Starting around the year 1888, immigrants from Belgian began arriving in Manitoba in search of free land, a place to practice their religion and start a new life. They settled in areas like Ile-Des-Chenes, Pine Falls, Swan Lake, Mariposa, St. Alphonse, Ste. Rose, and Ste Amelie. In Winnipeg, many settled in St. Vital, Fort Garry, and St. Boniface, east of the Seine River. This became known as Belgian Town. By the year 1904, there were close to 1000 Belgians living in Manitoba. The necessity of having a central organization was perceived, and Le Club Belge was formally incorporated in 1905. Over the years, many more Belgians settled in Manitoba, and the Belgian Club became a place to socialize and meet new people.
One of the traditions the Belgians brought with them to Manitoba was the sport of Pole Archery, where an archer shoots a flat tipped arrow vertically into the air to knock artificial “birds” off the top of a tall mast. Pole archery was informally practiced in Manitoba on the farm of Theophile Gelaude in St. Vital in the early 1920’s. In 1926, the St. Sebastian Archery Club was founded and the first “shooting” took place on May 20, 1926.
Mr. Theodore Gelaude is the person most often credited with bringing pole archery to Manitoba. It is believed that, in 1929, Theo, along with Andrew Janssens, Valere Huyghe, and Adolf Seys left the St. Sebastian Pole Archery Club to form the Robin Hood Pole Archery Club.
185 miles north west of St. Boniface was a settlement of Belgian farmers, who independently formed their own archery club. They hauled large trees from Riding Mountain and erected a pole on the farm of Ernest Behey near Ste. Amelie. In 1926 the Ste. Rose-Ste Amelie Archery Club was founded. In 1927 they competed in the first inter-club competition against St. Sebastian in St. Boniface.
In 1929, some of the members of the St. Sebastian club decided to form another club, so as to have more local competition. This club was called the Robin Hood Pole Archery Club. The shooting pole was built on Theophile
Gelaude’s farm on St. Mary’s Road, and the club shot there until 1931. In 1932, the club built a new pole between La Fleche and Archibald Streets in St. Boniface.
The first inter-club shoot in which Robin Hood competed was in 1933 against St. Sebastian and Ste. Rose-Ste Amelie Archery Clubs. In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s many more members joined the club, and the shooting location
was moved to Deschambault Street near the Seine River in the 1940’s. Although the membership became very low during the war years (12 members), by the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, interest returned and membership continued to grow.
Due to several clubs competing against each other, there was a need for a set of rules, and the Manitoba Archery Association was formed. It consisted of three delegates from each club. The MAA was in charge of all inter-club
competitions and Canadian championships.
In the late 1950’s the club was again moved to its present location on Mission Street in St. Boniface, where it shares Archery Park with the St. Sebastian Archery Club. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the club membership continued to expand, which by this time many father-son archers joined the ranks of the membership.
Today’s members shoot for a variety of trophies and the membership today shares the same enthusiasm as did the founding members and other members who have joined over the past 85 years. They have all made the Robin Hood Archery Club a wonderful club to be part of, enjoying the
sportsmanship and friendship in the centuries old sport of Belgian Pole Archery.
Andre Janssens 1929
Robin Hood Pole Archery Club
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