On the grounds of the University of Alberta stood an historic tree: a 143-year-old Manitoba Maple planted by prominent Métis figure Laurent Garneau and his wife Eleanor, shortly after their arrival to Edmonton in 1874. Planted on the Garneau property, it remained in the same spot at what became 110th street and 90th avenue.
An important mark of Métis heritage in Edmonton, the historic tree sadly reached the end of its lifespan, far beyond the tree’s typical 50+ years. On September 15, 2017 it was time to say goodbye. A ceremony was held to celebrate Laurent and Eleanor Garneau’s legacy and the history of the neighbourhood named in his honour. Speakers from the Métis Nation of Alberta, the University of Alberta, the local community, and Garneau’s own descendants gathered to share stories and memories, interspersed by traditional fiddling tunes.
More than 100 people showed up to pay their respects before the tree was removed over the weekend. The atmosphere was not one of sadness, however. The tree’s impressive history was at the forefront, along with aspirations for the remnants of wood and the site of the stump. The spirit of Garneau will certainly continue live on.
(Garneau tree photos courtesy of Andrew Grabia, crowd photo courtesy of Jenn Rossiter, felled tree photo courtesy of Anastasia Lim)