(1780 – 1875)
Marie-Anne Lagimodière (née Gaboury) a coureurs des bois (voyageur), translator, healer, fur trader, hero.
History has been very unkind to Gaboury. They have disparaged her for the colour of her skin, her gender and as the “first white woman resident in the west, grandmother of Louis Riel.”
But there is much to know about Gaboury. At the age of 12, she was forced to leave home and work when her father died. Married at the age of 26 to Jean Baptist Lagimodière who came from Maskinongé, her hometown.
In spite of her honeymoon pregnancy, she decided to travel with her husband in defiance of the custom, by canoe, horse, hiking from Montreal to Fort Gibraltar, at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in present-day Winnipeg. This was a trip that the voyageurs described as arduous. Imagine doing it pregnant and a new wife.
Gaboury discovered when she arrived in Winnipeg that her husband had another wife (commonly known as a “country wife”) with three daughters who he lived with for four years. Gaboury survived a poisoning attempt by the first wife and yet records indicate she welcomed their children.
From all accounts, Gaboury led an exceptional life. For years she led the life of a “voyageur,” trapping, hunting and trading, across the prairies. Even close to giving birth with her second child, she was on a bison hunt and ended up self- delivering her son. On another occasion her bravery was tested when she heroically saved the life of a companion by fighting off a grizzly and shooting it.
She settled in Fort Douglas in 1811. Coming up to the Battle of Seven Oaks, Marie-Anne Gaboury, a single mother on her own at the time as her husband was away and understanding the political situation, left Fort Douglas to stay with Chief Peguis. She was an astute leader and raised a political family including her grandson, Louis Reil, who grew up on the family farm in St Boniface.
She remained at St. Boniface, until her death in December 1875. She is buried in the St. Boniface Cathedral Cemetery and is still known by her maiden name, an indication of the significance of this Manitoba trailblazer.