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Imagine a place only minutes away from a busy downtown core, where you may be reminded of the history of the First Nations people, the voyageurs, the Métis, and the French Canadians including legendary Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière and his wife Marie-Anne Gaboury - the first white woman to settle in the West. A place inextricably linked to Lord Selkirk and the beginnings of the Red River Settlement. A place that bore witness to the difficult transition from the fur-trade era to colonization and agriculture as a way of life. A place tied to the multinational mosaic of early Euro-Canadians, the des Meurons Regiment, and the Catholic Missions.

This is the Seine River, a small, winding tributary of the Red River in Manitoba, and believed to be originally named Tchimâhâgânisipi in Cree (Tchimâhâgâni meaning "seine net" and sipi meaning "river").


To hear the echoes of this place is to hear a province being born. A place where the Métis leader and the Father of Manitoba, Louis Riel, was born. A place where the Countess of Dufferin, the first locomotive in Western Canada, was first delivered. A place whose history has not only helped to define St. Boniface, Winnipeg, and Manitoba, but also Western Canada.

Now imagine a veritable boom town growing around the Seine and its big sisters, the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers. Industry and families alike become her neighbours. Then, slowly, the stately Seine River becomes forgotten. Roads and railways transform these rivers from the main means of transportation into topographical features on a city planner's map and engineering challenges; inconveniences to be diverted, filled, or leap-frogged with bridges. And in many cases, places to dump unwanted by-products of a growing city: lumber, concrete, chemicals, and even appliances, machinery and vehicles.


Imagine a garbage dump with a river running through it. This was the Seine River in the late 1980s.

Some years, the river didn't seem to show up at all. Low flows stagnated the river and often made it impassable by canoe. The Seine was a stinky, rotting mess. The low water levels didn't help wash away other unpleasant compounds quietly being dumped and diverted into the Seine. Residents reported the river smelling of chemicals and various forms of petroleum.

Forgotten was the Seine's importance in Manitoba's history. Nearly 200 years after hosting the first settlement in the prairies, the Seine was a choked, smelly and garbage-filled river dying a slow death. Would the Seine simply fade away quietly? Or would it be more "economical" to bring in earth-moving equipment and silence the historic river?


Would anyone save our Seine River?

The Beginnings of SOS

Along the east side of Egerton Road in Old St. Vital, as the Seine River continued to decline, neighbours began to talk. Apathy was no longer welcome - something had to be done.

On September 5, 1990, residents held a meeting to discuss their concerns about the river. Under an appropriate acronym - a cry for help - this tenacious group of neighbours set their eyes on a lofty goal: to save our Seine River.

The crusaders for the Seine River were originally known as the Save Our Seine River Residents Committee. Chaired by Peg Venables, the SOS group staged the first community river cleanup on October 13, 1990. Block champions were elected and the Manitoba Naturalist Society, local Girl Guides, and various members of the community were recruited. Undoing nearly 100 years of neglect and abuse would take plenty of hard work and determination.

After 4 years of cleanups and advocacy, it was time to step up operations. In July of 1994, the Save our Seine River Residents Committee officially became Save Our Seine River Environment Incorporated. That same summer, SOS received funding to hire 10 youths for several months to aid in the cleanup operations. In the first year, the river was cleaned up from Fermor to Archibald and 1,000 select trees were wrapped to protect from beavers.


In the summer of 1995, the Province of Manitoba kicked off the Urban Green Team program with SOS Green Team as the first recipients. The SOS Green Team (a.k.a River Keepers) has been a fixture ever since, employing a minimum of four youths each summer to do a lot of the dirty work in the fight to keep the Seine River clean and healthy.

Throughout the years, SOS ensured that the community was involved in the activities it undertook. Some highlights of early activities include:

  • The Yellow Fish Program, spring of 1994: SOS partnered with the St. Vital School Division to engage students and raise awareness of fish living downstream from storm drains.

  • The Coalition for a Canoeable Seine River, launched January 1995: a partnership between 48 organizations from the area which sought to advance the proposal of restoring the health of the Seine River so that it may become a historic canoe route. 

  • Let's Root for Canada, summer 1997: SOS took part in this Tree Canada Foundation program with community events including a ceremonial tree planting at Lagimodière-Gaboury Park.

  • Many general cleanings and greenings, which engaged local organizations and community members to play their role in the health of the Seine River and its banks.

The 2000s

With the new millennium came some major successes for Save Our Seine, the most notable of which may be the campaign to save the Bois-des-Esprits from development starting in 2001. After a few years of raising awareness of the Bois-des-Esprits, meeting with elected officials, and raising funds, the City of Winnipeg announced the preservation of the entire forest in 2005. By 2008, a management plan had been developed and a network of trails was constructed.

Other successful campaigns were those for the repair of the Red River Floodway siphon and the cleanup of the IKO site, a former shingle manufacturing facility. While both of these were actually started in the 90's, they did not reach satisfactory completion until 2010. The continued efforts and determination were well worthwhile, however, leading to major improvements to the water levels, flow, and quality of the Seine River within Winnipeg.

Early Chronology

Take a deep dive into a detailed chronological account of Save Our Seine's first six years.

Photo Archive

Interested in exploring additional historical photos? Follow this link to see the full collection!

Past Presidents

Get to know our former Presidents who helped to shape SOS into what it is today.

20th Anniversary

Highlighting the accomplishments achieved during the first 20 years of Save Our Seine.

25th Anniversary

In 2015, Save Our Seine celebrated their 25th anniversary with a series of exciting events throughout the year. 

Newsletter Archive

Get a feel for the SOS of the past by exploring archived newsletters from the early 2000's.

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