Profits from our recent fundraising dinner will go towards our plans for the year. These are well in hand, and include four possible field trips, one in association with the Jewish Historical Society, another to Peguis First Nations to celebrate Treaty Days with them, as well as a side trip to Fisher River Cree Nation in order to visit their solar energy farm.
The farm has seen considerable news coverage and is certainly a success story. There are three thousand panels, which supply power to four hundred homes. The reserve has a population of 1945 on reserve with another 1934 off reserve, totalling just under 4000 souls. The reserve, created under Treaty No. 5 on 24 September 1875, is named after the fisher. The current chief is Chief David Grant. This tour, if all goes well, will take place in the morning with the afternoon spent at Peguis. A snack stopover enroute in the morning will be provided, as will dinner on the return trip. More information will be forthcoming from Dr. John Lehr as we get nearer to the tour date, which will be mid-July. Another tour planned, tentative at this stage, is to study the effects of flooding by the Red River between Winnipeg and Emerson. The trip with the Jewish Historical Society will, tentatively, be located in the Birds Hill area. Information in more detail will be forthcoming on History Alive.
As you probably know by now, History Alive is a monthly newsletter that keeps members up-to-date with respect to what the society is doing, or plans to do. We gather, from our statistics, that it is well received. It is probably something that we should have done some years ago. Our thanks go to our editor, Tracey Turner, for the newsletter's design, as well as monthly content. If you have information that you wish to disseminate, and it does not have to be pure MHS information, please contact Tracey. We are more than happy to publicise other events in Winnipeg, as well as in the rest of Manitoba.
Our work continues with our updated membership lists. These, when completed, will ensure that every member will receive information on a regular basis as to what the society is doing. The communication will either be through email, if you are connected, or, if not, through a post card. It is, however, important that we keep up to date with you, so reminders as to address changes, phone number changes, and email changes will be gratefully appreciated.
In the planning stage is a lecture series, which will tie in with the 2020 celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Manitoba. At present, we have not decided as to how many speakers this will involve, nor what the topics will be, except that they will have a connection to Manitoba in one way or another.
Another activity, still in the planning stages, is a project that will involve grade school students, probably grades 7 to 12 and is tentatively called "My Geography, My History, My Province." It is designed to involve multi-media activities, such as audio and film recordings, and, if all goes well, the results will go onto our website as well as on to YouTube.
Prominent Passings: Dr. Virginia Petch
Manitoba lost a dedicated and talented archaeologist when Virginia Petch passed away in December 2018. She spent her career exploring, writing and teaching on the subject of Northern archaeology and culture. Following her studies at the University of Manitoba, she spent several years with the Province's Historic Resources Branch before starting her own company, working for Indigenous groups across the Province, for Manitoba Hydro and as an Adjunct Professor at the University College of the North. Having travelled extensively through the North, Petch had a special fondness for the Churchill area, where she conducted years of research along with extensive oral histories, resulting in both reports of findings as well as management plans for future work. She was particularly interested in encouraging local people to develop the skills related to archaeology, writing education kits and field manuals for a range of ages and education.
Active in her professional societies and organizations, Petch was honoured for her work with the Prix Manitoba Award for Heritage in Education and Communication in 1998.
Unlocking Hidden Stories of Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site
by Donalee Deck, Parks Canada
Parks Canada's recent archaeological investigations at Prince of Wales Fort (PWF) were part of two multi-year wall stabilization projects as well as learning vacations with the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. These subsurface archaeological investigations within and outside the fort walls revealed features and artifacts related to construction, business and daily life at the fort.
The Hudson's Bay Company began construction of this French Vauban-style fort in the early 1730s. The fort was abandoned in 1782 following surrender to Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de La Perouse, a French Naval officer. In 1920, the fort, along with Cape Merry and Sloop Cove, was declared a site of national historic significance commemorated for their role in the 18th century French and English rivalry for control of the territory and resources around Hudson Bay. The fort served as a trading post, a factory for commercial operations and as a launching point for northern exploration and whaling expeditions.
The recent archaeological investigations have mainly focused on the interior ramparts with limited subsurface testing outside the fort walls. These investigations were driven by modern construction activities facilitating wall stabilization, such as mudsill footings for levelling scaffolding. Parks Canada archaeologists excavated these locations prior to construction to document features, collect artifacts and to recommend avoidance where there were significant intact resources. The resulting rich archaeological record was enhanced by organic preservation due to the northern location of the fort. Some of the archaeological discoveries made during these investigations are presented below.
Evidence of the two main phases of palisade wall construction were found outside of the southeast bastion. This confirmed details on the map drawn by James Isham circa 1743 and the August 1782 French Mansuy Plan. The initial palisade wall construction was overseen by James Isham beginning in 1742 and continued for several years. The palisade was replaced under the supervision of Ferdinand Jacobs between 1760 and 1763. He altered construction details to try to address stability issues (Ingram 1999).
Over 570 artifacts including charred seeds from the gardens were recovered adjacent to the palisade wall. A particularly interesting recovery was a cufflink still attached to fabric. Other artifacts were musket parts, tools, houseware items, beads, ball claypipe fragments, bird and mammal bone.
Investigations to learn about the construction of the fort entrance revealed intact wooden structural remains. At the base of the wall foundation were posts that had been cut and left in situ. These were bolted to a thin plank of wood that paralleled the fort wall on either side of the entrance. One of the posts was dated using dendrochronology. It was identified as a spruce tree that began growing in 1579 and cut down in 1730, making it 151 years old when harvested. These wooden remains are interpreted as being part of the scaffolding, sheers and/or triangle systems used to hoist wall stones into place during construction, well documented in the fort journals. The date of 1730 is an earlier date than often referenced in publications for construction activities associated with the fort.
Birch bark rolls filled with charcoal, interpreted as fire starters, were discovered in deposits along the external bastion walls west of the fort entrance. Coals carried for fire starting is both a Dene and Cree practise in Northern Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.
The ramparts surrounded the interior of the fort, and supported 40 cannon on carriages and platforms. Their construction involved gathering and packing the area with gravel and garbage, making it a treasure trove for archaeologists! Of particular interest, deep in the rampart fill, was a large concentration of disposed wooden items, including a hinge style door, planking, a cask, a barrel, a wooden wheel and a broken wheel barrow. It is interesting that this quantity of wood was not used as fuel. However, if consideration is made to the task of filling up the ramparts (twice with the rebuild), throwing quantities of "garbage" to aid in the endeavor would be a logical choice.
Residue analysis on the cask indicated it once contained walnuts. The larger barrel had been repurposed with a nail along its top edge and a rectangular hole cut in the middle. James Isham, while stationed at Prince of Wales Fort in 1743, wrote his "Observations on Hudsons Bay" which included a drawing of a vermin trap. The trap consisted of three barrels positioned in a triangle. Inside each barrel was a mounted pistol with a string positioned between the trigger and bait buried in the snow in the centre of the barrels. According to Isham, the "shy fox" was shot from three directions when it tried to snatch the bait (Rich 1949, p. 161). The discarded barrel in the rampart fill could have been used for this purpose, with the hole facilitating the pistol and the nail guiding the string for the bait.
A broken bottle with the cork still intact and a maker's mark "Phouhon in Spa" along the neck was also recovered deep in the rampart fill. The bottle originated from the spas in Belgium where they produced 300 bottles of mineral water per year in the 1730s for export across Europe. The mineral water was marketed as spa water known for its medicinal powers (Jones 1815). One of these bottles made its way to PWF, possibly brought there by one of the officers, or higher status individuals. The cork was tested to see if the bottle had been repurposed to contain something other than water. Results of residue analysis indicate that it had only contained mineral water.
Other artifacts recovered from the fort reflecting status include; porcelain dishes for higher ranked individuals, and coarse red earthenware and wooden plates likely for the lower class trades men or indentured servants. One earthenware sherd had a name scratched on the surface appearing to say "Thomas".
Discarded food remains recovered in both the rampart fill and buried deposits outside of the fort provide insights to the inhabitant's diet. They demonstrate the men stationed at the fort ate both local plant, animal, fish and bird as well as goods brought by ship from Europe, including domesticated animals. Some of the excavated floral and faunal remains comprise fruit pits such as plum, hazelnut residue and the bones from pig, caribou, whale and a variety of fish and bird species. In fact, goose bones from the site represent more than just a food source. A high number of goose humeri (wing bone) suggests that goose not only formed a significant part of the diet, but were also harvested for quills. In 1782, the French confiscated from the fort 17,000 goose quills along with over 135 kilograms (or 298 pounds) of goose down. There are between four and five feathers per goose wing that are appropriate for quills. Some argue that the feathers from the left wing have a curve more suitable for right-handed people.
An organic deposit a few centimeters below the present ground surface was exposed on the rampart. This deposit covered less than half of a square meter excavation unit and contained over 3,000 artifacts. Some of these included a mason's chisel, ammunition (shot), smoking pipe fragments, bottle and ceramic sherds, a knife blade, a variety of decorative pieces, hundreds of beads, coal, fragments of scrap metal, botanical remains (charcoal, fruit pits, seeds) and almost 2,000 bird, fish and mammal bones including eleven species of birds. The deposit had a greasy consistency that was identified as bear fat through residue analysis. The presence of articulated bird remains and bear fat associated with an abundance of decorative pieces and suspected deteriorated leather may be the remains of decorative bag containing meat. Since these recoveries were from the last original ground surface during the occupation, it is plausible that a hide bag with meat may have been left on the rampart during the French take over.
The Archaeological and Historic Record
Artifacts and archaeological features provide tangible evidence for studying the past. For Prince of Wales Fort, there are also maps, journals, account records, correspondence and other documents from the Hudson's Bay Company historic records. Archaeological data both confirms what is said or alluded to in historic documents and provides insight to that which was not recorded, providing a deeper understanding of the past. Aspects of the daily life at Prince of Wales fort have been resurrected through these discoveries.
Further information on Prince of Wales National Historic Site, archaeology and the 2014 and 2015 archaeological blogs can be found at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/mb/prince/decouvrir-discover/archaeo.
Jones, Edwin Godden MD, 1815. Chemical Analysis of the Mineral Waters of Spa. Read 18 June 1815. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc2129058.
Ingram, George C., 1999. The rebuilding of Prince of Wales Fort 1742-1771 and other Papers Relating to the History of Prince of Wales Fort. Parks Canada internal report.
Rich, E. E. and A. M. Johnson (ed), 1949. James Isham's Observations on Hudsons Bay, 1743 and Notes and Observations on a Book Entitled A Voyage to Hudsons Bay in the Dobbs Gallery, 1749. The Champlain Society for the Hudson's Bay Record Society. Kraus Reprint Nendeln/Liechtenstein 1968.
Brandon's Royal Manitoba Winter Fair (and other Brandon attractions)
The Winter Fair is held in the last week of March (happily, this is also spring break for schools in Manitoba). This year, it ran from 25-30 March, at the large and modern Keystone Arena at 1200-13th Street in Brandon.
What began as the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba in 1882 to assist farmers in progressive adaptations to agriculture on the Canadian Prairies, and to promote the care and sale of improved breeding lines of livestock, eventually merged with the summertime Dominion Fair. When HRH Queen Elizabeth II visited the fair inl970, which had combined with the other ag fair in 1967, she conferred royal patronage, hereafter the Royal Brandon Winter Fair.
There is so much to see. Livestock exhibition and sales continue to hold a prominent position, but this is presented in most engaging ways. The big performing ring in the arena features rodeos, 'Superhorse' competitions, hackney races, and dressage and hunter trials. Matched teams of the heavy horses pull wagons to give the crowd a glimpse of farm work from bygone eras, and the stock lines maintained through careful breeding. Young farm kids get to show off their livestock in competition. There is the 'Superdog' competition, a petting zoo, a large trade show, agricultural and innovation products exhibits, great retail and food vendors supplying delicious foods. The barns are on-site and open to the public for a close-up look at a large variety of livestock and poultry.
Also on-site is the 1913 Display Building Number 2, built to house the Dominion Exhibition of Manitoba, and now a national and provincial historic site. (See page 20 of Manitoba History winter 2018 for further details) Located on the east side of the parking lot for the Keystone Centre, the display building is a small but rather flashy exhibition hall in the Beaux-Arts style, with an impressive pillared entrance and four corner pavilions featuring lovely rounded domes from which Canadian flags flutter. It was painted white in 2018 and has perhaps never looked better. Its construction and design testifies to the federal government's interest in the promotion of progressive agriculture, as the Prairies were rapidly becoming one of the most productive farming areas in the western world.
A university town, Brandon has much to offer visitors. A vibrant historic downtown features delicious cafes and bakeries, boutique shopping and modern galleries. Rosser Avenue has restored retail venues decorated with vivid 'ghost signs' advertisements of products from a by-gone era. For a treat, visit the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts in a beautiful restored mansion overlooking the north hill, part of Assiniboine Community College.
"They Shall Not Grow Old/' a Powerful New Documentary on World War I
While you may not be one for war movies, this is one you should not miss. Using state-of-the-art technology and materials from the BBC and Imperial War Museum, filmmaker Peter Jackson allows the story of World War I to be told by the men who were there. Life on the front is explored through the voices of the soldiers, who discuss their feelings about the conflict, the food they ate and their dreams for the future. The clips are stitched together to an actual narrative, and meticulously coloured, with the soldiers' words interpreted and voiced over. The finished product is a vivid documentary that brings you to the front, the trenches, the hospitals, the graveyards, unlike anything seen before from that era.
In terms of access, the film runs intermittently at movie theatres, and will eventually be available on the various platforms in public libraries. One hundred years on, the world's first truly global conflict comes to life before your eyes as real people in real situations.
An Architectural Scavenger Hunt
Back in the 1980s, the Manitoba Historical Society organized an architectural scavenger hunt in what was then known as the Warehouse District. It was a decade before the area was branded as Winnipeg's Exchange District and designated as a district of national historic significance.
On 27 April 2019, history buffs have a modern version of an architectural scavenger hunt in which to participate. Sponsored and organized by the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, this hunt invites you to travel about by bike, on foot or by wheelchair, to solve clues and discover the stories behind Winnipeg buildings and landmarks. Teams of all ages are welcome.
The Architectural Scavenger Hunt will begin and end in Old Market Square. For more information, please consult www.winnipegarchitecture.ca website under "events". This unique event is presented by the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, Exchange District BIZ and the FLASH Festival. Proceeds will fund public programmes for the non-profit Winnipeg Architecture Foundation.
Heritage Winnipeg Conservation Awards 2019
Each year on the third Monday of February, National Heritage Day, local projects and personalities are honoured for their excellence in the protection and conservation of the city's built heritage. Building owners, project designers and contributors, as well as Heritage Winnipeg Executive Director Cindy Tugwell and local dignitaries were on hand to honour the winners. This year, the ceremony was held in the newly renovated St. Vital Library. Conservation awards of excellence were given to the Woodbine Hotel 466 Main Street, the Bright and Johnston Building at 141 Bannatyne, the Porter/Galpern Building at 165 McDermot, (prominent on the north-east corner of Rorie), Dalnavert Museum and Visitor's Centre at 61 Carlton, Patent 5 Distillery 108 Alexander and the St. Vital Library at 6 Fermor Ave. on the corner of St. Mary's Road. Congratulations to the various owners who have seen the value in protecting, re-investing in and re-generating our community.
The St. Vital Library opened in 1963, one year after the community became a city and John Diefenbaker was prime minister. Designated in 2014 for its excellence in design and integrity, the library features a layout, which had to be adapted to a challenging triangular lot. Winnipeg architect George A. Stewart designed the library with two circular sections on the wider east side, tapering to a rectangular shape as the library steps westward along the street. Its steel frame is clad in dark brick and features large windows and two skylights, an early adaptation to pull in extra natural light. Recent upgrades include an elevator, a better entrance, washroom additions, accessible shelving and collections layout and a 24-hour book return. Residents were pleased to have the library re-open in May 2018, and further honoured for the St. Vital Library to achieve a Heritage Winnipeg Award for Excellence this February. Congratulations to the City of Winnipeg Library Department, Bridgman Collaborative Architecture and all those who work towards the continuation of identifying and protecting our heritage.
What's Happening at the HBC Archives?
It seems amazing that Manitobans have hosted one of the finest archival collections, the Hudson's Bay Company records, in Winnipeg for more than 40 years. Two generations of scholars and the general public have had access to this world -renowned collection.
It is interesting to note that the Hudson's Bay Company Archives has acquired some smaller collections of records over the past year, including early photos of various HBC posts taken between 1927 and 1956 by HBC employee Robert Urquhart, as well as photos taken by William Aylward during his tenure at the Pangnirtung Fox Farm in the 1930s.
The HBC Archives has also initiated a large microfilm digitization project in collaboration with Library and Archives Canada. It is part of the National Heritage Digitization Strategy, which outlines a way for Canadian memory institutions to work together to digitize, preserve and make accessible Canada's documentary heritage. More than 1000 reels of microfilm that contain copies of the pre-1870 post records will be digitised over the next two years. This project will increase access to the most requested HBC Archives material by making it available worldwide and around the clock through the Archives of Manitoba descriptive database.
Manitoba Historical Society members will know two of the past Keepers of the archives, Shirlee Smith and Judith Beattie, who were both very active with the Society throughout their careers. In January 2019, Maureen Dolyniuk retired as Keeper of the HBC Archives and the search is on for her successor.
New Appointment to Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
The federal government recently announced that Diane Payment has been appointed as the Manitoba representative to the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada. Diane, who lives in Winnipeg, had a distinguished career with Parks Canada as a Historian. She was particularly well known for her scholarly research in the field of Metis history, in association with the development of Riel House and Batoche as national historic sites.
Boundary Trail National Heritage Region Re-invigorated
by Ed Ledohowski
The Boundary Trail National Heritage Region (BTNHR), western Canada's first regional district introduced by Heritage Canada Foundation (now the National Trust for Canada) has quietly become increasingly active in recent years with new blood and a wide range of new projects undertaken.
The BTNHR was created in 1998 with the participation of Heritage Canada, the Province of Manitoba, regional municipalities and local heritage organizations. It encompasses municipalities located adjacent to the Canada -United States border, from the Red River west to the Saskatchewan boundary.
The 'connecting link' for the participants and the communities involved was the former Boundary Commission Trail. The trail was established in 1873 by members of the Joint International Boundary Commission who were tasked with officially marking the 49th parallel from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. The Canadian members established a supply trail paralleling the border, which in places incorporated sections of much older hunting trails and game tracks. Even before the Boundary Commission work was completed, the trail was used by the newly-formed North West Mounted Police (later, the RCMP) on their epic trek of 1874 from Fort Dufferin on the Red River to shut down the notorious Fort Whoop-Up in southern Alberta, and to establish law and order in the newly acquired Northwest Territories.
The trail was used extensively for the next two decades by incoming settlers, and throughout the pioneer period (circa 1870-1890), likely the most heavily used trail in the province. As many as a dozen communities were established along the trail, and in between them, 'stopping houses' of all sorts of descriptions offered travellers on the Boundary Commission Trail food and lodging. When the railways arrived in the late 1880s, virtually every single trailside community in the region was 'side tracked', forcing them to be physically moved to the new railway towns, established by the railway companies when the new rail lines and the trail diverged.
The side-tracking of the towns and villages located along the Boundary Commission Trail is but one of many interesting and unusual stories and events found in the BTNHR. "A Story for Every Mile and a Site for Every Story" is the catch phrase being used by the current BC-NWMP Trail Association to entice the interest of visitors and residents alike.
The organization initiating and ultimately managing the BTNHR arose from the merging of the Boundary Commission - North West Mounted Police Trail Association and Post Road Trail Associations. It was spearheaded by Mr. Felix Kuehn who managed to bring together a wide array of groups and interests into a single regional heritage entity. His contribution to the creation and early success of the BTNHR cannot be overstated and his efforts are widely recognized and appreciated. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Felix, along with an enthusiastic group of volunteers, undertook a large number of projects and events to highlight and promote the regions' unique natural and historic resources. These included a series of research publications and info pamphlets, heritage site interpretative signage, and events. As well, a re-creation of a typical NWMP outpost was constructed at the Pembina Threshermen's Museum near Morden. The BTNHR provided funding in support of events organized by local heritage groups, including several wagon trail expeditions.
After more than 20 years of activity, the initial three-level funding agreements expired and slowly enthusiasm for the initiative decreased. Nevertheless, the group's core membership continued, undertaking smaller projects and maintaining existing BTNHR sites and signage.
Three years ago, Leona Devuyst entered the picture. She had previously spearheaded many of the activities and most of the paperwork for the Turtle Mountain - Souris Plains Heritage Association. When she moved from Boissevain to Manitou, she was looking for a heritage group closer to home to dedicate her talent and energy. Leona joined the BC-NWMP Trail Association and was soon undertaking many of the activities and most of the paperwork for this group and its signature project: managing the Boundary Trail National Heritage Region.
With the financial assistance of the province's Heritage Grants Program, Leona hired Ed Ledohowski, recently retired from the Historic Resources Branch. With the support of the BC-NWMP-TA, Leona and Ed initiated a number of new projects. This will involve updated research, a comprehensive website and local engagement projects. Included within this package is a Regional Heritage Overview and Atlas, a series of True Stories from the BTNHR, and further plans to make use of the research material. Local engagement projects focus upon interviews with regional elders and bringing the region's history to the schools in southwest Manitoba.
Hard Truths from a Yard Sale
by James Kostuchuk
As a history teacher in a Manitoba high school, I probably have a better than average understanding of our province's often difficult relationship with our First Nations neighbors. In Portage la Prairie, the word "neighbor" is quite literally true. I can see Long Plain First Nation from my front yard. It is just a two-minute drive along the picturesque Crescent Road. If I drive a few minutes more I will drive past Dakota Tipi First Nation, or as some old timers call it "the Sioux village".
Portage Collegiate Institute is doing some great things to educate young people about our neighbors down the road. We use primary source materials from the city's residential school as course content. We connect students to the stories of alumni who overcame monumental obstacles to achieve success. Order of Canada recipient Irvine Keeper or Aboriginal Group of Seven member Jackson Beardy immediately come to mind. Beardy was responsible for painting the large coat-of-arms in our school cafeteria and his story is particularly compelling. A 1984 obituary for Jackson Beardy recognized his role as the "pre-eminent native artist from Manitoba," but notes that he attended residential school in Portage la Prairie from the age of seven. In the "approved practice of the time," he was removed from the Cree traditions of his family to be assimilated into the "white world." It was only as an adult, and with a lot of effort, that he was able to reconnect with the spiritual teachings of his people. PCI students can take courses in beading or attend a smudge on school grounds. However, despite my long involvement with local history, I still have a lot to learn.
Fortunately, the city recently appointed an Indigenous Community Coordinator (ICC) perfectly suited to make the changes needed to begin the path toward truth and reconciliation. Since his appointment, the local Heritage Advisory Committee has put forward recommendations for the inclusion of indigenous names in street naming. We are working on expanding our heritage sign program to include places of significance for local First Peoples. For the first time, indigenous perspectives are being actively sought as our city plots its future. It is an exciting time. However, I must confess that when our ICC promised to donate a scrapbook to our school archive I did not expect much. The scrapbook, purchased at a yard sale, is full of Manitoba newspaper clippings collected from the 1950s until the 1980s.
What I did not appreciate is that this curated collection of old newspaper clippings dealt with my neighbors down the road. As an example, a 1954 clipping reports that "Normal School's First Indian," George Henderson, had enrolled to become a teacher. Another article reveals that in 1957 there were only 70 indigenous high school students in the entire province. Finding this fascinating, I sat down to read the contents.
A 1966 headline reads "Manitoba Town to Ban Indian Pupils." Against the wishes of local teachers and school administrators, the trustees in Dominion City had decided to drop an integration pact with the Federal government. Their reasoning was clear. One trustee stated that integration "was dragging the white children down to the Indian level," while noting, "white children are more advanced than Indian children." Other trustees expressed concerns with disease, hygiene, and the fear that white children were learning "Indian ways." Some trustees felt it was best that native children be "spread out" to avoid turning Manitoba into "another Alabama."
A 1968 clipping has PCI graduate, and Premier, Walter Weir urging Indians to "leave their reservations and join the rest of Canadian society" to "enjoy what we people from overseas built here" as "the moose are getting scarce." Native people should leave reserves to "build a better life" just as immigrants from Poland, Russia, England, and Italy did in leaving their homelands.
Even the "good" news stories give pause. As an example, a 1968 article regarding the Portage la Prairie Indian Student Residence Glee Club reports the new songs added to their performances. The songs include "Canada We Praise," "Happy Wanderer," "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "Easter Bonnet," and "My Lord What a Morning." There is more than a hint of the tragic imagining students from a residential school performing show tunes, patriotic songs and Christian spirituals in matching Hollywood-style leatherette buckskins and feather headdresses.
Another article offers the musings of an employee of the Department of Indian Affairs addressing racism. He concedes that there are some "indolent and non-productive" Indians, but people tend to focus on the "20 percent in beer parlours." The other 80% are not the "hard drinking, non-working, trouble making Injun" stereotype that the public expects.
An investigative journalism piece, under the headline "What the Indian Ghetto Means to Winnipeg," attempts to paint a realistic picture of urban native life in the late 1960s. Only 10% are employed, "the rest are dependent on welfare." Likening indigenous people to the black sheep of a family, "we look after his needs but we prefer to keep him out of sight." The reserve system, "a human zoo," is to blame but so is racism where "all Indians are stupid; all Indians are lazy; all Indians are drunks." However, the final words are given to a welfare worker who states, "the Indian's biggest problem is the white-man's cradle-to-the-grave generosity."
And so it goes.
I have read a lot about the suffering of First Peoples in this country but reading this scrapbook made me feel the unrelenting and constant pressure of race-based judgment. I could not imagine what it is like to live under such circumstances, where there is no validation of your very existence. It was, quite honestly, horrifying. I am certain many readers of Manitoba History can relate to the transformative power of an object or a document. I had a similar experience reading Peter Fidler's original diaries at the Hudson's Bay Archive. It can be quite emotional.
I suspect the unknown compiler of the scrapbook had no idea that it would make its way to a community archive and into the historical record of our community. I am pleased that someone had the presence of mind to purchase it and pass it along to our school. It will become an important part of the history of our community, a history that has neglected our neighbors down the road for far too long.
Historic Narrative Celebrated in Public Art
Lily Street, running behind the Centennial Concert Hall and Manitoba Museum complex in Winnipeg, is busy re-inventing itself once again, but this time we have a clever record of parts of the previous iteration, from the 19th and 20th centuries. Located a stone's throw from the Red River, this busy street has been a site for human activity for millennia past, so it was natural that settler development arrived early in the urban history.
Lily Street runs west from the approach to the Disraeli Freeway in three segments to Market Avenue. Several structures were demolished in the process of building the Concert Hall complex and Lily was pushed further west. A new series of installations along the street informs and interprets what has been lost or simply overlooked in this immediate neighbourhood. Public Art by Winnipeg artist Sean McLachlan consists of eight laser-cut steel surveyors "tripods," powder-coated against rust and inviting to the touch. The tripods invite us to look through the viewfinder to see a mock-up of the former streetscape behind. The views capture an augmented sighting of what was there before. This includes buildings residential and commercial, rail spur lines which serviced the thriving industrial and commercial district, a run of ten substantial brick row houses from the 1880s, the Amy Street Steam Plant that burned coal to heat Winnipeg's downtown with central heat (was also the former site of Victoria Park, a marshalling point for workers in the 1919 strike). Also featured is the Smart Bag Company Building from 1884 that manufactured jute and cotton bags for grain, flour and coal products and featured complex brickwork in its facade.
This walk-about exhibit also contains a shadow projection called 'The Nonsuch Sails at Night'. Concertgoers and residents are treated to a projected image of our famous 17th century Hudson's Bay Company sloop, which references the contents and even the angle of the replica ship, housed in the Museum just behind that wall. A half-block beyond Market Street, along John Hirsch Way, you will look up to find four lit metal installations which feature the path of the former Brown's Creek that used to flow into the Red River. The creek played a considerable role in the development of this early downtown district by causing the foundations of some local structures to fail, including the first Winnipeg City Hall, which only lasted from 1876 to 1883 because of the creek beneath. These sculptures feature a copper detail of the creek's path and are geared to trap a rippled blue light in the summer sun.
The entrance to the Lily Street installations feature a gateway on the east end of two steel structures referencing folded maps pointing the way to the Lily Street sculptures and also reference the city as the "gateway to the west." Brochures to guide interested walkers can be picked up now at the Martha Street Studio and hopefully by the spring through Exchange District Tours. Budget about half an hour to enjoy it fully. Reference www.seanmclachlan.ca
Winnipeg Strike Conferences, Commemorative Events and Tours
The 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike offers many options to participate in the commemoration of one of the most significant events in Canadian social history. No event in our history has received the attention of historians like the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. Over the past 50 years, numerous scholarly books and articles have analyzed this pivotal labour action from every conceivable angle and interpretation. The result is an impressive body of academic and popular literature, not to mention plays, tours, historic sites and public art that capture the importance of this transitional conflict in Manitoba's social and economic history.
An enticing range of events, exhibits and tours is offered this spring; here is a sample in chronological order:
The academic conference on the Strike will be held at the University of Winnipeg from 8-11 May.
The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was a landmark moment in North American working-class history. In May and June that year, over 30,000 workers ceased work for six weeks. Provoked by the inequities of industrial capitalism, the authoritarianism of their workplaces, the brutal experiences of the First World War, rising prices and stagnating wages, an insecure economic outlook, intransigent employers, and a federal state that responded to their demands with growing repression, the city's workers stood together in an astounding display of unity. This was also an era filled with hope; the horrors of industrialization and militarism encouraged many to think of ways of constructing a better world. The combination of anger and hope was infectious. In 1919, Winnipeg workers displayed an inspiring unity, facing hunger, threats of permanent dismissal and blacklisting, and violence at the hands of authorities, most notably in the vicious assault they unleashed on "Bloody Saturday," killing two workers and injuring many more.
A century later, as we desire to understand and commemorate these events, we can't help but be struck by continuities--so many of the themes of 1919 continue to confront us today:
1. Poverty and the Fight for a Material Resistance: The Fight for a Better Life
Just as workers in 1919 sought to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty and win a fairer share of the fruits of economic growth, 21st-century workers are facing worsening material conditions: stagnating wages and increasing precarious employment, along with cuts to social services that increase demands upon working-class families. The "Fight for 15," struggles for family supports such as child care, and the rise of antipoverty movements are at the forefront of today's organizing, reflecting the ways in which neoliberalism has forced the fight for a living wage and a working-class economic security onto centre stage.
2. Building an Inclusive Labour Movement: Solidarity across Boundaries
A century ago, Winnipeg was a divided city--not only along the lines of class, but workers were, themselves, divided along lines of race and ethnicity. A capitalist labour market pitted "British Canadian" and "immigrant" workers against each other; the First World War heightened fears of the "foreigners," and the economic insecurity that faced returning soldiers at the end of the war led, on occasion, to confrontations on the streets of Winnipeg. Amazingly, attempts by employers to use bigotry to divide the city's strikers failed. Today, governments and businesses use international borders, an exclusionary "citizenship" which often denies workers from abroad a range of social and labour rights, and post-9/11 xenophobia, to ensure their control over labour. The lessons of overcoming these divisions and fighting for common, expanded rights, are as central today as they were then, and include a growing understanding of the rights of Indigenous people as First Peoples and as workers.
3. Making Labour as a Social Force and Political Movement: Building a Working-Class Alternative
The Winnipeg General Strike was part of a continent-wide, even an international, labour revolt that saw unions, mass strikes and working-class parties act in their own name. In Winnipeg, despite the defeat of the strike, socialist and labour parties continued the fight by other means. This was an era in which labour was the voice of the dispossessed; if there was a solution to the problems that capitalism brought, it was represented by labour. In the 21st century, a wide range of social movements address issues that were often unimagined a century ago. Building an effective response to a wide range of assaults on the environment, and in defence of Indigenous rights, gender rights, on the rights of the disabled, and so much more, requires education, organizing, and mobilization. To what extent are these class issues that labour needs to centrally address? Can labour lead in building a better world in which all forms of oppression and exploitation are fought?
These are all broad themes, but the Winnipeg General Strike, although provoked by specific issues of collective bargaining, exploded into a broader revolt because it spoke to much broader issues, provided a voice to the dispossessed and raised the question of whether labour had the answers. This conference hopes to tie the past and the present together by examining these three themes in their historical and contemporary context.
We invite a range of scholars, trade unionists and social activists to share their knowledge and experiences. We envisage presentations and discussions by historians, labour studies scholars and unionists about the General Strike, the subsequent history of labour's attempts to address these themes, as well as contemporary struggles. We invite public historians to engage in discussions of the manner in which this history has been shared, how to best engage with a wider audience. What part can teachers play in including an understanding of workers' history, including the Strike, at all levels of education? Finally, the conference will include roundtable discussions, led by activists, of the three themes listed above.
Extended Walking Tour
1 May - 31 August, Exchange District Exclusive for 2019, Exchange District Tours throughout the summer, 1.5 hours, $10. To book contact 204-942-6716 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Historic Crescentwood House in Limbo
by Gordon Goldsborough
Gordon House, an 100-year-old mansion in the Crescentwood area of Winnipeg, next-door to St. Mary's Academy, is in limbo awaiting redevelopment of its site. Built in 1909, the two-storey brick building has had several noteworthy occupants.
Its first occupant was James T. Gordon. Born in Ontario, he came to Manitoba in 1879 and ran a business selling lumber, cattle, and grain at Pilot Mound between 1885 and 1893. He then established the cattle firm of Gordon, Ironside & Fares, one of the largest meat-packing firms in Canada, with branches in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec. He died four days before Christmas 1919, and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.
Gordon's estate sold the house to William R. Bawlf, a 39-year-old grain merchant whose father Nicholas Bawlf was one of the pioneers of the western grain trade. He lived in the Gordon House, with his wife and four children, from 1920 to 1936. The house was then occupied by 39-year-old newspaperman Victor Sifton, his wife, and their three children. The General Manager of the Winnipeg Free Press, Sifton was the son of noted politician Clifford Sifton who, as federal Minister of the Interior, oversaw an aggressive immigration policy that brought many settlers to western Canada. Victor Sifton lived in Gordon House right up to his death in April 1961. The last resident was Douglas D. Everett whose father Horace had owned an automobile dealership called Dominion Motors. The son turned the firm into the Domo Gas chain of filling stations across western Canada. In 1966, Everett was appointed to the Senate at the age of 39, making him one of the youngest Senators in Canadian history.
Local historian Christian Cassidy has determined that Gordon House also had a much less affluent, but no less significant occupant. From 1916 to 1918, the Gordon family's live-in chauffeur was a man named William Kirk. His wife Jessie Kirk, a school teacher and social activist, was the first woman elected to the Winnipeg City Council, in 1921.
In 2016, Senator Everett sold the house. The buyer plans to demolish the Gordon House and replace it with a multi-family condominium. To date, the demolition has not taken place and the building has stood vacant for a couple of years. It is to be hoped that, if the project goes ahead, the new structure will be sympathetic to the prevailing architectural styles of the surrounding neighbourhood.
Across the Assiniboine River from the Gordon House is the neighbourhood of Armstrong's Point. In September 2018, the Winnipeg city council passed a Heritage Conservation Districts Bylaw under which parts of the city can be designated as an HCD. Renovations to existing buildings and construction of new buildings in a designated HCD must comply with certain design criteria agreed on for the area, and designation of Armstrong's Point as the city's first HCD was to be considered at the city council in late April 2019. None of this, of course, affects the Gordon House but it is possible that Crescentwood will be another area of Winnipeg to benefit from designation as a HCD which would, in theory, affect future projects such as the one proposed for the Gordon House site.
Doors Open and Other Spring Events
Getting through a snowy winter to revel in a prairie spring has its own rewards but there is a lot for the history buff this season as well.
The last weekend in May sees the annual Doors Open event where Manitobans get to look behind the curtain on some of the province's most fascinating sites. Both cities of Brandon and Winnipeg host this popular free event, and of course both are always looking for volunteers to staff the Doors Open venues and lead tours. It's a great experience and requires no special skills other than an appreciation for heritage.
Earlier in May, Jane's Walks encourage citizens to explore their neighbourhood's evolution and present-day narratives. Watch for low-budget notices in the press and on their website. Rewarding to participate in a number of ways.
MHS Centennial Farm Awards Farm Year Region Family Location Estab- lished The following families have received Centennial Farm recognition from the Manitoba Historical Society since November 2018 N 1/2 of NW 7-4-2 Glenora Curtis & Beverly Penner WPM 1918
Local writer Jake MacDonald has a world premier for his topical play, The Cottage, at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, from 24 April to 18 May. Just in time for lake season, the play follows three adult siblings whose ailing mother has given them the weekend to decide what to do with the cottage after she's gone. The siblings are hilariously determined to drink beer, argue, and avoid making any decisions.
Who wouldn't enjoy a bit of Shakespeare in the magnificent ruins of the old Trappist Monastery in St. Norbert? For 86 years, the Cistercian monks lived and worked in this pastoral site on the bank of the LaSalle River. Following the monks' move to the country, their lovely stone church and attached monastery experienced a devastating fire, hence 'The Ruins'. Now each spring a professional theatre company hosts a play by The Bard, like you've never seen him before. This year, 'Shakespeare in the Ruins' offering is the classic ghost story Hamlet, but updated and re-set, with predictable cheek and creative use of this magnificent site.
Those looking for a travel destination of our history and special sites have two rich sources readily available to assist in the planning. The MHS Resources pages on the website are rich with possibilities, from historic sites listed by community, to walking tours to Manitoba communities. Travel Manitoba is another treasure trove to inform and entice the curious out of their comfort zone and into their heritage.
MHS President Mr. Alan Mason
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|Title Annotation:||Manitoba Historical Society's fundraising; passing of Virginia Petch; investigations at Prince of Wales Fort|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2019|
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