This site recounts the families generated by “half-breed women … having no coat of arms but a ‘totem’ to look back to.” Or so they were derided by Canadian man of letters, Charles Mair, in his divisive missive published as “From Red River” on page one of the Toronto Daily Globe of 4 January 1869. As Mair’s comment indicates, Red River women were subject to being dismissed in the patriarchal colonial system that had been inherited from England by the new Dominion of Canada, and that its founders (the Anglophones of Ontario at any rate) had embraced for their projected nation. But, to state what should be an obvious point, Red River women were the mothers of Assiniboia—the district, and the country that was formerly known as Rupert’s Land but renamed by the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia on 18 March 1870. Without those mothers, Louis Riel and others who resisted annexation to gain confederation could not have ‘fathered’ the province of Manitoba.

Aside from from being perpetual works in progress—works that will have mistakes, omissions, and inaccuracies, both inherent and inadvertent—there are problems with these genealogies (at the moment still in the process of being uploaded to this site).

First, the system of genealogical construction that is traditional in Western societies reflects the colonial, by way of privileging the patriarchal.* In the Red River instance, that system of construction is difficult to challenge let alone to escape. It is, after all, often only by tracing the the surnames of husbands and fathers through documents gathered and archived under the auspices, requirements, or benevolence of the colonial state that a genealogy extending much beyond a generation can be populated with women—some of whom are otherwise nameless. Further, it is by surname that a genealogy can  be organized most readily into a coherent and readable whole that is amenable to cross-referencing and to identifying a woman’s step- and extended families. The genealogies uploaded as initial content for the pages of this site, therefore, reflect the colonial contexts, past and present, in which both the researched and myself-as-researcher are embedded. There is the potential, however, for moving beyond these initial constructions, towards communicating maternal lineages at Red River more clearly—though to date, that remains a project-in-waiting.

Second, these genealogies are cumbersome and not straight-forward lists of people who lived and died at Red River because families, then as now, were complicated. The people of the settlement were dynamic. They moved over time, within and without the settlement. Sometimes movement was temporary—to conduct a course of work, or attain an education for example. Sometimes movement proved permanent—when an individual, members of a family, or many members of an extended family relocated to another settlement. But sometimes some people moved back again, or their children did, or their grandchildren did. As far as possible, places of residence are listed in the genealogies, though that life detail is often unknown.**

Third, Red River Settlement and other places of residence in the North-West were complicated. Their names changed—over time and according to what language was used to refer to them. And, at Red River the physical dimensions of parishes within the settlement, along with the outer limits of the entire settlement, changed over time as well. Boundaries shifted (during a relatively short period: beginning as a place of settlement in the colonial sense in about 1810—but as early as 1792 if Chief Peeh-quaa-is/ Pa-Kwai-es/ Peguis’ first farming settlers at St. Peter’s Parish are acknowledged—and ending 1870). Places such as Portage la Prairie, St. Laurent, and Oak Point, though settled by people from, and related to people of Red River—were not necessarily part of Red River Settlement in terms of falling within its political boundary. A significant discontinuity was occasioned by the creation of Manitoba. New boundaries were devised. Red River Settlement and the district of Assiniboia ceased to exist in a formal, geopolitical sense. New names were applied across the landscape and old names were modified as territory was carved into new districts and locations were re-mapped as Canadian possessions.

Despite shortcomings, however, these genealogies can be used to recover a sense of the Aboriginal past in what is now Manitoba. The women listed are overwhelmingly Indigenous, through their maternal lineage, even if not marked as such. And, as far as paternal lineage, many of the “half-breed” women could have claimed ancestral heraldry as auspicious as any Charles Mair might have wished for himself. For me, the genealogies reinforce the argument that Red River was a place of family. Of interconnection (all of the families listed here link to one another): Where any boundaries that might have been posed by language, religion, and heritage were breached. Where the dominant pattern among the majority of settlers was not one of Indigenous women being progressively ‘phased out’ as suitable marriage partners on the basis of ‘race’ or ‘ethnicity’.*** Where women too were Otepaymsuak—“their own boss.”

*Martha Addante, “Rupturing the Patriarchal Family: Female Genealogy in Disappearing Moon Café [sic: italics in source],” Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering 4, 2 (2002): 201–214.

** Locations at some points in time often can be traced on scrip affidavits and claims. Some of these can be viewed online, as digital images of microfilmed pages, through Library and Archives Canada (Archive search, by ‘name’ + ‘scrip’). With patience and perseverance, most of the collection can be viewed online (some records remain elusive), as digitized images of microfilm reels, through Canadian Heritage, North-West Territories Métis scrip applications (73 reels) and Métis and Original White Settlers affidavits (54 reels, some of which may not be relevant).

Please note that where, in these pages, a link to scrip is followed by “not available online” the link is to a LAC listing that is not accompanied by a digitized image.

*** Norma Hall, “Identifying and Quantifying Métis ‘Élite’: An Analysis of relative wealth, based on Red River Settlement censuses of 1835,” ([2002]; 2016).

Header Image:

Derived from Johan Carl Kraus, “Acer Negundo,” Afbeeldingen der fraaiste, meest uitheemsche boomen en heesters, (1802), 116 (n 417), illustrating twigs, leaves, blossoms, and seeds of the Acer negundo, or Manitoba Maple, the only maple in North America with compound leaves.

Compiled and edited by Norma J. Hall

Published 31 July 2016

8 thoughts on “Home

  1. Thank you so much for this website. I have been so upset researching my ancestry and finding only “Indian woman” in the place of a human being who created my family as much as any man.


    1. Yes, it’s like they issued the babies, and that was it. Though to be fair, it was a time when women in general had little voice.

      I’d like to think that my great, great, great grandmother was curious about the Europeans, rather than in awe. She married probably the first one she saw. I’d love to know what she was thinking, and then know her reaction to the Europeans . She lived a long time, 86 years if her birth date is right, living longer than all but one of her children, and seeing the northwest carved up, and then seeing Canada encroach Red River. I’ve seen snippets of things my great, great, great grandfather wrote. He can’t believe she’ll go with him, I think that’s about moving to Red River, and late in his life he wrote about native women (and surely specifically about her) “her smiles add a new charm to the pleasures of the wilderness”.

      Both stepped out of their own cultures, and marriages like theirs shatter the image we know from westerns. How can people be so different if they can live so long together? I’ve read that he came over to make some money, and return to Scotland, so he stayed because of her and the children. It wasn’t perfect, but it would be a different continent if a lot more marriages had been like that, reservations and residential schools would have been hard to implement if a lot more people had relatives that would be affected.

      But the other side is that while the family back in Scotland got mail from some of the children, the Syilx side of the family “didn’t trust white men after the she moved away” according to Mourning Dove’s autobiography.

      I’ve yet to find if any of the children spoke her language, but I can’t believe they didn’t. She had to be the one raising them.

      It took me eight years of internet searching (obviously using the wrong search terms) to find anything written by my great, great grandmother. Unlike many of her siblings, she didn’t get a street named after her in Winnipeg. But finally a quote popped out, she wrote in 1853 that she wouldn’t go to Canada because she was ashamed of being a “dark skinned, uneducated” half-breed. Of course, I’m not in Winnipeg with access to all that was donated to various archives, so there’s likely more in paper frm

      We do need to claim those ancestors, because their erasure is part of what happened.



  2. Nice insights Michael: “Both stepped out of their own cultures” and “erasure is part of what happened” especially resonate with me.


  3. Excellent analysis! You touch on a point that is crucial and fluid – how the parish/jurisdictional boundaries moved and what people lived where. Shifting jurisdictions are part of Red River history, no matter what era of map you study. Growing up in Charleswood, I was completely unaware that it was originally “Charles de bois” – “Woods of St Charles”. Even though German immigrant friends on Southboine had a historical plaque beside their house that described a ferry point for transportation of cattle from St Charles to pasture land for cattle. I hope the multi-millionaires that live on that street now at least maintain the past…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting! Found my ancestors names and learned a bit more about them. I would like to know where abouts you found theses PAHKWAIS Kiseyinis Newakeyas Wapistikwani Pete’ KASAIINEYS/ KASAEYINEWS/ ‘KITCHENER’ I did my family tree these are all names in my tree.


  5. I think it was A.D. Meyer’s Masters thesis. ” The Red Earth Crees and the Marriage Isolate, 1860-1960″ that mentioned most of them. It’s a pdf you can google and download.


  6. I found this a most interesting read on my ancestors. My paternal great grandmother was Sarah Turner, wife of George Goodfellow (Scottish employee of the HB Co.) who also traced her ancestry to Humpervilles (Humphryvilles). My maternal great grandmother was Lizette Louise Morissette tracing her ancestry back to Morissette, Braconnier and Pelletier. Thank you for posting this.
    Lee Goodfellow


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