© Geoff Brookes
As I was driving into my office to do some work on Sunday evening, I happened to scan the FM radio dial, and found (by accident) a very articulate speech, by an individual named Adam Gaudry. His speech was entitled “Are the Metis a treaty people?”
The radio station carried approximately the first 20 minutes of his presentation. Adam explained many details about the history of Manitoba and the Metis people in those crucial months leading up to the formation of Manitoba as the fifth Province of Canada. I would like to write about those important events in future blog posts. In this blog, I would like to plant a few seeds.
I studied Manitoba history as part of my high school history courses. I had good history teachers, who cared about what they taught, and who were doing their best to bring it to life for us. But the material was stagnant on the pages. And, I have begun to think that the story needs to be retold, and relearned, because it is an amazing story. In many ways, it is one of the most beautiful stories, about people learning to live in a multicultural, multilingual society, with a great deal of cooperation. It seems to me, from the distance of time, that it might also have included a large amount of mutual respect.
One of my favourite places in Winnipeg is the St. Boniface Basilica. Perhaps that, and the small monument at the Forks, marking the ancient meeting place of the indigenous people of this land, are the places that resonate with me, marking the history of this city. There are also old cemeteries, where you can see graves from the 19th century. We, who currently reside in Winnipeg, tend to see the modern aspects of our lives in this land. We tend to think of our city as a “young” city in terms of Canadian city, and cities of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. I realize that there are places in the world where history is documented thousands of years ago, instead of hundreds of years ago. But our history is very rich, in terms of what our peoples accomplished, in the era that they did it.
As Adam Gaudry spoke eloquently about the events of 1869 and 1870, I was inspired by the amazing history of all of the peoples that chose to live here together, in Winnipeg and in Manitoba. I thought of the Manitoba club in downtown Winnipeg, where Louis Riel and other important leaders of the soon-to-be Province would gather to talk and socialize. I thought of Fort Garry, which we are only now recognizing properly, as something more than a solitary wall left standing behind the Manitoba club, with only a small plaque to commemorate it near Broadway and Main Street. I was struck by his description of peoples intermarrying and cooperating with one another. I thought of books that my grandfather had given me to read, about the characters that lived in that era, through the 19th century, and during the formation of the Province of Manitoba within Canada
And I realized that this is something that we barely know, as Manitobans, because it probably consumed all of 4 classes during our entire high school years, with less than 10 pages in a book – if we took it at all.
It’s time we learned, and celebrated, our proud and remarkable Manitoba history! There will be more to follow!