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While for most years there is no definite record of his being on the hunt, the tradition of the people of Saint -Francis Xavier was that he customarily led them, and that in fact he played a large part in shaping the organization of the hunt there is no reason to doubt this and every reason to believe it. Grant could not have been the leader of his people that he was if he had not led them in what was their great corporate activity of the year, the buffalo hunt. In it they became a people, the new nation, as they boasted, in a way they could never have become had they settled down completely as farmers along the river-fronts. Thus the buffalo hunt continued the work the Nor'westers had begun for their own purposes. From time to time we catch a glimpse of Grant as the leader of the hunt.
On December 19, 1831, Thomas Simpson, later an Arctic explorer, wrote from Fort Garry to Chief Factor Donald Ross at Norway House
By that date then , Grant was already an "old hunter", to be named with the Canadian Nolin of St. Boniface and James Bourke from the area later named St. James as a leader. We may see him as such, as well as Warden of the Plains and assume that in most years he led his people out on the summer hunt at least, if not the Fall one as well.
The buffalo hunt had its origins in the provisions trade of the fur companies. As a clerk at Qu' Appelle Grant had dealt with the hunters, and probably had taken part in the hunt. Then Selkirks colonists from 1812 to 1818 had gone each winter to Pembina to live on the hunt, and stimulated the growth from there.
The heavier hunting of the herds soon drove them away from the Red River. No longer did the itchy beasts rub at night on the stockades of the forts or trample the banks of the river, as the younger Henry tells us they had done in the early years of the century. As a result the hunters began to go out in bands, not singly, partly to make a common approach to the herds and partly for defense against the jealous and hostile Sioux who claimed the hunting-grounds west of the Red River. Out on the plains of the Red River Valley or in the Hair or Pembina hills, the hunters would run the buffalo: they would charge the herd on horseback, and shoot down from the saddle the beasts they chose, reloading at the gallop and riding on to kill again, sometimes up to a dozen animals.
Each would mark his own beasts by dropping a glove, or other article, and when the run was over would return to dress the kill. Only the best cuts were taken, but the transport of even these became a matter of difficulty as the hunts moved further out from the river. The toboggan in winter, the Travois in summer, served at first, but as early as 1803 there is mention of a rude cart being used for the purpose at Pembina. From the need to bring back the produce of the hunt the
Red River cart was developed, a reproduction of the wooden peasant cart of Quebec and the Scottish Highlands. As made in Red River, it was all of wood, with no metal or any other material used at all, except at times a bit of raw leather or shag-a-nappi made from the trees that fringed the prairie streams. Light, buoyant and difficult to upset when its wheels were "dished "the cart made possible the range of the hunt over the plains ever longer and longer.
Actually the Red River hunt had always three sources and was made up of three parties. One was Pembina, the Red River hunt began there, not all of the Pembina people had joined Grant at White Horse Plain when he founded Grantown. Very few remained there however between the years 1824 and 1840 but by the latter date their numbers were growing again. Their most famous hunter and customary captain was Baptiste Wilkie.
The second source was The Forks, mostly people from St. Boniface which was the "main river party". They crossed to Fort Garry, outfitted at the fort and then proceeded westward to the passage some eleven miles west of The Forks of the Assiniboine River. (Fort Garry is now named Winnipeg, Manitoba, Pembina is located in North Dakota on the Red River a very short distance from the Canadian -U.S. border). There they might join with the White Horse Plain group before crossing the river.
The White Horse Plain Group would come down to the passage, and then proceed southward along the same trail as the main river party to the rendezvous. Their start would be slow, confused, and noisy, as the whole settlement, except for the very old and the very young men, women older children, dogs, horses and oxen along with the carts-moved out, with shouting and barking they moved along the Assiniboine to the passage. Night by night the campfires would punctuate their progress across the plains of the Red River valley.
All three parties normally met at the rendezvous to proceed to the buffalo plains together. If the Sioux were at all aroused, this was necessary. Normally the rendezvous was somewhere on the Pembina River, more and more to the westward as the buffalo herds retreated.
The Pembina party moved up the river. The others proceeded from the Passage south-west to the Rivere aux Ilets de Bois (now the Boyne River) and then moved southward along the great terraces at the foot of the Pembina hills till they reached the Pembina River.
Once the rendezvous was reached some days were spent in visiting and waiting for late comers and stragglers to draw in. If a Sunday were passed in this way, Mass would be celebrated by the priest (normally the Reverend Jean Harper or after 1831, the Reverend M. Boucher) as it would be regularly each Sunday thereafter while the hunt encamped for the day. When the parties were all in, the organization of the hunt would begin. First a captain of the whole hunt was elected, and it was this office Grant held. His appointment to this post may well have grown from his leadership of the Metis in 1815 and 1816. The captain then chose from among the men ten other captains, the old hunters. Each captain then chose ten soldiers, who served under him as camp guards and as scouts on the march during their captains day of duty. The ten captains formed the council of the hunt on whose advice the captain of the hunt acted.
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