Map (click map to link to larger image), giving a rough indication of the location of parishes from which representatives to the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia were elected; derived from, and illustrating differences with the map “The Red River Settlement, 1870,” drawn by C.C.J. Bond and printed in The Birth of Western Canada: A history of the Riel Rebellions by George F.G. Stanley (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961), which illustrated the electoral parishes of the new province of Manitoba.
Clarifying the scope of political representation held by the members of the Legislative assembly of Assiniboia is one instance where an illustrative map is helpful. Each member represented constituents of a particular parish, or part of a parish, either in Red River Settlement proper, or within its vicinity. The parishes were akin to neighbourhoods — not all were, strictly speaking, ecclesiastical parishes with a church at the centre — and were important markers of Red River and Assiniboia’s distinctive character as a settlement community during the Colonial era. Yet, to date, what maps exist tend to obscure rather than clarify where the parishes represented by members of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia were located and what their extent might have been.
The map most commonly used by historians to illustrate the extent of settlement in Assiniboia and the parish divisions during the late 1860s and early 1870s is that printed in George F.G. Stanley’s The Birth of Western Canada. That map, however, reflects the electoral divisions devised for the first general election held after Manitoba had entered Confederation. The parish divisions for that election were not identical to those relied on for the elections that had gone before, while the country was known as Assiniboia.
In the election for the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, for example, the Town of Winnipeg, which had been designated the capital of the North-West, figured as a riding separate from St. John’s and had two seats to be filled by elected representatives. There were other differences as well. St. Laurent (a.k.a. Manitoba), a riding in the Manitoba general election, does not appear to have had separate representation in the Assiniboia election. In addition, the provincial riding of St. Agathe appears to have had different dimensions during the Assiniboia elections, and was divided into two sections. It also had a different name — Point Coupée.
Place naming on the Birth of Western Canada map has perhaps the greatest potential for generating confusion with respect to pre-provincial application — the names of the parishes on that map do not reflect the names of parishes alluded to in the debates of the Convention of Forty and the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. Nor does the Birth of Western Canada map make note of the multiple names that might have applied to one parish, a multiplicity that reflected the multi-lingual character of Red River and environs. Like the people of Assiniboia, the places that they inhabited — and the topographical features that defined those places — carried French, English, and Aboriginal names.
I am working towards developing a map devised specifically to illustrate the socio-political and cultural significance of the parishes of Assiniboia with the goal of reducing confusion about that past, thus directly addressing the problem that using non-commensurate representations creates: i.e. obscuring the distinctiveness of a pivotal period, of Manitoba’s history, significant to Métis heritage. In the meantime, I have devised the map shown above to give a rough indication of the location of parishes in which representatives to the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia were elected.
Published: 6 July 2011