequence, that gentleman left Fort la Eeine late
in 1750; but he feil seriously ill at the former place.
However, ten of his men ascended the Saskatche-
wan and built a spacious fort on the Bow Eiver, just
where Calgary now stands (May 29, 1751), which
became known as Fort La Jonquière, but was never
utilized in spite of the abundant stores left within
its wall.
The commander then undertook to go and join
De Niverville; but he learned on the way that the
Indians who were to accompany him in his proposed
explorations, a party that counted forty or forty-five
tepees and had camped in the near proximity of
Fort La Jonquière, had been treacherously massa
18Margry, vol. VI., p. 651.
cred, to a man, by Assiniboines. St. Pierre hearing
of this had nothing left but to retrace his steps.
Things were decidedly shaping themselves for the
worst. The commander had scarcely been home any
length of time when he had an experience which
might have resulted in disaster for himself and
party. On February 22, 1752, he was alone at Fort
la Eeine with only five men, the other fourteen having gone foraging, when, at about nine o'clock in
the morning, some two hundred armed Assiniboines
invaded his establishment. To rush to the insolent
fellows was the work of an instant for a man of St.
Pierre's temper.
"You are very bold to enter that way my home,"
he cried out through his interpreter. "What do
you want?"
"We have come to smoke," answered someone in
f! Queer way indeed to prepare for a smoke!'' put
in St. Pierre. ]1. Begone!" he thundered, as he bod-
ily ejected four of the braves and returned to his
But presently a soldier hastened to teil him that a
crowd of savages had invaded the guard house and
seized the arms. Whereupon the commander flew
thither, and thought of preparing his men for a
"Yes, we are going to kill him and plunder his
place," now sneered an Assiniboine, who realized
the helplessness of the French against such numbers.
D 50
But St. Pierre was equal to the occasion. He took
up a firebrand, and, bursting open the door of the
powder house, he knocked in the head of two barrels
of powder.
"You are going to kill me, are you?" he vocif-
erated in a perfect rage. "Well, I shall not die
alone."   .   .   .
Which saying, he feigned to apply his firebrand to
the powder.19 But no eloquence or indignation was
now needed. The braves no sooner took in the situ-
ation than they scampered away at a furious rate,
almost tearing the gate off its hinges in their efforts
to dash out.
In Jury of the same year (1752) St. Pierre left for
Grand Portage, in the east, with the returns of his
trade, to meet the canoes that brought him Ms outfit
for the following year. After what had happened,
he thought best to take all his men with him, eom-
mending his establishment to the care of a friendly
band of Assiniboines. Four days after his departure nothing remained of it but ashes.
In this plight St. Pierre had to winter on the Eed
River. On the other hand, Fort La Jonquière being
abandoned, this gradual retreat from the west was
ominous for French influence there.
Persuaded that, owing to the restiveness of the
natives, "it was not possible to penetrate farther
""I passed my firebrand over and over the powder." he says with
a touch of exaggeration.    Had he done so, he would not have lived
to teil of it.   PROGRESS AND DECLINE
than he had done,"20 though personally he had
scarcely gone west of Fort la Eeine, he repaired to
Montreal, September 20, 1753. On the way he met
the Chevalier St. Luc de la Corne,21 to whom he
handed over his command of the western posts.
La Corne's administration feil on evil days. A
cloud which had long been hanging over France had
just burst in the shape of the Seven Years War.
Notwithstanding the general anxiety, it was La
Corne who was responsible for the first attempt at
agriculture in the Canadian Northwest. This took
place in the valley of the Carrot Eiver, a tributary
to the Saskatchewan, which he reached by the end
of 1753. This he greatly improved by putting up
new buildings, so that it eventually lost its original
name in favour of Fort La Corne, which it bore
until the conquest of Canada and long after.
Not much later La Corne established a fort not
far from Lake Cumberland, vestiges of which were
found in 1772.
Margry, vol. VI., p. 651.
^Captain Louis St. Luc de la Corne was a brother of the Abbé of
the same name, who is well known in Canadian history. He was born
at Cataracoui (now Kingston) 6th June, 1703, and had distinguished
himself as a soldier, especially at Fort Clinton in 1741, and also at
the battle of Carillon, where he captured 150 waggons from General
Abercrombie. He took part in several engagements in the campaign
which culminated in the f all of Quebec, and was wounded at the
battle of Sainte-Foy. Then he attempted to sail for France along
with many other noblemen; but, instead of being drowned in the
wreek of the ship Auguste, as Prud'homme asserts (Les Successeurs
de la Vérendrye, p. 80) after some authors, he came back to Canada,
where he filled an honourable career, serving on the English side in
the War of Independence, and afterwards becoming a member of the
Legislative Council at Quebec.    He died in the course of 1784.
I 52
But the time for French expansion and new foundations in the Middle West was gone. Canada was
assailed by the English. Scarcely able to stand
alone, she could not dream of discoveries, and per-
force forgot the Western Sea. Gradually her dis-
tress became greater; she needed the assistance of
all her children. As La Corne was an officer, he was
recalled some time during 1755, and, at the head of
Indian troops, he distinguished himself in battles
that could not save his fatherland.
Thus ended the first activities of the Catholics in
the Canadian West. These humble beginnings were
to be nothing but the harbinger of more glorious
days. CHAPTEE  IV.
H 1756-1810. ''
We have now reached a period of transition and
self-effacement for the Catholic Church in the Canadian West. Henceforth she retires, the better to
advance when the hour appointed by Divine Provi-
dence shall have struck. Instead of acting directly
by her ordained ministers, shé will now exercise her
influence through her lay children.
This was not a matter of choice with her. Events
over which she had no control precluded the possi-
bility of any other line of conduct. At the cession
of Canada to Great Britain (1760), not a few mem-
bers of the clergy went over to the motherland
rather than serve under the new masters, with the
result that it became difficult to provide for the
spiritual needs of even the regularly organized
parishes. Furthermore, the Church lost by the sup-
pression of the Jesuits in 1773 the only missiönaries
she possessed in northeastern America. Hence it
could not be a question of the Far West, which had
just been abandoned by the civil authorities.
It is, however, more than probable that some of
the Canadians who had taken a liking to the free,
roving life of the plains, or had perhaps become
[53] 54
entangled in matrimonial unions with the daughters
of the soil, preferred to stay and be faithful to their
new friends, to returning and subjecting themselves
again to the restraints of civilization, which had lost
all charms for them.
The origin of that wonderful race, the Halfbreeds, has certainly been set down at too recent a
date.1 As early as 1775 the Indians of the Canadian
West recognized them as superior to themselves in
war and at the chase,2 which implies that some there
were already who were old enough to pursue either
avocation. Nay, in 1778, a halfbreed family answer-
ing to the name of Beaulieu was found as far north
as the Slave Eiver, when the first fur traders
reached that country.3 There can therefore be no
reasonable doubt that several servants of the French
explorers had contracted matrimonial alliances with
the natives, which were probably blessed by the missionary. These voyageurs, after they had become
encumbered with halfbreed families, were not likely
to abandon their adopted country, any more than
men of their class are known to have done in after
1In a valuable treatise on the French element in the Northwest, L.
A. Prud'homme gives 1775 as the possible, if not probable, date of
the first unions of the French with the native women (L'Element
Frangais au Nord-Ouest, p. 29).
a"One of the chiefs assured me that the children borne by their
women to Europeans were bolder warriors and better hunters than
themselves" ("Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian
Territories." by Alexander Henry, p. 248.    Toronto, 1901).
8Moreover, John Macdonell, with whom the reader wül soon become
acquainted, had married a halfbreed lassie, named Poitras, apparently
several years before 1800. AN EPOCH OF TRANSITION
These coureurs de bois, despite their many short-
comings, were possessed of the inappreciable gift
of f aith, and this they strove to communicate to their
children. Subsequent events were to show that their
efïorts were crowned with success.- Indeed, it is
quite likely that to them and their masters we must
look for acts of proselytism which have been put to
the credit of the missionary priests. Thus, to quote
but one instance, Daniel W. Harmon, a trader
of the Far West, relates that a French missionary
once resided at the mouth of Dauphin Eiver, and
that "there are some Indians still living who recol-
lect prayers which were taught them by the missionary."* This was written in 1800. Now there never
was any priest either at Dauphin Eiver or at Dauphin Lake, during the French occupation of the
country. But we have seen that, in 1741, the Chevalier de Lavérendrye established a post at the latter
place. The formulas Harmon mentions must have
been taught by that gentleman or his men, possibly
by some who had married in the tribe that traded
Then, apart from the pioneers who remained, we
have the French Canadians who went to the Upper
Country, as what we now call Manitoba was originally known, after the cession, and prior to the orga-
* Journal, p. 26 of New York edition (1903).
BThe passage of Cox's "Columbia," which is usually quoted or
referred to (Masson's Les Bourgeois du Nord-Ouest, vol. I., pp. 8, 9;
Geo. Dugas, L'Ouest Canadien, p. 149) as illustrating the influence of
the early Jesuit missiönaries over the Indians, appfies to the region
contiguous to Lake Superior, not to the Middle West.
—- 56
nization of the Northwest Company. Thus a Louis
Nolin settled in the Eed Eiver valley as early as
1776; another French Catholic, Augustin Cadot, was
in the same region in 1780. These are examples that
represent a class—the famous freemen—that became very numerous on the western plains.
Prior to the cession, all the traders in the Canadian West had been French, the English of Hudson's
Bay never daring to venture any distance inland.
Taught by experience acquired in Lower Canada,
the authorities had limited the number of fur traders
to a few individuals, licensed for specified terri-
tories, in order that any violation of the laws for-
bidding the giving of liquor to Indians might Be
brought home to the proper party. These restric-
tions were done away with by the new masters of
the land. As a consequence, a few daring English-
speaking, and generally Protestant, individuals soon
improved their opportunity, and penetrated into the
mysterious West, in quest of pelts. Unfortunately
intoxicants usually formed the most prominent part
of their cargoes, and it is impossible to exaggerate
the disorders to which the fiery liquid gave rise
among the Indians. Murders and rapes, robberies
and assaults of all kinds arose from drinking as light
results from the rays of the sun.6
{■ i
8The following, taken at random from the journal of one of those
traders, is a fair instance of the results of intoxicants among the
Indians at-the time we have reached in our narrative: "Wm. Henry
gave out a 10-gallon keg of high wine [alcohol] gratis. During the
boisson Porcupine Tail's son was murdered by a Courte Oreille, his
beau-frère;  he received 15 stabs in the belly and breast, and feU AN EPOCH OF TRANSITION
A young Scotchman, by the name of Alexander
Henry, was one of the first non-Catholics who under-
took fur trading after the departure of the French
(1761-76). He was in partnership with a Jean-B.
Cadot, and piloted by another Catholic, Etienne
Campion, while his entire crew belonged likewise to
the race of the original voyageurs.
Others soon foliowed his example, who in a short
time amassed a wealth of furs which contributed
immensely to swell the ranks of the English traders.
Hence no rich merchant in Montreal would hesitate
a moment to advance them the necessary goods.
But this very plethora of amateur traders in pelts,
besides being the source of untold demoralization,
resulted in the ruin of some of the adventurers, who
found themselves outwitted by others with more rum
to give out and fewer scruples to check their
On the other hand, the Hudson's Bay Company
which, after the French regime, had renewed trading operations with the Indians of the plains, saw
with alarm this new plague of locusts that swarmed
in its preserves. Its members exerted themselves
with a vigour hitherto unknown in their frozen
dead on the spot. A few days before this affair the same Courte
Oreille had fired at him, but as the gun was only loaded with powder,
only a few grains entered the skin and did no injury. About ten
days ago another Saulteur was murdered by his wife. who put the
muzzle of his gun in his mouth and blew the back part of his head
away. They were a young couple, with a boy about a year old. . . .
Murders among these people are so frequent that we pay little atten-
tion to them. Their only excuse for such outrages is that they are
drunk." (" Journals of Alexander Henry and of David Thompson,"
vol. I., p. 429.    New York, 1897). 58
homes, established new posts, sent out scouring
parties to snatch the furs from the Indians in debt
to them, and strove to enforce their monopoly over
the trade.
The Montreal merchants, who furnished the goods
to the adventurers who acted as their agents, soon
realized that concerted action was necessary if the
Canadians were to cope successfully with their well
organized English rivals. This was the origin of the
famous Northwest Fur Trading Company. Messrs.
Benjamin and Joseph Frobisher, with Mr. Simon
McTavish,  were  its  founders   and  first  partners
(1784). ^^^^m
In an incredibly short time this energetic Corporation covered the whole of British North America
with a perfect network of trading posts and trails,
which left very little to be done by its rich, but less
enterprising, rival, the Hudson's Bay Company.
When, to save its own existence, the latter awoke to
the necessity of adopting to a great extent the meth-
ods of the French, as the Canadians were called, and
set up new forts side by side with theirs, a struggle
ensued the bitterness of which cannot be realized
by those who have not lived in the fur-bearing regions, away from all the restraints imposed by re-
ligion or civilization.
Nevertheless, the odds were in favour of the
Canadian concern. Knowing the preference of the
Indians for the French,7 the Northwest Company
'Whom they loved best, though they feared the English most, accord-
made it a point to be represented on the plains by
as many individuals of that nationality as possible.
In fact, practically all its employees, foremen, voyageurs, guides and interpreters were French, and
therefore Catholics, while many of its clerks be-
longed to the same race and denomination.8
So it came to pass that French was, for over fifty
years, the official and universally spoken language in
the Canadian West outside of the Hudson's Bay
Company factories. Even the Scotch gentlemen at
the head of the principal posts had to know that language, and the ease with which they interspersed
their correspondence, when in their own mother
tongue, with French idioms and sometimes f uil
sentences is good evidence that they had indeed
mastered it.
As a class, the children of the St. Lawrence, de-
prived of all that recalled religion and refinement,
could not be described as exemplary Christians. But
it is certainly an injustice to describe them as irre-
ligious. Their language too often savoured of pro-
fanity and foolish bravado; but it was not a safe
gauge to their inmost convictions. They often
remained as faithful in their observance of the laws
of God and of the Church as their peculiar condition,
the state of the country and their dependence on
others would allow.
"Abbé G. Dugas asserts that " three-quarters of its clerks were English or Scotch (L'Ouest CanacUen, p. 163). As a matter of fact, in
the year 1804, which he quotes in this connection, out of seventy-two
clerks in the employ of the Company. thirty-one were French. 60
The recital of a few daily prayers, though not
general, was not a rare occurrence among them; the
various feasts of the liturgical year were remembered and observed when possible; baptism was
administered to infants and the dying, and those
that passed away were not returned to Mother Earth
without some simple religious ceremony.
"This, according to the Frenchmen, is Easter
Sunday," writes James Mackenzie, no great friend
of theirs, under date April 11, 1799.9 He goes on
to state the same day: "Cadien Leblanc's wife having fallen sick. . . . Dusablon, though the plus
bete, was ordained priest; by him the dying woman
was baptized."10 Likewise Alexander Henry the
younger chronicles the following year a similar
recognition of a Church festival by the members of
his crew, in which, for the lack of any special religious exercises or services, he had himself to concur
according to the fashion of the time. "I gave my
people each a dram, this day being considered among
them a great fête," he writes under date November
1,1800.11 It is in a like manner that was solemnized
in the west the f east of the Epiphany the following
year.12 Finally we see a more Christian-like way of
celebrating the Church's festivals among his men
when, under date November 1,1810, the same trader
simply remarks: '\ Men did not work to-day.
9In Masson's Les Bourgeois du Nord-Ouest, vol. IL, p. 385.
"Journal, vol. I., p. 133.
"Ibid., ibid., p. 165.
^Ibid., vol. IL, p. 660. AN EPOCH OF TRANSITION
This rémembrance of the feast days so religiously
kept on the shores of the St. Lawrence, coupled with
the above mentioned practices, as well as extempor-
ized discourses on God, His laws and what was
known of Sacred History, could not but affect
favourably the native population. It is thus that
the Catholics of that forlorn period were insensibly
taking the place of the missiönaries, who could not
be spared for the west.
Nay, even civilization, as we generally understand
it, usually benefited by their presence among the
dusky children of plains and forests. It is well
known that, in aboriginal society, woman is scarcely
more esteemed than a brute. Her chief róle, while
on the march, is to be the beast of burden of the
entire family, her lord and master being too far
above her to condescend to do any packing. Now
here is what we read in the journal of one of the
Scotch bourgeois, as the wintering partners of the
Northwest Company were called:
"Lambert went with his Bona Roba to gather
moss for their son.14 . . . Soon after he arrived
with a huge load on his back, while Madame walked
slowly behind, carrying nothing but her little snarl-
ing brat. Masquasis,15 seeing him arrive thus
accoutred, observed that Lambert wanted nothing
"This material is used in connection with infants' cradles in the
15An Indian.
ÜÈ & ■?
more to make him a woman than a cloak with a red
lining over a black fringe.' 'ie
These and other attentions of the Canadian to the
mother of his child appear to us but natural. They
were not so to the natives, and were bound in time to
exert an appreciably civilizing influence over the
As above stated, most of the English-speaking
traders were Protestants. There were exceptions,
however. One of these was the case of a John Mac-
donell, whose brother Miles will soon call for ex-
tended notice. John Macdonell stands out as a
unique figure, stern and conscientious, amid a number of trading officers whose daily lives were in oppo-
sition to all laws of justice and decency. He was a
strict Eoman Catholic, and his men had surnamed
him i \ The Priest,'' on account of his scrupulous ob-
servance of the Church feasts and weekly abstinence,
as well as the rigidity with which he enforced it on
his subordinates.  .
A member of a United Empire Scotch family,
John became a partner of the Northwest Company
about 1796, and remained in the Northwest until
1815. As early as 1793 we find him stationed in the
valley of the Assiniboine, where he represented his
Corporation, and probably disapproved of its vio-
lently hostile proceedings against the Hudson's Bay
Company. This we infer from his well-known
probity and recorded conduct when in other places.
MLes Bourgeois du Nord-Ouest, vel. IL, p. 373.
In 1806 he was at the important post his company
had at Ile a, la Crosse, where his competitor on be-
half of the Hudson's Bay Company was a Mr. Fid-
dler, who had just come from Churchill Factory with
a party of eighteen men to establish a trading station. The historian of that Corporation, Willson
Beckles, explicity states that John Macdonell was
then removed from his post, because he was not "in-
clined to set all principles of law and justice at
defiance,"17 the most honourable testimonial a man
in his position could ever get.18
The hostility between the Northwest and the Hudson's Bay Companies was growing more and more
open, so that the latter, tired of its masterly inac-
tivity in its original haunts, where for a long time it
had awaited the native hunters instead of seeking
17"The Great Company," vol. IL, p. 118.    London, 1900.
MJn 1815 John Macdonell sold out his interests in the Northwest
Company and settled at Pointe Fortune, in the Township of Hawkes-
bury, where he kept a store and ran boats to Montreal. In September, 1814, he was dwelling at a place called Long Sault, on the
St. Lawrence, where he hospitably received Gabriel Franchère and his
party of Astorians from far off Columbia. Exactly three years later
(Sept. 17th, 1817,) he was still there, and was visited by a similar
party hailing from the same quarters. Ross Cox's remarks on the
quondam Westerner will bear repetition:
"Here we met another retired partner of the Northwest Company,
Mr. John McDonald (sic), who insisted on our visiting his house. . . .
This gentleman was a strict Roman Catholic, and during his residence
in the Indian country was distinguished by the Canadians from others
of the same name by the title of Le Prêtre (priest), owing to the
rigid manner in which he made his men adhere to the various f asts of
the Catholic Church. . . . From this circumstance, joined to his gen-
eral character among the voyageurs, I was led to expeet in Mr. McDonald a second St. Francis; but in Heu of the austere monk, we
saw in the retired trader a cheerful, healthy and contented old man—
a proof, if any were Wanting, that true piety and social gayety are
not incompatible" ("Adventures on the Columbia River," pp. 302-3).
I 64
them out, finally resolved to carry the war into
Africa. With this end in view it established posts
on the upper Assiniboine (1790), at Brandon (1794),
near Portage la Prairie (1796), and on the Eed
Eiver (1799).
The influence of religion was sadly needed to keep
within just bounds men who, emancipated from all
human laws, were devoured by an unconquerable
thirst for gold, represented by furs, and fought a
deadly struggle for the mastery of a territory which
one "party claimed in virtue of a royal charter, while
the other was as sur e of its rights to it, which it
based on a priority of discovery, and considered had
been made over to Canada at the cession of the
But God, who knows how to draw good from evil,
had decreed that the instrument in the permanent
establishment of His Church in that remote wilder-
ness was to be one who did not belong to her visible
body. He also willed that the very excesses of which
the traders were to render themselves guilty should
be the means of hastening that establishment. PART IL       f
Permanent Establishment in
Middle West. I
e| 1811-1815.
While the two rival companies were endeavouring
to oust each other from the valleys of the Red Eiver
and tributaries, a man in distant Scotland, a noble
mind and a great heart, was maturing philanthropi-
cal plans to better the lot of the lower classes of his
own country as well as of Ireland. Thomas Douglas,
Earl of Selkirk, having purchased a great number
of shares in the Hudson's Bay Company, and
secured the possession of some 110,000 square miles
of land on the Eed and Assiniboine Eivers, proceed-
ed to get settlers for his proposed colony. He then
entrusted the direction of this to a former officer of
the King's Regiment of New Yórk, promoted in
1796 to the rank of captain in the Canadian militia.
This was Miles Macdonell, the brother of the Northwest Company partner on the Assiniboine.
B [65]
1 ■W'
Born in 1767, at Inverness, Scotland, Macdonell1
probably came to America with his father in 1773,
settling at first on the Mohawk Eiver, and, on the
breaking out of the, War of Independence, removing
to Canada. Miles having taken a trip to England in
the first years of the nineteenth century, he made
the acquaintance in London of some of the directors
of the Hudson's Bay Company, and, through them,
of the Earl of Selkirk. As an inducement to accept
the exceedingly onerous duties of the position then
offered him, he received, in addition to the half-pay
of an ensign,2 the grant of a large tract of land in
the colony of which he was to be the governor.8
With characteristic broad-mindedness Lord Sel-
1Whose name is variously spelt McDonell, McDonnell, and even McDonald. The reproduction in our pages of his autograph shows the
correct orthography therefor.
3The rank he held in the English army.
8See Macdonell to the Earl of Selkirk, llth Aug., 1812. Such has
been the ignorance of the origins of the Canadian Middle West evi-
deneed by most writers, that they usually set down its history, as
commencing with the foundation of Lord Selkirk's Settlement. Rob-
ert B. Hill has a reference, brief and unfounded on fact, to the pres-
ence there of a French missionary in the dim past ("Manitoba,"
p. 11); Alexander Ross has not a word of either missiönaries or
French explorers, any more than J. J. Hargrave or Donald Gunn.
Though the latter goes back in his quaint volume to Christopher
Columbus in order to tracé out the history of the Canadian West, he^
has not a word, not even the least ref erence, for the brilliant achieve-
ments of the immortal Lavérendrye! It would be just as well to
write the history, of Eastern Canada without any mention of Cham-
kirk had explicitly ignored all differences of creed
in the selection of his colonists. Nay, he had even
secured for those of the Catholic faith the services of
a chaplain in the person of a Rev. Charles Bourke.
The first band of emigrants left Stornoway, in
the Hebrides, on July 26, 1811, and reached York
Factory, on Hudson Bay, September 24th, after a
passage that was boisterous in more ways than one.
The total of the party as they left "was ninety
labourers and fifteen writers," or clerks destined
for the Hudson's Bay Company's establishments.
Among the former we find such Irish names as
Costello, John Burke, Michael Bourke, Pat Flynn,
Henry and Bryan Gilgan, Pat Quinn, Michael and
Phil. Rooney, Davey McEooney, Jo. Walsh, Pat
Corcoran, Cornelius Hoys and Sweeney.
The Irish were declared by Factor William Auld,.
the head of York Factory, to be unruly and unfit for
the country. But almost in the same breath he be-
trays the secret of his aversion to them. "Their
difïerence in a religious [point of] view," he writes,
"contributes to confirm the unfriendliness of the
Scotch and Orcadians [and no doubt his own] for
them." On the other hand, Macdonell, who cer-
tainly ought to know them well, asserts that they
"were not more troublesome than the others; the
people from Glasgow were at first the most turbulent."4 1
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that there was
*Letter to A. Wedderburne, 5th Oct., 1811. I
trouble on board the emigrants' ship, in which the
Irish had a hand for reasons which appear from a
letter of William Auld. Therein he refers to one
William Finley as having ridiculed "the ceremonies
observed in celebrating divine service by the priest
(so utterly unlike our Scotch clergy). I guess," adds
the trader, "that he received afterwards certain
treatment which, on such an obstinate, troublesome
fellow, could not fail to urge him to something im-
proper.' '5
As the season was too far advanced, the party had
to winter in temporary cabins put up on Nelson
Eiver, a few miles above the fort. During this irk-
some period of inaction, Macdonell became con-
firmed in his opinion that Mr. Bourke was not the
proper person for a chaplain to his Irish and Scotch
Catholics. That priest, besides being eccentric, was
now reported to have left without the leave of his
Ordinary, the Bishop of Killala, who was away in
Dublin at the time of the ship's sailing.
Nevertheless, Eev. Mr. Bourke was not without
his redeeming qualities. "He is very zealous for
the increase of our colony," writes Macdonell; "he
assures me that he can get thousands to come from
the county of Mayo; has written very encouraging
letters to his own relations, and wrote letters for
almost every one of his flock to their friends in the
same encouraging strain
ketter dated 12th Sept., 1812.
6To Lord Selkirk, lst Oct., 1811. THE RED RIVER SETTLEMENT
That these good dispositions continued in spite of
the general discontent occasioned by inaction, the
severity of the climate and the difflculty of securing
satisfactory food, is shown by a further letter of
Governor Macdonell to his illustrious patron. I\ The
chaplain is very sanguine for the advancement of the
colony, and continues to write encouraging letters
home," he remarks under date May 31, 1812. "I
believe he is about to write to Your Lordship and
intends to offer his personal services to recruit in
Ireland." Whereupon Macdonell assures the noble
lord that "he may be more useful there than here.
... I do not think that he will ever make a con-
vert to the Catholic religion."
Yet the writer and his co-religionists could not be
without the ministrations of a priest. He therefore
adds: " I should not, ho wever, wish to part with him
until another was on the way to join us. I expect
that hereafter there will b'e no difflculty in getting a
priest to come out who can be well recommended."
But in this anticipation Macdonell was doomed to
Mr. Bourke returned to Ireland by tlje next boat.
No very serious charge had been laid against him,
apart from an irregular departure and eccentric
ways which prevented him from having any influ-
ence over his people. It appears that he had passed
a good part of his time in collecting specimens of
rocks, with wonderful ideas concerning their value.
In this connection Lord Selkirk wrote a vear later:
! 70
"Mr. Bourke's minerals turn out to be mere chucky
stanes. Mr. Lasserre7 is a much better judge of
that point, and if he can find you iron ore below
some hemlock swamp, I shall reckon it more valuable
than all the diamonds Mr. Bourke will ever find.' '8
This first contingent of settlers, in which, as we
have seen, the Catholic element was not inconsider-
able,9 left for Red River in the early days of July,
1812, and reached its destination by the end of the
following August. The second band was composed
of Irishmen under the leadership of a fellow coun-
tryman, Owen Keveney, whose despotic ways were
ultimately to seal his doom. This severity led to
serious trouble aboard his ship, and Irish hating
Auld exulted over the predicament of Keveney's
people, writing to the Earl of Selkirk that "the
Irishmen have shown themselves worthy of that
ferocious character so long deserved by them."10
An unwelcome consequence of these difficulties
was that the founder of the colony, hearing so much
of the restiveness of the Irish emigrants, cancelled
TA surgeon who died in 1813, on the trip from Europe to Hudson
To Macdonell, 12th June, 1813.
9A fact which seems unknown to most of the English historians,
who generally give out as Scotch Protestants the emigrants who left
for Red River in 1811 and 1813.
"York Factory, 12th Sept., 1812. Keveney perished miserably at
the hands of the minions of the Northwest Company, who had
arrested hi-m on a charge of cruelty to his men. While he was being
taken east, an Indian, acting apparently on secret orders, attempted
his life several times, in which task he was as often thwarted by
his two French-Canadian companions. Finally, having landed on an
island, Keveney was shot, while in irons, by a halfbreed and dis-
patched by sabre thrusts at the hands of an ex-Meuron soldier, 9th
his orders for further canvassing in Ireland. Another result of the same intelligence was that he
abandoned his plan for sending Macdonell a priest,
after a failure to get one from a bishop to whom he
had applied.11
The number of the emigrants who left Ireland in
1812 has generally been put down at fifteen or
• The third contingent for the distant settlement
sailed from Scotland in 1813. It was composed of
stalwart Highlanders who had resisted vi et armis
eviction from their lands on the Sutherland estate.
They were staunch Presbyterians, for whom Lord
Selkirk hoped to procure a minister at the time that
he would send a priest to the Catholics. He cau-
tioned Macdonell not to do anything that could
" alarm the prejudices of those people. . . . After
a little personal acquaintance," he remarked, "they
will be convinced that a Roman Catholic may be a
very good man."12
These reached the Red River Valley in 1814, to
the number of ninety-three.
The year 1815 witnessed the arrival in the Red
River Valley of the most numerous of the emigrant
parties sent by Lord Selkirk's agents. It was composed of one hundred persons of all ages, mostly
from the parish of Kildonan, in Scotland. This
brought to two hundred and eighty the total of all
uTo Macdonell, 12th June, 1813.
"To the same, same date.
——^ 72
the colonists due to the noble Lord's exertions.
Thereafter accessions to their ranks were to be in-
dividual, rather than collective, cases.
Far from us the wish to belittle in the least the
importance of the movement which resulted in the
Red River Settlement. But when the history of
Manitoba receives adequate treatment, a fact should
not be forgotten which so far all authors have either
ignored or left in the background. When the first
of Lord Selkirk's settlers set foot in the Red River
Valley, they found there, and in the vicinity, a white
or halfbreed population which far exceeded in numbers all the emigrants that the earl ever sent there.
As we have seen, the personnel of the Northwest
Company was made up of French Canadians and
their grown-up children. Taking a leaf from its
scheming antagonist, even the Hudson's Bay Company had succeeded in engaging some of them for
its service. By actual computation the Canadian
Corporation had, in the first years of the nineteenth
century, no less than three hundred and eleven
French Catholic employees within the valleys of the
Red and Assiniboine Rivers.13 Added to the few men
who belonged to its English rival, and the much
more numerous class of the freemen—former ser-
vants of either company, or coureurs de bois direct
from Lower Canada14—the total of the Catholic pop-
18Or about twelve hundred in all its posts.
"In April, 1816, Lord Selkirk referred to them as a " great body"
(Letter to the Bishop of Quebec), and, at the same date, Miles Macdonell was writing to the same party that there were f1 hundreds'' of
ulation within easy reach of the new settlers must
have been in the close proximity of seven hundred.
How did these old possessors of the soil receive
the newcomers in 1812? The historian Alexander
Ross shall answer for us. "But a few hours had
passed over their heads in the land of their adoption,
when an array of armed men of grotesque mould,
painted, disfigured, and dressed in the savage cos-
tume of the country, warned them that they were
unwelcome visitors. These crested warriors, for
the most part, were employees of the Northwest
Company, and as their peremptory mandate to de-
part was soon aggravated by the fear of perishing
through want of food, it was resolved to seek refuge
at Pembina, seventy miles distant.'m
This treatment, most ungenerous as it was, will
scarcely astonish, when we are told that the Northwest Company, which saw in the proposed settle-
ment a danger to its supremacy in the West, moved
heaven and earth to prevent its consummation. The
Red River country was the natural store whence it
derived the bufïalo meat which was converted into
pemmican16 for the victualling of its numerous posts;
a colony there would inevitably result in driving
away the animals that were the source of the supply.
Moreover that Corporation had then the upper hand
over its rivals, and it meant to maintain its position
at all costs; but a colony in the country would bring
""The Red River Settlement," p. 21.   London, 1856.
"Lean venison cut up into strips, dried, pounded and converted into
a paste by means of melted fat.    It was kept in skin bags.
—:	 74
1   I
in too many disinterested witnesses to dealings that
would scarcely pass muster in civilized lands. In
the third place, the settlers came under the auspices
of a man who had become the main shareholder of
the Hudson's Bay Company. This alone was, in
the eyes of the Nor'westers, a sufficiënt motive for
preventing its success.
Therefore those of their servants that were halfbreeds employed at Fort Gibraltar, situate at the
confluence of the Assiniboine with the Eed Eiver,17
had been persuaded to disguise themselves as Indians, and behave in such a way that they would
strike terror into the hearts of the poor Scotch and
Irish, none of whom "knew [how] to put a gun to
his eye or even fired a shot" in his life.18
Now the very same men who gratified the new-
comers with such hostile demonstrations were those
who piloted them to Pembina, winning by their kind-
ness the gratitude of the poor emigrants. When
these reached the Eed Eiver the halfbreeds "were
acting under the influence of the Northwest Company, '' observes ÏJoss; ' I but in going to Pembina on
the present occasion, they were free and acting for
themselves. And here it is worthy of remark that
the insolence and overbearing tone of these men
when under the eye of their masters [who were
Scotch gentlemen] were not more conspicuous than
their kind, affable and friendly deportment towards
the emigrants when following the impulse of their
"And founded in 1804.
"Macdonell to Selkirk, lst Oct., 1811.
own free-will." Hence the Scotch and Irish colon-
ists quite naturally concluded that "when not urged
on to mischief by designing men, the natural dis-
position of the halfbreeds is humble, benevolent,
kind and sociable."19
The main difflculty that confronted Governor Macdonell was the feeding of so many mouths in a country where not an acre of wheat was probably grown
before 1813. The colonists had, that year, been
blessed with fair returns for their exertions in the
small fields they had cultivated; but they had to wait
a full twelvemonth before they could benefit by
them. Moreover, new parties were coming, and it
became evident that the original inhabitants were
secretly instigated by the authorities of the Northwest Company to part w,ith their provisions at exorbitant prices only.
That this heartless policy was not foliowed as
reprisals for Macdonell's haughtiness, as the Nor'-
westers afterwards pretended, is made clear by the
following passage of a letter written by Wm. Auld,
of York Factory, before the governor of the colony
had as much as been seen on the banks of the Eed
Eiver. "I know," said Auld, "that the Canadians
will have a party of men on purpose to precede him
[a Mr. Sinclair], to drive and alarm off the buffaloes
that he [Macdonell] may be checked in his ad-
Under these circumstances, the governor, impelled
"Op. dt., pp. 22, 23.
^York Factory, to A. Wedderburne, lst Oct., 1811.
■ü 76
1 ii
by a sense of his responsibility with regard to so
many people entirely dependent on him, thought
proper to lay an embargo on such of the provisions
in the country as were not actually required for the
sustenance of the traders and their men. Claiming
to represent the rights of the Earl of Selkirk over
the territory, he forbade (January 8, 1814), under
the penalty of confiscation the exportation of these
provisions during the space of a twelvemonth. They
were to be "taken for the use of the Colony," and
"paid for by British bills at the customary rate."
The Nor'westers were indignant at this measure,
and swore that it should not be carried out. So, in
the following spring Macdonell sent, under a doublé
escort, a man named John Spencer to seize the
stores which had been accumulated at their fort on
Souris Eiver, a high-handed and possibly premature
proceeding which served only to make matters
worse. The Nor 'westers protested, but did not make
any resistance. After having broken the doors open
with hatchets, Spencer's men seized 500 bags of
pemmican, 100 bales of dried meat, and 96 kegs of
grease; in all about 60,000 pounds of provisions,
which they removed to their own establishment,
Brandon House.
Another seizure was made in the winter of 1814-15,
on the plains of what is now North Dakota. A party
of fifteen men appropriated in the name of the governor the provisions which a French Canadian,
named Desmarais, had amassed for the Northwest
Company, with the help of a few servants. THE RED RIVER SETTLEMENT
These acts of violence, which special couriers
brought to the knowledge of all the establishments
of that concern, exasperated masters and servitors,
the latter especially, who were led to believe that the
organizers of the colony—Hudson's Bay Company
men—had no other purpose in mind but to drive
them from the country where many of them had first
seen the light of day.
Unfortunately certain declarations of Lord Selkirk lent colour to these forebodings. Blinded by an
excess of zeal for his great philanthropic work, hë
had written to one of his agents: "We must give
them [the Canadian traders] solemn warningthat
the land belongs to the Hudson's Bay Company, and
that they must remove from it; after this warning
they should not be allowed to cut any timber either
for building or fuel. What they have cut ought to
be openly and forcibly seized, and their buildings
destroyed. In like manner they should be warned
not to fish in your waters, and if they put down nets,
seize them as you would in England those of a
poacher.' '21
This letter having fallen into the hands of one of
the Northwest Company partners, served to fan the
flames of discontent which were already burning at
a furious rate. It is not within our province to relate
all the acts of aggression and reprisals which foliowed. Yet for the understanding of what was to
happen, events that led to the final establishment of
81Gunn, "History of Manitoba," p. 112.    Ottawa, 1880. 78
the Church in the northwest, it is necessary to mention that a warrant was issued for the arrest of
Governor Macdonell, who at first ignored it as being
ultra vires. Then, on June 25, 1815, the Hudson's
Bay Company post on Red River, Fort Douglas,
about two miles below the junction of the two
streams, was attacked by a troop of halfbreeds under
English leaders, at the instigation of the Northwest
Company, after nine field pieces had been forcibly
taken therefrom during an absence of Miles Macdonell. The outcome of this affray was the wound-
ing of four of the fort's men, one of whom died on
the morrow. Another consequence was the disper-
sion of the settlers, who had to leave for Lake Winnipeg and Scotland, while others were taken to
Shortly thereafter a band of twenty French Canadians, some of whom had their wives with them,
arrived from the east under the lead of a Colin Rob-
ertson, a gentleman who had passed from the service
of the Northwest to that of the Hudson's Bay Company. That same Robertson immediately coaxed the
settlers who had reached Lake Winnipeg into return-
ing to their fields under a promise of protection.
Then the band of 100 colonists already referred to
arrived with a gentleman, Robert Semple, who had
been entrusted with the supervision of all the Hudson's Bay Company's interests in Northern Amer
Exhausted by the multiplicity of his cares and the
difficulties everyone seemed to throw in his path,1
Captain Macdonell had asked2 to be relieved of his
functions, and then had surrender ed himself into the
hands of his opponents, who took him to Montreal
to under go a trial which never took place. His services, however, were considered too valuable to be
dispensed with, and when, in the spring of 1816, he
returned to Red River, he remained governor of the
colony, while Robert Semple, now his superior, was
Tor instance, he had to bear all the odium of his measure against
the exportation of provisions, after the same had been suggested and
unanimously approved at York Factory. "It was the decided opinion
of every person at York Factory that such a measure would be highly
proper. You then expressed yourself strongly in favour of it,"
wrote Macdonell to Auld, who cowardly disavowed all responsibility
in the matter, after he had written Macdonell: "I do entirely agree
with you in the propriety and justice of preventing the provisions
being carried out of your territory without your license, especially
after you have given due warning."
2Sept. 2nd, 1814. That Macdonell's services were appreciated by
his patron in Scotland is shown by this remark of Lord Selkirk: '' The
address with which you managed the Highlanders and Irishmen,
showing that the latter are not so utterly untamable as some people
would have us believe, demands my warmest approbation and leads me
to entertain flattering anticipations of the result when you are placed
in more favourable circumstances" (14th June, 1813).
11 80
Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company in America.3
On March 17,1816, Colin Robertson, acting governor of the colony during his absence, caused the
arrest of Duncan Cameron, a Northwest Company
partner, who had been the leading spirit in all the
recent machinations of that body, notably in the dis-
persion of the settlers. Then under pretext of recov-
ering the cannon that belonged to Fort Douglas, he
took and razed to the ground Fort Gibraltar, the
headquarters of the Nor'westers in the country.
By these open acts of violence it is easy to see that
the wrongs were not confined to one side. But we
may be permitted to remark that, when following
their own inclinations and not misled by their em-
ployers, the French stood for peace and legality.
The defender of Fort Douglas, when it was so un-
warrantedly attacked in June, 1815, plainly states
that he secured "the services of f ree men about the
place—French Canadians and halfbreeds not in the
service of the Northwest Company—to restore mat-
ters and prepare for the future."4   Moreover it is
8This is a fact which most authors have overlooked. Even Alexander Ross, in his "List of the Governors of the Red River Colony
from the year 1812 to the year 1855" (in "The Red River Settle-
ment," p. 410), says that, in August, 1815, he was succeeded by
Alexander McDonell. Yet we shall presently see him asking for
priests for the colony as late as April, 1816, and on the 24th of
January, 1817, he wrote from Fort Douglas to Cuthbert Grant a
letter which he signed: Miles Macdonell, Governor, and which is re-
produced in extenso, p. 158 of the "Report of the Proceedings con-
nected with the Disputes between the Earl of Selkirk and the Northwest Company.'' He was therefore fully five years governor of the
colony, instead of two years and ten months, as Ross would have it.
*Bryee, "History of the Hudson's Bay Company," p. 223.
on record that when the so-called free men feit the
final storm approaching, they made off for the
plains, in order to have no part in it.
This came but too soon. Convinced that Lord
Selkirk's directions concerning the expulsion of the
Nor'westers were indeed being foliowed, and that
the doublé seizure of provisions, the destruction of
Fort Gibraltar, the taking of Fort Pembina and the
imprisoning of its inmates, as well as the attack on
Fort Qu'Appelle, which, however, had been success-
fully resisted, were but part of a plan of extermina-
tion, the Northwest Company resolved to go to ex-
tremes, in order to save their existence and protect
their interests in a land where they had long reigned
as almost undisputed masters.
For this purpose they gathered as many halfbreeds and French Canadians as they could, and
even went to the length of courting the services of
the Indians, in order to strike a decisive blow at
Hudson's Bay Company domination. An expedition
with two cannon was dispatched from their head-
quarters, Fort William, on Lake Superior, which
was to reach a point below Fort Douglas by June 16,
1816.5 Another band, composed mainly of French
and English halfbreeds with a few French Canadians, aggregating sixty-four persons accompanied
by six Indians, was to join them on the same day.
Then the combined force would make a desperate
attack on Fort Douglas.
5This arrived only on the 20th of that month.
F 82
In order to pass unperceived, and the more
quietly effect their junction with the Fort William
brigade, the corps of halfbreeds, which was led by a
Cuthbert Grant, had been cautioned to keep as far as
possible from the Hudson's Bay Company post.
But the swampy nature of the soil forced them to
pass within sight of the sentinel, who, noticing that
they were mounted and armed, made this circum-
stance known to Governor Semple.
It was in the afternoon of June 19, 1816.
"We must go and meet these men," declared the
governor.   "Let twenty men follow me."
This was no doubt a rash move, one which nothing
but ignorance of the people and the desperate coun-
sels they were acting on could excuse. Instead of
sending out scouts to reconnoitre, Semple went out
with twenty-seven men. When a short distance from
the fort, perceiving that the horsemen were more
numerous than he had thought, he sent for a piece
of cannon. This, however, being too slow in coming,
the governor proceeded to meet the halfbreeds.
At the sight of the English party, the representa-
tives of the Canadian company drew themselves up
in the form of a half-moon. Then one of them, a
clerk named Francois F. Boucher, advanced towards
the governor, making signs that he wanted to speak.
"What do you  want?"  he   asked when within
speaking distance.
"What do you want yourselves?" said Semple.
"We want our fort," answered Boucher.
Well, go to your fort."
"You rascal, you have destroyed it," cried out the
The two men were now close to one another. On
being addressed in this coarse strain, the governor,
who was of a refined nature and had always been
treated with consideration, could not contain his
"Scoundrel!" he exclaimed, "do you teil me so?"
Which saying he caught with one hand the bridle
of Boucher's horse, and laid the other on his gun.
Then, turning to some of his men:
! \ Make him prisoner,'' he said.6
Thereupon the Nor'wester jumped off to the
ground. At the same time a shot was fired, which
killed one of the English officers, a Mr. Holt.
Boucher then returned to his friends, and almost
immediately the governor feil, wounded. At the
sight of the consequences of his imprudence he cried
"Do what you can to take care of yourselves."
But the shooting was now general. As Semple's
men, instead of acting on his advice, persisted in
surrounding their master to ascertain the extent of
the harm done him, they became an easy target for
the halfbreeds.   In a short time they were all dead
6In her valuable work, "The Conquest of the Great Northwest,"
vol. IL, p. 172, Agnes C. Laut makes Francois Firmin Boucher
the "son of the scout shot on the South Saskatchewan." The erudite
author must be mistaken in this, as the contemporaneous records ex-
pressly say that his father was a respectable proprietor of Montreal. 84
or wounded, with the exception of five or six who
had managed to retire from the battlefield.
Sad to relate, most of the wounded were mas-
sacred by the infuriated Indians. Even some halfbreeds stooped to 'the róle of butchers of their fel-
low men. Thus a Mr. Rogers was killed by a Scotch
halfbreed as he begged for mercy.
Meanwhile the governor was lying on his side,
with his thigh broken and supporting his head on his
"Are you not Mr. Grant?'.' he asked a passing
Receiving an affirmative answer, Semple went on
to say:
'' I am not mortally wounded, and if you could get
me conveyed to the fort, I think I could live."
Cuthbert Grant promised to do so, and left him
in the care of a kind French Canadian. But just
then an Indian came up.
"You dog, you are the cause of the whole trouble;
take this," he grunted, as he shot poor Semple in
the breast.
Not far from there, an Englishman named John
Pritchard was about to be slain. In the twinkhng
of an eye, he recognized a French Canadian among
those who surrounded him.
"Lavigne," he prayed, calling him by his name,
"you are a Frenchman, you are a man, you are a
Christian. For God's sake, save my life. I give
myself up; I am your prisoner.
This pathetic appeal was not lost on the Canadian.
Placing himself between Pritchard and his assail-
ants, Lavigne succeeded, at the peril of his own life,
to draw him away to a place of safety.7
The storm which had been brewing for so many
years, beyond the soothing influence of religion, had
at last swept over the land. The cloudburst resulted
in twenty-one killed on the one side,8 and one, with
four wounded, on the other. Moreover Fort Douglas
had to be evacuated, in order to prevent a massacre
which Cuthbert Grant freely threatened.
Such was the unfortunate afïair which became
known in history as the Battle of Seven Oaks.0
'The foregoing dialogues and accompanying details are strictly
historical. Their authenticity is fully warranted by the sworn deposi-
tions of witnesses and participants, as well as other contemporaneous
sources. John Pritchard was born (1777) in Shropshire, England,
though some call him a Scotchman. After some years passed in the
service of the Northwest Company, he cast in his lot with its rivals
in 1815. Later on he became a member of the Councü of Assiniboia,
and died at Kildonan in 1856.
8Of whom at least seven were Irish. Mr. J. P. Bourke, the storekeeper, was wounded, but escaped death by night. He was shortly
after caught by a Mr. McLeod, of the Northwest Company, who made
him prisoner and sent him to Fort William.
9The fate of Semple and his companions is certainly calculated to
elaim our sympathy. Yet such a sentiment should not interfere with
the historian's duty to give every one his due, as we believe it has
in the cases of such writers as G. Dugas and G. Bryce. Despite the
fact that there was undeniable premeditation on the part of the Northwest Company, it is quite clear that the governor of the rival body
had to blame his own rashness for that melancholy event. Apart from
his imprudence in sallying out of his fort without having ascertained
the intentions of the halfbreeds or even attempted to make sure of
their numbers, he had previously answered by what we cannot help
calling bravado the undisguised threats of his adversaries. Thus,
on March 23, 1816, we find him writing from Brandon, in a curt note
to Alexander McDonell, a Northwest Company partner: "I suspect
that your associates have mistaken my charaeter. Remember what I
now say to you: Should you, or your Indian or black-breed (sic) allies, - t
Apprized of this crowning disaster to his pet
colony, Lord Selkirk, who had come to Eastern Canada, at once levied a troop of disbanded soldiers
called Meurons after one of their former colonels,
hastened with them to Fort William, which he cap-
tured, and then made for Eed Eiver, where he
arrived three months after his men, that is, in the
last week of June, 1817. Then, after having retaken
Fort Douglas, he applied himself to the task of set-
tling up matters that had lain in abeyance, extin-
guished by treaties the Indian title to his territory,
and offered lands therein to the soldiers who chose
to stay.
Many of these were Catholics, and among them
were Germans, French, ItaHans and Swiss. It is
perhaps for this reason that Alexander Eoss terms
them "a rough and lawless set of blackguards. "10
Yet, as late as Jury 26th of the preceding year, the
Governor of Canada, Sir John Sherbrooke, had pub-
licly congratulated them "on having by their con-
duct in the Canadas, maintained the reputation
which they had deservedly acquired by their former
services," mentioning especially as worthy of   all
attempt any violence against the Hudson's Bay Company at Qu'Ap-
pelle or elsewhere, the consequences to yourselves will be terrible."
Again, on May 14th of the same year, he thus ends a longer letter
to the same party: "I also, should I be compelled to it, havemy
schemes of farther and still farther retaliation, the shock of which,
if I mistake not, should be feit from Athabasca to Montreal" ("Report of the Proceedings connected with the Disputes between the Earl
of Selkirk and the North-West Company," p. 113.    London, 1819).
""The Red River Settlement," p. 41.
praise "the steadiness, discipline and efficiency of
these corps."11
Most of the Meur ons that remained in the country
were Germans. They settled on what is now called
the Seine Eiver (St. Boniface), which for some time
was known for that reason as German Creek.
It was now but too evident to the Earl of Selkirk
that, without the powerful arm of religion, the best
plans for an undertaking like his would come to
naught. For six weary years he had been obliged
to go on without the aid of even one clergyman
among his colonists and the restless population in
the midst of which they had established themselves.
The results had been most disastrous. And now
that the ranks of the Catholics had been swollen by
the arrival of French Canadian families and the
accession of his Meurons, the people of that faith
must number some three-quarters of the entire
population. A Catholic priest, therefore, he must
have at any cost, if the work of his heart is to be
endowed with any degree of stability.
For the lack of any ordained clergyman, Miles
Macdonell had seen himself in the necessity of acting
in that capacity whenever this was possible. "I
married last winter two young men of our servants
to the daughters of settlers and baptized four infant
children born among us,'' he wrote to His Lordship
on July 25,1814. Then came the invariable refrain:
"I trust the arrival of some clergyman soon will
Bryce, "History of the Hudson's Bay Company," p. 239. 88
relieve me from the performance of this awful
task."12 £
This clergyman, it was now evident, should not be
sought in Ireland. Besides the failure to find one
there which Lord Selkirk had already confessed,
there was the question of language, as well as that
of jurisdiction. These vast countries, though eccles-
iastically unorganized, were under the Bishop of
Quebec. Then at least nine-tenths of the Catholics
they contained had French for their mother tongue.
Fortunately there was then at the head of that
important diocese a man who had nothing so much
at heart as the extension of the kingdom of God,
Monseigneur Joseph Octave Plessis, a superior
mind, who was as zealous for the conversion of souls
in foreign or distant parts as for the sanctification
of those nearer home. He had already turned his
eyes towards the west, and, as early as 1815, he had
made overtures to the Northwest Company with a
view to obtaining the necessary facilities for a missionary trip to Lac la Pluie, or Rainy Lake. He had
originally intended to take this task upon himself;
but circumstances forced him to entrust it with one
of his priests.
After consulting with Mr. McGillivray and other
magnates of the Northwest Company, he had received a satisfactory reply from Mr. Angus Shaw, writ-
ing in the name of the great corporation.18
12Which is good evidence that the first baptisms and marriages per-
formed in Manitoba were celebrated according to the Catholic rite.
"Montreal, 7th Nov., 1815. A CLOUDBURST WITH ULTIMATELY GOOD RESULTS     89.
This journey was to take place in the summer of
1816. But before the bishop could execute his project, Miles Macdonell addressed him in the early
spring a letter which caused a change in his plans.
After thanking Providence for the preservation of
the infant colony by the banks of the Red River,
"notwithstanding the unparalleled barbarities prac-
tised to effect its annihilation," the governor went
on to plead thus:
"You know, Monseigneur, that there can be no
stability in the government of states or kingdoms
unless religion is made the corner-stone. The lead-
ing motive of my first undertaking the management
of that ardiious, tho' laudable, enterprise, was to
have made the Catholic religion the prevailing faith
of the establishment, should Divine Providence
think me a worthy instrument to forward the design.
The Earl of Selkirk's liberal mind readily ac-
quiesced in bringing out along with me the first
year a priest from Ireland. Your Lordship already
knows the unfortunate result of that first attempt.
* f Our spiritual wants increase with our numbers;
we have many Catholics from Scotland and Ireland,14 and besides those Canadians are always with
us; we are to have a vast accession from here. There
are hundreds of free Canadians wandering about
our colony, who have families with Indian women,
all of whom are in the most deplorable state for want
MA further proof that our claim is well founded that the number
of Catholics among the original emigrants from Europe to the Red
River was not inconsiderable. 90
if l:
of spiritual aids. A yast religious harvest might
also be made among the natives round us, whose
language is that of the Algonquins of this country,
and who are tractable and well disposed considering
the corruption of morals introduced among them by
opposition traders and other corruptive habits.
"I have learnt with great pleasure that you are
sending two missiönaries this year as far as Lac la
Pluie. I shall be happy to afïord a passage from
here15 in my canoe to one of these gentlemen as far
as Red River, which is onljr six days' journey from
there, and should he remain permanently with us,
the concern shall furnish him a suitable conveyance
oiice a year to meet his f ellow labourers in the Chris-
tian vineyard at Lac la Pluie."16
These were indeed Christian sentiments! The
noble founder of the colony, Lord Selkirk himself,
though not a Catholic, did not deern it beneath his
dignity to join in them, and to strongly second Macdonell's request in a communieation which accompanied his letter, f ï I am fully persuaded of the infi-
nite good which might be erf ected by a zealous and
intelligent ecclesiastic among these people [the
Canadians], among whom the sense of religion is
almost entirely lost," he wrote. "It would give me
very great satisfaction to coöperate to the utmost of
"Montreal, 4th April, 1816. Miles Macdonell left Red RiVer in the
course of 1817, and died in 1828, on a farm he had acquired at Osna-
burg, Upper Canada. • The terrible experiences he had gone through
left on his mind an indelible impress which probably hastened his
my power in so good a work; and if Your Lordship
will select a suitable person to undertake it, I can
have no difflculty in assuring him of every accommo-
dation and support which Your Lordship may judge
Such earnest appeals could not be left unheeded.
Bishop Plessis answered by the next courier that,
pursuant to his laudable designs, the Rev. Pierre A.
Tabeau, a Canadian priest "of robust health, seri-
ous charaeter, remarkable intelligence, full of zeal
and good will,'' would accompany Mr. Macdonell as
far as Red River, in a voyage of observation, and
with orders to report on the advisability of estab-
lishing there a permanent mission.17
Rev. Pierre Antoine Tabeau was a native of Montreal, where he was born in the course of 1782.
Ordained priest, October, 1805, after a somewhat
boisterous youth, at the end of which his real merit
had triumphed over dispositions which had first
induced his superiors to fear for his vocation,18 he
was named one of the curates of the cathedral parish
of Quebec, where he likewise filled the post of organist.    Then he was appointed parish priest of Ste.
"To Lord Selkirk, 8th April, 1816.
"Rev. Mr. Roux, Vicar-General of Montreal, had the following concerning Tabeau in a letter to Bishop Plessis (24th May, 1803) : "He
seemed a little dissipated; but after all, I believe he will become a
good subject. If in good company, he will prove a fervent priest."
Over two years later the vicar-general was glad to see that he had
been a good prophet. In a letter to the same prelate, dated 13th Oct.,
1805, he says: " We* have all been most edified by his conduct during
his stay at Montreal, especially in the course of the retreat. That
young man has talent, health, virtue, and the probability is that he
will ren der service to the Church." i
il II
1 -:f ■
Anne des Plaines, which he reached by the end of
1810. Three years later (September, 1813), he was
transferred to St.-Jean-Port-Joli, and received
afterwards an appointment to the parish of Bou-
Bishop Plessis advised in due time Mr. A. Shaw
of his change of plans, and told him of the proposed
journey to the seat of the unhappy divisions, add-
ing, as if to forestall objections on the part of the
Northwest Company: "The angel of peace I send
you has for mission to make himseif useful to all,
without siding with any.' '19
Conformably to this plan, Rev. Mr. Tabeau left
for the Red Eiver; but, having learned at Rainy
Lake of the massacre of June 19th, he thought it
perfectly useless to go and broach the subject of a
Catholic mission in a land tormented by such dis-
cord. Returning east, he took his time before send-
ing in his report, which was adverse to any permanent establishment at Red River. Periodical
visitations, he thought, were to be sufficiënt under
the circumstances.
But the very reasons which deterred Tabeau from
the idea of a foundation strongly urged the Earl of
Selkirk to leave no stone unturned until one was
secured. Before the priest's document could reach
the Bishop of Quebec, Lord Selkirk who, as we have
seen, had gone to the Red River in the summer of
1817, caused a formal petition for missiönaries to
be circulated in his colony and forwarded to Mgr.
Plessis. Therein a reference was made to the unfor-
tunate occurrences of the past year, the burden of
which was laid at the doors of the employers of the
halfbreeds, as the latter had been made to believe
that it was their bounden duty to drive away the
English before they were driven off by them. Nearly
all the Christian population, either Canadian free-
men or new settlers, were of the Roman Catholic
faith, it was declared. Hence the bishop was be-
sought to send them a priest.
This document was signed by twenty French
Canadians and three Scotchmen. It was witnessed
to by a Louis Nolin and Mr. Pierre Chrysologue
Pambrun, one of the principal clerks of the Hudson's Bay Company, who had been arrested by the
Nor'westers a few days before the Battle of Seven
Oaks. A Mr. Samuel Gale was entrusted with the
petition, who added his prayers to those of the
signers, and suggested that a subscription be forth-
with started on behalf of the proposed mission.20
Coming after such highly recommended entreaties,
Mr. Tabeau had little chance of obtaining the ear
of the bishop. In spite of his temporizing counsels,
Mgr. Plessis wrote him, March 8, 1818, that he now
realized it was a permanent mission that was needed,
remarking at the same time: " If, in order to labour
for the salvation of these poor Christians we must
wait until both companies have sealed a peace which
^Samuel Gale to Bishop Plessis, 29th Jan., 1818. 94
probably neither thinks it in its interests to seek,
nothing will be done before ten years, and perhaps
Bishop Plessis may appear pessimistic to such as
do not fully grasp the situation of that distracted
land at the time he was writing. No one could then
have foreseen that within three years all sources of
trouble would have been eliminated by the fusion of
the two contending parties into one homogeneous
body under the name of the Hudson's Bay Company.
But it is within the bounds of probabilities that the
Catholic mission contributed largely towards the
happy result by rendering impossible such acts of
violence as had disgraced whites and halfbreeds
alike. A peaceful contest being practically out of
the question, the disappearance of one of the two
companies was a matter of necessity.21
The outcome of it all was the sending west of the
two priests that were to found the Church of St.
The coalition of the two companies took place on March 26th, 1821. CHAPTER  VIL
The man who was to be God's instrument in estab-
lishing the Church in the Middle West was the Rev.
Joseph Norbert Provencher. Born at Nicolet, in
Lower Canada, February 12, 1787, he had been
ordained to the priesthood on December 21, 1811,
and had at first filled the office of assistant to the
curé of a parish in the city of Quebec. In 1814 he
had been appointed to the parish of Pointe Claire,
near Montreal, and two years later Mgr. Plessis pro-
moted him to that of Kamouraska. He was at the
head of that parish when he received the first inti-
mation that his ecclesiastical superior had cast his
eyes on him for the direction of the remote Red
River mission.
This was indeed a far from tempting offer. All
Canada was afire with the reports of the atrocities
committed in the west: would' he have tact enough
to steer his bark clear of the reef s that must lay in
wait for the mariner in that sea of endless conflicts ?
Moreoyer he was not familiar with English; could
scarcely travel on account of a painful infirmity; had
debts which he was in honour bound to pay without
delay, while the insufficiency of tithes that year made
mmm 1
~ 1^.
1 $ i
1     ■    ''
K fc'"*
this an impossibility. Nevertheless, he was willing
to second the views of his bishop; for, he said, "if
that mission was postponed on my account, I should
apprehend reproaches from God and men."1
But Mr. Provencher was the elect of Bishop
Plessis. He had therefore to submit, and press back
into his heart the protestations of his humility. As
soon as a companion had been found for him in the
person of Rev. Joseph Nicolas Sévère Dumoulin,2
the Bishop of Quebec sent to all the parish priests of
his immense diocese—then the only one within the
Whole of Canada—a circular asking for contribu-
tions towards the establishment of the Red River
mission.3 Then he bestowed on Mr. Provencher the
powers of a vicar-general, and addressed to the two
missiönaries f uil directions as to the line of conduct
they were to follow in the pursuance of their sacred
^Kamouraska, 15th March, 1818. Provencher's debts amounted to
£252.12.9. It speaks well for the esteem in which he was held at
Kamouraska that one of his parishioners, a Mr. A. Dionne, then wrote
to Mgr. Plessis: "I have never craved so much for wealth as at this
time, in order that I might set him at ease on that score" (Eistoire
des Families Têtu, Bonenfant, Dionne et Perrault, par Mgr. Eenri
Têiu, p. 467. Quebec; 1898). Yet, humanly speaking, Provencher
might have had reasons of his own to wish for a change in the scène
of his labours; for at Kamouraska he had encountered the opposition
of a few busybodies who had thwarted his plans. But Mr. Dionne
positively stated in the same letter: "The tears which were shed in
the church . . . when respectable Mr. Provencher announced his departure for Red River are unmistakable tokens of the good he has
done in this parish during the short time he has directed it. They
have well proved that he is regretted by all, without excepting those
who tormented him last year.''
2Born at Ste. Anne, Isle of Montreal, 5th Dec, 1793, and ordained
23rd Feb., 1817.   He had studied at the Seminary of Nicolet.
8March 29th, 1818.
'April 20th, 1818.
The future apostles were expected to learn the
dialects of their Indian neophytes and prepare
grammars and dictionaries of the same. They will
have to regularize the unions of the French Canadians with native women; preach the word of God
and strive to enforce His laws; but above all they
shall watch with a jealous eye over the education of
youth, and establish schools wherever practicable.
Then the preacher of the famous sermon on the
defeat of the French forces by Nelson's squadron5
reveals himself in the ninth clause of their "march-
ing orders": "They shall teil the people of the
advantages they en joy in living under the government of His Britannic Majesty, teaching them by
word and example the respect and fidelity they owe
to the Sovereign."6
And as it was feared lest the Northwest Company
should try to thwart the work of conciliation of the
two priests, the prelate obtained from them testi-
monials from Sir John Cape Sherbrooke, "Captain-
General and Governor-in-Chief in and over the
Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada."    These
"Ever since the cession of Canada to Great Britain the Bishops of
Quebec had never succeeded in having their title recognized by the
English authorities. They were even forbidden to assume it officially.
Rev. J. O. Plessis, who had been named coadjutor to the bishop of
that city, preaehed that sermon with a view to conciliating the English element in Canada. For the first time since the end of the French
regime he had the bishop called by his official name on the pamphlet
which contained the prelate's mandement, or pastoral charge, together
with his own sermon.
6We shall have many a fact to record which goes to show how faith-
fully this direction was foliowed by. the representatives of the Catholic
Church in the Middle West of Canada. 98
:f l
were dated April 29,1818. Owing to the importance
of the party that delivered them, we hereby repro-
duce them from the original:
"Whereas the Reverends Joseph Norbert Provencher, Severe Joseph Nicolas Dumoulin and Guil-
laume Etienne Edge have been appointed by the
most Reverend the Roman Catholic Bishop of Quebec as missiönaries to the Red River and the adjacent Indian territories, ... I do hereby call on
all His Majesty's subjects, civil and military, and
do request all other persons whomsoever to whom
these Presents shall come not only to permit the
said missiönaries to pass without hindrance or mo-
lestation, but to render them all good offices, assist-
ance and protection wherever they shall find it necessary to go in the exercise of their holy calling."
Moreover, at the suggestion of Lord Selkirk, who
feared the hostility of the Northwest Company and
its agents, the same Governor of both Canadas gave
them for escort Captain the Chevalier Charles de
Lorimier, of the Indian Department, a man who was
known and respected by everybody. Then, the better to ensure the future of the mission they were to
found, the noble lord endowed it, "in consideration
of the sum of Hve shillings of good and lawful money
of the Province of Lower Canada,"7 with a seignory
of five miles by four at the mouth of the Seine River
on the east side of the Red, nearly opposite to the
TIn the indenture signed on the 19th of May, it is stated that the
grant was made '' in consideration of the sum of five pounds.'' Wtf H-M FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH OF ST. BONIFACE      99
mouth of the Assiniboine. To this he added, on the
west side of the Red, a piece of land fifteen chains
This measure was, of course, intended for the
benefit of the mission itself, not for interests of a
private natufe. But to the persons of the missiönaries themselves Lord Selkirk gave unmistakable
marks of esteem during a stay they had to make in
Montreal, while they were getting everything in
readiness for their momentous journey. Nor was he
alone in his kind attentions to them. Lady Selkirk
herself left nothing untried in order to be of assist-
ance to them. "I never saw a lady so learned, so
witty and so obliging," wrote Mr. Dumoulin to his
bishop. "She has gone beyond all bounds in order
to get us all we might need, and this with such a
constantly good grace that all her attentions are
thereby doubled in value. It seems that Milord
never does anything without consulting her.' '8 Provencher was not less sensible to the lady's kindness.
"The Countess of Selkirk has prepared us a beautiful chapel," he writes, "and she proposes to do
even more."9
It is simple justice to the memory of the noble
couple that the Catholics of the west and elsewhere
should know what their Church owes to them.
Thus provided with safeguards against all pos-
8Montreal, 30th Aug., 1818.
"Montreal, 1818 (no other date). A chapel is, in missionary par-
lance, a set of priestly vestments and all the other requisites to say
mass with. Ff
sible obstacles, the two missiönaries, with their
young assistant, bade farewell to Montreal, May 19,
1818. Their route lay along the Ottawa, which they
ascended until the Mattawa was reached; then
through Lake Nipissing to Lakes Huron and Superior as far as Fort William. After the Kaministiquia had been poled up to the height of land, there
was a succession of unconnected sheets of water
necessitating long and tedious portages to Cross
Lake. Thence progress was more easy, as they had
only to descend the streams and traverse Lakes la
Pluie (or Rainy) and of the Woods to the mouth of
the Winnipeg River. After some thirty miles of
canoeing to the mouth of the Red, this was ascended
to the point of destination.
At Lake Nipissing Messrs. Provencher and Du-
moulin had a foretaste of the morals introduced
among the Indians by the rivalry of the traders. The
dusky children of the lakes were very civil; in
return for the good counsels of the priests they
offered them fish and asked for . . . rum, loudly
manifesting their surprise when told that the latter
had none.
June 20th they reached the famous Fort William,
v 7
where the commander, Mr. de Rocheblave, greeted
them with the powerful voice of his cannon.
The sixteenth of that same month was indeed a
red letter day for the Catholics of Eed Eiver. A
motley crowd of all ages and conditions, mostly
French Canadians and halfbreeds, had been gath-
ered by special courier, and thronged the grounds
of Fort Douglas. Suddenly, at about five o'clock in
the afternoon, two canoes were seen painfully poling
up the river.
"Here they are!" cried a voice on top the bank.
"Here they are!" repeated a hundred throats by
the fort.
Useless to explain that they were the missiönaries,
who shortly afterwards briskly walked up in their
black robes, kindly and smiling to the people that
were to be their flock. Both priests were of a com-
manding presence, tall and of a gentlemanly hearing.10 They made a profound impression on everybody, not excepting Alexander Macdonell, who had
succeeded Miles Macdonell at the head of the colony.
After they had addressed a few words to the Canadians and others, some of whom wept for joy at the
sight.of the almost forgotten ecclesiastical costume,
while the halfbreeds were awe-struck at the appear-
ance and deportment of the men of God, the governor of the colony tendered them a generous, though
necéssarily frugal, hospitality. Prior to their leav-
ing the east, the two priests had beaten up recruits
for the Hudson's Bay Company and the colony
among the French Canadians.11 As a result of their
exertions seven large canoes with about forty Canadians, some with their families, foliowed the missiönaries, under the lead of a John McLeod.
"Provencher was six feet four and very handsome.
uJohn McLeod's Memoir. I
^ 5
"This is indeed a fine country," wrote Eev. Mr.
Provencher; "the river is fairly large. It has a
border of oaks, elms, poplars, aspens, etc. Beyond
this fringe of wood extend prairies as far as the eye
can reach.   .   .   .   The soil seems excellent.''
This was written to Bishop Plessis, on the morrow
of the missiönaries' arrival. Mr. Provencher waited
a little in order to be in a position to take in the
Situation from a mor al standpoint. It was not en-
couraging. Speaking of the native population, he
wrote on September 13, 1818: " It can be said without hesitation that their commerce with the whites,
instead of advancing them towards civilization, has
served only to drive them away therefrom, because
the whites have spoiled their morals by the strong
drinks of which the natives are extraordinarily fond,
and they have taught them debauchery by their bad
examples. Most of the employees have children by
women whom they afterwards send away to the first
newcomer. . . . All the clerks and bourgeois likewise have squaws, and, what is worse, no more care
is taken of the children born of these would-be mar-
riages than if they had no souls.
I shall ever consider it a duty to communicate to Your Lordship
the observations whieh time and circumstances will allow me hence-
forth to make. Pending some more interesting to send to Your
Lordship, permit me to subscribe myself with the most profound
Of Your Lordship the most humble and most obedient servant,
Provencher, priest, vicar-general.
From Fort Douglass, at Red River, the 13th of August, 1818.
Fort Douglas, 13th Sept., 1818.
riHUÜBIiuMi 104
This state of things on the banks of the Eed Eiver
forebode plenty of work and perhaps some trouble
for the missiönaries. But they welcomed work.
Their first care was to provide themselves with some
sort of habitation, wherein to pass the winter. With
logs of aspen they built a house fifty by thirty, part
of which was at first utilized as a chapel. Less than
two months after their arrival, they had already
baptized no less than seventy-two children, one of
whom was a little Sauteux girl who died shortly
after her baptism; so that it was to an Indian that
they first opened the gates of heaven.13
At that date, August 12, 1818, they were still busy
preparing other children for their admission into the
Church, and instructing the Indian women with a
view to baptizing and marrying them. The squaws
proved to be of good-will, but slow in learning on
account of their generally advanced age and imperfect knowledge of French.
On the day that Provencher was thus describing
the work of the missiönaries, the French Canadians
they had recruited for the west in Lower Canada
came up. They intended to settle in the proxim-
ity of Fort Douglas. But clouds of grasshoppers
had just swarmed over the doomed colony, and eaten
up the crops that had so far been f uil of promise.
Discouraged at the sight of the havoc, they made for
Pembina, about sixty miles up the Eed Eiver.   Mr.
"The seeond burial, the first of an adult, was that of the son of the
interpreter Brousse, which took place on Aug. 29th, 1818. FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH OF ST. BONIFACE   105
Provencher found himself in the necessity of sending
thither his confrère, Eev. Mr. Dumoulin, with the
young ecclesiastic Edge. Pembina being nearer to
the haunts of the bufïalo, contained already quite a
population of French Canadians and halfbreeds.
Mr. Dumoulin put his hand to the plough with a will,
and, not content with instructing the people in the
science of heaven, he imparted to them some knowledge of the things of the earth by means of a school
managed by his companion, Mr. Edge. || This soon
boasted some sixty pupils, and could have counted
eighty but for the distance of the buffalo herds
which the parents had to follow.14
His zeal for the instruction of his people carried
him still further. Having come upon a young Canadian named Legacé, who had had a fairly good edu-
cation, he induced some of the freemen of the plains
to engage his services as a school teacher to their
children. Legacé went to winter in one of the larg-
est camps, and he soon had more pupils than even
Mr. Edge.15
At Pembina, by the beginning of 1819, Mr. Dumoulin had conferred fifty-two baptisms and rehabilit-
ated a number of marriages among the three hundred persons he had with him. The vicar-general
(Mr. Provencher) could not, therefore, hesitate id
giving his consent to the building of a house for the
"Letter from Mr. Provencher, 5th Jan., 1819.
"From the same to Bishop Plessis; Pembina, 14th Feb., 1819. 106      CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
missionary and a chapel for the faithful of that
While the Church was thus implanting herself on
the banks of the Eed Eiver, the mission of Fort William, for which the Northwest Company is believed
to have asked as early as 1814, was not neglected,
though no permanent missionary establishment was
made in the locality for quite a number of years. It
had been entrusted to Eev. Mr. Tabeau, who, for reasons of an honourable character,16 had declined the
foundation of that of Eed Eiver. From his post at
Boucherville he periodically repaired for a time to
Sault Ste. Marie and Fort William. In this mission
he was granted an aid, August 13,1818, in the person
of Eev. Mr. Crevier, then assistant priest at Detroit,
who was directed by Bishop Plessis to make there an
apostolic excursion on behalf of the Indians and the
French and English Canadians who frequented or
dwelt in the two posts.
On March llth of the following year (1819), Mr.
Tabeau received another letter from his bishop,
wherein he was consulted concerning the terms he
considered proper to offer to prospective servants
for the Eed Eiver mission. It appears that those
hired on the spot by Mr. Provencher were lacking in
honesty and morality. Through the intervention of
Mr. Dionne, the good prelate had already secured
11 nice boys, all of Kamouraska."    He added
"The author of the Pantheon Canadien, Art. Tabeau, asserts that he
died Bishop-elect of Spiga, 18th Dec, 1834. FOUNDATION OFRTHE CHURCH OF ST. BONTE ACE   107
that he counted on the parish priest of Boucherville
for the continuation of the Fort William mission
commenced the preceding year, as well as on his
collaborator, Mr. Crevier. At the same time he
admitted that he had vainly attempted to ascertain
how the enterprise was viewed by the directors of
the Northwest Company. After they had suggested
it themselves, it was feared that the Eed Eiver foundation, which had been made under the auspices of
their opponents in the trade, had considerably damp-
ened their ardour for that of Fort William.
Left alone at the Forks, as the environs of Fort
Douglas were still called, Mr. Provencher, in pre-
vision of the forthcoming winter, exerted himself in
hurrying the building of his' humble lodgings. He
stooped to the most menial tasks in the assistance he
lent his workmen. That part of his house which was
to be used as a temporary chapel was finished for All
Saints' Day, 1818, when he held the first service in
it.17 This he put under the patronage of St. Boni-
face, in order to draw God's blessings on the Ger-
man Meur ons, Catholics none too fervent, through
the intercession of the Apostle of their nation.18 By
extension the name was soon applied to the little
Catholic settlement on the banks of the Seine.
"It is on record that the day Provencher opened his first chapel
on the Red River, three children, Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière, Reine
Lagimo diere and Josette Houle, made their first communion, while a
Meuron soldier named Rodger was married to Marguerite Lagimodière.
"Letter from Provencher to Bishop Plessis; Pembina, 14th Feb.,
sacëS* 108
January 15,1819, is the very first time that we see
that place thus denominated in Provencher's corre-
spondence. He had just gone to pay a visit to his
confrère at Pembina. He then mentions that, apart
from his own combination of a house and chapel,
which was still unfinished, he had prepared the ma-
terial, oak logs with outside sawed off, for a regular
church eighty feet long, which he intended to erect
at St. Boniface.
He adds: "We are always on good terms with both
companies. The Nor'westers are ever ready to
render us all the services in their power." Then
comes the significant statement that "the Hudson's
Bay Company people are not so obliging."19 He
ends with a subject which is as near his heart as it
is in the case of Mr. Dumoulin. "Already," he
says, "if we had sisters for the education of the
girls, they would find something to do here. . . .
I do not believe it inopportune to think of this."
During the following March Mr. Provencher un-
dertook a much more important journey than that
to Pembina. He went by dog-train to visit the trading posts at Qu'Appelle Eiver, some three hundred
miles from St. Boniface, and on the Souris Eiver.
There he had the consolation of baptizing forty children of Canadians and of hearing the confessions of
all the Catholic servants, who were quite numerous
at both places.
On his return, he sent his confrère to give a mis-
"Pembina, 15th Jan., 1819. FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH OF ST. BONIFACE   109
sion at Eainy Lake, where the employees of the
northern traders repaired every year. These were
the first in a series of apostolic excursions whereby
the two missiönaries gradually took possession of
the country in the name of Christ. In the course of
these the main posts existing at the time received
their visit, and in the spring of 1820 Mr. Dumoulin
went as far as Hudson Bay.
Eeverting to the headquarters of the mission
itself, we obtain through one of the vicar-general's
letters a glimpse of the extreme penury that charac-
terized his home. His heart had indeed been glad-
dened by the arrival of a 100-pound bell sent him
from London by the Earl of Selkirk.20 But, not only
was there not a crumb of bread on his table months
in and months out, but he had scarcely any flour for
making hosts for the Holy Sacrifice, and his pro-
vision of wine for the same was getting low.
Apart from the hardships of a material order to
which he had to submit, difficulties arising from the
apathy of demoralized Indians and the obduracy of
some Canadians and not a few Germans accustomed
to the grossest licentiousness were great trials for
the missiönaries. At St. Boniface proper, another
source of anxiety, demanding a still greater watch-
fulness on the part of the pastor, arose from the
coming of Eev. John West, an Anglican clergyman
sent out from England to minister to the spiritual
needs of the Presbyterians of the settlement (Octo-
20Provencher to Plessis, 24th Nov., 1819. w
ber 4, 1820). For some time these people did not
appreciate his services, owing to differences in faith
and especially in liturgy from what they had been
accustomed to in Scotland. Unable to do much with
them, he turned his attention to Provencher's people.
In a little book wherein he relates his doings during
the three years that he stayed in the colony, Mr.
West mentions the case of a Canadian21 whom he
married to a Swiss Protestant woman.22
This question of mixed marriages was for some
time a thorn in the side of the missiönaries. Owing
to the great ignorance of the people and the ease
with which matrimonial unions had been contracted
prior to their arrival, it called for special vigilance.
In the above mentioned case Mr. Provencher deemed
it his duty to admonish the guilty party of the grav-
ity of his transgression. Hence a sanetimonious
horror on the part of the minister, who writes in his
journal: "These circumstances prove that Popery,
as it now exists, at least in this quarter of the globe,
is not contrary to what it was in the days of the
Eef ormation.' '23 Some there are who will doubtless
add that it is not likely to change to please heterodox
preachers even unto the consummation of the world.
West was anything but a High Church clergyman.
He revered "our blessed reformers," and seems to
21 At that time, and long after, that expression meant a French-
224 f The Substance of a Journal during a Residence at the Red River
Colony," p. 74. London, 1824. Several Catholic Meurons were likewise married outside the Church.
have considered that, once a person of any or no
faith had accepted a copy of his Bible, though that
person may have been unable to read or understand
it, he had a passport which would infallibly open to
him the gates of heaven. His chief aim was therefore to make proselytes by that means, but he had
finally to desist in the face of the ridicule he drew
on himself by coaxing into accepting his Bibles halfbreeds who did not know them from a cook book.24
Even at Eed Eiver it was feit that the age of fetishes
was gone.
Despite the depreciatory remarks of that minister
concerning the lack of influence of the Catholic
clergy, it was soon noticed that peace and order were
beginning to reign where chaos and the fiercest pas-
sions had previously held sway. "The Protestants
of this place are extremely pleased with our mission," wrote Mr. Dumoulin to Mgr. Plessis. "They
seem to take the keenest interest in it, especially
MOn p. 79 of West's Journal the author claims that, on a certain
day of February, 1822, some Swiss emigrants "attended divine service on the Sabbath during [his stay at Pembina] and expressed much
gratitude for [his] reading to them the French Testament and the
ministerial duties [he] performed among them." Mr. West must
have had very special aptitudes for the acquisition of languages, or
the thanks of the Swiss must have been prompted more by a sense
of recognition of his goodwill than by their satisfaction at the suc-
cess of his performance. For, about a year before, that gentleman
had asked Mr. Destroismaisons to teach him French in return for English lessons, and the latter had been dissuaded from acceding to his
request (Dumoulin to Bishop Plessis, 6th Jan., 1821). Would it be
impossible to see in this refusal one of the reasons for that bitter-
ness against the Catholic priests of Red River which pervades the
minister's Journal? \
It appears from a letter in Provencher's handwriting, of the 29th
Nov., 1822, that, at that date, Mr. West "had no chapel as yet, but
only a school house, with a teacher and a dozen pupils." 112
Col. Dickson. He professes to be delighted with our
labours and writes often to England about them. On
Christmas Day I admitted his daughter to her first
communion, as well as Miss Powell, whose father is a
Protestant."25 .   '|||f
This salutary influence of the priests on behalf of
peace in places where, but a short time before, it was
so little known, is further emphasized by the continued contests ending in disorders and deeds of
violence that were just then stirring to the utmost
the representatives of both companies in f ar-off Ath-
abasca, where the hand of religion could not reach.
On May 25,1821, as many as 313 baptisms, 53 mar-
riages and 31 funerals were to the credit of the mission at Pembina, while the school was prosperous
under the direction of a Mr. Sauvé, another unor-
dained ecclesiastic who had even six scholars study-
ing latin grammar.
Meantime, the vicar-general had found it incum-
bent on himself to proceed to Quebec, in order to
report on the progress of his mission, and also that
he might avert a measure of the greatest import to
himself and the Eed Eiver Settlement. Unwilling
to leave Mr. Dumoulin alone in that f ar-off land, he
had previously secured the services of a new missionary. This was Eev. Mr. Destroismaisons who,
ordained October 17, 1819, .arrived at Red Eiver
accompanied by Mr. Sauvé. What the nature of the
above mentioned measure was we shall presently see.
5January 6th, 1821. CHAPTEE  VIII.
In founding the Church of St. Boniface, the eccles-
iastical authorities were not without f oreseeing that,
owing to the immense distance intervening between
Red River and Quebec, it could not long exist without having a bishop at its head. In fact, it would
seem as if this natural evolution of all similar estab-
lishments had been hinted at in presence of Mr.
Provencher. Less than two months after his arrival
at the "Forks," we find him mentioning the subject
in a letter to Bishop Plessis. "This country is still
very young to have a bishop," he remarks. . . .
"There is one thing which it would perhaps be good
to take into consideration, it is that the choice of
the first pastor might more appropriately f all on another man than on myself. You will easily find in
your diocese a priest more able to fill that high post
than I am.   I am already pretty high."1
Mr. Provencher fully realized the necessity of an
ecclesiastic with episcopal powers to direct his mission ; but he hoped somebody else would be found to
shoulder the burden. To be a bishop at Eed Eiver
meant to stay there for life; but the very thought of
aFort Douglas, 15th Aug., 1818.
H [113] 114
this was enough to make anyone shudder. Could he
be so self-sacrificing as to resign himself to such a
fate? Moreover, are not the words bishop and
superior intellect practically synonymous? But he
was conscious of his deficiencies in that respect.
Then he had his likes and dislikes: evidently he could
not rule with that degree of impartiality which en-
sures prompt obedience.
Great, therefore, was his consternation when, after
his arrival at Montreal, October 17, 1820, he learned
that bulls had been obtained for him, dated February
lst of that same year, which named him titular
Bishop of Juliopolis and coadjutor to the Bishop of
Quebec for the Northwest. When these were handed
him, he would not even read them, but immediately
gave them back to Bishop Plessis, begging for time
to ponder over the possible consequences of such an
appointment, and claiming the liberty of declining
the same. Mgr. Plessis thought it best not to press
the matter just then, and as the poor missionary
stood in need of almost everything,2 he temporarily
gave him charge of the parish of Yamachiche.
There Provencher meditated at leisure on the aw-
ful dilemma that confronted him. He was averse to
preventing in any way the progress of the Eed River
mission, and yet everything in his make-up seemed
2He wrote in this connection: '' When I reached Montreal my means
were exhausted: I had neither money nor suitable clothes in which to
appear in public. I was obliged to borrow a few dollars to buy my-
self a cassock, boots and a nat. While awaiting these articles, I
had to shut myself up, so wretehed were those they were intended to
to militate against accepting the proffered dignity.
His humility veiled from his mental visión that hon-
esty of purpose, those undoubted ecclesiastical
virtues, that burning zeal for the glory of God and
the conversion of souls which easily take the place
of more brilliant, but less useful, qualities, and in
which he was certainly not deficiënt.
"I have not become a priest in order to amass
money,'' he wrote to his bishop; " if needs be, I shall
go to devote my youth to the welfare of Eed Eiver,
but as a simple priest; speak, I shall obey you. As
for theepiscopate, it is another thing; never could I
persuade myself that I was born for such a high
rank. Eome has spoken: I am full of respect for the
Chair of Peter; but its voice is merely an echo of
your own word. The Holy Father does not know
me, and I am sure that if he did he would not admit
Mr. Provencher wrote the same day to a personal
friend, who was to be consecrated five days later
Bishop of Telmesse and coadjutor of Quebec for
Montreal. He begged for a frank opinion on the line
of conduct he should follow. "Monseigneur [of
Quebec] should know me enough not to think of
me," he said. "At all events, I am firmly determ-
ined to defend myself as well as I can."
Mgr. Lartigue (his correspondent) advised him to
yield. Consequently, Provencher notified his Ordinary of his consent, March 19, 1821.   He remained
8Jan. 16th, 1821. 116       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
another year at Yamachiche in order to create resources for his poor mission, and seek for recruits
among the seminaries and colleges. Only one did he
find. He was a cleric, as yet in minor orders, the
Eev. Jean Harper, a French Canadian with an English name, who consented to.follow him.
On May 12th, Provencher was consecrated by
Bishop Plessis, and appointed coadjutor for the
Northwest, as the civil authorities still objected to
the creation of a regular hierarchy with metropoli-
tans and suff ragans in Canada. On the first of June
of the same year, 1822, he was off again for his distant mission, with Mr. Harper as a companion. This
return trip was in a sense a disappointment to him.
At the last moment, the officers of the Hudson's Bay
Company advised him that they could not grant him
the free passage in their boat on which he had
counted. Therefore he had to outfit a canoe at his
own expense, and thus were eaten up the savings he
had made at Yamachiche and elsewhere.
Many were the children he regenerated in the
waters of baptism and the sinners he reconciled with
their Maker on his way home. On the 7th of August
he reached St. Boniface, where he was received with
great demonstrations of joy.
He had been there only one day when he had to
give his attention to a matter which for a time
threatened to develop into a source of great annoy-
ance to himself and people. We have seen that Pembina was the supply post of the colony, owing to its  \t_^;. THE FIRST BISHOP OF THE WEST
proximity to the buffalo, while St. Boniface and its
environs had been three times affiicted with a visita-
tion of locusts, which had destroyed all the crops and
grass. These circumstances easily accounted for the
larger population at the former place.
But it had been discovered that Pembina was just
outside of the British possessions in North America,,
and the executor of Lord Selkirk (who had died at
Pau, France, April 8, 1820), had been shocked at the
virtual neglect of "the Forks" by the Canadians, in
a trip he had just taken there. That gentleman, a
Mr. John Halkett, was a brother-in-law to the de-
ceased earl, but he did not in the least share in his
sympathy with Catholics. He had just left for Nor-
way House and England after winding up the affairs
of the estafe in the colony, but not before he had
written for Bishop Provencher a letter couched in
offensive language, whereby the new prelate was
summoned to call on his people to abandon the
American post and settle near Fort Douglas.
The reasons he gave for that move were plausible
enough, but its execution was not so easy as he
imagined. Therefore the bishop firmly declared in
a letter he addressed him three days after his return
that "this emigration is absolutely impossible this
year, because nobody will be in a hurry to come to
the Forks with the prospect of certain starvation."
He then goes on to state that "far from the Forks
being in a position to support the proposed new-
comers from Pembina, part of the people at the Si '
Forks will have to go this winter to Pembina in
search of something to live on." He added that the
earliest that a step such as that contemplated by
Mr. Halkett could be taken would be the ensuing
This missive Halkett received at York Factory.
On August 30th he wrote to Provencher, almost in
the same peremptory tone, and to the prelate's request that he be allowed to establish a settlement on
Lake Manitoba, where such of the Canadians and
halfbreeds as did not take kindly to farming could
get a living by fishing, the inexorable Scotchman
answered by a refusal. As an outcome of this corre-
spondence, Bishop Provencher went himself to pass
a few days at Pembina (January, 1823), with a view
to preparing the people for the measure he was
forced to take. He told them that he saw himself in
the necessity of recalling Mr. Dumoulin, and invited
them to come down to St. Boniface or its neighbour-
A few foliowed his advice; others went up the
Assiniboine to what was then called the White Horse
Plains, about fifteen miles from the Forks, and
founded the settlement which was to become the
parish of St. Frangois-Xavier. Others again looked
elsewhere for salvation. Thirty-five Canadians,
finding themselves abandoned at the bidding of the
proprietors of the colony, signed a petition to the
American Government, requesting to be taken under
the protection of the United States. THE FIRST BISHOP OF THE WEST
This last step occasioned complaints on the part
of some Hudson's Bay Company officers, who would
fain have held Bishop Provencher responsible there-
for, though, as a matter of fact, all his energies had
been bent in an opposite direction. The rumours having come to the knowledge of his superior at Quebec,
the latter who, by previous Communications, knew
of Halkett's animus against the Catholic missiönaries, f eared lest that gentleman might endanger the
future of their establishment at Eed Eiver.
He therefore asked that if, in spite of the missiönaries' irreprehensible conduct, complaints were
made in London against them, no opinion be formed
before the accused had had an opportunity of clearing themselves of the charges.4 Halkett answered
that no such complaints had reached London, though
the Company's Committee had been advised that the
petition to the American authorities must have been
drawn and circulated with thé concurrence of the
Eoman Catholic priests. But he added immediately
that "this appears to be extremely improbable."5
As, far as the mission's personnel was concerned,
the abandonment .of Pembina had an unfortunate
Man. 19th, 1824. '■
"London, 14th April, 1824. On June 12 of the following year, Provencher, who had just become aware of his delicate situation, wrote
to Bishop Plessis: "It is quite true that when Major Long passed
at Pembina the people of the place entrusted him with a petition for
the American Congress; but it is perfectly false to assert that it was
made at our instigation, since none of us was on the spot. There
had been no question of it, and we had learnt of it only a long
time after the passage of the major. I do not know the wording
of that petition, which has been little spoken of here." 11
i! j
result. Eev. Dumoulin, good missionary as he un-
doubtedly was, had already allowed visions of
friends, home and parents gradually to draw his
heart from the theatre of his labours. He took his
removal from his flock as an excuse for asking leave
to return to Lower Canada.
This was but the starting point in a long series of
similar withdrawals, the source of unending "trials
for the head of the mission, because of worry and
anxiety concerning the means of recruiting and keeping his clergy. He had scarcely time to rejoice in the
arrival of a new worker in the Lord 's vineyard, when
another who had been under him but a few years
would throw longing glances in the direction of the
Mr. Dumoulin left on Jury 16, 1823, after exactly
five years of good services. Just one priest remained,
Eev. Destroismaisons, and Dumoulin had scarcely
been away when the younger priest commenced to
think of his own return.6
And yet good men in the missionary field were
then sadly wanted. Apart from the Indians, for the
benefit of whom nothing serious had so far been
attempted, the number of Catholics, by outside acces-
sions, natural increase or conversions of Protestants, was getting every day larger. As early as
August, 1821, the Catholics in the valley of the Eed
Eiver were 800, of whom 350 lived at St. Boniface,
6<<Mr. Destroismaisons would gladly see Canada again" (Provencher
to Plessis, 16th July, 1823). THE FIRST BISHOP OF THE WEST
with forty-six catechumens, and 450 at Pembina,
with fifty catechumens. Early in the following year
Swiss emigrants arrived, among whom were seven
Catholics.7 But by- the amalgamation of the two
companies in 1821 numerous posts, which had been
erected merely for the sake of competition, were
abandoned, and the services of their Canadian ser-
vants dispensed with. .These having heard of the
mission on the banks of the Eed, flocked thither with
their families and considerably swelled the ranks of
the Catholics.
On the other hand, abjurations of Protestantism,
while not common, did at times occur. In August,
1822, the conversion of a Scotch lady is chronicled,
and, two years later, Provencher is pleased to an-
nounce that of several Swiss women married to
Catholics, adding that some more were expected
to take place in the near future. Then there were
the children of other Swiss who, not understanding
English, were sure to fall within the pale of the
Catholic Church.8
Though he had severed his connection with the
Eed Eiver mission, Mr. Dumoulin ever kept a warm
corner in his heart for it, and he furthered its in-
terests to the best of his abilities. He published in
the course of 1824 a statement destined primarily to
vindicate the creation of a bishopric there, which
many attacked as useless, or at least premature. He
TLetter from Mr. Destroismaisons to Bishop Plessis, 30th Aug., 1821.
"Provencher to Plessis, 15th July, 1824. il
takes occasion of that publication to remark that,
when he left Eed Eiver, baptism had already been
administered to 800 persons, 120 marriages had been
celebrated or regularized, and 150 first communions
had gladdened the hearts of the missiönaries. He
adds that there were already more Catholics within
that territory than there had been in the district of
Boston when that was raised to the rank of a diocese.
Dumoulin also extols the virtues of the Bishop of
Juliopolis, and ends by soliciting subscriptions to
assist him in his good work, heading the list himself
with a gift of fifteen pounds.9
This and other donations were all the more wel-
come as the Eed Eiver mission stood greatly in need
of the sinews of war. One of the main sources of
expense was the schools maintained by the bishop
and his missiönaries. It can truthfully be said that
the Catholic clergy concurred in regarding them as
works of vital importance. When we consider the
extremely unstable character of the population that
formed their flocks, we may well wonder at their
untiring eff orts in this direction, especially as these
were so little appreciated by the parents, Canadians
or halfbreeds accustomed to a free and easy life on
the plains, where the possession of literary accom-
plishments was of very little use.
Thus in 1821, Mr. Sauvé was asking for more
primers, some grammars, Epitomes, and other little
9Nottice sur les Missions de la Bivière Bouge; St. Pierre, lOth March,
school books.10  A few months later, works on history
and books of devotion were wanted.11
Nor is this all.    Even at that early date, the
thoughts of the missiönaries were for the future.
They would fain get from their motley congrega-
tions recruits to fill up their ranks when they should
have to relinquish their labours.   With this end in
view, they endeavoured to prepare halfbreed or
Canadian boys for the priesthood.   In 1822 we note
that Provencher is solicitous concerning the acquisi-
tion of French-Latin and Latin-French dictionaries
with a few classical volumes which he needs for his
scholars.12   Later on, June, 1824, he mentions two
young men, fairly well endowed as far as intellectual
gifts go, who had gone through Mr. Harper's prim-
ary school at St. Boniface and were just ready to
start on a collegiate course.   Even then he had two
other boys in the Latin classics, whom he taught
himself.   They had already gone through the entire
Epitome, De Viris illustribus, Cornelius Nepos, four
books of Quintus Curtius, the four Gospels, the
Acts of the Apostles and the Imitation in Latin.
i i T^ey begin to understand versification,'' he writes,
"and are going to  follow belles-lettres  this summer."13    Then  comes  the  significant  ejaculation:
j f Please God that they do not slip out of my hands!''
His wishes were not to be realized.   Neither dur-
"Letter from Bishop Provencher, Yamachiche, 14th June.
uIbid., lst Oct., 1821.
"Yamachiche, 18th May, 1822.
18June lst, 1824. !F&
ing his lifetime nor during that of his immediate
successor was there ever a halfbreed elevated to the
priesthood in the whole Canadian West. But from
the standpoint of higher education, these efforts of
men with scarcely a sufficiency of the necessaries of
life to impart to halfbreed children a knowledge
which would lift them above the average white man,
are certainly worthy of record.
In view of the prosperous condition of the great
institution which every Westerner knows to-day as'
St. Boniface College, it may be of some interest to
mention the names of its two first scholars (1823),
viz.: Sénécal, a French Canadian, and Chénier, the
halfbreed son of a Lachine man settled at Pembina.
Year after year we see the good bishop struggling
on with his embryo college, asking for books here,
for funds there, and having periodically to admit his
disappointments. The scholars were all that could
be desired as far as mental abilities were concerned;
but, arrived at a certain age, they must be off for the
lack of an ecclesiastical vocation. In 1827 he resolves
to take boarders if he can get provisions enough.
He has already two, with a few more ready to come.
A halfbreed named Bruneau14 should finish his
studies within two years, he says; but, taught by
experience, the prelate has his doubts concerning his
vocation (June 22, 1827). The following year this
young man was still with him, in the highest class
"This was Francois Bruneau, who became in later years a magis-
trate in Assiniboia, respected for his well-known integrity and other
of his coiïegiate course, and great hopes were built
on him which were not destined to be realized.
Another question, which we have already men-
tioned, claimed the bishop's attention. This was the
education of girls. In 1824 Mr. Harper, who was
soon to be raised to the priesthood, taught the boys
while putting the last touches to his own theological
studies. Provencher had his Latin course with his
four pupils; but the girls were of necessity neglected.
At Pembina he had made the acquaintance of an old
trader named Nolin, who had five halfbreed daugh-
ters, some of whom had been educated in Canada.
One of them, Angélique, he thought would make a
good nun, or at least an acceptable schoolmistress.
In Jury, 1824, he wrote Nolin with a view to having
his daughter at the head of a school for girls at St.
Boniface; but the old man ref used on the pretext
that, being eighty-two years old, he needed her services. The bishop thought this rather unreasonable,
as he had four other grown-up daughters. He sus-
pected that the opposition to her departure was
coming more from her sisters than from her father.
The following year he reiterated his instances, but
to no purpose; the old gentleman seemed obdurate,
though his daughter longed to consecrate herself to
God. The bishop had to wait until 1829 to put his
plan into execution. Angélique Nolin then came,
accompanied by one of her sisters. Without attempt-
ing to enter into the religious state, for which she
had no real vocation, she opened at St. Boniface the 126       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
first school for girls ever organized within what is
now Manitoba, as Provencher himself had started
the first school for boys within the same territory.
So far the bishop who had practically under him
a district almost vast as Europe had but one priest,
Mr. Destroismaisons. On the lst of November, 1824,
he raised to the priesthood Eev. John Harper, whom
we have seen lending his valued assistance at St.
Boniface. Mr. Destroismaisons was a kind gentleman, but endowed with little oratorical ability. With
the aid of an interpreter, he occasionally gave short
missions to the natives who frequented in the summer the mouth of Pembina Eiver. The results were
not brilliant; yet the good priest had the consolation
of being listened to and of explaining the principal
mysteries of our faith, teaching at the same time a
few simple hymns to the natives.
He returned to Canada in the course of 1827, and
his place was taken by a cleric named Frangois
Boucher who had as yet received only the ecclesias-
tical tonsure.
Just then, in spite of the veto of Mr. Halkett, a
new settlement was being formed on the shores of
Lake Manitoba by Canadians and halfbreeds hailing
from St. Boniface. After three years (1822-25) f ree
from the plague of locusts, it had pleased Divine
Providence to afflict the mission and settlement at
"The Forks" with another scourge. This took the
shape of an inundation which affected the whole
central valley of North America in the spring of THE FIRST BISHOP OF THE WEST
1826.15 The winter had been very severe and the
snow deeper than usual, so that a thaw which came
later than in previous years, when the days were
longer, raised the waters of the Eed Eiver to a pro-
digious extent. They went up forty feet above any
remembered high water mark, overflowing their
banks and destroying every thing. On the east side
of the stream, the bishop 's house was the only habitation left standing.
Hence the emigration of many colonists, mostly
Swiss, to the United States, while others directed
their steps towards Lake Manitoba. Fortunately
about 150 persons came down to the Eed Eiver in
that vèry year, long after remembered as that of
;i The Flood.' f These were old voyageurs with their
families from the north, who partially filled the
vacant places at St. Boniface.
The Catholic population was therefore becoming
more and more homogeneous. Both Macdonells had
left the country, regretted by all for their upright-
ness and thorough attachment to the faith of their
fathers. Another English-speaking friend of the
priests, Mr. John McDonald, was just threatening to
bid farewell to the Middle West. John McDonald,
surnamed Le Borgne (or One-Eyed) to distinguish
him from other gentlemen of the same name in the
west, had been a proprietor of the Northwest Com-
1BIn April of that year the Missouri rosé so rapidly that the inhabitants of fifteen tents of Dakota Indians were drowned, and a French-
Canadian, Toussaint Charbonneau, had to take refuge on a floating
shed, remaining three days without fire.
pany. On August 16, 1817, we find him at Fort
William, and on October 22, 1818, he was indicted,
in commoii with many others, as an accessory after
the fact for the murder of Eobert Semple, in the
trial that took place at Toronto and resulted in the
acquittal of the accused.16 And now, February 2,
1826, Bishop Provencher regrets to record his ser-
ious illness on the lower Winnipeg Eiver.
Eev. Destroismaisons had spent the Christmas
season of that same year among the new settlers of
Lake Manitoba, being the first priest who exercised
his ministry in that quarter. As to Pembina, despite
Halkett's pronouncement, it counted then more inhabitants than at the time of Mr. Dumoulin.
On Pentecost Day, 1828, Mgr. Provencher con-
firmed as many as fifty-three persons, a fact that
bespeaks a constantly increasing Catholic population. Mr. Harper was then of the greatest help to
him, ' f always on the wing for the good of souls,'' as
the prelate writes.17 In August of the preceding
year, he had left for a sojourn of two months among
the buffalo hunters; but he did not do much, owing
to the excitement of the chase and the many occupa-
tions of the halfbreeds consequent thereon. He
passed the following winter at the White Horse
Plains (St. Frangois-Xavier), teaching and preach-
ing the word of God, and in June of 1828 he left for
York Factory, where he gave a mission.
"Though not otherwise implicated, John Macdonell, dit Le Prêtre,
was called to testify in the course 'of the same.
As to the bishop himself, not only did he attend to
the spiritual needs of the adults, but his biographer
tells us of the untiring zeal with which he taught
catechism to the children every day of his life.18
Yet these cares, inherent to the pastoral office, did
not absorb all his time. Provencher was the father
of his people: their material needs and welfare occu-
pied a prominent place in his heart. In a new country, far away from the civilized world, and without
any industry or even the more primitive avocation
of the husbandman among his Canadians, halfbreeds
and Indians, he feit that, if anything must be done
to withdraw them from their roving habits and consequent vices, it was incumbent on him personally
to do it, and thereby contribute towards the general
good of the colony. He therefore taught them agri-
culture by word and example, going so far as to put
his own hand to the plough, even after his elevation
to the episcopate. As early as 1822, he had coaxed
the Sauteux into sowing wheat in four different
localities.19 He imported from Canada various
kinds of fruit trees and experimented with them.
Then, conscious of his failures, he tried with their
seeds, with similar results.
After this he turned his attention to the question
of industries. He was grieved to see the idleness of
too many among his people, an idleness which was
every  way   pernicious   and   destructive   of   their
18Geo. Dugas, Monseigneur Provencher, p. 137.
19St. Boniface, 16th August, 1822. 130       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
inorals. With the intention of giving them some
occupation at home, and at the same time to con-
tribute to their material welfare, he caused weaving
to be taught to the girls of the St. Boniface school.
To this end he cultivated hemp, and asked for cards
for combing wool.20
This industrial activity made a healthful impres-
sion on the settlement. When a grist-mill was put
up at public expense, and then sold out to a private
party, one of the stipulations of the contract was
that the Catholic mission should be the judge of the
quantity of grain that was to be taken as payment
for the grinding.21
Under those circumstances we cannot be surprised
to see Bishop Provencher writing that he had received a letter from the Governor of the Hudson's
Bay Company in America, Mr. (afterwards Sir)
George Simpson, wherein that gentleman states
that he "shall be very pleased to inform the Com-
mittee in London of the important services which
the mission renders in the country."22 Less than a
month later, the annual council held at York Factory passed among its resolutions one that mention-
ed "the great benefit being experienced from the
benevolent and indefatigable exertions of the Catholic mission at Red River on the welfare and mor al
and religious instruction of its numerous followers,
"St. Boniface, 2nd Feb., 1826.
aSt. Boniface, same date.
St. Boniface, 12th June, 1825.
and it being observed with much satisf action that the
influence of the mission under the direction of the
Right Reverend Bishop of Juliopolis has been uni-
formly directed to the best interests of the Settlement and of the country at large."23
As a tangible recognition of this usefulness, the
Company granted the mission a gratuity of £50 and
an assortment of table goods, which the poor prelate
received with unfeigned gratitude.
What amazes us after this is the silence the his-
torians of Manitoba have almost uniformly main-
tained on the influence for good of the Catholic
Church in the early days of that country. Alexander
Ross, in particular, is so complete and fair that, not
only does he ignore it entirely, but he does not as
much as mention Bishop Provencher once in the 416
pages of his work!
MYork Factory, 2nd July, 1825.
nrrm— CHAPTER  IX.
In 1830 the Red River mission comprised three
stations, namely, St. Boniface, Pembina and St.
Francois-Xavier, or White Horse Plains, each of
which had a modest little church or chapel.1 How-
ever, the only one which could really pretend to the
title of church was the oak building put up by Mgr.
Provencher in 1820.2 In spite of the fact that this
nad never been quite finished, and that it had seri-
ously sufïered during the nood of 1826, it still served
as a cathedral.
But it seemed that the time had come to erect an
edifice more worthy of its name. In 1829 Governor
Simpson, who held Provencher in high esteem, vol-
unteered to subscribe £100 towards the erection of a
stone cathedral.8 Experience was showing that
stone buildings were by no means impossible of rea-
lization at Red River, since the Bishop of Juliopolis
was just then (1829-30) replacing by a house of that
*A retired clerk also taught school at St. Francois-Xavier.
^ev. G. Dugas states in his Monseigneur Provencher, p. 121, that
this could not be made proof against snow and rain before 1825. We
f ail to see how this could be the case, considering that Mr. Dumoulin,
who left in 1823, expressly says that "Divine Office was [then] sol-
emnly performed in the new church of St. Boniface'' (Notice sur la
Bvuière Bouge).
"Provencher to the Bishop of Quebec, 6th June, 1830.
description that which he had so far used as his
*' palace.'' The stone was picked up along the shores
of the Red, and conveyed to St. Boniface in flat
This offer of the governor made an impression
on the good bishop. He resolved to pass into Canada and seek additional funds, as well as recruits
for his clergy. He therefore left in August, 1830,
and spent over a year soliciting alms in Lower Canada. These were not grudged the apostolic man. In
1832 he returned west, reaching St. Boniface on July
17th; but the lack of stone masons compelled him to
postpone the beginning of his enterprise, as the only
one then in the colony had already pledged his services to the Hudson's Bay Company.
The foundations of the new temple were laid in
June, 1833, and five stone masons at work on the
building made such satisfactory progress that, in
July of the following year, the bishop complained of
his inability to supply them fast enough with stone.
The church was 100 feet long by 45 in width, and,
when completed, it became the pride of the settlement, being immortalized by the poet Whittier as the
edifice with the "turrets twain." It was not fin-
ished until 1837, and, in July of that year, some little
masonry work remained to be done on the porch.4
In giving an account of the progress of that work
*"My church is covered with boards and is being covered with
shingles. There is still a little masonry work to finish on the door-
way. All that which is completed seems solid" (Provencher to Bishop
Signay, of Quebec, 4th July, 1837). 134
1 •
Provencher mentions his new stone house as imper-
ceptibly crumbling to ruins and a source of great
annoyance on rainy days. As lime was not known at
Red River when it was built, the bishop had thought
a kind of white clay, common in places along the
stream, a good substitute. He now saw his mistake.
At the same time he realized that, after the great
expenditures consequent on the erection of his cathedral, he could not think of building another house for
some time to come.
Funds for these works were not the only results
of his journey to Canada. He had brought there-
from a subject who, first of all his priests, was to
give his undivided attention to the evangelization of
the numerous Indian tribes scattered over Provencher's realm.
The reader has not f orgotten that the first point in
the instructions given the missiönaries to Red River
by the great Bishop Plessis was the preaching of the
Gospel to the natives, and the compiling of grammars and dictionaries of their languages. But it need
not be explained that, with the altogether insufficiënt
number of clergy at his command, all that Provencher could do was to provide for the religious wants
of Catholics, Canadian, halfbreed and others. Nev-
ertheless, feeble and intermittent efforts had been
made with a view to following, to a small extent, the
directions of the Bishop of Quebec.
From a human standpoint, the work had not been
pleasant nor the results encouraging.   Mr. Dumou- THE FIRST INDIAN MISSIONS
lin, especially, had not carried home the best of
recollections of the Eed Eiver Indians. In 1820 one
of them fired at him while he was saying his brev-
iary by the Pembina Eiver, the bullet passing
through his hat. G. Dugas would have it that the
object of the redsMn was to ascertain whether the
priest was vulnerable or not.5 If this was really the
case, we must presume that the Indian's first trial
did not quite satisfy him on that score, since in the
following spring the same individual renewed his
experiment (?) with the same result.6 But this time
some of Dumoulin's parishioners were at hand. They
captured the Indian and tied him up. "Many
Wanted to kill him," writes the missionary; "fortu-
nately he succeeded in eff ecting his escape.''
Apart from the lack of the proper men to under-
take it, the conversion of the Eed Eiver Indians was
an exceedingly thankless task. As Mr. Dumoulin
wrote, the chief obstacle "was the wretched custom
established in the country of intoxicating the natives
when anything was wanted of them. The colony did
it with no more scruples than the Company. In the
conventions made with the Indians for the purpose
of extinguishing their title to the land, one of the
chief clauses was that the colony should yearly fur-
nish them with a stipulated amount of rum; so that
they had much more than was necessary for them
to get drunk.' '7   The missionary then mentions that,
^Monseigneur Provencher, pp. 314-15.
"Dumoulin to Plessis; Pembina. 25th May, 1821.
TThe same to the same;  ibid., 5th January, 1819.
.. a
in the autumn of 1818, an Indian woman had been
killed in one of the orgies prompted by an abundance
of liquor, adding that such outrages were by no
means infrequent.
With time matters scarcely improved. It is therefore cause for little wonder if the Eev. Mr. Belcourt
seems to have had misgivings when the Bishop of
Quebec ordered him to Eed Eiver. He was then
parish priest of Ste. Martine, in Lower Canada. The
dread with which all the Canadian secular priests
looked upon the Eed Eiver country would in itself
suffice to explain the following lines of Belcourt to
his Ordinary:
"I frankly confess that I regard with surprise and
dread the explicit order you give me to put myself
in readiness to proceed to Eed Eiver, at a time when
all my fears had vanished. What astonishes me is
to see how little Your Lordship knows me. The people who have so favourably spoken of me attribute
to me qualities I do not possess. I have received
from God but very common gifts, and he who will
take my place at Ste. Martine might do just as well
as I at Eed Eiver."
These were certainly words dictated either by an
excess of modesty, or by a desire to ward off the
proffered mission. Then comes the heart-breaking
of a man in whom the yearnings of nature are not
entirely dead:
"I have a father and a mother who are inconsol-
able, after they have exhausted their means in secur-
ing my education. My father, I know, will not sur-
vive my departure. I think that my conscience, at
one with the dictates of nature, imperiously tells me
that it is not any more allowed to be ungrateful
towards one's parents than in the case of strangers
who might have rendered one the same services;
hence my observations. Your Lordship has procured
[ecclesiastical] education to subjects who would not
have all these obstacles to overcome, and there are
some French who would not be more expatriated in
Eed Eiver than they are in Canada. ... I shall
again teil Your Lordship that if my representations
do not avail; if I am useless or hurtful in this diocese; if Providence designed me to be born here in
order that I might have another fatherland, then
with trembling I obey.':
In spite of these protestations of nature, Mr. Belcourt made his sacrifice, little knowing that, in his
own particular case, few consolations and endless
mortifications of a kind that is not common awaited
him in the west. Gold is none the less gold even
though accidentally disfigured by dross, and absolute
freedom from human imperfections is not to be
•February 9th, 1831. 138       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
found in this world. Writing history, not a pane-
gyric, we may as well state at the outset that Bishop
Provencher never granted his full sympathies to the
new missionary, who, zealous and brilliant, if some-
what fickle and self-willed, would have done more
good if in full union of ideals with his immediate
Eev. Georges Antoine Belcourt9 is the only Catholic priest whom Alexander Eoss deigns to mention
by name in his "Eed Eiver Settlement." He calls
him "a man of active habits, intelligence and enter-
prise," adding that, "paradoxical as the statement
may appear, Mr. Belcourt understood the language
of the savages better than the savages understand it
themselves. With characteristic ingenuity and per-
severance, he so far availed himself of the peculiar
character of the Chippeway tongue, as to enrich it
with compounds which faithfully and vividly ex-
pressed, as far as possible, the foreign ideas of civi-
lization and Christianity. In this respect, Mr. Belcourt has an incalculable advantage over his Protestant rivals, who, generally speaking, rely implic-
itly on native interpreters of very inadequate quali-
After having studied the Sauteux, or Chippeway
"Born 22nd April, 1803, at Baie-du-Febvre, Lower Canada, Georges
Antoine Belcourt was the son of Antoine B. and of Josephte Lemire.
He made his studies in the college of Nicolet, and was ordained priest
19th Mareh, 1827. At first parish priest of St. Francois-du-Lac, he
was in 1830 transferred to Ste. Martine.
Op. cit., pp. 285, 286. ^^^^©^^^&
language, Mr. Belcourt established (1833) on the
Assiniboine, about thirty miles from its mouth, an
Indian village, for which Mr. George Simpson, the
Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson's Bay Company
in America, granted a very valuable tract of land
fully five miles in length.11 Thereon were built in
time a church, with houses of humble proportions
surrounded by diminutive fields. The whole was the
result of his own exertions much more than of his
neophytes' efïorts. To succeed in his enterprise he
spared neither fatigue, manual labour nor expense.
He was still in the experimental stages when his
catechumens were dispersed by a band of Gros-
Ventre Indians who feil upon them unawares. A
house barely twenty feet square had just been put
up, which was intended as a chapel for the people
and lodging quarters for the missionary. It was at
that time the only building of the kind within sixty
miles of the episcopal mansion. When assailed by
the American Indians,12 Belcourt was living under
a shelter of skins and bark. He hurriedly left his
hovel, and took refuge in the log house where he
assembled the few remaining Sauteux.
These were times of surprises and massacres. The
natives from the south, especially the Sioux, took
pleasure in sallying out against the Canadian aborigines, not even sparing the Canadians and the halfbreeds whenever they found them at a disadvantage.
^Ibid., ibid.
"The Gros-Ventres of the French were the JSidatsa, a Sioux tribe. 140
In the present case, it seems that the strange Indians
were merely marauders, or spies bent on reconnoi-
tring for a larger party. It was in September, 1833,
and all the male population was away hunting buf-
falo, with the exception of two pagans, who had not
even arrows with them, and two Christians who were
to help the missionary in sawing boards for the
chapel. From their narrow quarters the two Christians fired off shot after shot, while the others made
such a noise that the southern braves thought it
prudent to retire.
Yet for several days thereafter they annoyed Belcourt 's people, lurking about in threatening attitudes
and trying to surprise them, probably for the sake
of the scalps which they wished to obtain before they
returned to their friends.13 This caused a slight
change in the location of the embryo settlement. The
place which was then chosen was originally called
Fournier Prairie, and lay on the left bank of the
Assiniboine. It is known to-day as St. Eustache;
but Belcourt put it under the patronage of the
Apostle of Nations, calling it St. Paui's Mission, or
Baie Saint-Paul.
In June, 1835, the missionary reported that about
thirty families of Indians had sown, and he exulted
v 7
in the fact that Bishop Provencher had sent him
oxen. Belcourt was generally optimistic; in this
particular case he counted many families for whom
his own servant had done practically all the work.
"Letter from Mr. Belcourt, St. Paui's Mission, llth July, 1834. THE FIRST INDIAN MISSIONS
Potatoes, maize and barley alone were the object of
these labours.
Not long before, a new recruit had come to the
assistance of the Eed Eiver missiönaries. This was
Eev. Charles Edouard Poiré, who was ordained at
St. Boniface in 1833 and entrusted with the care of
the mission at White Horse Plains. At the expira-
tion of four years he asked to return east, claiming
that he had come with the understanding that he
should remain only that period of time.14 Mgr. Provencher had eventually to let him go in 1838.
Belcourt was more persevering, and it is worth
noticing that, in spite of the pangs he feit in leaving
Canada, he soon experienced, and ever retained, a
real attraction for the West. When momentarily
absent therefrom, he pined away until he was re-
stored to his distant wilderness. He was a man of
plans, always for the good of his flock, but not as
often in strict accordance with the dictates of a
more experienced mind. We cannot conceal the fact
that he generally seems to have considered as essent-
ial to the success of his mission that which should
have been regarded as a mere accessory. Grace will
transform a depraved pagan into a model Christian,
but it has nothing to do with racial characteristics.
In the search after the kingdom of heaven it is im-
material whether you farm, fish or hunt. To de-
mand that an inveterate nomad should be bound to
"Provencher to Mgr. of Sidyme, 30th April, 1837. 142       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
the soil before becoming a Christian is to go too far
and reverse the proper order of things.
With his more mature judgment, Provencher
would have preferred more catechizing and less
ploughing in his representative on the banks of the
Assiniboine. But the latter was sensitive; when
remonstrated with, he easily imagined that his good
intentions were ignored, and at times the thought of
a speedy return east would hover around his mind.
At the very time that he was reporting to the
Bishop of Quebec such farming activities by the
Assiniboine, he wrote of Mgr. Provencher: "His
Lordship has seconded much more than usual my
plans for the advancement of my mission.15 Never-
theless I have occasionally received from him letters
which made me eagerly wish to return to Canada.
. . . I cannot persuade myself that he has no
antipathy for me. . . . If I do not shed my blood
for the salvation of infidels, I shall have, nevertheless
shed many a tear. If it pleased Your Lordship to
wipe them off by recalling me, I should kiss your
hands with thanksgiving."16
The following year, while still at St. Paui's, Mr.
Belcourt reported little progress and few consola-
tions, though he seemed to foresee better times in
the near future. Sauteux, whose habitat was near
the Eocky Mountains, had come to enquire into the
15Under date 30th April, 1837, Bishop Provencher, writing to the
Bishop of Quebec, remarks that, up to that date, upwards of £600
had been spent on that mission alone.
"June 25th, 1835. THE FIRST INDIAN MISSIONS 143
truth of what they had heard, namely, that several
members of that tribe were "praying" (had become
Christians) in a Sauteux town, which was in pro-
cess of formation by the waters of the Assiniboine,
and that a priest who spoke their own language like
themselves was uttering words of an admirable wisdom. They had set out on February 20th, but had
not arrived at St. Paui's before the 2nd of June.17
That summer (1836), the missionary had the in-
effable consolation of admitting for the first time to
holy communion üve of his neophytes who had been
on trial for three years. They were the first-fruits
of the Sauteux nation in the Middle West.
Mr. Belcourt was a popular man among all classes
of people, and the influence his popularity gave him
he turned to good account. Even when occasionally
repairing to St. Boniface or any other centre of
civilization, he sometimes did more lasting good
than with his own fickle and more or less mercenary
Indians. In the beginning of this chapter we have
called the reader's attention to works of a nature
hitherto unknown in the Eed Eiver Settlement, we
mean stone buildings. The Catholic mission was not
alone in attempting such structures. In 1832 the
Hudson's Bay Company had commenced near the
junction of the two rivers a fort of that material; an
enclosure of stout walls 260 feet long, with bastions
and loop-holes, which was finished in 1834.   Within,
"Belcourt to the Bishop of Quebec, July 8th, 1836. 144       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
there were the usual buildings, stores, warehouses
and various dwelling houses for the officers and the
This was the now famous Fort Garry, so named
after Nicholas Garry, a prominent member of the
Hudson's Bay Company Committee in London, who
had come west to organize the new commercial body
that resulted from the amalgamation of the Northwest and the Hudson's Bay Companies.
Shortly before Christmas of 1834, a clerk named
Thomas Simpson, who was to die miserably after
having accomplished important explorations on the
north coast of America, was paying off the employees of the Company. Tired of waiting for
his dues, one of them known by the name of Antoine
Larocque, boldly went into the clerk's office, and, in
terms savouring of insolence, demanded what was
coming to him. As an answer he received from
Simpson, not money, but a blow with an iron poker
which split his skull.
With blood streaming out of his head, Larocque
dashed out of the house and showed himself to his
fellow halfbreeds. After the first moments of stu-
pefaction, these resolved upon exacting an adequate
compensation from the perpetrator of the assault.
From month to mouth the news flew like wildfire
that Simpson had attempted to murder one of them.
"He must be delivered into our hands," cried out
the halfbreeds.   "He shall pay for his crime."
Things looked serious.    The poor clerk did not
ft' relish the idea of being sacrificed to the rage of the
Métis. As well would it have been to cast him out
into a pack of ravenous wolves. His superiors would
not any more consent to his venturing out of the fort
gates, which had been closed as a measure of pre-
At about 6 P.M. the crowd of malcontents had in-
creased to an alarming extent. Such was the excite-
ment of the people that even the stone walls of the
fort grew to look as a doubtful protection, unless
recourse were had to the cannon pointed on them,
an extreme measure which could not be thought of.
In vain did Mr. Alexander Christie, the local governor, endeavour to reason with the leaders, sending
out message after message to offer conditions of
peace; the halfbreeds would not listen to any propo-
sition which did not include the surrender of the
hapless clerk. The governor himself went out with
Messrs. Logan and Eoss, in the hope of appeasing
the angry crowd. Despite the humiliation it in-
volved, even this step proved fruitless.
In sheer desperation the authorities of the colony
bethought themselves of the Catholic mission across
the Eed.
1' We must go over and ask the help of the priest,''
suggested someone.
And, acting on this advice, the governor-in-chief
himself, George Simpson, with a few other gentlemen, proceeded to St. Boniface, where Mr. Belcourt
happened to be.
matmtmtt^mm 146
The missionary addressed the halfbreeds, remind-
ed them of his constant sympathy with them, spoke
of the pardon of off ences enjoined on all Christians,
and, by those kind words based on f aith more than
on reason, which among Catholics have a hundred-
f old value owing to the sacred character of the person that utters them, he succeeded in soothing the
wounded feelings of the people. The Company had
to grant a pecuniary compensation to the family of
his victim, but Thomas Simpson was left unmo-
As Mr. Belcourt was thus exerting himself on be-
half of peace among the halfbreeds, a young priest
less brilliantly endowed but more pliant and constant in the tasks entrusted to him, was preparing
himself for the long missionary career that he was
to follow in the west. Eev. Jean-Baptiste Thibault
was born at St. Joseph of Lévis, December 14, 1810,
and had arrived at St. Boniface in the summer of
1833, where he had received the order of priesthood
"Mentioning this episode, Rev. G. Dugas states that the governor
sent for Belcourt (L'Ouest Canadien, p. 68). There can be no doubt
that he did himself go out to him. For when, over twelve years later,
that missionary found himself at variance With that same gentleman,
he wrote of him in a document which saw the light of publicity: "If
his heart were as generous as with men in general, he would have
remembered that day when he came, escorted by the leading men of
the country, to seek me in my poor cottage, to quell the trouble of the
time, and to facilitate those measures upon which he looked as necessary to the security of his own life" (Letter to A. K. Isbister; Quebec, 21st Dec, 1847. In " Correspondence Relative to the Inhabitants
of the Red River Settlement," p. 100). Mr. Belcourt was under a
false impression when he imagined that Governor Simpson had for-
gotten the great service he then rendered him. We shall see that when,
after a serious falling out with him, he agreed to secure his return
to Red River, he based his intercession precisely on the services he
had rendered to the Settlement and himself.
on the 8th of September of the same year. While
at the head of the six scholars who then formed St.
Boniface College, he was studying the Indian lan-
guages, and in July, 1834, he had already made con-
siderable progress in that line. Even at that early
date Bishop Provencher saw in him "a subject
precious for his missions.' '19
It is also at this time that the Bishop of Juliopolis
received a petition from the Oregon settlers, beg-
ging for missiönaries. As he had nobody to send
them, he decided to seek help in the east. He therefore journeyed to Lower Canada, and even pushed
on as far as Europe, leaving young Mr. Thibault to
take his place at the head of his missions (1835-37).
In Canada he secured the services of two choice
subjects, the Eevs. F. N. Blanchet and M. Demers,
both of whom were in course of time to be elevated
to the episcopate on the Pacific coast. For the lack
of room in the canoes of the Hudson's Bay Company, only one of them could accompany the Bishop
of Juliopolis to Eed Eiver on his return trip in
1837. This was the gentle and pious Mr. Demers,
who laboured over a year in the territory, waiting
for his superior, Mr. Blanchet, for whom a passage
was obtained from Lachine to St. Boniface in 1838.
With the latter came a young priest from Des-
chambault, Lower Canada, Eev. J. Arsène Mayrand,
who was to remain seven years in the Eed Eiver mis-
"Provencher to Bishop J. Signay, of Quebec, 16th July, 1834. 148       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
sion, without being able to accomplish as much as
he wished owing to his delicate health.
On the arrival of the newcomers, Bishop Provencher could boast more priests within his territory
than he ever possessed before the assumption of the
Indian missions by the Oblates. These were Messrs.
Belcourt, Poiré, Thibault, Demers, Blanchet and
Mayrand. By this list it will be seen that two others,
Messrs. Harper and Boucher, had duly walked in the
footsteps of all previous missiönaries and returned
to Canada. The former had left in 1832, the latter
óne year later. At the departure of the Oregon missiönaries Provencher's clergy was reduced to four
members, and one of them, Mr. Poiré, was to return
east the following year.
When the bishop arrived back from Canada Mr.
Belcourt was sent to Eainy Lake, with the object of
studying local conditions preparatory to establish-
ing a permanent mission there. He left in the spring
of 1838, while Mr. Poiré was replacing him at St.
Paui's, where Angélique Nolin taught school since
1834. The ice of the Eed Eiver was getting soft, and
his horse went through. Fortunately some people
who wondered at his pluck, or imprudence, and were
expecting an accident, lent him their assistance,- and
he extricated himself without having sufïered any
other harm than an icy bath." The missionary remained some time at the fort on the lower Winnipeg
River, where he performed several marriages and
fulfilled the usual ministerial duties of a Catholic
At Rainy Lake he found the Indians "little dis-
posed to leave the bottle for the word of God," as
Provencher remarks in his picturesque language.20
But he did not despair, and we shall see him there
again, sowing in ground that was too often of a
stony nature. '
It is also with this period (1838) that we must
connect the foundation by Mr. Belcourt of a mission
at the junction of the English and Winnipeg Rivers.21   Wabassimong—such was its native name—
cost the missionary untold exertions, both physical
and mental; but from a religious standpoint it never
was a success, though Alexander Ross admits that
it was at one time i \ a considerable establishment.' '22
It boasted a church under the patronage of Our Lady
of Mercy, houses for the Indians and the customary
small fields, with cattle supplied from St. Boniface
—a repetition of Belcourt's original mistake: at-
tempts at civilizing before establishing solid Chris-
tian foundations. For the lack of the latter, the
edifice so painfully erected crumbled after less than
ten years of labours.
In August of the same year, 1838, Belcourt who,
in addition to his missionary and manual labours,
had been steadily working on a dictionary and a
grammar of the Chippeway, or Sauteux, language,
«'To the Bishop of Sidyme; Red River, 6th Aug., 1838.
aStrangely enough, in the first of three volumes comprising "The
History of the Northwest," Alex. Begg attributes (p. 281) to Rev.
Mr. Darveau the foundation of the Wabassimong Mission, though
Darveau was not yet a priest at the time Mr. Belcourt established it.
'""Red River Settlement," p. 288. 150
and preparing less important Indian works, left
for Canada "full of plans for the impression" of
the same.28 In the course of the following year
(1839) he published a Chippeway primer, catechism
and book of devotion combined, as well as a 146-
page pamphlet on the "Principles of the Sauteux
Idiom," in French. He had to defer the publication
of his dictionary.J
^Provencher to Mgr. Signay, Bishop of Quebec, 6th Aug., 1838.
In St. Boniface and environs there were in 1839 1,600 Catholics, and
700 at St. Francois-Xavier.
24It remains to this day in manuscript in the archives of the arch-
bishopric of St. Boniface. For the first score of years of its existence the Red
River settlement had been under a one-man's government, as far as the civil administration was con-
cerned. In 1832, owing to the great increase in the
ranks of the colonists and halfbreeds, it was thought
advisable to have a few headmen (chosen by the
Hudson's Bay Company) share to some extent in
the responsibility of the management of the public
affairs. The settlement then received the name of
Assiniboia, and over it was placed a council which
met at irregular intervals.
At first the religious denominations established at
Red River were not recognized in the formation of
that body, whose meetings were held at Fort Garry,
as was called the new post which had succeeded Fort
Douglas, and was soon to boast imposing stone
structures. On May 4, 1832, the members of that
council, the first whose deliberations are on record,1
were George Simpson, Governor of Rupert's Land,
president; Donald McKenzie, Governor of Assini-
*Rev. Geo. Dugas, and most historians of Manitoba, state that this
arrangement was first elaborated in 1835, an assertion which is shown
to be erroneous by the minutes of that council which are still extant. 152       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
boia, and Councillors James Sutherland, John Pritchard and Robert Logan.
The very fact that the highest representative of
the Hudson's Bay Company in America was the
president of that assembly is good evidence that it
was not intended to be popular. Yet there is no
denying that most of its decisions tended towards
the general good. On the other hand, its numbers
were increased as time went on, and, in the last
years of its existence, it was fairly representative of
the people. It formed a patriarchal government
wherein the requirements of morality, justice and
good citizenship were not any more forgotten than
the claims of the powerful corporation to which it
was due.
It was not till the 12th of February, 1835, that, in
the second of its sessions of wjiich the minutes are
preserved, a member of the Catholic clergy was
admitted to the deliberations of that council in the
person of Mgr. Provencher. Even then he was
there, along with four others, by special invitation,
not in virtue of real membership therein, as G.
Dugas would have it. At that time the population
of the colony amounted to about 5,000.
Even after that date, and before the prelate's
departure for Europe, we see the Anglican minister,
Rev. David T. Jones, as an ex officio member of that
body, but no Catholic representative, as such. It
was only on June 16, 1837, that is, over five years
after the inauguration of the new form of govern-
_~* THE    DAWN OF A NEW ERA 153
ment, that Bishop Provencher was sworn in and
admitted, along with a Captain Marcus Cary, as an
official councillor.
Considering the exceptional position of the prelate
in the colony, this might appear a rather tardy
recognition of his social standing and administrative
abilities. But it is quite possible that, being a man
of retiring dispositions, more at home in French
than in English, he had so far preferred to keep
aloof from the petty politics of the Settlement. That
his services continued to be appreciated is shown by
the grant of £100, with an allowance of what was still
called luxuries at Eed Eiver, that is, tea, sugar and
a few other table requisites, which was then voted
his mission by the committee of the Hudson's Bay
At all events, his presence in the Council of Assini-
boia, as well as that of other Catholic ecclesiastics
of whom we shall have much to say later on, proved
quite beneficial, and the röle they played therein was
certainly not a secondary one.
It could scarcely have been otherwise, if we con-
sider the vast interests the bishop then possessed in
the colony. To mention but the question of education, Provencher was already at the head of a regu-
lar school system, comprising school teachers of
both sexes, one of whom was teaching English as
early as the summer of 1834.8   Fully alive to the
2From 1825 to 1830 the Company yearly granted £50 in aid of his
mission. »After 1830 this sum was dcubled.
8Provencher to Signay, 16th July, 1834. 154       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
necessity of bettering the material, as well as the
moral, condition of his people, he had also, as already hinted, brought from Canada, in the course of
1838, two women destined to teach the art of weav-
ing to the colonists. The Hudson's Bay Company
gave them a salary, which they were to receive annu-
ally during the first three years, while the Catholic
mission furnished them with board and lodging. An
industrial school was opened for the purpose, which
in a short time was progressing satisfactorily. But
its premises and machinery became the prey of
the flames on March 26, 1839.
Yet it needs scarcely be remarked that the best of
the bishop's attention had still to be concentrated
towards the preservation and propagation of the
faith. The former was the raison d'être of his more
or less permanent stations of St. Boniface, Pembina
and St. Francois-Xavier, while it was a wish to
further the extension of the kingdom of God that
prompted the Indian missions of St. Paui's, Wabassimong and Eainy Lake under Belcourt and others.
The bishop foliowed with unremitting solicitude the
struggles of these pioneers against heavy odds, and
he was ever careful to remin d his priests of their
obligation not to neglect the spiritual welfare of the
natives under the pretext that their temporal inter-
ests badly needed watching over.
Mr. Belcourt returned from Lower Canada in the
course of 1839. In the beginning of July he was
again at St. Paui's on the Assiniboine, whence he THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
conveyed in two lines tidings of the greatest import-
ance for the history of the Indian missions. "Before I left the crew," he writes, "I baptized a Hare
Indian whom I had instructed on the way, and who
was in danger of death."4 The Hares are aborigines of the Arctic Circle. Mr. Belcourt must therefore be credited with having been the first priest to
confer baptism on a representative of that great
Déné family, of which we shall have so much to say
further on.
In 1840 we find the same missionary, ever full of
good-will, placing his capacities as a mechanic at the
disposal of his bishop, who at times was disposed to
look unfavourably on the too frequent display of the
same. He turned one hundred and thirty oaken
balusters for the sanctuary and side chapels of the
cathedral, as well as a hundred and fifty candlesticks
for use as adjuncts to Divine worship.
The mention of these occupations, while it contrib-
utes towards forming a true picture of ecclesiastical
life at Eed Eiver seventy years ago, cannot but re-
mind us at the same time of the great artisan com-
monly known as St. Paul the Apostle who, in spite
of the sublime mission he held from Our Lord Himself, did not deern it derogatory to his sacred calling
to work with his own hands.5
In the autumn of the same year, Belcourt chron-
4To the Bishop of Quebec, 7th July, 1839.
BActs xvii. 3; ibid., xx. 34; 1 Cor. iv. 12; 1 Thess. ii. 9; 2 Thess.
iii. 8.
mmm 156
f [f
icles other events which shift the scène from the
banks of the Assiniboine to the great plains of Central North America. He mentions as many as 1,700
carts used that year in the buffaio hunts, of which
200 returned empty. But, worse than aU, on August
lst, nineteen persons had been struck, and four in-
stantly killed, by lightning.
Eeverting to the Indians, the same missionary feil
in with a chief who gave him in a speech one of the
reasons that militated against their conversion.
As this throws a strong light on the mental make-up
of the natives and illustrates one of the obstacles the
missiönaries had to contend with, we give it in the
chief's own words, as they were recorded by Mr.
"I realize," he said, "that thou wishest for our
happiness. Thy words are wise, thy mouth is good.
The Manitou who made the French has made thy
heart. But I told thee last year what I thought. I
have since seen our own Manitou; here is what he
told me. The Great Spirit is in heaven; it is he that
made the whites, with white clay. Our Manitou, he
that made us wretched as we are, is within the earth
and not in heaven. He made us with black earth,
and that is why we are not white like the French.
Yes, our Manitou Father is in the earth, and the
earth is our mother. The sun is his son and the
moon his daughter, while the stars are the numerous
children of the sun and moon. I have seen our
Manitou; look at him.   Here he is as he appeared to
me.' Which saying he pointed to a round stone
daubed with vermillion.6
Such are the coarse artifices to which the Prince
of Darkness has recourse to keep the poor Indians
from the light of the Gospel.
Rev. Geo. Dugas claims that Mr. Belcourt f ounded
the mission on Rainy Lake in the spring of 1838.T
That this is scarcely exact would appear from the
fact that, as late as the summer of 1840, an officer of
the Hudson's Bay Company named Allan Macdonell
was writing to Bishop Provencher: "I understand
that my worthy friend Mr. Belcourt is on the eve of
starting on a mission to Lac la Pluie.
it a duty incumbent on me to inform Your Lordship
that there are already two Wesleyan missiönaries
established there, sent out from England by permis-
sion and under the patronage of the Hudson's Bay
Company.' '8
Just at that time the great commercial Corporation
scarcely relished the idea of seeing missions, espe-
cially if devoted to Catholic interests, established
within its vast dominions. Not very long before
Macdonell's letter of warning its directing body had
voted an order of the day whereby it was decided
that "neither the Protestant nor the Catholic missiönaries would be encouraged or as sist ed in extend-
8St. Paui's Mission, 9th Nov., 1840.
^Monseigneur Provencher, p. 182.
8Fort Garry, 29th June, 1840. 158       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
ing their labours beyond the limits of the colony
without its special consent."9
But Provencher derived his authority from a
higher Power. Counting on God alone he founded
the mission of Rainy Lake (1840) through the in-
strumentality of Mr. Belcourt. There the difficul-
ties did not all come from the Indians, depraved and
little religious as they were. Lac la Pluie, or Rainy
Lake, had been intermittently attended to by Catholic priests, whose first visit dated from 1816.10 According to Alexander Ross, the Wabassimong mission had just commenced to take root when the Wes-
leyans from Canada reached Lac la Pluie. The
Presbyterian historian thus exposes his opinion on
the situation created by their arrival:
"We certainly think, as they [the Catholics] were
the first, they had the best right; but, notwithstand-
ïng all this, at Lac la Pluie, the Wesleyans commenced their mission in opposition to the Catholics,
and here the work of strife began between them, as
if the country had not been wide enough for both,
without interfering with each other."11
Then, after recording the zeal and self-sacrifice of
the priests and their final failure, he says that "the
success of the Wesleyans at Lac la Pluie was not
greater than that of their rivals.   Mr. Jacobs, one of
9Mareh 7th, 1838.
"A large cross had then been erected by Mr. Tabeau, which was
still standing in 1841.
u"The Red River Settlement," p. 288. THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
the last Wesleyan missiönaries stationed there, was
one day conversing with the writer on the subject.
'We have,' said he, 'been labouring there for the
last eleven years, according to the usual system,
without being able to form a school, or make a single convert.' Such were the laurels they gained by
their interference and opposition. "12
But we must not anticipate. When, in June, 1840,
Rev. A. Belcourt left for Rainy Lake, he heard on
the way that, apart from the antagonism due to the
presence of the Protestant ministers, the Indians
were much incensed against him because it was re-
ported that a late decision of the Council of Assini-
boia against the further supplying of liquor to the
natives had been taken at his instigation. It was
even freely stated that his life would scarcely be
safe there.
On the way he endeavoured to f eed with God's
word the numerous bands of aborigines he met, but
generally with indifferent success. An excuse for
that religious apathy was founded on a story which
was then going the rounds of the camp-fires. A Lake
Superior Indian had died a short time after having
•received baptism. When he tried to penetrate into
the abode of the Christians in the other world, he
was repulsed therefrom, under the plea that the
place was not for Indians. But when he made for
that assigned to his own compatriots, he was refused
admittance because he was baptized.   As there was
nIbid., p. 289. 160
Bi I
no room for him in the land of the departed, he had
come back to life.
Belcourt was equal to the emergency. After having ridiculed the tale of the Indians, as he saw that
they were not convinced by his expostulations, he
"Well, then, receive baptism in order to rise again
after your death and enjoy a second life.''
It was in the course of that journey that, on the
15th of July, he planted a large cross at Wabassimong ("the White Dog"), as a warning that he was
taking possession of the place for a mission. At
Rainy Lake he saw few Indians, owing to a famine
that had scattered them; but the Canadian employees
and their halfbreed children who, for the same reason, had been sent off to shift for themselves as best
they could, no sooner heard of his arrival than they
returned to the fort and profited by his ministra-
On his return from that post, he had evidence that
even little enlightened Indians could very well dis-
tinguish between the shepherd and the hireling. He
met a native from a distant land whom he questioned
as to the religious conditions of his compatriots.
"Do you pray18 over there?"
"Some do."
"That's well. Listen to your priest, and become
good Indians. By the way, what is the name of that
"That is, are you Christians, do you worship God? THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
At this question, the stranger and his wife burst
into laughter.   Then the man said:
"Oh, he is one of those would-be priests that are
married. That's why I, for one, do not listen to
According to Alexander Ross the missionary station of Baie des Canards, or Duck Bay, on Lake
Winnipegosis, was commenced in 1841. But Belcourt tells us himself that he inaugurated it during
the first week of October, 1840, in the same manner
as he had done at Wabassimong, that is, by the erection of a large cross.14 In the same trip the indef ati-
gable missionary pushed even as far as Qu'Appelle
River, returning in the f all to St. Paui's, which was
as yet the only mission with a resident priest. Rev.
Mr. Mayrand had filled his place during his absence.
The following year (1841) another priest came
up from Canada to Red River. This was Rev. Jean
Edouard Darveau, then twenty-seven years old, who
had offered his services for the distant mission of
the Columbia, but for whom no passage could be
arranged with the Hudson's Bay Company caravan
to the Far West. This young priest spent six
months studying Sauteux under Mr. Belcourt, after
which he set out for Duck Bay, on Lake Winnipegosis, while his professor was leaving (May 18, 1842),
with men and materials to build a church at Wabas
Arrived at Duck Bay, the young missionary was
uSt. Paui's Mission, 9th Nov., 1840. 162       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
pained to see that an Anglican clergyman, the very
first who moved a foot on behalf of the Indians since
the departure of Mr. West in 1823,15 was starting in
the neighbourhood an opposition station, which con-
tributed not a little to- bewilder the natives and make
them uncertain as to the line of conduct they should
adopt. This was a Rev. Abraham Cowley, a representative of the Church Missionary Society. Darveau's first labours, however, were not entirely fruit-
less. Yet, the difïerences in creed by which they were
confronted sadly puzzled the aborigines. As one of
the chiefs once said to the priest: ' • You teil us there
is but one religion that can save us, and that you
have got it; Mr. Cowley tells us that he has got it;
now which of you white men am I to believe ?'' After
a long pause, as he smoked his pipe and talked with
his people, he turned round and said: "I will teil
you the resolution I and my people have come to. It
is this: when you both agree, and travel the same
road, we will travel with you; till then, however, we
will adhere to our own religion.' '16
This missionary activity involved not only zeal
and self-denial, but also considerable expense, espe-
cially as, at that early period and with so ref ractory
Indians, it was thought necessary to f ollow the gen-
eral custom of the country, and pay for any services
rendered. Canoes and crews, or even mere companions, occasioned an outlay which left nothing for
The Red River Settlement," p. 74.
> P-
"I6i<f., d. 292 THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
the poor missionary; and whenever it was a question
of building, those who were to have the benefit of the
structures that were put up contributed very little, if
at all, towards defraying the expenses of the same.
Yet the resources of the bishop were so small that,
at times, some were tempted to find him too parsim-
onious. Alex. Ross has the following in this eonnec-
tion: "This their poverty [of the Catholics] must
be admitted to redound much to their honour. Where
a new mission is contemplated, and the missionary
named, the bishop allows him £10 to fit himself out,
then adds his benediction, and the thing is settled.'m
Alex. Ross was not the only Protestant author to
notice the drawbacks under which the Catholic missiönaries laboured. "The Catholic priests experienced many difficulties," writes Alexander Begg,
"and, being poor, [they] had not the same opportun-
ity to extend their labours as rapidly as the Protestant missiönaries. What they lacked in means,
however, they made up by zealous perseverance, and
gradually they made their way midst drawbacks and
Just then (1841) a reason for even stricter econ-
omy would have been derived from the fact that the
Bishop of Juliopolis lost £369 in the failure of the
Hammersley bank, had it not been for the timely
vIbid pp. 290, 291. "The Protestant mission had also funds at
its command, with the aid of which Mr. Cowley could f eed and clothe
his converts, while the poor priest had nothing to offer them but
instruction" (Ibid,, p. 291).
""History of the Northwest," vol. L, pp. 281, 282. 164
ri u
generosity of the Society for the Propagation of the
Faith, which made up for his loss by voting him a
grant of 15,880 francs.19
Funds were indeed needed.   His Indian missions
were just about entering into a period of develop-
ment towards the Far West, whose consoling results
were to compensate for the disappointments of the
Middle West.   The important Fort Edmonton, or of
the Prairies, as it was still called, had for a commander a Catholic, Mr. John Rowand, who represented to the religious authorities that the minister
who had passed the winter with him was making
absolutely no headway with the Indians, the major-
ity of whom were Crees, and seemed willing to listen
to "True Praying Ones," as they termed the Catholic priests.   The gentleman who was thus indirectly
inviting the  Catholic missiönaries  to his  distant
domains was  considerably more  than  a  common
trading bourgeois.    He had been in the fur trade
since 1800, when he entered the Northwest Company, and, having been promoted to the Hudson's
Bay Company grades of chief trader and chief factor, he had been entrusted with the direction of the
combined districts of the Saskatchewan and Atha-
basca.    In the Far West he was known as "the
Governor."   His territory extended as far east as
Fort Cumberland, which was also under his superin-
"Provencher to Bishop P. F. Turgeon, Coadjutor of Quebec;  St.
Boniface, 17th, 18th and 19th June, 1841.
HL B. Co. Chief Factor.  THE  DAWN OF A NEW ERA
The Canadian or halfbreed population immedi-
ately under him at Fort Edmonton, including women
and children, was about eighty when Father de
Smet visited him in the winter of 1845-46. That
great travelling missionary describes that post as a
most prosperous establishment, and the country it
stood in as a land of plenty. The western governor
has left the reputation of a man who shone more by
his indomitable energy and fearlessness than by his
Christian gentleness; but to De Smet Rowand was
one who "unites to all the amiable and polite quali-
ties of a perfect gentleman those of a sincere and
hospitable friend; his goodness and paternal tender-
ness render him a true patriarch amidst his charm-
ing and numerous family. He is esteemed and
venerated by all the surrounding tribes, and though
advanced in age, he possesses extraordinary activ-
■°From one of Father De Smet 's letters, dated Fort Jasper, April 16,,
1846. John Rowand was a native of Dublin, Ireland, where he was
born probably between the years 1775 and 1780. He came to Canada
in his early youth, and soon entered the service of the Northwest
Company. In 1804 he was a clerk at Fort des Prairies, or Edmonton, and, at the time of the fusion of his concern with the Hudson's
Bay Company (1821), he became a chief trader in the resulting
corporation, being advanced in 1825 to the much coveted rank of
chief factor. He was for a long time the superintendent of the
immense Saskatchewan District, with headquarters at Edmonton, and
he died suddenly (summer of 1854) at Fort Pitt, where his eldest
son John commanded. His bones were afterwards taken to Montreal, where they were buried in the Catholic cemetery.
Chief Factor Rowand was a typical trader, a miniature emperor,
who possessed the impetuosity of the Irish in an exaggerated degree.
He zealously guarded the privileges of his corporation, and, though
by no means a big man, he knew how to make himself respected by
the whites and feared by the Indians. Playing on the superstitions
of the latter, he would awe them into subjection by exhibitions of 166       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
A French halfbreed, by the name of Picher, had
even come all the way from that distant post in order
to beg for a missionary. As none was available at
the time, it was agreed that Rev. Mr. Thibault, who
knew the Cree dialect, should repair thither in the
spring of the following year. This meant a journey
of some 2,200 miles across the prairies of the Canadian West.
Pursuant to this arrangement, Thibault left April
20,1842, and on May 27th he arrived at Fort Carlton,
where he passed over a week, instructing, confessing
and marrying the employees of the fort, and baptiz-
ing their children. On June 19th he reached his
destination, after a trip on horseback, or with a Red
River cart that was to bring salvation to the door of
many a poor soul.
With the conveniences which civilization has
placed at the disposal of the modern wayfarer, it is
impossible to form a correct idea of the perils and
chemical and other wonders, such as the effervescence of Seidlitz
powders or the strange results of other mixtures.
As to the whites, they all knew that he must not be trifled with,
and some would oeeasionally be made to feel the effects of his temper. He was once a member of a large dinner party where most of
the guests were of pronounced anti-Catholic propensities. As they
were to drink the health of some personage, someone started a song
in which the Pope was coarsely derided. This was more than old
Rowand could stand.
"I am a Catholic," he cried out in a rage, "and I shall never
allow the head of my religion to be insulted in my presehce."
And off flew his glass to the head of the singer! This incident
caused one of the guests to remark that if Mr. Rowand did not
often Tcneel in a church, he none the less knew how to stand for his
The wife of John H. McTavish, of whom we shall have occasion
to speak in connection with the Red River troubles, was the daughter
of Chief Factor Rowand.   So was that of the Hon. James McKay. THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
fatigues such a voyage involved. Barring the dang-
ers due to the wild hordes of Indians, constantly
clashing with one another and ever ready for rob-
bery and pillage, the missionary had many a time
to ford swollen rivers with the water up to his neck,
or swim across streams while clinging to the mane
of his horse.   And then who will adequately picture
to himself the weariness of a six-month ride under
the deadly rays of the sun, tempered by no other
shelter or shadow than that afïorded by one 's horse,
with improper food, numberless accidents and un-
mentionable hardships?
Things ran hardly more smoothly when the fam-
ous and exceedingly prünitive Red River carts re-
placed horse-riding. "I have broken two axles and
am having a third put on,'' Thibault once wrote,21 to
illustrate one of the inevitable concomitants of travelling, without a tracé of a road, with vehicles in the
construction of which not a partiele of iron entered.
At Fort Edmonton the missionary was well received.   In spite of the misrepresentations and un-
aTo Rev. J. A. Mayrand, who quotes him in a» letter to Provencher,
31st July, 1843. \W
derhand dealings of the Protestant minister, his
mission to the Crees was as successful as it could
possibly have been.under the circumstances. He
even received the visit of a band of Blackfeet, "the
most wicked Indians of these regions," he writes.22
Through an interpreter he announced to them the
Good Tidings, which were listened to with the great-
est respect. Then the braves bade him a solemn
adieu in their own fashion, that is, by passing their
hands over his head, his shoulders, his breast and
his arms. Finally, affectionately pressing his hand
in theirs, they departed one after another, but not
before they had laid at his feet their good resolutions
for the future.
1' Thy words are engraved in my heart; I shall fol-
low thy path," said one. "I have not been a very
bad man; yet I resolve henceforth to become better,''
remarked another, who added that he carried the
missionary in his heart as a result of his having had
compassion on him. A third was weighed down by
a less clean past, or possibly was humbler. j' I have
had a bad heart," he said; "I have been a wicked
man. I f eel shame in'thy presence; have pity on me.
I promise to lead a different life now that I have seen
and heard thee."
Only words, the reader will perhaps think. Yes,
words, but in some cases the forerunners of deeds.
On this and similar occasions Thibault was only sow-
ing, and though the evangelical seed did not grow
^To his father, 8th July, 1842. THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
into the harvest that might have been expected, it
must be remembered that, had it not been for these
early impressions and their healthful consequences,
the history of the Blackfoot nation might have been
written with considerably more blood, after the time
for the suprème trial had come for it many years
Mr. Thibault returned to the Red River, which he
reached October 20, 1842, after having baptized 353
children, blessed twenty marriages and admitted
four persons to their first communion. In addition
to these consoling results, he brought home a petition
to the governor signed by halfbreeds and Indians of
the Far West, asking for a permanent Catholic mission in their midst, despite that official's previous
decision to the contrary. '| All the Métis and Indians
he met have abandoned the Methodist ministers to
embrace truth," gladly wrote Mgr. Provencher to
the Bishop of Quebec.
These were too propitious beginnings to be left
unimproved. Therefore the following year saw
again Mr. Thibault in the vicinity of the Rocky
Mountains. He then had examples of the extremities
to which Indians may go when not under the influence of the King of Peace. He was at Fort Pitt
when, during the night of August 15, 1843, another
party of Blackfeet attacked the Crees camped by
the stockade of the fort. As a consequence one of
the latter was killed with an arrow, after his horse
had been struck by a bullet. On the morrow, a Black- f 't
foot having been found who was seriously wounded,
he was instantly riddled with bullets, after which he
was scalped. Then his hands, feet, arms and legs
were cut off and attached as trophies to the necks
of horses, or suspended from long poles, round which
dancing was kept day and night. Presently, about
sixty Crees left on a campaign of reprisals, and
returned after some time with about a hundred
horses they had captured from the Blackfeet. They
had lost one man and killed a Blackf oot. In another
part of the same region, twenty Blackfeet were also
slain by Assiniboines from whom they had stolen
Such were the ways of the "noble redskin!"
Mr. Thibault was a naturally timid or bashful
man. Dauntless and outspoken with the natives, he
did not feel at home with the whites of the Hudson's
Bay Company's forts.28 This led to the early foundation (1842) óf Ste. Anne's Mission, some distance
west of Edmonton, which for a time he used as a
centre whence he went forth to evangelize the sur-
rounding tribes.
While these apostolic excursions were stirring the
Far West, Bishop Provencher was faithfully dis-
charging at St. Boniface the more monotonous duties
of a parish priest, aided, as a rule, by Mr. Mayrand,
who was now also attending to the spiritual wants of
the parish of St. Francois-Xavier.
^At all events, the self-assertiveness and rather autocratie ways of
Chief Factor Rowand were not calculated to make him feel at home
at Fort Edmonton.
The population of the Red River Settlement was
5,143 in March, 1843. Of these 2,798 were Catholics,
and 2,345 Protestants. There were 870 families, of
whom 571 were halfbreeds or Indians, 152 French
Canadians, 61 Orkneymen, 49 Scotchmen, 22 Eng-
lishmen. Switzerland, Wales, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Germany each contributed two heads of
families, and Poland and the United States one.
Just then a question of the utmost importance to
this motley population was claiming the attention of
the leading minds of the colony. Several whites,
knowing the insatiable passion of the Indians for
strong drink, did not scruple to distil spirits, which
they too often used as a means of bringing the
natives and others to the accomplishment of their
ends. Hence the measure of the council (June 8,
1840), which we have already mentioned. This for-
bade giving or bartering even beer to the Indians.
The following year (June 25th) the same body legis-
lated against the private distillation of spirits.
And yet the evil would not abate. Therefore it
was deemed expediënt that, in a collective memorial,
the Bishops  of Quebec,  Montreal,  Kingston  and
Toronto should draw the attention of the London
authorities of the Hudson's Bay Company to the
pernicious effects which the indiscriminate use of
intoxicants had on the Indians, and ask them to take
such measures as would seem most efficacious in
stopping the unholy traffic. The answer was an evas-
ive promise to do what was possible to further the
object of the petition, which, it was thought at London, somewhat exaggerated the evil.
At home, probably at the instance of the religious
authorities themselves, a petition dated June 17,
1843, from various halfbreeds headed by one Michel
Genton, alias Dauphiné, Maximilien Genton, alias
Dauphiné, and Francois Bennean (sic in the copy of
the council's minutes), evidently Bruneau, the quon-
dam college pupil of Provencher, asked that, since
no other means could be devised to check the illicit
manufacture of spirits then prevailing in Assiniboia,
a public distillery be established, with the proper
restrictions. This measure was adopted by the council two years later.1
Meanwhile, as it was evident that, in such a thinly
populated territory, only the influence of religion
could at all eradicate the evil, Bishop Provencher
commissioned his priests never to lose an occasion
of preaching against it. Hence we soon see the zeal-
ous prelate recording the fact that Mr. Mayrand
"has profited by this time of affliction to cry out
against drunkenness, to which in spite of this several
*June 16th, 1845.
were addicted. He has explained temperance and
persuaded a good many to adopt it, limiting at first
the trial to the next spring." This was written on
April 19, 1844. ff
Mr. Darveau was no less zealous in the matter.
"Mr. Darveau tells me," writes the prelate, "that
he also has preached temperance and that nearly
every one has enrolled his name in its behalf."2 He
specially praises that missionary 's exertions. \ \ Mr.
Mayrand is always weak," he remarks, by way of
saying that he cannot be expected to do much. But
"Mr. Darveau has done good wherever he has pene-
Poor Darveau! The time was near at hand when
he could not do any other good than that which
should result from the remembrance of his zeal and
apostolic virtues!
In the summer of 1844, Mgr. Signay, who, on July
13th of that year, had been named the first titular
Archbishop of Quebec, was startled to receive the
following from the Bishop of Juliopolis:
"People have come from the end of Lake Winnipeg to teil me that Mr. Darveau has been drowned,
as well as the two men he had with him. He had
left this place3 during the month of March, so that
he might have some time to instruct the Indians of
Duck Bay and proceed, on the breaking up of the
ice, to Le Pas, a mission he opened last year.   I have
«Montreal, Hötel-Dieu, 19th April, 1844.
learned that he had left Duck Bay in the evening,
and had camped a short distance therefrom. It is
likely that he perished in setting out on the morrow,
as his canoe, his belongings and his body, as well as
that of Jean-Baptiste Boyer, a halfbreed from the
White Horse Plains, have been found near his camp.
It is the Indians who have found everything. They
have left the bodies on the beach, taken to Duck Bay
(to the house or the chapel) part of the goods, and
then gone to apprize of this some halfbreeds who
were making salt beyond the chapel. Two men have
immediately left to bury the bodies, either on the
spot or in the chapel. An Indian who was also with
him has not yet been found."4
Such was the first account of the melancholy
event. Such it remained for a long time among the
whites, though soon foul play was suspected among
the natives, and little by little, the truth became
known to a few. To-day we are in a position to give
an authentic account of Rev. Darveau's end.5
In the first place, to show how perfectly true was
his bishop's remark that he was a man full of zeal
and activity, who "little feared those privations to
4 July 29th, 1844.
°And for this we are partiaUy indebted to the Rev. J. C. Camper,
O.M.I., a veteran missionary to the Sauteux, who has known several
of the Indians connected with the tragedy. He speaks their language
as well as themselves, and they could conceal nothing from him. It
will be noticed that nis narrative fits in exactly with the references
to the event and those who unwittingly prepared it, which we glean
from "The Rainbow of the North,'' a book the reverend gentleman
has never seen, any more than Darveau's last letter, which we have
which a missionary is often exposed," we may state
that, on St. Patrick's Day, 1843, he had left St. Boniface for Duck Bay, on Lake Winnipegosis. Having
reached that immense body of water, which was then
slumbering under a heavy blanket of ice, he left behind his man with the toboggan and started at a
good pace for the house of a Pierre Chartrand, with
whom he was acquainted. Soon after a terrible
snowstorm broke out, and, in the impossibility of
seeing anything, he lost his hearings and roamed
aimlessly about, absolutely blinded by the fine snow
that was falling to the accompaniment of a furious
When his man reached Chartrand's house, the
Canadian learned with stupef action of what had hap-
pened. He immediately set out in search of the too
light-hearted priest, wondering whether he would
find him dead or alive. And lo! after some time
spent in looking for the imprudent wanderer, there
was Mr. Darveau, who had been two nights and one
day without fire or anything to eat, in the midst of a
scorching blizzard. He lost no time in narrating his
experiences or dweiling on his surf erings.
"Have you anything to eat? I am hungry," were
the words with which he greeted Chartrand. Apparently he did not see anything worth mentioning in
his adventure, and in a letter he wrote afterwards
on that and the following trip, he does not refer to
it except to say that he suffered much during his
journey of eighty or ninety leagues. :*
'i\ Bi 11
Pr k *" l
L j H I f    P Jf
till 1"
'. w f I •
Arrived at Duck Bay, he spent his time in in-
structing such Indians as would listen to him, and
during the summer he made some missionary excur-
sions along the shores of the lake.
Le Pas, a little below the junction of the C ar rot
River with the Saskatchewan, had been a trading
post of some importance during the French regime.
It had also received several times the visit of the
Catholic priest since the establishment of the Church
in the Red River valley. Mr. Darveau heard that
the Anglicans contemplated sending a clergyman
there. Full of zeal for the propagation of the true
faith, he decided to go and see for himself whether
it would not be possible to forestall the minister. A
year or two previous, an Indian who went by the
name of Henry Budd had established himself at that
place, who was acting in the capacity of catechist
and schoolmaster combined, under the auspices of
the Church of England. In view of what was to
happen, we leave it to the reader to judge of the
advisability of putting a full-blooded Indian in the
place of a missionary among natives such as those
of Lake Winnipegosis.
On the way to Le Pas, Darveau having halted at a
camp of Indians, one of the two men he had hired
and paid for the trip refused to go farther. He even
asked for provisions which, after the the loss of the
money he had already advanced him, the missionary
did not feel justified in giving him. Thereupon, the
Indian, a Muskegong Cree   called Shetakon, mut- DEATH OF DARVEAU AND COMING OF FIRST NUNS   177
tered words of dissatisfaction, and left. His em-
ployer found another man, continued his voyage and
arrived at Le Pas, August 28,1843.
The missionary passed five weeks in the place, a
prey to the petty persecutions and threats of those
who sided with the Protestant catechist. Even for-
bearing Darveau, who had found no words to ex-
patiate on his physical suff erings, cannot help insist-
ing on the disloyal tactics that were used against him
and his people.   He writes of his stay at Le Pas:
"Heil has had recourse to all its wiles, at first to
drive me away, and then to render useless my
efforts. They came to warn me, evidently bent on
intimidation, that if I did not depart they were going
to drive me away. When they saw that I was de-
termined to stay until they should drag me, hands
and feet tied up, from the house I was in,6 presents
were lavished on the men and their wives, and
promises even   more   so.     They   would come and
snatch away the young people from the catechism to
make them go to school. My two servants had also
their share of the storm. . . . As soon as an
Indian would come up, he was surrounded by Protestants, who did not let him alone before he had con-
6He was the guest of an old halfbreed from Michillimakinac, named
Constant, who had found him a house.
■r   Kit w
u >,
V-I f
sented to go to the sermon that was delivered by a
native. . . . To render Catholics more odious they
gave them the name of Windigo, a fantastic being
whose name suffices to make children tremble and
puts to flight grown-up people."7
The Catholic priest was represented as a dreadful
man, who brought death in his wake, and everyone
was cautioned to have nothing to do with him or his.
1 i Among my audience,'' adds the missionary,'' there
was an old man who so dreaded pray er,8 that he did
not even dare look at the Catholic Ladder we owe to
the zeal of Mr. Blanchet. ' I f ear the magical power
of that piece of paper,' he said." Whereupon un-
suspecting Mr. Darveau wonders "how such a
strange error should have penetrated to this distant
land.'' The reader will perhaps wonder himself at
the missionary 's wonder.
Yet his stay at Le Pas was not entirely fruitless.
He left on October 7th, promising his catechumens
that he would come back to establish a permanent
mission in their midst the following spring. Here
is the ref erence of the "Rainbow of the North," a
little book publishéd in 1854 under the auspices of
TSt. Francois-Xavier, 7th Dec, 1843. A windigo is, in the eyes of
the Indians, a person possessed of some evil spirit, a demoniac, a
cannibal, or both eombined, whom it is customary with them to slay
at the first opportunity. It is not long since the murder of such a
man occurred north of Edmonton. Even the dullest reader will easily
guess who it was who, in this particular case, originated such wild
stories about a Catholic priest, and who was ultimately responsible
for the petty persecution he had to endure. If not prompted by a
fanatic, Indians will simply let severely alone a missionary whose
ministrations are not to their liking.
8That is, the Catholic religion.
the Church Missionary Society, of London, to his
passage at Le Pas: "Mr. Budd had been in the
summer of 1843 greatly tried by the arrival of a
Romish priest who came with the undisguised inten-
tion of drawing away the people. He erected a large
wooden cross, marked out the sight of his intended
house, and after baptizing about twenty of the
heathen in the neighbourhood9 returned to the Red
River, intending to come back in the spring to take
his permanent abode there."10
True to his word, Mr. Darveau did leave for Le
Pas in the beginning of June, 1844. He had for companions a halfbreed named Jean-Baptiste Boyer,
and a Muskegong Indian boy. Not far from Duck
Bay, the little party camped for the night. There
they were joined by a few Muskegongs, among whom
was Shetakon, the missionary's unfaithful servant
of the preceding summer. When the Indians had
landed, Darveau attempted to hold conversation with
them on religious subjects; but Shetakon drew apart
another old man named Chimekatis, and represented
to him that the priest was the cause of the epidemie
which had lately ravaged the tribe. Therefore, he
added, we must do away with him before he has
brought the Indians of Le Pas to his way of praying
and thereby caused their destruction. The missionary's exhortations to embrace the true faith still
9An untruth. Though he does not give the number of his baptisms,
or the locality of the baptized, Darveau mentions at least five of
the latter who belonged to Le Pas.
Op. cit., p. 154.
V mr
',;• ■
II i
't *
il f
accentuated the ill-will of the old men against him,
and sealed his doom.
And lest their crime should be made known to the
whites, they found it necessary to kill Boyer first,
after which one of the old men shot at the priest.
But so nervous was he at the thought of the possible
consequences of his act, that he fired wide of the
The guns of both men were thus emptied, and their
intended victim might attempt to escape while they
would reload them. Hence they urged a third man,
called Vizena, the son-in-law of Chimekatis, to kill
the priest.
' I Shoot him. . . . Dispatch him quick!'' cried
out Chimekatis.
But Vizena did not feel up to killing a priest. So
his father-in-law excitedly insisted:
"Shoot him, I say, or he will kill us himself."11
Reluctantly, Vizena fired the fatal shot, and Mr.
Darveau feil by the side of his canoe.
The Muskegong boy being one of their own people,
was spared, but strongly cautioned to say nothing
of what had happened. Yet, as he occasionally per-
sisted in threatening to exposé the murderers, one
of them took him out one day to hunt, and he was
never seen again.
The bodies were left on the beach, where they remained many a day undiscovered. When found, they
were in too advanced a state of decomposition to
"Meaning probably by his black art, his occult powers.
allow of examination. Mr. Darveau's body had been
dragged over the sand by a bear, whose tracks were
plainly visible, and one of his legs was partially
eaten up.
Meanwhile the report was being circulated that the
priest and his men had been drowned, though the
lake was perfectly calm when they left Duck Bay.
Darveau being known as rather fearless, if not im-
prudent, on the water, the news easily found cred-
ence with those who did not know of the whisperings
by the camp-fires that told a totally different story.
The black deed was consummated. The windigo of
the Protestant catechist at Le Pas had met with the
fate all his fellows must expect among the Indians.
At the same time, the Church of St. Boniface had
lost one of her most promising sons.
As far as could be ascertained, the tragedy of Lake
Winnipegosis must have taken place on June 4,
1844.12 f-
Such are, after a careful digest of manuscript documents and other sources of information, the cir-
cumstances which attended the death of Rev. Mr.
Darveau. Those documents refer to the explicit
depositions of Indians directly or indirectly con-
cerned in   the drama, whom   the veteran Father
"We may mention, as an epilogue to the tragedy, that Shetakon
himself met with a miserable death, away from home. As to Chimekatis, who had pressed his son-in-law so hard to kill the priest, his
end was even worse. Blind and deaf for a long time, he was burnt
alive in his shanty. Vizena publiely admitted before his own death
that "he was going to burn for two reasons: he had killed his two
wives, and had shot Mr. Darveau." lm
f 4/
ft »
Camper knew personally and to whose declarations
he is a living witness. There are a few discrep-
ancies in the details, but one thing is absolutely cer-
tain: Darveau's death was due to malice, not the
result of an accident. It is likewise highly probable,
if not absolutely certain, that hatred for the Catholic
faith and a superstitious dread of its ministers in-
spired by a representative of another denomination
were the real cause of the same.
Nothing could properly compensate for so prec-
ious a life. However, seventeen days after the un-
timely end of the northern missionary, an event of
a most different nature brought joy to many a heart,
especially that of Mgr. Provencher, in the southern
part of the Middle West. We have seen that this
prelate had scarcely been six months in the Red
River Settlement when he manifested the wish to
have nuns for his schools, or at least for those fre-
quented by girls. The Misses Nolin had, it is true,
rendered him yaluable services in that line; but,
with fickleness characteristic of their race, they had
tired of the work at St. Boniface.
Yet, they were still engaged in it, but at St. Francois-Xavier, when the bishop received from a Visita-
tion nun of Grasse, in France, a letter wherein the
writer, named Angélique Aimée Courmei, offered to
start an educational institution for girls at Red
River, or on the Columbia. This was in 1838.18 Provencher wrote for information and asked for testi-
"Provencher; letter dated 6th Aug., 1838.
monials from the nun 's bishop, but received nothing.
He then applied to the Bishop of Amiens, also in
France; but his negotiations with that prelate feil
through. Lu 1842 he begged the Bishop of Quebec
to get him sisters of any Order, and then wrote to
Mgr. Loras, of Dubuque, in the United States, always in the same strain, but also with a like result.
Seeing that nothing availed, he resolved to pass
into Canada by way of the United States. He found
nuns at Dubuque, but they could not speak French.
In the vicinity of St. Louis, he tried to obtain some
of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who had a vast establishment there; but he could not persuade their
superiors to undertake a foundation in far-off Red
River. At Montreal Mgr. Bourget recommended to
him the Grey Nuns as the best qualified for the work
he had to give them. After some negotiations, Provencher was delighted to see his offers accepted by
the Superior-General of that Order.
The Sisters of Charity, commonly known as Grey
Nuns, from the colour of their habit, were founded in
1738 by Madame D'Youville, a sister of La Jemmeraye, Lavérendrye's nephew and lieutenant in his
western explorations. It is a tradition current in
that Institute that the f oundress uséd to send to the
Indians of the then desolate West clothes she had
prepared with her own hands, and it would seem as
if her daughters had had for a long time some sort
of presentiment that they would one day follow their
"uncle" into the land of his last sleep. 184
From Montreal Bishop Provencher passed over to
France, inasmuch as, in addition to his own territory
east of the Rocky Mountains, he interested himself
in the welfare of. the still less favoured missions of
Oregon. He crossed the ocean accompanied by his
very first confrère in the apostolate, the Rev. Mr.
Dumoulin, whom, on his return, he would f ain have
taken back with him to Red River.14 Though this
voyage seemed to have had no immediate results as
far as his clergy was concerned, we shall soon see
that it was far from having been taken in Vain. From
a financial standpoint it was a success, the Propa-
gation of the Faith making him a grant of 30,000
In Canada he found two precious subjects in the
persons of Revs. L. F. Richer-Laflèche (better known
as Laflèche), who was just terminating his eccles-
iastical studies, and Olivier Caron, for whom he
seems to have taken a special liking.15 But when he
returned from France to Canada, reaching Montreal
March 25,1844, the latter did not find himself strong
enough to go west.
This was a great disappointment for the bishop,
who had already obtained from the Governor of the
Hudson's Bay Company passages in his brigade16 of
"Provencher to Mgr. Turgeon, Bishop of Sidyme. 14th Dec., 1843.
lsRev. Louis Francois Richer-Laflèche was born 4th Sept., 1818, at
Ste. Anne de la Pérade, Lower Canada, and studied at the college
of Nicolet.   He was ordained priest in that town 7th January, 1844.
16In the language of the fur-traders, a brigade was any considerable
assemblage of boats, canoes, or even pack-horses, loaded with furs
or the equipment of the various forts.
mmmmm REV. MR. LAFLECHE. 11
A )
\t V r
il II
I  w
■    Uil
!,f       Él
canoes for two priests, besides himself, and four
sisters, at the much reduced price of £175. Fortu-
nately he found an acceptable substitute for Mr.
Caron in Rev. Joseph Bourassa, of Lévis,17 who was
admitted to the priesthood April 14, 1844, that is,
just in time to leave with his new Ordinary.
The latter was then ailing at the ho spit al of Montreal. On April 27th, three days after the sisters
themselves had departed, not without very excusable
misgivings and heart-rendings, Mgr. Provencher
embarked for St. Boniface with his two missiönaries,
the bishop in the governor's own canoe, and the
young priests in other craft.
Governor Simpson was proverbially quick in his
travels. He could stand no delays, and hardly
granted any resting time to his crew. Therefore, at
Sault Ste. Marie, Bishop Provencher ordered the
two priests to accompany the nuns while he would
go on with Sir George. The first ladies who left
everything in the east to answer the call of duty in
the wild West deserve to see their names go down
to posterity. They were Sisters Valade, superior,
Lagrave, Coutlée and Lafrance.
The first canoe, with the bishop and the governor,
reached St. Boniface on the 31st of May, but the
others did not put in an appearance there before
June 21,1844.
The following Sunday the bishop introduced the
good sisters to his flock.   Their principal work was,
"Where he was born, 31st May   1817. 186       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
1 ff
of course, to be the instruction of the young; but he
also counted on them for several branches of indus-
try which he thought useful, if not necessary, to a
new population like his. At least one of the nuns
was likewise to apply herself to the practice of
medicine, a knowledge of which she had previously
acquired in anticipation of her office on the banks of
the Red. All of them spoke English j but, as they did
not feel equal to the task of teaching school in that
language, they were to put the last touches to their
own education with regard to that point.18
Pending the construction of special quarters for
the ladies, the bishop accommodated them in his
stone house, which he had vacated on New Year's
Day, 1843, to inhabit that which he had built at the
gable end of his cathedral, forming an addition to
that edifice measuring 46 by 70 feet.
These improvements looked indeed like the dawn
of a new era for the missions of Red River. Yet
that new era, with the corresponding expansion in
mission work and the cessation of all cares concerning the recruiting of the apostolic labourers, was not
properly to commence till the following year.
18Provencher to Turgeon, Coadjutor of Quebec; Montreal, 9th Nov.,
Extension to the North.
Over twenty-five years had now rolled by since the
Church had permanently established herself on the
banks of the Red River, and, in spite of deeds of
heroism, privations and suff erings of all kinds pa-
tiently endured, very much indeed remained to be
done. True, there was a bishop with a decent cathedral at headquarters; but, in spite of two recent
accessions to the ranks of his clergy, that bishop did
not have more than four priests at his disposal, in
1844, for the 2,800 white and halfbreed Catholics
scattered over a region vast as a kingdom. Of these
missiönaries, one was to return east the following
year, and three were devoting their lives exclusively
to the salvation of the Indians. Only two had stayed
any length of time in the country and one of them1
*Mr. Belcourt who, in spite of a prodigious activity and uncommon
talents, never had Provencher's sympathies.
[187] I ml
would evidently have been preferred away by his
ecclesiastical superior.
It cannot be denied that Red River had no charms
for the Canadian clergy. In moments of generous
self-sacrifice a few had indeed come to labour in that
isolated country; but after a sojourn of three or
four years, seldom much longer, they had succes-
sively slipped out of their bishop's hands. So that
it began to be wondered whether the nation which
had given so many daring voyageurs and explorers
to the West did really possess men endowed with
sufficiënt abnegation to föllow those hardy pioneers
and save their souls and those of the wild tribes
among whom they had cast their lot. Even the great
Bishop Plessis had been struck by this momentous
question. In answer to a good priest who wanted to
go back to Canada after a few years' stay in Red
River, he exclaimed: "When one has come to this
that he should say: my task is done, it must be because zeal is very dull indeed. Oh! where would now
be Canada if the missiönaries that came there to
plant the faith had not had more constancy? My
task is done, did you say. Our task, whoever we
may be, will be over only when we shall have spent
all our life in devotion to the salvation of souls."2
This inconstancy on the part of Provencher's fel-
low labourers was all the more galling to the prelate
2Aug. 17th, 1823. Perhaps should we say that they needed the
ties created by religious life to devote themselves with some degree
of permanency to the duties of a missionary in that wild country.
as, in the diocese next to his own district, that of
Dubuque, which had only been a few years in existence, there were already eleven priests, most of
whom hailed from France.8
Hence, tired of the endless anxieties and disap-
pointments that had so far attended his endeavours
to recruit his clergy from among the secular priests
of Canada, Bishop Provencher had thought of secur-
ing the coöperation of one of the Orders that flour-
ished in Europe, and he had asked Monseigneur
Bourget, of Montreal, to do all he could to get him
some Jesuits. In the course of a visit at Rome in
1841, the prelate had an interview with the General
of that famous institute. As an outcome of it, the
. shepherd on the banks of the Red exulted in the
thought that he should soon have some of those good
fathers with him. His letters bespeak this hope all
through 1842, and, at the end of the following year,
he had not yet despaired of seeing his dreams realized.4
But Providence had other plans. Answering the
call of the saintly Bishop of Montreal, the represen-
tatives of a much younger religious Order had just
settled themselves on the banks of the St. Lawrence.
Provencher 's attention was called to their wonderful
success among the country parishes of Lower Canada.   The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, founded in
8Provencher to  the Bishop  of Quebec;   St.  Boniface, 30th June,
4Same to P. F. Turgeon, of Sidyme; Montreal, 14th Dec, 1843. r\
1816 at Aix, in the south of France, by Monseigneur
Ch. J. E. de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles, were the
first missiönaries to enter Canada after the cession
of that country to England. They had for their
object the missions to the poor and lowly, and they
were beginning to astonish the eastern provinces by
the f ervour of their preaching and the extraordinary
fruits of conversion that attended their labours.
During his last voyage to Quebec the Bishop of
Juliopolis had assisted at the oblation of Father
Eusèbe Durocher, one of the first Canadians that
were admitted into that Congregation, and this cir-
cumstance had naturally drawn his attention to the
new body. The Oblates were by profession missiönaries to the poor. But it was precisely such missiönaries that he wanted; for who was poorer than his
own Indians, halfbreeds, or even whites ?
The question was just mooted of withdrawing the
Red River mission from the jurisdiction of Quebec.
This step would make so much the more necessary
the services of a religious Order there. If, in spite
of the bonds that had so far attached the West to that
ancient See, it had been next to impossible to get an
adequate supply of priests therefrom, what would it
be when those ties should have been severed? Then
again, Provencher had counted on the coming of an
able priest, Rev. Olivier Caron, who had declined to
move at the last moment. The Oblates, therefore, he
must have.
It was for his incipient parishes and especially the
promising Indian missions of the far Northwest a
question of life or death. "Secular priests," he
thought, "will make slow progress; there is no unity
in their views, without mentioning the fact that they
put their hands to the plough only for a short time,
which they always find too long.' '5
Hence he strongly advised the Coadjutor of Quebec, a personal friend of his, to be careful not to
thwart vocations to the religious state, because, he
remarked, "you will have, returned a hundredfold,
what you have given.' '6 And, to be more explicit on
the nature of the vocations he meant, he wrote
shortly afterwards: "Oh! that I may have some
religious, religious, religious! We will do little good
and incur heavy expenses as we are at present.
There is no unity of views; everyone sees and does
his own way. . . . Oh! for Oblates! May God
bless their labours and thereby silence those who
talk but would not act!"T And, ten days later: "If
it be true that some Oblates are to come next year,
it will be well for me to know of it this winter.
. . . If there are any vocations, facilitate them, for
we will do nothing with a secular clergy.' '8
By this last remark it would seem as if, after having been disappointed in the Jesuits, the Bishop of
Juliopolis had still his doubts about the coming of
6To Rev. C. P. Cazeau; Quebec, 30th June, 1844.
"The same to Bishop Signay of Quebec, 26th June, 1844.
7The same to the same, 26th June, 1844.
8St. Boniface, 6th July, 1844.
the Oblates. Yet he had applied himself to their
Superior-General and Founder in the course of his
journey to Rome. Saintly De Mazenod, "whose
heart was as big as the world," had consented to
undertake a foundation at Red River. Humanly
speaking this was a most rash resolution. His sons
had merely pitched their tents in Lower Canada;
how could he think of weakening, if not destroying,
the humble beginnings on the banks of the St. Law-
rence by attempting in a still much more distant and
resourceless land, establishments whose numbers no
one could foresee? Could a sufficiënt personnel be
found for both missions in the ranks of the young
Institute 1
But Monseigneur de Mazenod was a man of immense f aith. He yielded to the entreaties of the poor
missionary prelate and commissioned Father Gui-
gues, the first Oblate provincial in America (before
he became the first Bishop of Ottawa), to send some
of his religious to the aid of Provencher. God, who
cannot be outdone in generosity, immediately re-
warded his servant for his extraordinary trust in His
Providence. It is to the establishment of the first
Indian missions in Western Canada that must be
traced that wonderful development of the then
scarcely known Congregation of the Oblates. The
thought of the incredible hardships that awaited the
missioners of the Cross in the dreary wastes of
North America inflamed the hearts of a multitude
of young clerics and mature priests who, leaving
f orever the "sweet land of France," thenceforth
sallied out yearly to seek out the lost sheep of Israël
in the snows of Athabasca and the Mackenzie, without ever uttering a word of regret for the friends
and parents they had left in the country of their
Pending these noble flights, .we must chronicle the
scarcely less meritorious erf orts of the pioneers in
that hallowed exodus.
According to all previsions, the first Oblates
should have reached Red River by the beginning of
August, 1845. Yet nobody was coming, and the vigi-
lant watchman over God's people settled there was
despairing of seeing them arrive that year when, on
August 25th, their canoes were signalled slowly
ascending the Red. The good bishop could not pos-
sess himself for joy. He immediately went out with
Mr. Mayrand and the nuns to receive the missiönaries that were to be the saviours of his adopted
country. With them were two ladies destined for
the nuns' novitiate. But when Provencher looked at
the men that were sent him, his first impression par-
took of the nature of a disappointment. Instead of
a band of priests ready for apostolic work, he had
before him only one, Rev. Casimir Aubert, accompanied by a young man with a boyish face who
seemed scarcely more than an adolescent.
"What!" he exclaimed, "I have asked for men,
and they send me a child!"
He soon realized that this "child" was not an
N r
s a   1
ordinary one, and but a few weeks had elapsed when
he asked for many more of his kind.9
This wonderful "child" was Brother Alexander
Antonin Taché, who was as yet a mere novice in his
Order, and a subdeacon in the Church of God. Born
at Fraserville, July 23,1823, of one of the best Canadian families, he was* on his mother's side a direct
descendant of the discoverer of the country that was
to be his for life, the great Lavérendrye. He had
studied at the Seminary of Montreal since September 1, 1841, and had lately entered the novitiate of
the Oblates at Longueuil,10 when his superiors had
thought that, in spite of his youth and so far uncer-
tain status in his Congregation, he was the right
man for the Red River missions.
In contemplating this smooth-faced novice, little
did the Bishop of Juliopolis dream that he was
resting his eyes on his successor, who was to shed
luster on the See of St. Boniface and become the
most illustrious man in Western Canada.
The first unfavourable impression over, Provencher wrote to his Quebec friend, the Bishop of
Sidyme: "Deo gratias! here is at last some seed of
religious. It is on this class of men that I have
reckoned fora long time, to efficiently promote the
Indian missions. Rev. Father Guigues Iets me hope
for some more next summer.   I shall therefore write
9"Some more Tachés and Laflèches you may send me without f ear."
10Where he had for master of novices Father Allard, who became a
bishop and vicar-apostolic in South Africa.
him.   Mr. Thibault wants two; Mr. Laflèche would
like to have one also."11
The Pope had directed Provencher to look for
somebody whom he might appoint vicar-general and
initiate into the machinery of administration. He
regretted his inability to comply immediately.
Father Aubert, he thought, was the proper man, but
he might be objected to on account of his foreign
birth. The older among his other priests had few
qualifications for the business of a diocese. "They
have planed more than studied," he writes, adding
that he sees nobody but Laflèche who was only
twenty-seven years old. Would not some more secular priests come from Lower Canada, even after the
advent of the Oblates? He sincerely hoped so. In
fact, this, he was sure, was necessary.12 But events
were to prove that in this he was mistaken. For
the next seventeen years not one secular priest was
to come to the west who.did not soon after join the
ranks of the Oblates.
Mr. Mayrand left August 29, 1845, and Father
Aubert, with his only novice and prospective confrère, became Mr. Belcourt's pupils in Sauteux at
the Bishop's House. Mr. Laflèche had been ailing
and, for that reason, became unable to proceed to
Lake Ste. Anne and help evangelize the Indians pre-
viously visited by Mr. Thibault, who burnt with the
uSt. Boniface, 29th August, 1845.
"To the Bishop of Sidyme, 25th April, 1844. 196
desire to go still further north. Mr. Bourassa took
his place in this distant mission.
The young priest then set upon building some sort
of a residence for the two missiönaries in these distant parts, while his confrère, Mr. Thibault, was
travelling among the Indians (1844). In the course
of his excursions, the latter penetrated into the
country of the Chippewayans, a Déné tribe, which
Teceived him with open arms.
He was now dealing with an entirely different race
of Indians. The Dénés form in North America an
extremely important aboriginal family, of which the
most populous divisions are to be found in the
United States, where they are known under the
names of Navahoes and Apaches respectively. These
appellations, however, give rise to an entirely wrong
idea of what the Dénés are in northern Canada.
Naturally timid and cowardly, though by no means
above spasms of childish excitement and anger, they
are much more religiously inclined, more apt to uni-
tate superiors, because conscious of their own infer-
iority, and less immoral than their southern neigh-
Absolutely nomadic through their endless forests
and along the immense lakes of their territory—
Athabasca, Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes—
they have few large agglomerations. As a consequence, sexual promiscuity is less common with them
than among the natives of Algonquin or Sioux par-
entaere.   They live on the fruits of the hunt rather
than of the chase, though they also seek out large
venison animals, such as moose and reindeer or
Being of a religious turn of mind, they are, for the
lack of an enlightened faith, profoundly supersti-
tious. They place an absolute reliance on the supposed occult powers of their shamans, jugglers and
medicine-men combined, whose office it is to drive out
of the sick evil spirits that are the cause of all bodily
ailments, mishaps and contretemps in nature, such
as storms or the lack of the proper winds while sail-
ing, the failure of the yearly salmon run, etc. This
the shamans claim to accomplish by vigorous incan-
tations or insufflations in the midst of furious dancing to the accompaniment of drumming and special
The Dénés of northern Canada roam in bands
more or less numerous—under the conduct of a head-
man who is often the oldest father of a family—im-
mediately north of the territory of the Crees, with
whom they now intermingle in a few places, as far
as the confines of the Eskimos. From east to west
they extend practically from Hudson Bay to the
Pacific coast.
East of the Rocky Mountains, their principal
tribes are the Chippewayans or Montagnais who
have Lake Athabasca for their main seat, though
many .important divisions are south of that sheet of
water, notably at Ile a la Crosse and Cold Lake; the
Beavers, on Peace River and adjacent lands; the I
If f
; (>
Slaves, west of Great Slave Lake and on the Mac-
kenzie; the Dog-Bibs, between Great Slave and
Great Bear Lakes; the Hares, mostly on the east
side of the Lower Mackenzie, as well as the Ander-
son and Macfarlane Rivers, and the Loucheux, on the
west side of the lower Mackenzie and over the whole
of Alaska save its coasts. Our sixth part will teil
us of the habitat of that important stock south of
We now return south, to assist at the ordination of
Brother Taché, first as deacon, August 31 st, that is,
the first Sunday after his arrival at St. Boniface,
and then as priest, on October 22, 1845. Bishop
Provencher had to use the vast powers conferred on
him by the Holy See, as the new priest was scarcely
more than twenty-two years* two months and a
half old.
On the morrow, the novice pronounced his religious vows in presence of Father Aubert, who represented his General in Marseilles. He was now in
spite of his youth a full-fledged Oblate father.
According to the original plans of the bishop, he
was to stay near him and attend, in conjunction with
Mr. Laflèche and the prelate himself, the parishes or
missions of St. Boniface, St. Francois-Xavier, St.
Paul of the Sauteux, Our Lady of Mercy (Wabassimong), St. Norbert of Duck Bay, and St. Mary's of
Le Pas, a mission which the Bishop of Juliopolis still
considered as extant in spite of the valuable life it
had cost.
1 Ui
Hence Provencher still feit the need of apostolic
workers for the north of his district. "Endeavour
to persuade Father Guigues to send me some more
good subjects," he wrote in December, 1845. "Both
of the fathers that came this year are persons with
whom it will always be easy to pull.''
Then a final remark of the prelate brings us to
the consideration of the good work one of his oldest
priests was accomplishing in the west of his vine-
yard. "Mr. Thibault has baptized 500 children in
his expedition of last summer," he writes. These
were mostly Chippewayans of Cold Lake, Lac la
Biche and He a la Crosse, whither he had penetrated
as early as 1844. After having passed a few days
at Fort Carlton he proceeded to these different
places and was delighted at the reception he met
with. "The zeal of these poor Indians to hear the
word of God and learn how to serve him is extreme,''
he wrote. "Day and night they were busy repeat-
ing the prayers and instructions. Hence I left them
with a knowledge of the Our Father, Hail Mary, the
Creed, and the way of reciting the beads. . . .
All understand and can explain the chief points of
the Catholic Ladder.18 All those who could make
themselves understood in Cree have gone to confes-
1SA sort of chronological history of the world on a long sheet of
paper, invented by Mr. (afterwards Archbishop) F. N. Blanchet for
the evangelization of his own Indians on the Columbia. We will have
a further explanation of it by the end of this chapter and in our
last part.
14To Provencher, Lake Ste. Anne, 23rd December, 1844. f
ii *
On May 24th, of the following year, Thibault was
again at He a la Crosse, where he experienced such
great consolations that he could not help writing:
"It is not possible that any Indian nation should
ever be better disposed to embrace our faith than
are the Montagnais.'' Hence he calls for evangelical
workers with aptitudes for native languages, as he
perceives that the Methodists are already trying to
introducé themselves there.
Of course, among simple folk, so child-like in mental make-up as are the Dénés, due allowance must be
made for the impressibility of a religious nature,
quick to yield to generous impulses, but often too
ready to f all back into the routine of a life very different from the Christian ideal. It was no task to
convert such people to the truths of our holy religion ; the difflculty was to keep them up to our moral
During his apostolic journey of 1845, Mr. Thibault
arrived, June 4th, at Methy Portage, the height of
land between the Arctic and the Atlantic watersheds,
a great rendezvous of the northern and southern
canoe brigades of the fur traders. There he met
with the same religious enthusiasm. "These good
people are inexpressibly docile," he says. "Had
God come in person in their midst to make known
His will, I believe they would not treat him with
more honour or listen more eagerly to His words,
though I am nothing but His most unworthy representative. ' '15
"July 24th, 1845.
So pleased indeed was the good missionary that,
yielding to the general enthusiasm, he would fain
"have gone down to the very farthest nations that
inhabit the earth.''
After the extraordinary fervour of the northern
Indians, those of the plains (Crees and Assiniboines) appeared to him less than lukewarm in their
love of prayer and practice of Christian virtues,
absorbed as they were by their incessant wars and
debauched by the firewater of the whites.16
Returning to Edmonton (January 3, 1846), Mr.
Thibault met there the celebrated Father de Smet,
S.J., who had been looking for the Blackfeet, the
irreconcilablé enemies of the Flatheads (of the
American territory) to whom he intended to make
proposals of peace preparatory to having them accept the yoke of the Gospel. He had been for such a
long time roaming over the prairie in the hope of
meeting them, that his guide finally abandoned him,
thus causing untold miseries to the missionary, who
had providentially been led to the Hudson's Bay
Company's fort.
Four months later, Thibault chronicled the con-
version of thirty-six Indians who had previously
embraced Methodism.17
Meantime his companion of Lake Ste. Anne, Mr.
Bourassa, was led by the same zeal for the salvation
of souls to take the Glad Tidings to the Beaver
16May 6th, 1846.
"December 27th, 1845. 202
Indians, who likewise treated him as the special
envoy of the Deity. In an excursion which carried
him as far as Peace River and even Lesser Slave
Lake, he administered one hundred and seven bap-
tisms. Later on he met representatives of the Séka-
nais, another Déné tribe, who inhabit, or rather rove
over, both sides of the Rocky Mountains. These
nomads complained to him that they had been left
out of the good things from heaven he was distribut-
ing broadcast, and he had to promise them a visit.
Things were running less smoothly in the Red
River valley. True, the bishop found cause for
earnest congratulation in the good work which the
sisters were doing there. In June, 1845, they had
already eighty children in their class-rooms.18 But
the venerable prelate, who was now alone for all the
parochial work, found his charge becoming rather
onerous, owing to a visitation of an epidemie which
soon decimated his flock. He was kept very busy
visiting the sick and burying the dead. In one day
he had as many as nine funerals, and, up to September 3, 1846, one hundred and fifty of his people had
died of a kind of contagious diarrhcea at St. Boniface
alone, while about as many had succumbed to the
same disease at St. Francois-Xavier, St. Paul, and
on the prairie, without counting the ravages from a
like cause among the non-Christian Indians.
This unf ortunate epidemie breaking out among the
BProvencher to Signay, 20th June, 1845.
 ... ._.... . ._:_„ ... ..-  _ jsaagSSQ ARRTVAL OF THE OBLATES OF MARY LMMACULATE   203
buffaio hunters called for the services of Mr. Belcourt. Father Aubert had left, June 30th, for Winnipeg River and Wabassimong, where he was sorry
to find few traces of real Christianity, and Fathers
Laflèche and Taché had bidden a long farewell to
Bishop Provencher to go and establish a permanent
mission at Ile a la Crosse (July 8,1846).
The Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immacu-
late had loyally accepted the laborious Indian missions of Provencher. In spite of her own limited
personnel, she sent him three more subjects in 1846.
The first was a man of great experience and admin-
istrative ability, Rev. Father Francois-Xavier Ber-
mond, who reached St. Boniface on September 5th.
Two months later Brother Henri Faraud, a scholas-
tic who had so far received only ecclesiastical ton-
sure, but was to serve a glorious career in the Far
North, arrived (November 9th), with a lay brother,
Louis Dubé, the first of that legion of humble co-
workers, invaluable aids of the missiönaries, who
have done so much to make their labours possible.
By the end of 1846, hardly fifteen months after the 204
; M
arrival of the first Oblates, Provencher had therefore the consolation of counting in his territory no
less than seven priests, one scholastic who was
shortly to be ordained, and one lay brother. Times
were êvidently changing for the better.19
In March of the following year, Father Bermond
left for the ill-starred post of Duck Bay, on Lake
Winnipegosis, which had been visited by Laflèche in
1845, that is, one year after the melancholy death of
Mr. Darveau. He passed there two months and a
half teaching and catechizing a band of Indians who
did not prove too refractory to the call of grace.
About the same time Father Taché was making
long and exceedingly tiresorhe journeys on snow-
shoes, first to Green Lake where he baptized a Cree
chief, and then to Lake Caribou, an important body
of water in the east, which had so far never been
visited by the "man of God." Passing by Lake
Laronge, he was grieved to see that he had been
preceded by a Protestant school teacher acting as a
He reached Lake Caribou, March 25, 1847, and
realized how much nearer the kingdom of God the
Chippewayans were than the Crees, both nations
being represented on that lake. On the following
June 13th, he was home again at He a, la Crosse, and
passed the summer studying the native language
i '■ f
19It may be worth mentioning that Father Taché's was the last trip
by the long and exceedingly tedious canoe route. From 1846 on,
practically all the missiönaries came by way of the American prairies
and St. Paul.
The First Oblate within the Canadian Northwest. 11
with Mr. Laflèche, catechizing the Indians and preparing their church, as well as his own garden—the
bourgeois of the place, old Mr. Roderick McKenzie,
had very kindly caused a modest house to be built
for his use and that of Mr. Laflèche.
Brother Faraud,20 was ordained May 8th of that
year, and his first mission was to Wabassimong,
where he accompanied Father Aubert, the superior
of the Oblates in the country. On their return to St.
Boniface, Provencher abandoned that post.21 Num-
berless tribes were clamouring for the presence of
the missionary in the west, and especially in the
north. It was judged preferable to send priests
where they could do good rather than leaving them
where their services were not appreciated.
Father Aubert thenceforth remained at St. Boniface, with the venerable prelate, of whom he had become the confidant, while Father Faraud accompanied the buffaio hunters in their fall excursion.
In the north Father Taché, bent on new conquests,
left in August his elder companion. He journeyed
as far as Lake Athabasca where, in the course of
a mission which lasted three weeks, he baptized one
hundred and ninety-four persons, Chippewayans for
the most part.
In this connection, the author of the little book
already quoted on the death of Mr. Darveau, a book
^During his journey from Montreal, whieh lasted three months,
Brother Faraud was nearly killed by his cart, which capsized and
passed over his body with its load.   He was then 23 years old.
aLetter from Provencher, December, 1847. CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
which professes a holy horror for the "poisonous
pastures of Popery,"22 pro claims the fact that the
Romish priests baptized anyone who consented to
have the rite performed on his or her person without
giving any instruction, "tying a metal cross around
their necks and assuring them that they were safe.',2t
He lays the same accusations at the door of Mr.
Darveau,24 and again in connection with the two
priests at Ile a la Crosse.   In the case of the latter
he adds that, instead of instructing the candidates
for baptism, they gave them a paper containing the
names of the patriarchs and apostles, representa-
tions of heaven, saints, the flood, Solomon's temple,
etc.   Above all, the author notices thereon a road
representing  the  Roman  Catholic  religion  which
leads to heaven, and another marked "pretended
Reformation" ending in a very different place.26 He
further states that "some of the Indians [apparently of He a la Crosse] have resisted all the solicita-
tions of the priests," and that even some who had
been baptized threw away their crosses "of their
own accord,"26 and begged for Protestant instruction.
The primary object of the book in question was
evidently to interest the good people of England and
lead them to contribute generously towards the mis-
«"The Rainbow of the North,'* p. 132.
nIbia\, p. 152.
uIbid., p. 154.
mIbid., p. 168.
"Ibid., p. 169.
sion fund. Against this we have nothing to say.
But there is even in King James' Bible an injunc-
tion from a very high Power against hearing false
witness against one's neighbour. We dare say that
this injunction was grossly disregarded in that pub-
First of all, it stands to reason that when a missionary passes three weeks in preaching and cate-
chizing—another states that he never had less than
one hundred persons at his daily catechisms—his
people must have some kind of instruction when he
finally baptizes them.27 And yet from the numerous
private letters of the missiönaries we gather the fact
that, even after such a prolonged instruction, only
a few adults were admitted, most of the baptisms
being of children, while the great majority of their
parents were reserved for a subsequent visit.
Then, as to any Indian throwing away "of his
own aceord" the cross he had received at his baptism, or in any other circumstance, any one who has
the least experience of the native mentality will at
once stamp such an assertion as a falsehood. An
Indian, be he even a heathen, will treasure such an
object, and would not part with it on any consideration, least of all will he not throw it away of his own
Finally, one is f ree to go to He a la Crosse and
"During the entire winter, which is just over, I never had less than
a hundred persons at the catechism every day" (Letter from Mr.
Thibault; Edmonton, 6th May, 1846). If,
.f in
,    „,;/;
!«.   EK.
i \ï
■ 'M
1 ml
I  il'.
inspect the prosperous mission the Catholics have
had there ever since the days of Laflèche and Taché.
He will look in vain for a single Protestant native,
and, if he cares to enquire, he will be told that there
never was one in or about the place.
Much more generous and truthful is the reference
to the labours of the two Ile a la Crosse missiönaries
by another Protestant, a disinterested witness to the
result of their exertions. Sir John Richardson has
the following to say in his journal:
"June 25, 1848. The day being Sunday our voyageurs went to mass at the Roman Catholic chapel,
distant about a mile from the fort. This mission was
established in 1846 under the charge of Monsieur
Laflèche, who has been very successful in gaining
the confidence of the Indians, and gathering a con-
siderable number into a village round the church. In
the course of the day I received a visit from Monsieur La Flêche and his colleague Monsieur Taschè.
They are both intelligent and well-inf ormed men, and
devoted to the task of instructing the Indians."28
The italics are ours.
^'Aretic Searching Expedition," vol. L, p. 104. As to Mr. Darveau, he happens to ref er in one of his letters to the minister who
was probably responsible for the charge recorded in "The Rainbow
of the North." Speaking of an Indian camp he visited on his way to
Red River, he says: "I could instruct them only four days for the
lack of provisions which foreed them to scatter in search of some-
thing to eat. Last year they had the visit of a minister who, in eight
days, baptized some adults, after a short catechumenate, as you see
(St. Francois-Xavier, 7th December, 1843), which remark hints
plainly enough at the fact that his own period of instruction was
Jonger. He does not mention any baptism as a result of his flying
visit to that camp.
l"*-~;-e. ie *   CHAPTER  XIII.
While his missiönaries were thus winning golden
opinions from fair-minded Protestants in far-off
fields, Bishop Provencher was not idle at St. Boniface. He was more than ever on the way to become
the great citizen of the colony. In xJune, 1845, he
had been appointed chairman of a Committee of
Economy, formed within the Council of Assiniboia
with a view "to encourage by premiums and other-
wise the improvement of manufacturers and such
branches of agriculture as might bear" on the same.1
Exactly two years later, the report of that committee publicly acknowledged the colony's indebtedness
to the prelate "for having ordered the model of a
carding machine of simple construction from Canada. ' '2
In 1845 he had already üve schools with a very fair
attendance, besides other less regular institutions,
and he intended establishing two more under the
good sisters he was lodging in his old episcopal
"palace," pending the construction of their house
for which the material was ready.   He had advanced
1Minutes of the C. As., 19th June, 1845.
*Ibid., 28th June, 1847.
O [209]
£50 to the contractor who, however, had used that
money to buy tools and provisions while he worked
for others. This sum was a dead loss to the poor
Commenced in 1846, the convent had, two years
later, only four rooms inhabitable. However, God
blessed the efforts of the sisters, and the best families in the colony, especially the Hudson's Bay Company bourgeois, without distinction of creed, soon
had their children studying under their roof. When
finished, the convent formed a building 100 by 40,
two stories high, with a basement three feet above
Side by side with this consoling progress, a storm
was gradually gathering on the political horizon, in
which Provencher's people were particularly con-
cerned. From a social standpoint, Assiniboia was
divided into two. very distinct classes: that of the
agriculturists, who were mostly English-speaking
and generally Protestants, and that of the hunters
and trappers, French Canadians almost to a man.
The latter were either retired employees of one of
the two original fur trading companies or their children, though not a few had also come directly from
Lower Canada. Trapping, travelling and chasing
buffalo had for them charms much superior to the
cultivation of the few acres they had fenced in by
their modest homes on the banks of the Red or the
But since the coalition of the two rival companies TROUBLES AT HOME, CONSOLATIONS FROM ABROAD 211
in 1821, the resulting corporation had grown more
and more strict in the enforcement of the monopoly
it derive<i from its charter. It had become a criminal
ofïence not only to trade any fur from the Indians,
but even to possess one that had not been bought
from the Hudson's Bay Company at its own price.
In 1828 a Canadian called Regis Laurence having
been accused of storing a few pelts in his house, a
force of men was mustered who broke open his door
while he was away, and seized all the furs that could
be found within. Other parties, both Canadian and
English, were dealt with in a like drastic manner.
Two special cases are mentioned in the records of
the time which evoked even greater sympathy for the
victims, and caused a correspondingly wide dissatis-
f action in the colony. They were those of two French
Canadians and an Italian. The former had settled
on Lake Manitoba after the great inundation of 1826,
and were in exceedingly poor circumstances, eking
out a miserable existence by fishing. One of the two
was lame, and could not have found any other means
of supporting himself. The Italian was a tinsmith,
and it was well known that he had no goods to exchange for peltries, though, for the lack of money
among the Indians, he might once in a while receive
a skin in payment of services rendered them.
The Frenchmen had committed no other crime
than that of being found in company with the tinker.
Yet the parties were apprehended, and their shanties
burnt.   The poor fishermen were not even allowed to
^MM 212
take their hooks and nets out of the lake, but were
immediately marched to Fort Garry, where the
French Canadians were confined for some time and
then cautioned not to return to their former haunts.
As to the Italian, he was kept in prison for some
months, and then taken to York Factory, on Hud-
son Bay.3
It can be easily imagined that such acts of oppres-
sion were calculated to raise angry protests on the
part of such liberty-loving people as the halfbreeds.
To down any possible complaints and awe the free-
men and their friends, a troop of five hundred soldiers were kept a short time at Red River. On their
return to England, seventy pensioners came in the
fall of 1846, who were a year later foliowed by a
like number, making a corps of one hundred and
forty or one hundred and fifty veterans under a
Major Caldwell.
The Church, as such, took no cognizance of the
vexatious measures of the Hudson's Bay Company;
but some of her representatives, as individuals, could
not help sympathizing with the oppressed, inasmuch
as the validity of the charter which was responsible
for the persecution was then, and has remained,
8Some time later, in a locality far away from Red River, and where
the effeets of the colony's petty politics found their way but slowly,
Father Lacombe having, one day, had the audacity of presenting
himself to the bourgeois attired in a coat to the collar of which he had
unwittingly sewed strips of muskrat skin, he was greeted with in-
dignant words by the trader, who reproached the missionary with giv-
ing bad example to bis floek by setting at naught the regulations of
the Company. As a result of his onslaught, Father Lacombe had to
tear off his coat the obnoxious fur skin. TROUBLES AT HOME, CONSOLATIONS FROM ABROAD 213
rather problematical. As early as 1845 Bishop Provencher noted the fact that one hundred and seventy
dragoons (or the first body of sol diers) were scour-
ing the plains and warning the hunters that hence-
f orth their expeditions would not be tolerated. This
step had for immediate result a petition of the halfbreeds to the American Congress, asking for pro-
tection in their immemorial rights to hunt, and stating that they were ready to become American citi-
zens and re-establish the Pembina settlement. In
this rather precipitate action no member of the
clergy had any hand. We shall presently see that
the only priest who took any part in the troubles that
ensued embodied most loyal sentim'ents in the document he prepared for the British government.
This was Mr. Belcourt, the idol of the French settlement in Red River. The English-speaking population* was slower to move; but in the matter of the
monopoly, the excessive import duties and cognate
questions, every independent individual thought
the yoke of the Company was becoming unbearable.
Therefore, early in 1847, two petitions were sent to
the Queen asking for redress: one in English, drawn
up by an educated native Assiniboian, Mr. A. K.
Isbister, and signed by five other Englishmen; the
other in French, which had been prepared by Rev. A.
Belcourt, and to which nine hundred and ninety-
seven signatures were afïïxed.
The French document begged for a mitigation of
the monopoly, a magistracy bench independent of the
-— II
Hudson's Bay Company and the right to dispose of
the land to prospective settlers, with permission to
use for a time part of the revenue thus created in
order to improve the means of communieation with
the outer world.
Mr. Belcourt's factum ended with the following
statements: "We are near the boundary line and
could settle on the adjoining territory; we are even
invited to take that step. But we admire the wisdom
of the British constitution and wish to share in its
privileges. The sincere desire which our august
Sovereign has to render happy every one of her subjects is known here and farther; therefore we expect
everything from her clemency.''
There is no denying that the petition was couched
in most moderate language. It was dated February
17, 1847. In conjunction with its English counterpart, it provoked a long correspondence between the
British and Canadian governments, the Hudson's
Bay Company authorities in London and America,
Mr. Isbister and numberless personages, high and
low, armed with memorials and documents of all
sorts, for and against the objects of the petition.
These various pieces were printed two years later by
order of the House of Commons. They form 115
folio pages under the caption: Correspondence Rela-
tive to the Complaints of the Inhabitants of the Red
River Settlement.
The structure of the mighty Company shook to its
very foundations, and, in spite of evident exaggera-
tions by interested parties, many accusations of the
most damaging character were well established
against it.
The immediate outcome of the agitation as* far as
the Church was concerned was that Mr. Belcourt had
to leave the country. His recall by the Archbishop
of Quebec was peremptorily demanded by the governor of the Company, Sir George Simpson, who even
insinuated that, in case of non-compliance with his
request, he should let the weight of his resentment
f all on the entire Catholic clergy of the colony. A
temporary withdrawal was deemed imperative, and
Belcourt repaired to Quebec.
In this connection, the Hudson's Bay Company
added even insult to injury. Mr. Belcourt did not
leave Red River before he had been formally sum-
moned to appear before the sheriff in company with
Mr. Thibault, under the accusation of having peltries
in his possession. Belcourt denied the charge, but
the official would not take his word for it. He
searched his trunk, where he could find nothing of a
compromising nature. Mr. Thibault was likewise
exonerated of the accusation.4
In spite of Mr. Belcourt's undoubted abilities,
especially as a linguist, Bishop Provencher was of
the opinion that he should elect to settle in a parish
within Lower Canada.5 But the missionary who had
originally experienced   such   difficulties in tearing
4Provencher to Signay, Archbishop of Quebec, 14th June, 1847.
^Letter to Mgr. Turgeon; St. Boniface, lOth June, 1847.
/l m
himself away from Ste. Martine was bound to return
to the scène of his labours. He wrote twice to Sir
George Simpson, then at Lachine,6 and on the third
of March the governor., considering the services the
priest had previously rendered and giving him credit
for good intentions in his late interference with the
aff airs of the colony, magnanimously consented to
ask the Archbishop of Quebec to send him back to
the Red River.
But it was feit that his usefulness in that field was
gone. He was permitted to return as near the settlement as possible, without actually being stationed
within its boundaries. In consequence he went to
Pembina, to which he soon imparted a degree of
prosperity, building a church, founding a convent,
and inaugurating other works which it has become
unnecessary to detail, as his new post does not fall
within the scope of the present work.
Yet active Belcourt had not said his last word.
He was bound to be still for some time a factor in the
local politics of Assiniboia, and even in the eccles-
iastical circles of that country.
To begin with the latter, he had scarcely established himself in his new home, when it became
noised abroad that he was to be named Bishop of
Pembina. Mgr. Provencher at first treated lightly
such a contingency, judging it ridiculous to found
an episcopal see in a place he thought almost desert-
llth and 17th February, 1848. TROUBLES AT HOME, CONSOLATIONS FROM ABROAD 217
ed and so near St. Boniface.7 But a month later he
had become used to the thought and believed in the
accuracy of the report, as we see from a letter to his
faithful correspondent in Quebec.8
He had himself been granted jurisdiction distinct
from that which he had so far held in virtue of his
connection with that ancient See, and appointed
Vicar-Apostolic of the Northwest, in the course of
1844. On June 4, 1847, new bulls had further
changed his title of vicar-apostolic into that of
titular bishop; but these bulls did not reach him
before a full year had elapsed.9
This appointment revived previous conflicting
plans for the future of his immense territory.   In
TTo Bishop Turgeon, 14th June, 1848.
8To the same, 18th July, 1848.
9The greatest confusion seems to reign in published documents concerning the various steps whereby the Bishop of Juliopolis became
Bishop of St. Boniface. Copying each other, for the lack of the
official papers which were destroyed by. the fire of 1860, the authors
generally agree in stating that Mgr. Provencher was appointed vicar-
apostolic in 1844 and Bishop of St. Boniface in 1847. Both asser-
tions are erroneous, as we shall presently see. On the other hand,
the résumé of the ecclesiastical history of Manitoba down to 1863,
which was found in the corner-stone of Mgr. Taché's cathedral, states
that "in 1849 the Vicariate-Apostolic of the Northwest was created
a dioeese"—another error. If we now turn to Bishop Provencher's
own letters, we fail to derive therefrom much light on the matter.
Writing to the Bishop of Quebec under date 20th June, 1845, he says
indeed that he has just received the bulls that make him a Vicar-
Apostolic of Red River; but three years later (14th June, 1848) we
find him signing a letter, "Bishop of Juliopolis or of St. Boniface."
Then he adds in a P.S.: " I have no more any name, and I shall take
that of the cathedral. ... If they are not pleased, I shall change
again; ?' which remark, coupled with his tentative assumption of a
title that was not his, seems to suggest that he had not himself very
clear notions concerning his real standing in the hierarehy until 1852,
when his coadjutor brought him from Rome his new title of Bishop
of St. Boniface.    There never was a Vicar-Apostolic of Red River. 218
the course of 1846 the eastern bishops had proposed
the organization of a regular ecclesiastical province
with a metropolitan within Provencher's domains.
Consulted on the subject, the prelate found such a
step premature, in the then almost unsettled state of
the country, but had manifested the wish to have a
coadjutor able to undertake the long journeys which
it was beyond his own strength to make. The coadjutor must have rights to immediate succession in
the event of the titular bishop's demise.
For this important position he had cast his eyes
on Mr. Laflèche, who was then twenty-nine, and
would have attained the canonical age for consecra-
tion before all arrangements therefor would have
been over. As usual in such cases, he quoted Father
Aubert 's opinion in corroboration of his choice. Un-
fortunately for the immediate realization of his
plans, Mr. Laflèche was then in very poor health.
Indeed such was his condition that he could not
think of travelling.
True, there was another alternative: Father Taché
was a most able man, with a good education, good
health and great natural abilities, but then he was so
young! He had just been born, Provencher could
not help exclaiming in the anguish of his soul.10
However, the Vicar-Apostolic of the Northwest
must have reconsidered lüs decision as to the inop-
portuneness of dividing his territory, for in July,
"Provencher  thought  Father  Aubert was not  aceeptable  for  the
position, owing to his foreign birth.
1848, we see him writing to the coadjutor of Quebec:
"It seems that Mr. Belcourt is to be bishop at Pembina. . . . If Father Taché were older, he would
do very well, . . . but we must not think of him at
present."11 The venerable prelate then goes on to
unfold his own plans. He says that he is writing to
Cardinal Fransoni asking that his vicariate-apos-
tolic be divided in three, comprising a northwestern
diocese the seat of which would be at Edmonton,
presided over by Mr. Thibault. A further division
would result in another in the Far North, with
Athabasca as headquarters. Pending a fuller orga-
nization, he proposed that this should be adminis-
tered from Edmonton. He ended by saying: " A few
years more, and Father Taché will have reached the
canonical age. As the Oblates have the charge of
these missions, it would perhaps not be bad that the
bishop be an Oblate.''
As we shall soon see, his original plan of a simple
coadjutor without territorial division eventually
prevailed. This, however, was not to be realized
before Mr. Belcourt had played his last card in the
political world of Red River to which we have already alluded.
The petition of 1847 in spite of the enormous com-
motion it had caused in the fur trading quarters and
elsewhere; did not appreciably better the lot of the
petitioners.   Nay, the dissatisfaction of the French
uTo Bishop Turgeon, 18th July, 1848. 220       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
■•■: r
population was growing even greater, owing to the
objectionable proceedings of the chief magistrate, a
Mr. Adam Thom, who was an able man, but passed
for yielding to violently anti-French leanings,
which he was known to hold from the part he played
in the east at the time of the rebellion of 1837 and
This creature of the Hudson's Bay Company,
which gave him a salary of £700 per year, in addition
to board and lodgings, not only would not have any
French spoken at his bar, though the majority of the
people scarcely knew any English, but he was also
regarded as the real instigator of the last vexatious
measures adopted by the Company, or the Council of
Assiniboia, between which very little diff erence was
seen as a rule.
In March, 1849, a halfbreed named William Sayer,
who was regarded as French, though his father was
an English bourgeois of the Northwest Company,12
Was accused of having illicitly trafficked in furs with
the Indians. Hence he was arrested after a vigorous
resistance, for which he sufïered grievous bodily
harm at the hands of the mercenaries of the Hudson's Bay Company; but he was eventually liberated
on bail, with the understanding that he should stand
trial at the next criminal assizes, together with the
other halfbreeds charged with the same ofïence.
These arrests, following the agitation already de--
scribed, were the spark that ignited the powder.   The
12John Sayer, or Sayers, who was trading in the west in 1797-98.
halfbreeds made up their minds that their compa-
triots should not suffer for deeds they fully ap-
proved of. Yet, unwilling to do wrong, they coh-
sulted their usual adviser, Mr. Belcourt, now of Pembina. That gentleman, remembering the excesses
which the Company had committed on the strength
of a charter which many jurists held to be invalid,
was of the opinion that if the pensioners were called
to arms in order to enforce a decision based on that
charter, it should be lawful to repulse force by
Now it just happened that the halfbreeds had in
their ranks a person well qualified to head them on
in such an emergency. This was J. Louis Rielle
(or Riel), a man thirty-two years old, born of a
French-Chippewayan mother by a French father.
Having passed a considerable part of his life in the
east, where he had even entered the novitiate of the
Oblates, he enjoyed for that reason exceptional consideration with his fellow halfbreeds.
Apprehending trouble, the Hudson's Bay Company had shrewdly fixed the trial of Sayer for May
17th, which in 1849 happened to be Ascension Day,
a feast which was known to be of obligation with the
Catholics. It was hoped that their religious duties
would keep them at St. Boniface while Sayer would
be tried.
But they managed to assist in'a body at an early
mass at the cathedral, and when the time of the trial
'Provencher to Turgeon, 27th June, 1849.
fïfïT lm F
Bi '
arrived, a great crowd of arnied men, Canadians and
halfbreeds led by Riel, surrounded the Court House.
Alex. Ross asserts that 377 guns were seen in their
midst,14 without counting various isolated groups
armed with all sorts of missiles. The continuator of
Gunn says in this connection that "they conducted
themselves in the most orderly manner, merely sur-
rounding the Court House, and by their presence
showing their intentions," which were, not to in-
terfere with the trial, but to resist the infliction of
any punishment on the would-be culprits.15
When the accused was called to the bar, twelve
halfbreeds escorted him who, at the request of the
court, were to help him defend his cause. At the
same time Riel boldly stood up and declared that
the population demanded the acquittal of the accused.
"We give you one hour to reach a decision," he
said, "after which he shall be considered not
guilty." lp
"We object to a judge who cannot understand
those he tries," cried out one of the twelve.
■' He is at the behest of the Company, who unjustly
prevents f ree trade, and crushes us down with too
heavy import duties," added another.
"Yes, and that Company ignores us in the government of the country," complained a third.
"Bishop  Provencher  says,   "perhaps   over  200   men   armed with
guns."    (To Turgeon, 27th June, 1849).
'""History of Manitoba," p. 304. TROUBLES AT HOME, CONSOLATIONS FROM ABROAD 223
Above all, we must have f ree trade in furs,
corrected Riel.16
What were the authorities to do in the face of the
armed assemblage outside? Sayer confessed that
he had traded furs with the Indians, but added that
he had received permission to do so from a party
connected with the Company. The court was glad
to have that excuse for discharging him. They
likewise liberated the three other halfbreeds even
without the semblance of a trial. Whereupon some-
one among the twelve, who scarcely understood the
nature of the proceedings, imagining that the halfbreeds' demand had been granted, cried out as he
made his exit:
"Le Commerce est lïbre" (trade is free)!
"Trade is free; vive la liberté!" shouted hundreds
of throats. And guns were discharged, hands were
shaken and three cheers given in honour of the
Thenceforth there was no attempt made at en-
forcing the odious monopoly. After endeavouring to
weather the storm and resist the tide against him
by allowing the services of a French interpreter,
Thom had to return east, the import duties were
lowered from 7% to 5, and afterwards 4 per cent.
In short, all the demands of the French population
were acceded to.
18All these various demands are explicitly mentioned in the min-
utes of the session of the Assiniboia Council held the week following Sayer's trial.
Safe 224
The following year, Rev. L. Laflèche was sworn
in as a member of the council (September 5, 1850),
in addition to the bishop and Captain George Mar-
cus Cary, both of whom had been admitted at the
same time. On the other hand, on October 16, 1850,
the halfbreeds Pascal Breland, Urbain Delorme
and Joseph Guibeau were appointed magistrates
for the White Horse Plains District, and Francois
Bruneau with Maximilien Genton and three English
for the Upper District.
All of which goes to demonstrate the growth of
the Catholic element and of its importance in the
colony of Assiniboia.
Bishop Provencher personally took no active part
in these proceedings. Other cares weighed on his
mind. He was now pursued by the idea that, though
apparently still robust in spite of his sixty-three
years, he could not live much longer. After what
he knew of the delays attending the nomination of a
successor to some bishops, and the evil that accrued
therefrom, he was obsessed by the fear of dying
without a coadjutor who could succeed him ipso
facto, thus obviating the inconvenience of a long
We have seen that his first thoughts had been for
Mr. Laflèche. He had even called him to St. Boniface to be in a position to judge for himself of his
health, and the gentleman had arrived from He a, la
Crosse shortly after the troubles just recited. He
was lame from rheumatic pains and sores in the legs,
and he would not hear of the episcopate.   The mission of St. Frangois-Xavier not occasioning much
travelling on the part of its incumbent, Laflèche was
, appointed thereto.
At St. Boniface, two young Oblates, Fathers
Maisonneuve and Tissot,17 had arrived from France
the preceding year (1848), and were awaiting
marching orders for Ile a la Crosse, where Father
Taché was doing wonders, with the help of Father
Faraud. As to Father Aubert, he was recalled to
Canada in the course of 1850, so that the venerable
prelate feit all the more the need of someone to
share the burden that was now pressing so heavily
upon his shoulders.
He despaired of Mr. Laflèche. After him he had
no choice: in spite of his youth, Father Taché was
evidently the man for the situation. He knew the
country and several languages, was able and
learned, and above all he belonged to a religious
Order. Once consecrated, that Order could not possibly abandon the missions over which he would
preside. "This diocese must f all into the hands of
the Oblates, it could not otherwise get recruits for
its clergy,'' he wrote to Mgr. Turgeon.18
Consequently, he submitted his name to Rome,
after having asked for the consent of his Superior-
General,19 Mgr. de Mazenod.
"The latter only a scholastic brother when he arrived at St. Boniface.
"August 28th, 1849.
19St. Boniface, 29th Nov., 1849. ai
Here we cannot help admiring the designs of
Providence, and the means it takes to put them into
execution. The revolution of 1848 had left its traces
over almost all continental Europe, but most espe-
cially in France, which, then as now, alone contrib-
uted more towards the support of foreign missions
than all the other Catholic nations together. Owing
to the last named events and the unsettled state of
that country, it was feared that the source of
French generosity must be dried up. Hence the
necessity, not only of retrenchment, but also of
keeping only such missions as could not possibly be
The case of the Red River establishments and
their dependencies in the north was even more hope-
less. It had been represented to Mgr. de Mazenod
that it was a country without a future and that it
could not furnish his Oblates with work or resources. It is therefore more than likely that, had
Mgr. Provencher's letter concerning the elevation
of Father Taché reached the Superior-General before Rome had settled the matter, he would have re-
fused his consent to a step which was tantamount to
assuming for ever the burden of those missions.
But, for unknown reasons, that letter was kept in
Montreal along with others, and it reached Mar-
seilles only after the emission of Taché's bulls
(June 24, 1850). Aged only twenty-seven, the reverend gentleman was named by the Pope Bishop of
Arath   in   partibus   infidelium   and   coadjutor   to
Bishop Provencher, with right to succeed him on his
Mgr. de Mazenod, in the first moment of surprise
caused by the absence of the proper explanations
from the Vicar-Apostolic of the Northwest, was in-
clined to look on the appointment in the light of a
bad trick played on him. But he soon recognized
the finger of God in this nomination which came in
direct opposition to his own plans for the Indian
missions of North America. He therefore order ed
Father Taché to cross the ocean preparatory to being consecrated in France by his own father in God.
While these arrangements were being made for
the good of the missions, the party who was the most
•directly concerned in their realization was continu-
ing his apostolic labours some fifteen hundred miles
north of St. Boniface without in the least dreaming
of the high destinies that were being prepared for
him. In 1849 the courier had brought him and his
socius Father Faraud the news of the revolution in
France, which, it was said, had considerably reduced
the receipts of the Society for the Propagation of
the Faith. In consequence the superior of the two
missiönaries, Father Aubert, hinted that their post
would probably have to be abandoned in the near
On hearing of this they immediately drew up and
sent him the following letter, which deserves to be
quoted in its entirety.
"The news contained in your communieation
grieves us, but we are not discouraged by it. We
know that you have at heart the good of our missions, and we cannot bear the thought of abandon-
ing our dear neophytes and our numerous catechumens.   We hope that it will always be possible to
get altar bread and wine for the Holy Sacrifice.
Apart from this source of consolation and strength,
we ask of you only one thing: permission to go on
with our missions. The fish of the lake will suffice
for our subsistence and the spoils of the wild beasts
for our clothing.   For mercy's sake, do not recall
These lines speak for themselves; we would only
lessen their significance by commenting on them.
We must, however, remark that the prayers of the
devoted missiönaries were heard. They continued
their good work, aided, since July, 1849, by Brother
Dubé, who attended to the material concerns of the
establishment of Ile a, la Crosse.
It is to that same year that we must tracé the
founding (September 8th) of the mission of Atha-
basca as a permanent post. Father Faraud was its
first incumbent. We have also to count among the
happy events of that year the passage at Red River
of a priest who was soon after to give his name to
the Congregation of the Oblates. Writing to Bishop
Turgeon under date November 30, 1849, Provencher
has the following: "Mr. Lacombe has considerably
pleased us.'' This must suffice for the present. That
name will occur more than once in the following
In the spring of 1850, Fathers Maisonneuve and
Tissot replaced Father Faraud at Ile a la Crosse,.
and set upon learning the language with the help-
of Father Taché, who, since the departure of Mr..
■ 230
Laflèche, had become the superior of the establishment.
On Lake Manitoba, Father Bermond was endeav-
ouring with little enough success, to break the Sauteux for the yoke of the Gospel. His aim was to
bring the late Mr. Darveau 's Indians to settle about
that sheet of water, instead of Lake Winnipegosis,
owing to the greater facility for the missionary to
attend them. But the old animus instilled in their
minds was persisting, and it is said that, on one
occasion, Father Bermond's life was even in danger
with them.
From He a la Crosse Father Taché had been visit-
ing various camps of Déné Indians and Crees in
widely separated localities, when he was thunder-
struck at receiving, in February, 1851, the news of
his elevation to the episcopate. His bishop ordered
him to St. Boniface, and his own religious superior
gave him a similar command. The young priest had
nothing to do but obey the summons. Arrived at St.
Boniface he found a letter from Mgr. de Mazenod,
who ordered him in the name of holy obedience to
leave immediately for Marseilles. The Founder of
the Oblates wanted to see that youthful son of his
who seemed to en joy universal esteem.
Once at the feet of the stately prelate, the young
missionary thought he might still ward off the
redoubtable burden proffered him. But De Mazenod had a will of his own.
"You shall be a bishop," he declared. RT. REV. CHARLES J. E. de MAZENOD,
Bishop of Marseilles,
Founder of the Oblates of Mary Irnmaculate.
"But, my Lord, my age, my shortcomings, such
and such a reason."
"The Holy Father has appointed you, and when
the Pope speaks, it is God that speaks."
I' Yet, my Lord, I want to remain an Oblate.''
"It is quite so that I understand it."
"But episcopal dignity seems incompatible with
religious life."
"What! the fullness of the priesthood excludes
that perfection to which a religious must aspire!"
Then drawing himself up with the noble dignity
which characterized him, De Mazenod added:
"Nobody is more a bishop than I am, and surely
nobody is more of an Oblate either."
Taché was consecrated November 23, 1851, at
Viviers, in the southeast of France. Then he was
named Vicar of the Oblate Missions in Northwestern
America.1 He soon after repaired to Rome, where
he obtained that the meaningless title of Vicar-
Apostolic of the Northwest be changed into that of
Bishop of St. Boniface.
In his zeal for the propagation of the Catholic
faith the titulary of that new See had asked from
a very different power—the Hudson's Bay Company's authorities—permission to establish a permanent mission at York Factory for the benefit of
the employees of his communion and the Indians
*A Vicar of Missions, in the Oblate Order, is a superior of several
missionary posts, the same as a Provincial for a regiüarly constituted
Province, where the houses have generally more subjects and are
more fully organized.
n—n~ iM
who might feel like seeking admission therein. And
as he knew of the hostility of some high personages
to such a step, Provencher had deemed it advisable
to keep in the background, and let the Coadjutor of
Quebec, and the Bishops of Montreal, Martyropolis
and Bytown (Ottawa) transmit themselves his request.
Nevertheless that permission was refused on the
pretext that "the collision of hostile creeds, which
could not fail to result from the adoption of such a
measure, would be injurious both to the spiritual
and temporal interests of the natives."2
Nothing daunted by this rebuke, the same prelates
made a new attempt in January of the following
year. They regretted the hostility to their denomi-
nation which such a refusal implied; they grieved
at the reasons on which it was based, considering
that their missiönaries had ever acted for the best
interests of the people without distinction of creed,
instead of causing collisions that would militate
against their usefulness.
They ended their memorial thus: "It is useless
to remind your Committee of the powerful motives
which your honourable Company has to use its charter with such moderation that it may not result in
complaints against the immense privileges which it
This indirect thrust at the much debated charter
was too much for the fur magnates.   Their second
2A. Barclay, Secretary Hudson's Bay Company, London, 24th Aug.,
reply was even more discouraging than the first.
They wrote to the bishops:
"The Committee are persuaded that if you recon-
sider the words alluded to, you will see that it is the
hostility of creeds, not of the professors of those
creeds, from which they are anxious to protect the
natives of their territories. For this and other reasons, preparations have been made, by the endow-
ment of the bishopric of Rupert's Land, for a
greater extension throughout the country of the
missionary system adopted by the Church of Eng-
land, to which it is their intention to give all the
support in their power. Nor have they any fear
that they will either suffer in public opinion or
endanger their charter by preferring Protestant to
Roman Catholic missiönaries as instructors for the
native population."8
After such an open admission of partiality, nothing was left to be hoped for by the Catholic hier-
archy from that quarter and the matter had to be
Unable to do anything for the Catholics of York
Factory, Provencher turned his attention to a
nearer post. In the course of 1850, the halfbreeds
of St. Francois-Xavier received two Grey nuns, Sisters Lagrave and Lafrance, who immediately established a school for the children of the locality.
The home authorities of the Company and even
Protestant clergymen in Red River, who were in a
SA. Barclay, London, 14th Feb., 1851, to the same. 234
better position to appreciate the services of the
Catholic priests, were more accommodating. On
May 1, 1851, Rev. Mr. William Cochrane4 moved,
and Mr. Laflèche seconded, in the colonial council,
"that £100 be granted from the public funds to be
divided annually between the Bishop of Rupert's
Land and the Bishop of the Northwest, to be applied
by them at their discretion for the purposes of education."   That motion was carried unanimously.
In the following year, Mr. Laflèche seconded a
proposal by Dr. Bunn of the same council, to the
effect that fifteen pounds should be granted for edu-
cational purposes to Reverend John Black, the new
Presbyterian minister in the settlement. This motion likewise met with unanimous approval.5
And yet, in common with the preceding, it was
disallowed by the London Committee "as being a
misapplication of the public fund"!6 Bigotry and
narrow-mindedness do not date from yesterday.
The repartition of some of the monies contributed
by the public with a view to helping its schools a
misapplication of the public fund! And this at a
time when all the schools in the colony were under
the auspices of some church and Provencher's teachers had just opened classes for English-speaking
pupils!7   Yet there are some who will continue to
*Whose name is often spelt Cockran in contemporaneous literature.
Mr. (afterwards Archdeacon) Cochrane was, according to Dr. Bryce
("History of the Hudson's Bay Company," p. 299), "a man of
gigantic form and of amazing bonhomie."
BMinutes of the Council, 13th July, 1852.
aIMd.. 25th March, 1853.
7Provencher to Archbishop of Quebec, 21st July, 1851.
proclaim that it is the Catholic Church which is
opposed to instruction!
But others than the Bishop of St. Boniface had
their troubles. We have seen Mr. Laflèche stationed
at St. Frangois-Xavier. Notwithstanding the un-
satisfactory state of his health, he accompanied his
halfbreed flock over the prairies in quest of buffaio.
The Sioux were gr owing more and more hostile, and
disliked the halfbreeds on account of the Sauteux or
Cree blood that flowed in their veins. Yet, as a
result of their Christian training, the latter more
than once did them a good turn. It might be well
for us to accompany Mr. Laflèche in one or two of
these expeditions. We will find here cause for being
thankful to the civilizing effects of religion in the
same proportion as we are shocked at the atrocities
we will see perpetrated by those who would not hear
of it. This little excursion to the southwest of Red
River will initiate us into the dangers inherent to
the priestly office on the plains.
Mr. Laflèche's first experience there took place in
1849. One day two Sioux tumbled unawares into his
camp, which contained several Sauteux Indians. As
soon as they were identified, the missionary and his
halfbreeds had to cover them with their own bodies
to protect them against the Sauteux bullets and arrows. Six full miles had they to escort them before
their traditional enemies desisted from their en-
deavours to do away with them.
Some time later  (on August 4, 1849), over one 236       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
hundred Sauteux left for the Fort des Prairies, who
on the morrow suddenly found themselves face to
face with seven Indians who seemed to be Sioux. It
was useless to think of flight; the latter therefore
put up a bold front and advanced to greet the Sauteux as if they were friends.
1\ Sioux! Sioux! Let us kill them!'' exclaimed some
To prevent a possible mistake their chief ques-
tions the strangers in his own dialect, to which the
strayed Sioux cannot answer without betraying
their identity. Pressed for a reply, one of them hazards a few words in Sauteux which, by his foreign
accent, lead to the immediate destruction'of himself
and friends. Five of the Sioux are riddled with
bullets, two attempt to flee, one of whom falls dead
a short distance away, while the other rends the air
with his shrieks as he is slashed and carved alive
with the Sauteux daggers. He is immediately
scalped while still full of life, his limbs cut off one
after the other, and everyone eagerly seeks for possession of some part of his body to take home as a
But a more stirring experience was in store for
Mr. Laflèche and his people. In the evening of July
7,1850, his party was reaching a place called Grand
Coteau, where they intended to camp for the morrow, which was a Sunday, when the scout signalled
the presence of a very large Indian camp some distance off.   The halfbreeds were only about eighty,
some of whom had not seen more than twelve or
fifteen summers. To ascertain the nationality of
the strangers, five scouts imprudently advanced too
near, and three of them were captured while the
others galloped back to their own friends.
11 The Sioux,'' they cried, j | an immense number of
Sioux!" f      |      I
It was afterwards ascertained that there must
have been almost two thousand warriors in the
horde as the number of their lodges was fully six
Therefore the anxiety of the little halfbreed party
may well be imagined. Immediate preparations are
made for a struggle. A stockade is formed with
the carts, under which holes are dug for the women
and children to hide in, and without the resulting
circle breastworks are hurriedly thrown up to pro-
tect the besieged.
In spite of this, the enemy numbering at least
twenty to one, there was, humanly speaking, no
chance of salvation for the halfbreeds should a resolute assault be made by the Sioux. On the morrow
these are seen to move f orward, a mass of perhaps
seven thousand men, women and children. They are
so sur e of the issue of the battle, should this be
accepted, that the women drive horses harnessed to
travails8 on which they are to carry off the booty.
The die is cast; a struggle, a terrible struggle cannot be avoided.    Hence the priest goes among his
8Two poles lashed at one end to each side of a horse, the other ends
trailing on the ground, and connected by a hurdle destined to receive
people; speaks to them of God who can protect them
if they implore His help, and to cheer them on to
resistance, he tells them of the known cowardice of
all Indians when in presence of a resolute foe. And
then, as no bravery can avail against such numbers,
he vows in the name of the camp to observe a solemn
fast and to sing three high masses if they should
In spite of all efforts to stop them by friendly
remonstrances, the Sioux continue their advance.
Several are now within gunshot range. One espe-
cially bold precedes all others and wants evidently
to win the honour of having first penetrated into the
halfbreed camp. Vainly is he warned not to advance any nearer; he is bound to rush at the doomed
circle. A bullet lays him low, and Laflèche recog-
nizes in him one of the two Sioux whose lives he has
His people now swear to avenge his death. They
precipitate themselves in the direction of- the halfbreeds while discharging their arms; but they soon
recoil before the deadly and better directed fire of
Laflèche's people. They then spread out and sur-
round at a distance the improvised fort of carts and
earthen breastworks. Will the besieged withstand
long their furious attack? It is now a veritable hail
of bullets and arrows that rain down on the wooden
bulwark and the heaps of earth. The halfbreeds are
excellent shots; they spare their ammunition and
strive to make every bullet find a victim.
To the horrible war songs, the hideous yells and
war whoops of the Sioux chiefs the halfbreeds ans-
wer with deafening hurrahs whenever they have evi-
dence that their own missiles are well directed.
Vainly does the enemy attempt to storm them; a
deadly volley issues from the camp, whose defenders
realize perfectly well that if the enemy comes too
near they are doomed.
Even the missionary seems under the effect of the
smell of powder. "I had not deemed it proper to
shoulder a musket on account of my character," he
wrote afterwards; "but I was determined that, at
the suprème moment, I would raise my axe on the
head of the first rascal that would dare touch my
cart*"9 *      Wm
Fortunately that suprème moment did not come.
After six hours of a terrible fusillade, the Sioux
began to lose heart. In the midst of the fight they
were clearly heard to say:
"You have with you a Manitou that protects
So they desisted and gradually retired with their
dead and wounded, carrying them off in the vehicles
which they had intended for the rich booty of which
they feit so sure.
The halfbreeds had only three men slightly
wounded, in addition to one of the imprudent scouts,
who was found pierced with sixty-seven arrows and
'Mr. Laflèche to a friend, St. Francois-Xavier, 4th Sept., 1851. 240       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTERN CANADA
three bullets.10 His feet and hands had been cut off
and taken away, while the rest of the body was hor-
ribly mutilated. But in that battle and another
afïray that foliowed as the halfbreeds were retiring
to a large camp of their own people, the Sioux had
no less than eighteen wounded and fifteen killed—
others asserted later on that the latter figure should
be fifty.
More pacifi'c were the associations of Taché, the
young Bishop of Arath, and less stirring the scènes
that greeted him all over France and Italy. But his
new dignity was only an inducement to a prompt
return to the wilds of Northern America, as it meant
work that others could not do. Moreover he had
promised the fathers of He a la Crosse to be again
with them in September, 1852.
He bade farewell in February to his venerable
father in God, Bishop de Mazenod, and, after a long
voyage through the American plains, which was per-
force very devious on account of the Sioux who had
become veritable pests, he reached St. Boniface,
June 27, 1852. With him were an Oblate father,
Henri Grollier, who was to become the great missionary of the Arctic Circle, and a young secular
priest of whom we have already got a glimpse. This
was Rev. Albert Lacombe who, after some time
passed at Pembina with Mr. Belcourt, was now coming to consecrate his whole life to the service of the
poor Indians under the segis of Mary Immaculate.
10The two others who had been made prisoners had succeeded in
effecting their escape. DEATH OF BISHOP PROVENCHER
His intention was to enter immediately the novitiate
of the Oblates; but conquered by the entreaties of
Monseigneur Provencher, who had nobody to put at
Edmonton in the place of Mr. Thibault who wanted
to leave the country, he finally agreed to postpone
that step and accede to the poor prelate's wishes.
Abandoning that post might have had disastrous
Meantime Thibault having consented to remain
some time longer, he found in a different work an
honourable retreat at St. FranQois-Xavier, which
Mr. Laflèche then left to remain with the bishop at
St. Boniface.
The bishop and priest witnessed another terrible
inundation, which caused all the more damage as the
population was now getting denser. The whole
country was temporarily transformed into a lake
which, at Provencher 's very door, was five feet deep.
Day and night he could hear the waves beating
against the stone walls of his home, as does the surf
against the cliff s of the sea coast.11
But having arrived long after the water had sub-
sided, the new missiönaries were spared the sight of
the disaster.   On the 8th of July,12 Fathers Lacombe
"Provencher to the Archbishop of Quebec, 6th July, 1852.
12There are several discrepancies in the dates of these various events
in the printed documents. Thus, Bishop Taché says in his Vingt
Années de Missions that he returned to St. Boniface on June 27th,
while Abbé G-. Dugas (Monseigneur Provencher, p. 275) makes that
date the 4th July, which is evidently a mistake. On the other hand,
the author of Vingt Années de Missions* commits a lapsus memorvB
in changing the 8th, the date of his departure, into the lOth.
and Grol lier knelt at the feet of the venerable prelate, Mgr. Taché insisting on imitating them in spite
of his new rank. This was the final parting of the
first two Bishops of St. Boniface, who were to meet
again only in heaven.
In the night of September lOth-llth, Mgr. Taché
arrived at He a la Crosse with Father Grollier. His
presence was badly needed there. We already know
the fickleness of the aborigine, which is especially
characteristic of the Déné race. In addition to this,
the Chippewayans of Ile a la Crosse had been dis-
pleased at the successive departure of Taché, Laflèche and Faraud just when their knowledge of the
language rendered their services more valuable.
Two young priests who, of course, did not at first
know a word of Chippewayan and had but common
ability for acquiring it had taken their place, and
their ignorance of the native dialect had rendered
their ministry ^uite difficult. Hence discontent, mur-
murs against the frequent changes of pastors and
consequent neglect of Christian duties on the part
of the neophytes. Fortunately Bishop Taché's
presence was soon to remedy everything.
As the young prelate was returning from Europe,
Father Faraud, alone at Lake Athabasca, was
dreaming of new conquests. He went down to Great
Slave Lake, whither he was the first missionary to
take the Glad Tidings. He was received with the
greatest enthusiasm, and his preaching did a vast
amount of good.
On his return to his Mission of the Nativity (Ath-
abasca), he had the consolation of welcoming a fel-
low labourer in the person of Father Grollier, while
at St. Boniface three other missiönaries, Fathers
Rémas and Végreville, accompanied by Brother
Alexis Raynard were swelling the ranks of the Oblates who, by the end of 1852, counted eight priests
and two lay brothers in the diocese of St. Boniface.
As to the head of that diocese, without being actu-
ally sick, he had constant presentiments that his end
was approaching. The three great desires of his
heart were now accomplished. He had religious,
whose presence in the ranks of his clergy meant the
perpetuation of the missions; he had nuns who
watched over the education of the young, and finally
a coadjutor with right to future succession rendered
his mind easy concerning the eventuality of an early
A fourth desideratum had lately taken possession
of his thoughts. The priest who usually stayed with
him at St. Boniface had so far had the direction of
his college. But all were not equally qualified for
that work, and he would have liked to obtain there-
for the services of teaching brothers. His attention
was called to the Brothers of St. Viateur, already
established in Lower Canada. He endeavoured to
have some of them come up to him; but after the
losses caused by the inundation of 1852, his purse
was in no position to meet the expenses consequent Tra
on such an establishment.   As death was already at
his door he could not f ollow up that plan.
In the morning of May 19, 1853, he was getting
up when he was suddenly prostrated by a stroke of
apoplexy which left him unconscious on the floor of
his room. This was on a Saturday. After regain-
ing consciousness he could scarcely speak, and the
following night he passed in sleeplessness. Yet he
insisted on assisting at mass and saying his office,
which his attendants, Mr. Laflèche and Father
Bermond, had ultimately to allow him to recite,
after they had concealed his breviary owing to his
weak state.
He was half delirious most of that week, and received the last sacraments on the 24th. Later in the
evening of June 7th, after having blessed his people, his absent priests and the sisters, he quietly
breathed his last. Two days afterwards, a solemn
requiem mass was sung in the sisters' chapel, and
on the tenth his body was taken to the cathedral,
where the final service was held in presence of Major
Caldwell, Governor of Assiniboia, the officers of the
Hudson's Bay Company present at Fort Garry and
a large number of Protestants, in addition to the
Catholics of St. Boniface and vicinity.
Useless to expatiate on the merits of the first
Bishop of St. Boniface. He is judged by his works,
and we now have some knowledge of them. He be-
longed to the old school of strict ecclesiastics, who
knew no compromise when it was a question of
duty. He was noted for his devotedness to his flock,
his good sense, an unaffected piety, and a great
kindness of heart.18
"In proof of this last quality, we chose the following trait of his
life: He had onee killed a pig, which was left over night hanging
under a shed. It might have been midnight when he was told by
his servant that somebody was running away with it. Provencher
was a powerful man, six feet four, and he soon overtook the fugi-
tive with his appropriated load.
"Don't take it all away, it is all I have to eat," expostulated the
"So it is with me," said the thief; "my children have not eaten
anything for the last two days."
"Well, that is not a reason for stealing. Take it back to the shed,
and I will give you half of it, so that both of us will have something
to eat."
Which was immediately done, and both were pleased, the one for
having kept half of his animal, the other for having acquired the
other half.    (Geo. Dugas, Monseigneur Provencher, pp. 298, 299). CHAPTER  XV.
Bishop Taché was barely thirty years of age when,
hy the death of Monseigneur Provencher, he ex-
changed his distant See of Arath for that of St.
Boniface. Except in official parchments, the former
was a thing of the past, and, considered as a city, the
latter had as yet but a future existence. St. Boniface then consisted merely of the cathedral and
adjoining Bishop's House, a convent inhabited by
eleven sisters, some of whom were taking care of the
sick who lodged with them; one or two houses, where
dwelt or were soon to dweil, Messrs. Narcisse Mar-
ion and Amable Thibault, a brother to the veteran
missionary of the same name, together with a few
cabins along the Seine River. All the other parish-
ioners, to the number of about eleven hundred souls,
were scattered on their farms or more or less cul-
tivated plots of land on the banks of the Red and
Assiniboine Rivers.
Besides the parish of St. Boniface, there was that
of St. Francois-Xavier, on the White Horse Plain,
which boasted a log church 80 by 33, and a convent
with two nuns for a population of almost nine hundred.   This post was situated some eighteen miles
from St. Boniface. Between these two points was
the nucleus of a new parish that was to be founded
the following year by the building of a presbytery.
This was St. Charles, then known as Sturgeon River,
which might have had slightly less than two hundred
inhabitants. The elements of a fourth parish were
along the Red River, nine miles along its confluence
with the Assiniboine. The place went by the name
of Sale (or Dirty) River, and in 1854 the materials
for a church and priest's house were first prepared,
which in course of time were to give place to the
present edifice at St. Norbert. That circumscrip-
tion had about nine hundred of a population.
St. Charles was attended from St. Francois-
Xavier, and one of the priests at St. Boniface usually visited St. Norbert.
The Indian missions with resident priests then
in existence were Ste. Anne, forty-five miles west of
Edmonton; St. John the Baptist, at Ile a la Crosse,
and the Nativity, on Lake Athabasca, each of which
had a number of dependencies or outposts regularly
visited by the incumbents of the missions.
The relative importance of these missionary stations, as well as their Catholic population, may be
gauged in a way by the approximate number of bap-
tisms administered in a year. There was about one
hundred and twenty for St. Boniface; sixty for St.
Francois-Xavier; from seventy-five to eighty for Ile
a la Crosse and seventy for Lake Athabasca. On the
first of January, 1854, the total number of baptisms 248       CATHOLIC CHURCH IN WESTEEN CANADA
to the credit of the Indian missions, apart from St.
Boniface and St. Francois-Xavier, was 4,309.
As to the elergy for these various stations and de-
pendencies, it consisted of four secular priests:
Messrs. Thibault, on Red River; Bourassa, at St.
Francois-Xavier; Laflèche, at St. Boniface, and
Lacombe, at Ste. Anne. To these were now added
seven Oblate fathers, namely: Bermond, at St. Boniface; Faraud and Grollier, at Lake Athabasca;
Tissot and Maisonneuve, at He a la Crosse; Végre-
ville and Rémas, just arrived.
Father Maisonneuve having fallen sick had to be
sent back to headquarters at St. Boniface; but his
companion Father Tissot was very active and
preached in the fall of 1853, a one month mission to
the Crees of Green Lake, with results which might
have been more satisfactory, though the missionary
did not complain of the attendance at the religious
As to Bishop Taché he was not to leave the north,
and especially Ile a, la Crosse, for his new See before
he had Consolidated the good work already com-
menced. The very night he had heard of the demi se
of Mgr. Provencher, after having dispatched letters
of vicar-general to Father Bermond, to whom he
gave full power to admmister the property of the
Church in Red River, he set out with Brother Alexis
for Lake Athabasca. Arrived at the Mission of the
Nativity, he commissioned Father Grollier to go and
establish a post at the eastern extremity of the lake. BISHOP  TACHE   SUCCEEDS  BISHOP  PROVENCHER   249
This was the origin of the Mission of Our Lady of
Seven Dolours. It was founded for & tribe of Indians known as Caribou-Eaters.
In August Father Rémas left Red River for forts
Cumberland, Carlton and Pitt, whence he proceeded
to Lac Labiche, which had been periodically visited
between 1844 and 1852. Father Rémas may be con-
sidered the first permanent priest of that place,
which is situated west of He a la Crosse, that is, near
the point of intersection of the one hundred and
twelfth degree of longitude and fifty-fifth degree of
latitude. Most of its inhabitants were then halfbreeds, together with Crees and Dénés.
But Bishop Taché was bent on visiting and organ-
izing all his posts before he returned to St. Boniface. On February 27, 1854, he left his episcopal
"palace" at He a la Crosse for a round of visita-
tions which was to last upwards of three months. In
this connection he has playfulfy described said
palace thus: " It is twenty feet by twenty, and seven
feet high, and smeared over with mud. This mud is
not impermeable, so that rain, wind and other atmos-.
pheric elements have free access thereto. Two win-
dow sashes comprising six panes light the main
apartment; two pieces of parchment serve for the
remainder of the lighting system. In this palace,
where everything seems small, everything is on the
contrary stamped with a character of greatness. For
instance my secretary is a bishop; my chamberlain
is a bishop, and at times even my cook is a bishop. 250
I-'    '
These illustrious employees have all numerous de-
fects; nevertheless their attachment to my person
renders them dear to me. When they seem tired of
their respective offices, I give them all an outing, and
joining myself to them, I strive to divert them from
their cares."1
That journey of inspection led the young prelate
first to Fort Pitt, where he was a sorrowful witness
to the ravages of intoxicating liquors among the
Indians, and thence to Fort Edmonton, which had
been placed under the vocable of St. Joachim. There
he met Mr. Lacombe and confirmed seventeen persons (March 25th). Two days later he went out by
dog train to Ste. Anne's Mission, where Father
Rémas awaited him. Mr. Lacombe having heard of
his pitiful situation at Lac la Biche, had snatched
him away from there in time to receive his bishop.
By the description of Mgr. Taché's palace, we may
form an idea of what that poor father's abode may
have been.
The bishop's visit to Ste. Anne's was marked by
the baptism, on Holy Saturday, of twenty-two adults
and the confirming of ninety-eight persons, who had
but lately renounced heresy or paganism.
Thence Father Rémas accompanied His Lordship
to his rudiment of a mission by the shore of Lac la
Biche. May lst, steps were taken with a view to
remedying to some extent the indescribable wretch-
Wingt Années de Missions, pp. 59, 60.   BISHOP  TACHE  SUCCEEDS  BISHOP PROVENCHER   251
edness which had f allen to the lot of the pious incum-
bent of the new post.
Two weeks later, Bishop Taché was entering
again his famous palace at He a la Crosse. Then
Father Tissot gave a successful mission at Methy
Port age, while Father Végreville, who had already
acquired some knowledge of the Chippewayan language, w