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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
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Laurent GarneauBorn in Michigan in 1840, Laurent Garneau came from a family of fur traders.1 His father was in charge of a North West Company (NWC) post at Sault-Ste-Marie before the amalgamation of the NWC into the Hudson’s Bay Company, and is said to be a descendant of the Garneau family of Saint-Pierre-de-Montmagny of Quebec. His mother was a Sioux who had been captured by the Ojibwa and was ransomed by her future husband, who had her sent to a convent where she learned French.

In 1869, Garneau set out from Sault Ste-Marie with two companions to trade for furs on the Missouri River, but was forced by the Sioux to seek refuge in Canada, where they met Métis hunters and made their way to Red River. During his time in the Red River region Garneau met Eleanor Thomas, a descendant of the Selkirk settlers, who had come to the settlement in 1812. She spoke no French and he spoke no English .

GarneauGarneau was a volunteer in the brigade to push back the Fenian invaders and was a soldier for Riel during the Red River insurrection of 1869-1870. He came west in 1874 and settled in Strathcona, where a subdivision on the south side of the river took his name. He made charcoal for the HBC. He was arrested in 1885 as a sympathiser for Riel, was condemned to death and to be shot at Fort Edmonton; but Father Lacombe intervened and his life was spared.

A conflict over land ownership with John Walters took Garneau to the Privy Council of London, where he lost his case, souring him on life in Edmonton.2 He moved with his family to the newly established Saint-Paul-des-Métis where he had ranched on Crown land, keeping 500-600 head of cattle and hundreds of horses.

Garneau built the first store and blacksmith shop in the town and donated the lumber for the construction of the first church. He helped destitute Métis and eventually owned huge amounts of land, most of which were reclaimed for back taxes. He died in 1918 and was buried in St. Paul.

One of his daughters, Victoria, married land agent James Brady, who became the parents of Métis activist James Brady. Another daughter, Archange Brady, became a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, the Grey Nuns, and spent a good portion of her life in Fort Chipewyan.

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