Discovering Manitoba

White Horse Legend of Central Plains

Early one summer in the 1690s, a band of Assiniboines was camped on the banks of the Assiniboine River, about ten miles west of present day Winnipeg. They received a visitor; a young Cree brave from Lake Winnipegosis came to their camp and asked if he might marry the chief’s daughter. In return, the young Cree offered the chief a beautiful and spirited snow-white steed, a Blanco Diablo, of the famed Mexican breed. The two came to an agreement.

However, this agreement upset a Sioux brave from Devil’s Lake in North Dakota, who was also in love with the chief’s daughter. He and a band of followers vowed to capture and torture his rival under the pretext of a reprisal for past wars. Aware of the danger, the Assiniboine chief saddled the white horse and advised the couple to escape under cover of darkness.

When the Sioux learned of the escape, they followed and eventually overtook the couple on the west bank of the Assiniboine River a few miles west of where the St. Francois-Xavier parish church now stands. They attempted an escape, but in the ensuing chase, arrows killed both the warrior and his bride. Their white horse did escape however, and according to legend, continued to roam the neighbouring plains for many years.

The Assiniboines believed that the spirits carried the horse to a world where he was reunited with the Cree brave. The aboriginal peoples named this land, “where the white horse ran free” in honour of the powerful animal.

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