Beyond la Barriere – St. Norbert Self-Guided Bike Tour

Starts: Riel House National Historic Site
Tour Length: 20-25 km

Winnipeg is made up of a diverse collection of communities, and their early histories often reflect very different cultural backgrounds. While the northern areas were largely settled by English and Scottish immigrants, the south end of our city’s roots are primarily Metis and French. As we travel south we’ll be following the Red and La Salle rivers, which both played a pivotal role in the development of our city.

St. Vital was first settled in an organized way in the mid 1820s. The first to settle here were Metis families who had previously lived south, near Pembina, North Dakota. Many of these people moved north following conflicts with the Sioux (Lakota) people, and the early success of the Red River Settlement.

In these early days most families had small farms and depended on the annual bison hunts for meat. By the 1850s the economic importance of the bison had waned, and St Vital developed a major market garden economy to supply Winnipeg and St Boniface with produce. We’ll start by visiting the home of one of the most influential families in Manitoba’s early history: The Riels. Louis Riel Sr. was a miller who stood up for Metis trade rights and helped defeat the HBC’s monopoly on trade in the 1830s. His son, Louis Riel Jr., continued the family tradition and is considered by many to be the founding father of Manitoba. Have a look at the sign boards and visit Riel House for a tour if it’s open.

Tour Stops

1 – Riel House National Historic Site

2 – St. Norbert Intro/King’s Park

3 – St. Norbert Market

4 – Place Saint-Norbert

Asile Richot / Richot Orphanage

5 – St. Norbert Parish Church

6 – Chapelle de Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours

7 – St. Norbert Provincial Heritage Park

8 –  Notre-Dame des Prairies

9 – Guest House / St. Norbert Arts & Cultural Centre


While St. Norbert may now be a suburb of Winnipeg, it still holds a remarkably strong community identity. Its architectural and cultural history are clearly unique and well preserved.

We’ve travelled to one of the most remote communities on our tour, but its history stretches back as far as any other area of our city. It’s tempting to wonder why these early communities were established so far from each other.

This early urban sprawl was dictated by more than just geography or resources. An 1817 treaty signed between Lord Selkirk, Chief Peguis and four other Indigenous leaders limited where settlement was allowed. The settlers were restricted to an area around the Forks and directly adjacent to the rivers. They also agreed to pay an annual rent in exchange for use of the land. The rent was never paid, the settlement grew, and the treaty was quickly ignored. Peguis spent his later life writing letters to the Queen of England and asking for the treaty to be honoured. Winnipeg’s oldest centres are still spread out along the rivers, and the city has slowly filled the areas in between.

It’s worth remembering that today, Winnipeg is more than 200 years behind on its rent.

The Pedal into History project was supported by contributions from the Province of Manitoba through the Heritage Grants Program., the City of Winnipeg, and Seven Oaks House Museum. We are grateful for their support.