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The first people that lived in the area we know today as Winnipeg were First Nations peoples, who regularly met at the forks (confluence) of the Red River and Assiniboine River.
1734 marked the date when the first Europeans arrived in the Winnipeg area; they were two Frenchmen working for fur trader Pierre Gaultier de Verennes de la Verendrye. Five years later, Sieur Louis Damours de Louvieres (who was also working for La Verendrye) established Fort Rouge at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine (The Forks).
By the 1790's the fur trade was expanding westward once again, after a 50-year hiatus caused by the Seven Years' War (also called the French and Indian Wars) in North American between France and England. This expansion was spurred on by the competition between two rival fur trading companies: the Montreal-based North West Company (NWC), and the London-based Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). The expansion of the fur trade meant that there were now many French-speaking fur traders and their families in the Winnipeg area. Since no European women were allowed to come into the western hinterlands with the fur traders, they found Native wives and sweetheart. The descendants of the French fur traders and their First Nations wives were (and are) known as "Métis" ("mixed blood").
In 1812, the Hudson's Bay Company and the Earl of Selkirk worked together to establish the first permanent settlement at The Forks, bringing in a shipload of Scottish settlers. The North West Company was not happy to see their business rivals establish this settlement in the middle of their prime buffalo-hunting area, from which came much of the pemmican which sustained the eastbound fur-laden canoes. The two main fur trading companies had always been stern rivals, but this was the last straw; the North West Company gained Métis support in what became a very nasty, and sometimes bloody, conflict between the HBC and the settlers on one side, and the NWC and the Métis on the other. Finally, economic and political forces combined to force a merger between the two companies in 1821, and the ended. But a major flood came five years later and wiped out everything; most of the settlers chose to resettle in the North Dakota area.
The HBC, which owned all the land draining into Hudson's Bay, decided to sell its land to Canada in 1869. However, the rights of the Métis were ignored in this sale; this led to the Red River Rising led by Louis Riel. In 1870, the area (with a new government) officially joined Canada as the "postage stamp province" of Manitoba: square in shape, centred on Winnipeg, and just 160 km (100 mi) on each side (25,600 sq km or 10,000 sq mi). Soon after, English speaking Canadians from Ontario came to Winnipeg in large numbers.
By 1890, the area’s population had transformed to a predominantly English speaking community. In twenty more years, the area had become the main trading center of Western Canada.
In 1950, Winnipeg suffered a massive flood, which devastated the area. Twelve years later, to avoid another such disaster, the Winnipeg floodway was constructed. However, over the years since 1950 there have been more floods causing more damage, most notably in 1997. None, however, has equalled the 1826 flood.
Today Winnipeg is a thriving city with the lowest unemployment rate in Canada.
For more detailed information of Winnipeg’s history, click here.