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Manitoba from the Air
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The Location of Fort Desjarlais on the Souris River, North of Lauder


Fort Desjarlais, located on the north bank of the Souris River, was one of many Métis villages scattered across the Prairies.[i] It was quite large with upwards of 75 men stationed at it during the 1840s. It probably served as an important rendezvous point for the annual bison hunt and as a depot for Métis traders seeking to overcome the HBC monopoly. Bison hunting continued until about 1865 by which time the herds had been virtually exterminated. Some Métis families continued to use the Lauder Sand Hills and are believed to be the source of mid to late nineteenth century artifacts found further west in Township 5, Range 25WI.[ii]

This old photograph shows the northeast flowing Souris River 1 above Hartney. Nothing on the photo indicates the existence of Fort Desjarlais, but a map in Hamilton and Nicholson (figure 4) shows that it was located at an area of flat grass-covered land on the north bank of the Souris River2. It is surrounded by dark-toned wooded areas 3; possibly the inhabitants of the post removed trees from the grass-covered area. Other things to note on this photo are:

1)     steep river cliffs—usually light-toned because they are cut into sand—on the outside of meanders on the Souris River 4.

2)     meander scrolls indicating previous river positions 5.

3)     dunes, some of which have no plant cover and are therefore very light-toned 6, some of which are grass covered—medium grey-toned 7, and some wooded—dark-toned 8.

4)     land has been cleared for agriculture in the west 9 and south of the river 10. The sandy nature of the soils is indicated by the mottled tones in these areas.

5)     there are just 3 farms in the area 11.




[i] For details see Ens, G. J. “The Buffalo Robe Trade and Hivernant Communities on the Northern Plains” in The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People eds. J. Welsted, J. Everitt and C. Stadel. Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1996, 89-91.

[ii] This information is taken from Hamilton, S. and Nicholson, B. A. “Métis Land Use of the Lauder Sandhills of Southwestern Manitoba.” Prairie Forum, vol. 25, no. 2 (Fall 2000), 243-270.

Figure 6.1

The Location of Fort Desjarlais on the Souris River, North of Lauder