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This year is an important one for the Compagnie de La Vérendrye: Fort Rouge was built at the forks of the Rouge and Assiniboine rivers 275 years ago.
“Fort Rouge was built in October 1738 under the orders of explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye, at the request and with the permission of the Assiniboine people,” explains Michel Loiselle, captain of the Compagnie de La Vérendrye. “The Fort has significant value because it was the first structure ever built on the current site of the city of Winnipeg.”
The construction of Fort Rouge is also noteworthy because it evokes the first presence of Francophones in Winnipeg and in Western Canada. “La Vérendrye has been recognized for a long time in the community,” says Loiselle. “He symbolizes courage and perseverance to Francophones.”
Because an anniversary of such magnitude must be celebrated, the Compagnie de La Vérendrye has planned a series of special events that will take place throughout the year. “The activities were launched at The Forks on January 1,” says Loiselle. The anniversary program included the attendance of the Compagnie at the Cabaret du Fort Rouge during the Festival du Voyageur.
An educational tour of schools in the Division scolaire franco manitobaine and French immersion schools was announced as part of the kick off celebrations. Lasting all of February, the tour aimed to educate students on the fur trade and La Vérendrye’s travels. An exhibit on Fort Rouge and the life of the French explorer will also be on display in the Manitoba Museum Discovery Room until September.
“Our summer activities include a special exhibit at the French Canadian Pavilion during Folklorama,” says Loiselle. “We have been part of the French Canadian Pavilion for a few years now, but the contents of this exhibit will be unique. It will showcase ancient maps as well as a model of Fort Rouge that is currently at the Manitoba Museum.”
These maps will detail exploration routes to Western Canada. The Compagnie de La Vérendrye soldiers, dressed in traditional uniforms, will also perform re-enactments.
Lastly, two major events will be organized by the Compagnie. “On October 25, we will celebrate the arrival of La Vérendrye in Winnipeg by re-enacting his meeting with the Assiniboines,” announces Loiselle. “On that occasion, a special banquet will be served at Fort Gibraltar with dishes from the 18th century. This will be a Baroque evening featuring Baroque artists.”
The anniversary year will end with the screening of a short film on La Vérendrye and his travels in Western Canada. “The vignette will be filmed during the summer months,” explains Loiselle. “Once completed, the film should be broadcast by the media and be in schools by the end of 2013.”
As Fort Rouge’s 275th anniversary comes to a close, another one will be fast approaching. “The year 2014 marks the 20th birthday of the Compagnie de La Vérendrye,” says Loiselle. “Stay tuned for upcoming surprise announcements …”