Winnipeg History - Indians & Pioneers



The Buffalo used to roam the Plains The last ice age which ended 10,000 years ago created a land bridge over the Bering Strait between Asia and North America. This enabled early Homo Sapiens (humans) to wander onto and settle across both North and South America.

For over 6,000 years, the area has been settled by aboriginals. Winnipeg's location is at the confluence of the east-west Assiniboine River and the north-south Red River, about 60 kilometres south of Lake Winnipeg. The name Winnipeg has its origin in the Cree Indian name given to the lake 40 miles north, meaning "Win", muddy, "nipee", water.

In 1612, Captain Thomas Button explored the lands along the western shore of the Hudson's Bay for the King of England. In 1670, the lands draining into the Bay were granted to the Hudson's Bay Company for fur trading. The area was explored by fur traders working for the Hudson's Bay Company (who canoed south from the Bay) traders with and the Northwest Company (who canoed west from Montreal), who fought a bitter rivalry. The permanent settlement began as a Hudson's Bay Company trading post (Fort Garry).

A Scottish nobleman, Lord Selkirk was given a land grant in the area for the purpose of establishing an agricultural colony. The colony survived floods and grasshoppers, and had to compete with the natives for buffalo meat. The area's Metis (mixed native and European blood), who worked with the Northwest Company, feared the settlement's growth would impact their buffalo hunting. They attacked the settlement in 1816, killing its governor and 20 others. The matter was finally settled when the Northwest Company was forced to merge with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1820.

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