Children’s Day at Home: Labourer For A Day

So you want to be a labourer at Lower Fort Garry? You’re in luck! We have an opening!

Each site at the fort has something to do. Complete at least one of the two tasks from each site to receive a signed certificate of a true Lower Fort Garry labourer!

The Big House

This stone building is the largest at Lower Fort Garry. The inside was elaborately furnished for the Hudson Bay Company’s officer class and their servants, and an 1850s-style kitchen is downstairs. Governor Colvile and his wife Anne lived here in their private apartment.

Take Etiquette Lessons


The people that live in the Big House are doing their very best to be well-mannered. To belong in the Big House, you must be trained in good etiquette and posture.

What you will need: A hardcover book (that you don’t mind dropping), a carpeted floor.

What you will do: Stand up straight on a soft surface, steady yourself, and place the book flat on your head. Try to keep the book balanced on your head for one minute without using your hands.

*Bonus: Can you do it for two minutes? How about on one foot? Challenge yourself!

Write a Letter to a Friend


Mr. and Mrs. Colvile both learned to read and write in school. Writing letters was how they stayed connected with family and friends. It was very exciting when the express canoes arrived with the mail packet!

What you will need: Paper, a pen or pencil, an envelope (optional), a stamp (optional)

What you will do: Decide who you will write your letter to. Address the letter with their name at the top and sign your name at the end. What will you write in your letter?

*Bonus: With help from an adult, write the sending address on your envelope, add a stamp, and put your letter in the mail!

The Indigenous Camp

First Nations and Métis people stayed near the fort at the Indigenous Camp to work, trade, sell goods, and visit with relatives.

Build a Tipi


When traders came to Lower Fort Garry, they brought their families and set up camp for a few days. Birch bark dwellings, tipis, or tents were their mobile homes. You will create a model of a tipi.

What you will need: A slice of bread, raw spaghetti, string or tape.

What you will do: The bread will act as a base. Poke the spaghetti into the slice of bread in a circle. Bring the tops of the spaghetti together with tape or string.

*Bonus: Cover your tipi with leaves or pieces of paper.

Play Ball-in-Cup


Indigenous peoples all over the world have games similar to ball-in-cup. This activity works on your hand-eye coordination, which is an important step in becoming a skilled hunter.

What you will need: Small paper cup, string, pen, scissors, ring or bead.

What you will do: Cut a length of string approximately 30 cm long. Ask an adult to poke the pen into the center of the paper cup. Tie one end of the string to the pen directly under the cup. Tie the other end of the string to the bead or ring. Now put your skills to the test, hold the end of the pen and see if you can get the “ball” into the cup!

*Bonus: Challenge a family member to try your game!

The Men’s House

The Men’s House is where the unmarried Hudson’s Bay Company labourers lived, from carpenters and stone masons, to the fort’s blacksmith.

Arm Wrestle


To pass time in the evenings, the men would find ways to entertain themselves. Some of them played games like backgammon or chess, or through competitions of strength, like arm wrestling!

What you will need: A volunteer from your household, a flat surface like the floor or a table.

What you will do: Sit across from your opponent. Keep your elbows on the ground or table and lock hands. The first person to bring the other’s hand to the ground or table wins.

*Bonus: Try switching hands each round!

Play a Song with Spoons


The labourers would keep their spirits up with music. Some of them brought instruments like fiddles or tin flutes. Playing the wooden spoons as part of the Men’s House dances helped the jiggers keep up their energy.

What you will need: Two spoons (metal or wood).

What you will do: Arrange the spoons so that the scoops are facing away from each other. Hold both spoons in one hand and place over the top of your thigh, hold your other hand above them, and lightly smack them between your palm and the top of your thigh. This will create a “clacking” sound. You’re now playing the spoons! Get creative and make some music!

*Bonus: Add some lyrics or words to your song.

The Farm Manager’s House

This 1830s building is an excellent example of post-on-sill construction, which means all of the wood locks together without nails. This is where you’ll find the farm manager hard at work, with other labourers out in the large kitchen garden.

Draw your Favourite Vegetable or The Garden of Your Dreams


Farmers worked hard to ensure their crops grew successfully. They had to know what seeds to order, what to plant, and how to work with the weather in order to feed their families. What would you put in your garden?

What you will need: Paper, crayons, pencil crayons, or markers.

What you will do: Draw and colour a garden full of your favourite vegetables.

*Bonus: Draw a make-believe vegetable! What would it taste like?

Pick Rocks out of your Home’s Garden


For your garden to grow, it needs sun, water, and good soil. Rocks in your garden can make it hard for the plants to grow. If the plants don’t grow, you may not have enough food for winter!

What you will need: A garden or pots of plants, outdoor clothing, shoes.

What you will do: Get ready to go outside! Search for rocks hidden in your garden. Watch your step and be careful not to crush any plants. Pick 5 rocks out of the garden. If they’re small rocks, place them outside the garden. If they’re larger rocks, you can reuse them as paperweights and decorate them as keepsakes. Be sure to wash your hands when you come back inside.

*Bonus: Do double duty and try to remove 10 rocks.

The Fur Loft

The Fur Loft is home to the saleshop, which displays many items imported from Britain. The third floor stores a variety of furs waiting to be packaged into 90-pound bales, all bound for Britain!

Make a Trade


During the fur trade, the people trading in furs wanted to get the best price possible for them. When you talk about what an item is worth with someone who wants to trade for it, that is called bartering!

What you will need: One of the crafts that you made today, and another member of your household who has something you want.

What you will do: Start bartering by offering up your craft and telling them why your craft is great. Suggest that they offer something to trade for that item.

Pack a Backpack for an Adventure


Furs needed to be packaged before travelling to England to be turned into clothing. People working at Lower Fort Garry packed furs into rectangular bales. The men who transported those fur bales were called tripsmen.

What you will need: A backpack, clothing, blankets, and stuffed animals.

What you will do: Pack as many items as you can into your backpack or suitcase. Once it is full, put it on your back and walk with it just like a tripsman for 1 minute.

*Bonus: Guess how many items you packed, then tally them up as you unpack. Were you right?

The Warehouse

The supplies stored here made life easier in the 1850s. Later on in history, this building became a prison. The barracks for the North-West Mounted Police was right next door.

Perform a Police Drill


The North-West Mounted Police came to Lower Fort Garry to learn how to ride horses, shoot muskets, and perform drills. To be a good North West Mounted Police officer, it’s important that you know how to follow orders.

What you will need: A volunteer from your household to be the Sergeant, and some open space.

What you will do: Let’s play a game of Simon Says, with a twist! Your volunteer Sergeant will give you an order starting with “Sergeant says.” For example: “Sergeant says touch your nose.” You must complete that action. If the volunteer does not say “Sergeant says” before the action, you must not complete the action. Once you make 5 mistakes, the game ends.

*Bonus: Now it’s your turn to be the Sergeant and give orders to your volunteer!

Tour the Fort


Now that you’ve been a labourer for the day, it’s time to tour the site! We invite you to explore the grounds of Lower Fort Garry through the magic of Google Street View.

What you will need: A computer with an internet connection.

What you will do: Click on this link for a Google Street View of Lower Fort Garry. Click down the gravel path to move around the site. See if you can find anyone who’s dressed up! There might be someone at The Big House, which is the large building in the centre of the fort.

*Bonus: Can you find the York boat? Hint: It’s in one of the corners in the fort’s walls!

Click here to print out this certificate and fill in your name.

Congratulations! You’re now an official Lower Fort Garry labourer!

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