The Incredible Story of Louis Riel’s Grandmother
By Irene Ternier Gordon
Amazing Stories Series
Published by Altitude Publishing Canada Ltd., 2003, Canmore, Alberta
Marie-Anne Gaboury Lagimodière was a force to be reckoned with. Her honeymoon was a four-month journey from Quebec to Rupert’s Land with a brigade of tough voyageurs. While pregnant with her second child (nicknamed Laprairie), she spent long hours in the saddle with her older child Reine “hanging from one side of the saddle in her moss bag, balanced by a bag of provisions on the other side.” Laprairie was born hours after Marie-Anne and Reine were caught in a buffalo stampede. Then Marie-Anne had to face down a chief who attempted to trade some horses to her in exchange for Laprairie.
Marie-Anne’s legacy is enormous. Within 10 years of her death, at the age of 95, she already had more than 630 direct descendents, including the Métis leader Louis Riel.
Marie-Anne and her friend Marguerite Bellegarde were alone in camp except for the baby. Jean-Baptiste and Charles would not be back from visiting their snares until evening. It was a hot July afternoon along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. The only sounds heard were the buzzing of insects and occasional bird song. The women sat in companionable silence in the shade of some willows —Marie-Anne repairing the torn hem of a dress and Marguerite patching one of Charles’ shirts.
Suddenly the sound of galloping horses disturbed the silence. Marguerite put a finger to her lips and shook her head, motioning Marie-Anne to keep still. She peered around the willows and whispered a single word, “Cree,” while pulling Marie –Anne to her feet. The two women ran to the nearby poplar grove where their tents were pitched facing the river. Marguerite pulled Marie-Anne into the Lagimodière tent and scooped up the sleeping baby Reine into her arms. “Stay here,” she whispered.
Before Marie-Anne could gather her wits about her to protest, Marguerite had left the tent, taking Reine with her. Marie-Anne moved to follow them, but she did not know which way to go because the nearby trees had already swallowed them up. She also realized that she could no longer hear the sound of the horses’ hoofs. The men must have reached the clearing and stopped. In despair, she reentered the tent. She threw herself down on the ground and prayed for deliverance. Suddenly there were loud voices right outside the tent. Because they were speaking Cree, she couldn’t understand what they were saying. Then she heard the tent flap opening…
Comment by reader Dorothy F. from Winnipeg on Marie-Anne Lagimodière: The Incredible Story of Louis Riel’s Grandmother: “It was wonderful…I found I could not put it down. I was sorry when it was completed.”
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