Friday, March 31, 2006

Winnipeg Girl Retraces Roots in N.D.

Herald photo by Mike Mohaupt
From the Fargo Forum/AP...
PEMBINA, N.D. - A Canadian television show that has children traveling the world to track down their French roots brought a 14-year-old Winnipeg girl to this northeastern North Dakota city.

Kali Moberg is a descendant of Antoine Gingras, a historic 19th century trader who built a chain of outposts throughout the region and later became a well-known political leader in the Minnesota Territory.

"I hadn't known much about him," Moberg said. "So that is why I'm doing this challenge, so I can learn more about him."

Moberg played herself in an episode for the show "La Quete" - or "The Quest" - which is set to begin airing next fall in Quebec and on cable across Canada. A film crew from Montreal set up in the Pembina State Museum, with the actors around the replica of an ox cart, which was used years ago to transport goods in the Red River Valley.

Moberg and her schoolmate, Prudence Etkin, 13, put on old-fashioned dresses and asked questions of Moberg's ancestor, who was played by Virgil Benoit. The University of North Dakota language professor has portrayed Gingras for a decade in Pembina.

Gingras, who was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in 1821, became a leader in the Metis community. Metis were the descendants of French-Canadian fur trappers and American Indian women.

A trading post Gingras established near Walhalla has been turned into a state historic site.

"Gingras' life was very hidden," Benoit said. "He was not a straightforward person; he was an entrepreneur. He was very organized, and very generous to civic development."

"La Quete" will include 26 episodes featuring Canadian children tracking down their French roots all over the world, said researcher Caroline Bacle.

"One will be filmed in Holland, one in Morocco," she said.

The show is being produced for Television Franco Ontarienne, part of the Canadian government's support for the arts that celebrate French-speaking culture.