Miriam Rudolph has created a series of prints to tell a story of the Metis and Indigenous people of Manitoba and how it intersects with the story of her Mennonite ancestors. Miriam has called it Storied Land: Repmapping Winnipeg. It is part of the Headlines: The Art of the Newscycle exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Each print is accompanied by a collection of articles from local news sources including the Winnipeg Free Press which describe the subject of the print.
Miriam went to the Winnipeg archives to read old Winnipeg Free Press newspapers to find stories about Indigenous people. In older editions of the paper, which she photographed she found little mention of the Metis or First Nation People of the province.
Now there are many more stories about Indigenous people in the newspaper and the Free Press has Indigenous writers and columnists. Miriam illustrates this by having the Indigenous people with their ribbon skirts and drums appear prominently in this print.
Here Miriam shows the East and West Reserves in red ink- land near Steinbach and Winkler that was given to new Mennonite immigrants to Manitoba. But this was land that Metis families also claimed as their own.
The Metis were petitioning to have official rights to the land but the rights of the Mennonite immigrants were rewarded instead. See how the Mennonites are front and centre and the Metis family at the top is smaller and in the distance?
In 1881 a railroad was built right through Winnipeg. North of the tracks smaller cheaper houses were built for new immigrants coming to Canada from other countries and later for Indigenous families coming to Winnipeg from off their reserves.
Bigger fancier houses were built on the south side of the tracks for wealthier families. The railroad tracks continue to divide Winnipeg but some recent articles in the Winnipeg Free Press suggest that moving the rail tracks might be good for the city.
This is Miriam’s print of Rooster Town. It was a settlement of some sixty Metis families that was located where the Grant Park Shopping Mall is now situated. The people who lived there had jobs and were contributing citizens of the city but were treated very rudely and unkindly by other Winnipeg people. Their community came to be known as Rooster Town.
In 1959 the people who lived there were forced out of their homes. You can see the roosters, the Metis family and the small homes in Rooster Town compared to the larger homes of other Winnipeg residents.
Mennonite Settlement in the North Kildonan area of Winnipeg began in 1928 when a new wave of Mennonites immigrated to Canada from Ukraine. Some 20,000 arrived. Palliser Furniture is an example of a business that began in North Kildonan where one of the small houses became a woodworking shop.
The land was gardening land and was valuable because properly cultivated it could provide a good supply of food to the city. It was offered to the Mennonites. People built homes and raised chickens. This print provides a contrast between the Mennonite settlement in North Kildonan to Rooster Town where people couldn’t purchase land or homes and where amenities like electricity and water weren’t provided.
In this print, we see the powerful politicians who decided a hundred years ago that an aqueduct should be built to bring water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg. Aninishanabe people were living on a peninsula on Shoal Lake but in order to make the water flow properly to the city the peninsula was turned into an island making it difficult for the Indigenous people to get supplies.
In June 2019, an all-weather road was finally built to connect Shoal Lake to the Trans Canada Highway. Miriam shows the aqueduct in red. The road is called Freedom Road. You can see the Shoal Lake families in the bottom left-hand corner. Some Mennonite churches were vocal politically in advocating for the building of the road.
Miriam is heartened about the future of positive Indigenous-settler relations by the possibilities offered by the Naawi-Oodena land grant which makes the former Kapyong Barracks located in the Tuxedo and River Heights area of Winnipeg a large urban First Nation reserve.
The plan is to develop it into a community with homes, businesses, sports facilities, and schools. In her print, the Indigenous people are front and centre and the settler people are off to the side.
If you want to know more I suggest you watch the video of a lecture artist Miriam Rudolph gave at the Winnipeg Art Gallery about these prints. She links each one with many Winnipeg Free Press articles and pieces from other media sources including Mennonite ones that provide added insight into each of her prints. She explains them in much more detail than I have and it is just fascinating.
I am giving a tour at the art gallery this morning which will include these prints of Miriam Rudolph’s and writing this piece last night was a way for me to prepare. I hope you will enjoy learning about them too.
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3 responses to “Storied Land-Metis, Indigenous People and Mennonites”
I recall Rooster Town and the calls of the roosters along the tracks before the Grant Park Mall was built. These were the days of steam locomotives. Some of the Rooster Town kids were in our grade school classes at Montrose Elementary in 1954-55. They weren’t treated very well. There is an excellent book about the history of Rooster Town.
Yes, I have that book. It is excellent!
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