Metis travellers retracing historic route via dog sleds and horse-drawn carts
TORONTO -- A group of Metis travellers have embarked on a journey 150 years in the making to honour the man considered a founding father of Manitoba.
The group is travelling from Kenora, Ont. to Winnipeg using dog sleds and horse-drawn carts to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Manitoba’s founding.
They departed on Monday, Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, and travelled about 50 kilometres per day by dog sled, totaling about 170 kilometres.
“(It’s) a bit cold, but we’re here,” Marc-Andre Belcourt, one of the people making the trip, told CTV News. “Here to celebrate history and the province of Manitoba.”
Once the snow melts, they’ll continue the trek to Winnipeg using Red River carts, a traditional mode of transportation that became associated with the Metis people.
These carts are entirely made of wood and are typically pulled by a single horse, pony or ox. They were capable of transporting up to 400 kilograms of goods and served as temporary housing as the Metis people crossed the Prairies.
The group is making the trip on the traditional route known as the “Old Dawson Trail,” which begins in Thunder Bay, Ont. and ends in Winnipeg.
The Old Dawson Trail plays a significant role in Manitoba’s history as it’s the route government military forces used to make the trip to Manitoba in order to confront Riel during the Red River Rebellion in 1870. The move ultimately led to the province’s founding that year.
“The vision back then was to come and to suppress and to bully the people in Red River,” said Armand Jerome, one of the people making the trip. “We come with open arms now. We’re coming to say happy birthday to Manitoba.”
While the Metis Nation Homeland makes up all three Prairie provinces, plus parts of British Columbia, Ontario, the northern territories, and the northern United States, Manitoba has always been important to Metis history.
“We want to celebrate Louis Riel and our leaders back at that time and all the sacrifices they made,” said Denise Thomas, vice-president of the southeast region of the Manitoba Metis Federation.