Jean,                                                              Winter, 1815

My dear husband, every rise and fall of the prairie sun signals another day of your travels, and yet another day that my hope for your safe return persists. I have begun to find more and more comfort in my prayers for our coming reunion, but the Western winters here show no mercy of loosening their grip upon Assiniboia [Red River Colony]. But know this, husband: the mere thought of your return  instills hope within me; our resilience thus far has brought us great success, and the following months shall be no different.

Jean, ever since you left Assiniboia, we have been suffering the aftermath of a most violent dispute, but I am assured that you know the situation all too well. What took place at the Seven Oaks has changed the colony for good, and I only wish for your presence so that life can once more seem familiar. But your duty is an important one, and I shall hope that your message of the battle reaches Lord Selkirk soon, so that you can once more see the faces of your children. Oh, how they miss you! It has only been a short few weeks, and already they ask for their Papa. To offer us some safety from the battle’s uproar, we have begun to live with some nearby Indian tribes, but the other men and women here cannot take the place our childrens’ brave father

However, dear husband, taking refuge with the Indians continues to my open eyes to their way of life. They never cease to lose interest in my fair skin and blue eyes and are not shy about extending their curious hands towards my face; they have simply never seen a woman like me before. I have come to expect  their general lack of physical boundaries, but unlike some of the other settlers, I cannot bring myself to call them savages. Their own name for themselves is the People of the River, and I am beginning to see that they are indeed people, not too different from ourselves. There is a gentleness to them, a respect for the land around them, and I find this extremely admirable, especially in the midst the development of Assiniboia just down the river. So, I suppose that you could say that the Indians and I have a mutual curiosity for each other; even from the little communication that gets passed between us, I have to come to understand that they believe I possess powers of the supernatural sort. I tell them that this is a silly notion, but I must acknowledge how vastly their lives have changed in the past few years, and I don’t find it hard to believe that they attribute it to some sort of otherworldly power. Nevertheless, there are times that I find it difficult to understand their reasoning, but I suppose that their thoughts of us are not so different than ours of them. We are as foreign to them as they to us.

As I conclude this correspondence, I send my love along with that of your children. What is most  important at this time is to keep them safe, and they are growing so fast in front of my eyes. I think constantly of their future in this new place, whether we will be able to provide for them in the ways that we would have back home. But our new life lies in the West, and it shall be a life of prosper, dear husband! Although we have left the comfort of the East, there is still so much to see of this new world. And once you return to us, I look forward to forging forward with the same vigor as when we first left Saint-Ours behind us. Hold fast husband, and may your horse remain well, and your compass true to course.

 

Much love,

Marie-Anne