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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 4


In 1951, by an Order in Council, Lower Fort Garry near Selkirk, Manitoba, became a National Historic Park. A gift to the people of Canada from the Hudson's Bay Company, the Stone Fort had played a role in the development of the Dominion as a major supply post for the fur trade for half a century; a leader in the economic development of the Red River area, and a keeper of peace in times of political upheaval.

In 1965, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development undertook a program of restoration of Lower Fort Garry to the period which was the height of its development, the 1850s. An intensive cooperative effort by historians, archaeologists, architects, planners, museologists, engineers and skilled tradesmen was required to repair and furnish the Big House, renovate other buildings within the fort enclosure, and design museum exhibits and displays. Since an historic site cannot be properly restored if its history is not thoroughly understood by those responsible for its development for public use and enjoyment, one of the primary duties of the National Historic Sites Service was to provide the necessary background information for those who were to work on the reclamation. The papers in this issue, written originally as part of the development program, are a selection of the historical research carried out so far in support of the continuing Lower Fort Garry project. A subsequent issue will carry the report of the archaeological investigation of old building foundations and other features within and outside the walls of the lower fort, information which is also basic to the accurate restoration of this historic site.

The papers in this issue are offered, as are all papers in Canadian Historic Sites, in the belief that research should not be shelved when the project that originated it is finished, but should be made available to the public. While the program and its attendant research work will continue until the mid-1970s, it is felt that the reports already produced by the National Historic Sites Service are of sufficient scope and interest to justify publication now, particularly in view of the attention being given to the fur trade, and Manitoba in general, during 1970.

The National Historic Sites Service is deeply indebted to the Hudson's Bay Company, the Public Archives of Canada, of Manitoba, and other libraries, foundations and institutions in Canada for their willing cooperation in making primary source material relating to Lower Fort Garry available for study. Contemporary Company documents and records held in the Public Archives of Canada and those available only in the Hudson's Bay Company's London archives were examined by the authors, who were generously granted specific permission by the Company to consult original correspondence, accounts and journals.

The endnotes of the papers of this issue, citing primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliographies accompanying each paper, have been set down in standard bibliographic form, abbreviations being used only where particular sources have been referred to repeatedly or where the entry readily lent itself to such treatment. As the North American fur trade is a subject of interest outside the borders of Canada, only the London archives reference system has been used in citing Hudson's Bay Company source material, even though this material may have been examined on microfilm in the Public Archives of Canada.

For the critical student of history as well as the general reader, these papers on Lower Fort Garry will contain much of genuine interest. It is hoped they will also contribute to a more complete understanding of the real and potent influence of the old fort on the history of the development of the Canadian West.

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