Read the OURS Winnipeg Save Lemay Forest Presentation

Dr. Shelley Sweeney,
Research assistance and consultation with Dr. Anne Lindsay
January 11, 2024

Click on any image to enlarge.

Timeline of the St. Norbert Settlement in Brief

  • The area where the La Salle River joins the Red River was probably first used by Paleo-Indian peoples as long as 7000-6000 BCE.
    • The occupation was seasonal.
    • These were  likely the same people gathering at The Forks at the same time.
  • By around 1600 CE, indigenous people in larger numbers were visting and occupying the are more permenantly.
  • In the mid 1700s, the first fur traders from Montreal found Assiniboine, Cree and Ojibwa communities in St. Norbert.
  • The first permanent settlers were the Metis, who began building homes around the turn of the 19th century.
  • During the time period after 1812, St. Norbert remained predominantly Metis and Catholic settlers while the Red River Settlement around The Forks experienced a population boom of mainly Scottish Selkirk settlers and retired Scottish and English fur traders and their families.
    • The languages spoken in the area were French and Michif, a language thatt emerged out of the combination of French, Cree and Obibwa.
    • The 1835 census counted 72 heads of families in St. Norbert.
    • The land was organized using the river lot system – each lot was narrow and extended back from the river to ensure each lot had river access and land for farming, tree cutting and other activities. The river lots generally stretched back to the 2 mile road.
  • In 1858, Bishop Tache officially gave the community Parish status, and name it St. Norbert.
  • The church’s census at the end of the 1850s listed 101 familites.
  • A Canadian census taken in 1869, two years after conferderation, counded 192 families in the community.

Lemay Forest exists on River Lots 84 and 85 in the Parish of St. Norbert!

Mural by Stephen Jackson
  • When the new Canadian government proposed to transfer Rupert’s Land, including the Red River Settlement, to Canada in 1869, the Metis people of St. Norbert feared that they would be overwelmed by eastern land developers and settlers.
    • They were also concerned about preserving their Catholic francophone culture.
    • The met in St. Norbert Church to decide how to express their resistance to the changes.
    • In July 1869, led by Louis Riel, the people of St. Norbert opposed Canada’s right to send the Lieutenent-Governor, a government survey party, and an armed force onto their land, without first consulted the residents.
    • The Metis militia, consisting of about 100 men, set up a road block across the Pembina Trail at La Barriere, near St. Norbert, and successfully prevented the survey party from continuing to work.


  • During the winter and spring of 1869-1870, the provisional government set up by Riel in the Red River negotiated with the Canadian Government. 
    • Canada agreed to the entry of Manitoba into Confederation as a separate province, not as an extension of Ontario.
    • The Manitoba Act guaranteed the people of Manitoba religious freedom and a denominationl school system, as well as making the new province officially bilingual.
  • In the years from 1870 to the end of the century, the St. Norbert population continued to grow.
    • Joesph Lemay built and operated a steam powered sawmill and flour mill, beginning in 1871.
    • The old Grey Nuns’ convent was enlarged, and a new parish church was built.
    • In 1872, an open-air chapel, the Chapelle de Notre-Dame du Bon Secours, was added to the Church’s establishment.
    • Railroads came into St. Norbert in the 1870s and 1880s, making it easier to export St. Norbert lumber and agricultural products.
    • A Cistercian (Trappist) monastery was established in 1892.
    • In 1903, the Sisters of Mercy established the St. Norbert Orphange, also known as Asile Richot and Asile Bethléem.

About Asile Ritchot

The first building on this site, erected sometime in the 1870s, was the home of Joseph Lemay. On his death in 1892, it was donated to the local church and in 1903, Father Noël-Joseph Ritchot arranged the donation of the building and surrounding land to les Soeurs de Misericorde, who operated it as an orphanage from 1904 to 1948. In 1911, they undertook a major expansion, constructing the present three-story brick building.

When Asile Ritchot closed in 1948, the building was used as a seminary by the Oblate Order. In 1970, the X-Kalay Foundation (later renamed the Behavioural Health Foundation) began using it for the treatment of people with drug or alcohol addictions.

For more information, visit Heritage Saint-Norbert:


Reference: James, Andrew M. “A Holistic Approach to Dike Design: St. Norbert,
Manitoba, A Case Study and Application.” 2000. University of Manitoba
Library, Publisher.

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