Discover St. Laurent, Manitoba: A Rich Blend of History and Culture
St. Laurent, a community nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Manitoba, is a historically Métis settlement. It is one of the few remaining places where the Michif French language is still spoken. Located within the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent, it is a mere 70 km (43 mi) from Winnipeg.
The Historical Journey of St. Laurent, Manitoba
Before the arrival of European colonists, the area between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg was a battleground for the Ojibwa, Cree, and Sioux peoples throughout the 18th century. The Ojibwa eventually emerged as the dominant group. The first European to systematically explore the territory in the 1730s was La Vérendrye.
By the early 19th century, the interlake region of Manitoba was inhabited by Ojibwa Saulteaux. However, it remains unclear if any of these groups lived in the immediate vicinity of St. Laurent when it was founded.
Originally established as Fond du Lac in 1824 by Métis leaving Pembina, North Dakota, St. Laurent saw more settlers arrive in 1826 due to flooding of the Red River of the North. The community's growth was driven by Métis in search of land and traders seeking to exploit trade routes to the northwest. The economy was primarily based on fishing and the fur trade, with settlers serving as intermediaries with Cree and Assiniboine people.
The community was renamed St. Laurent after its establishment as a parish in 1858, either in honor of a Catholic priest who established the permanent mission there or after the martyr St. Lawrence. The aftermath of the Red River Rebellion ending in 1870 saw additional Métis settlers moving to St. Laurent. The broader area was formally incorporated as the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent in 1882. The first half of the 20th century saw the arrival of French-Canadians, Bretons, and Mennonites.
The Geography of St. Laurent, Manitoba
The land in St. Laurent is primarily glacial till with limited potential for agriculture. However, it is suitable for some farming and the raising of livestock. The climate is continental, with high variation between seasons. St. Laurent is located in the Red River region of Manitoba, which is prone to flooding. The village last suffered a major flood in the spring and summer of 2011.
St. Laurent does not have a central town square and is not exclusively organized around central roads. This is partially due to the influence of the seigneurial system of New France, which allotted land with respect to the waterfront.
Attractions in St. Laurent, Manitoba
St. Laurent and its surrounding area offer a variety of attractions and events. The Manipogo Festival, held at the end of the ice-fishing season in March, is a popular event. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy the Manipogo Golf & Country Club near Twin Lakes Beach.
Nature lovers will appreciate Meindl Beach and Big Tree Park. The community also celebrates Métis Days and hosts the Métis Music Festival in the community of Oak Point yearly on the Labour Day weekend.