MEANDERING MALONEYS FIND ANCESTORAL CONNECTION
It’s easy to dismiss ‘Winterpeg’ as an urban sprawl set amongst a plethora of lakes, rivers and rolling prairie, but that is to discount its unique place in our nation’s history. The city and its surrounding prairie played a pivotal role in the country’s early development.
It is here the French, Scottish and English trappers first ranged for game to fill the Old World fashionistas’ insatiable appetite for animal pelts. These intrepid explorers formed a close association with the First Nation peoples they encountered, taking Indian wives and producing half-breed children by the score. By the time Canada had elected its first Prime Minister, the often-inebriated and at times not-too-honourable Sir John A. MacDonald, the Metis, as they came to be called, had settled the land.
By the time Sir John began pushing the railroad through in an effort to keep the country out of the clutches of our Yankee neighbours to the south, the Metis had established riverside farms to sustain themselves as the buffalo they relied upon for life itself disappeared from the great plains.
The new Canadian government, as indifferent then as it is today, refused to recognize their rightful claims and a leader was born. Louis Riel, hanged as a traitor though he played a central role in quelling the unrest and the subsequent formation of Manitoba as a province, is referred to on official government plaques as a “significant person” in Canada’s history.
Riel was forced to flee south, where he lived a quiet religious life until called back by the Metis to help do the same for the province of Saskatchewan. Half-mad and calling himself a prophet, he none-the-less rallied the Metis, who took up arms in what was to become known as the Red River Rebellion but was actually little more than a bunch of mixed-blood farmers fighting for their land.
It was at this juncture in history that Riel crossed paths with my great grandfather Dan Maloney, who came west with Canadian troops as a volunteer/guide, having previously travelled by Red River cart to the wilds of St. Albert, Alberta, where his name now graces the RCMP headquarters–Maloney Place.
History has not recorded whether the two men met, but great grandad, not withstanding his morally suspect stand on the side of the federal government, went on to become an upstanding Albertan, fluent in English, French and Cree, and a member of its first legislative body.