In the 19th century, most Métis people were Catholic. St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, the territorial parish, was founded in 1849. The first of a succession of buildings on this site was dedicated in 1852 on land provided by Pierre Bottineau. One of the first events noted in the parish record book was the October 1852 wedding of Severe Bottineau, Pierre’s older brother, to Julie Chènevert, with William Dugos and “Peter” Boutineau as witnesses.
As the neighborhood changed, St. Anthony’s later served a largely Polish and Polish-American congregation. Today the church is a chapel for the adjacent Catholic Eldercare facility. The parish has merged with nearby Holy Cross.
A network of trails in two nations served trading posts at Pembina and Fort Garry, now Winnipeg. Communities of Ojibwe, Cree, Dakota, and other Indians, as well as European traders, including many French-Canadians, lived near the posts. Métis, many of whom were descendants of marriages between fur traders of European descent and Indian women, eventually created a new culture from these roots. Such marriages were common as the fur trade moved west from Montreal across the Great Lakes, and Métis communities also grew up at other frontier settlements, including Sault Ste. Marie, Green Bay and Prairie du Chien.
The Métis in the Pembina area operated at the center of a complex social and political network. Being on the U.S.-Canada border sometimes allowed them to play the U.S., Great Britain and Canada against one another. In addition, an extended Métis family might include relatives from a variety of nationalities, tribes and bands, creating many business connections and opportunities over a broad area in two countries.
In the Red River Valley, Métis people came to think of themselves as a nation with a distinct culture and inherent rights. In an 1816 battle, they sought to protect their land and livelihood from the British-run Hudson’s Bay Company’s interference. In 1869 and 70, and again in 1885, Louis Riel, the son of a buffalo hunter, led Métis rebellions against the Canadian government. Many Métis and American Indian people regard him as a hero to this day.