The development of historical themes for Upper Fort Garry, and the many related stories they generate, rest upon two overarching, yet linked, interpretive historical frameworks: Nation Building and Cultural Conflict and Public Debate. These very broad constructions provide the context for the story of the fort and logically lead to a subset of themes and stories that are integral to telling the history of Upper Fort Garry’s economic, cultural, and political role within Canada and beyond its borders. The theme of nation building captures the fort’s importance in helping to define its economic and governmental influence in shaping the development of western Canada and indeed the values of the country as a whole. At the same time, the convergence of cultures in the 19th century West – Cree, Ojibwa, Dakota, Metis, American, English, Scotch, French-speaking and English-speaking -Canadian — illustrates the conflict between indigenous rights and corporate and national interests; a story of contest and, ultimately, of resentment, defiance, assimilation, and exclusion. It is a story that lies at the core of the history of Upper Fort Garry.
But it was the upper fort’s role in governance, nominally by the Hudson’s Bay Company, and later by the Provisional Government under Louis Riel, that resulted in the founding of Manitoba, the extension of Canada’s rule throughout the Northwest and, ultimately, the entry of British Columbia (1871) and the Arctic (1880) into Confederation.
The importance of Upper Fort Garry in the 19th century — and its ultimate influence on commerce, culture, and urbanization in the 20th century — is summarized by the set of themes outlined below. Many of these themes can be interpreted both locally and globally and capture a wide range of stories conveying a variety of events, and meanings. They centre on such topics as trade, governance, cultural divergence and convergence, and the fort’s role as a western entrepot and gateway. From these larger narratives will come a host of stories that can be told at the site using different media.