Retiring chair of the Portage Heritage Advisory Committee James Kostuchuk met with a television crew in town a few weeks ago, for a production called Fishing for History. He took them to the site of the original Fort la Reine. He notes that location is the origin of the "portage," after which Portage la Prairie was named.
Allen Brown is formerly from Portage and now lives in Ottawa, having researched the early history of Portage, from whom Kostuchuk learned much of his knowledge of our area.
"If you just go to the water treatment plant where that is, and if you walk behind it, there's a path that goes right to the river," says Kostuchuk. "That's the site of the start of the Portage to Lake Manitoba."
Kostuchuk explains that products and supplies came down the Assiniboine River to this part, called the River of Birch, and were unloaded, and then portaged to Lake Manitoba. They arrived here and stopped at the location of Fort la Reine.
"Allen had talked about the significance of this Birch Island, and there's still an island in the River of Birch which I'd seen before, and never really thought of anything of it," notes Kostuchuk. "When you look through Allen's eyes, everything sort of takes on a special significance. When you stand in that spot, and you've been near it before because it's close to the diversion, it's quite emotional. You think, that's the start of Western settlement that allowed us to be here."
He explains the last time that that site was examined by an archaeologist was in 1953. Kostuchuk says an American came up and did survey work there. However, they've never found, to his knowledge, any actual physical evidence that that was the site of Fort la Reine.
"It's marked on maps but there's never been that evidence." continues Kostuchuk. "It would be nice to have that smoking gun, but it's never happened."
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