Category Archives: manitoba

Acknowledgments Are Important

One of the progressive things Kelvin Goertzen did during his short time as the premier of our province was insure there will be a treaty acknowledgment at the start of Manitoba legislative sittings in the future. It will recognize the fact that the land on which the legislature meets was once the home of Indigenous people. 

Kelvin Goertzen

Right after his appointment Premier Goertzen struck a committee to provide a report on the best way to carry out such an acknowledgment and admitted as House Leader he probably should have made that happen sooner. In a CBC interview, Goertzen said the discovery of the unmarked graves at residential schools was a significant event for him and his family that crystalized the need for a treaty or land acknowledgment. 

Of course, many organizations and institutions have been doing these acknowledgments for a long time.  My church instituted the practice about five years ago.  After we began to have a treaty acknowledgment in our bulletin, on our website, and frequently announce it at the start of our services, we created a colorful brochure to explain our rationale.  I was asked to write the text for the brochure, and it was a good exercise for me. 

I had to research the history of our province and find a way to articulate our church’s goal to recognize the important contributions Indigenous people have made to the geographical area where we worship. In my text, I expressed our church’s desire to learn from the spirituality and culture of our Indigenous neighbors and to work at building a strong respectful relationship with them that would result in reconciliation.        

An art piece called Treaty One by artist Robert Houle – photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I am employed as a guide by the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and we have done treaty acknowledgments at the start of each of our tours since 2016.  The gallery staff participated in training sessions where we learned all about Treaty One signed in 1874 between Indigenous leaders and the British Crown. 

The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn shows indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipeg- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

The two groups had very different ideas about what the treaty meant. While the Indigenous leaders thought it would protect their way of life and provide a framework for sharing land, the British thought the land was being ceded to them. I was glad for this training because it helped me provide an explanation when gallery guests asked me why I did a land acknowledgment before my tours. 

In my job with the education department at the University of Winnipeg, I visited many schools in the Winnipeg One School Division which began to do treaty acknowledgments each day in all their schools beginning in 2017. 

Land acknowledgment sign at the Morinville Community High School in St. Albert, Alberta

It was good to read recently that the Hanover School Division where I taught for decades has approved a treaty acknowledgment statement as well. Superintendent Shelley Amos says it is a way to show honor and respect for Indigenous people and their land and express the division’s desire to move forward in constructive ways in their relationship with Indigenous people. 

While school divisions like Winnipeg One have made treaty acknowledgments a requirement Hanover will leave it up to individual schools to decide on what occasions and in what situations the division’s official acknowledgment statement would have the most impact.  A plaque with the acknowledgment will be placed on all properties owned by the school division. 

We have been hearing land and treaty acknowledgments at sporting events, cultural events, business events, and religious events for many years now. It is good to know that both the Hanover School Division and the Manitoba Legislature are joining the effort to recognize the contributions of our Indigenous neighbors and to express our willingness to work towards reconciliation in our province. 

Other posts…….

Indigenous Canadians and Mennonite Canadians

Old Sun and Emily Carr

Who Are the Wendat?

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Filed under Education, History, manitoba

The Gift Was A Gift

The Gift/Tuniigusiia by Goota Ashoona

The Gift a new sculpture by Inuit artist Goota Ashoona, was a gift from the Manitoba Teachers Society to the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new Inuit Art Centre called Qaumajuq.

The teachers of our province help impart the gift of knowledge to young people and Goota Ashoona illustrates that idea of sharing knowledge in her beautiful piece of art.

On this side of the sculpture, you can see a mother teaching her daughter to do Inuit throat singing. The mother’s face has traditional tattoos and I love the way she rests her head against her daughter’s as she passes on the knowledge of an important Inuit art form.

The woman looking skyward on the sculpture is Sedna or Nuliajuk

Storytelling is another way of passing on knowledge and that is illustrated on the other side of the sculpture which features Sedna or Nuliajuk. Sedna is the main character in a traditional Inuit story about a girl who drowns while fleeing an unhappy marriage. She becomes a mermaid who is responsible for the creation of all the animals of the northern seas.

Artist Goota Ashoona with her sculpture The Gift/Tuniigusiia

Artist Goota Ashoona says in this video that it was her grandmother who told her the story of Sedna or Nuliajuk. It’s a story that has many different versions and I shared it literally a hundred times or more with groups of visitors during the eight years I gave tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Just check out all the marvellous details Goota Ashoona has included in her sculpture made from Verde Guatemala marble. Can you see the mermaid’s tail to the left? Goota Ashoona shows Sedna or Nuliajuk’s fingers prominently because in the story those fingers get cut off and become all the northern marine animals. You can also see her long flowing hair. In some versions of the story of Sedna, shamans dive down into the sea to comb Sedna’s tangled hair when they want to make her happy and ask her for a favour.

I love the way the face of the older woman can be seen on this side of the sculpture as well. For me at least it alludes to the fact that Goota Ashoona heard the story of Sedna or Nuliajuk from her grandmother.

Inside the Winnipeg Art Gallery, you can see an entire gallery with dozens of artistic representations of the Sedna or Nuliajuk story including this gorgeous 2009 sculpture by Goota Ashoona.

I took this photo of The Story of Nuliajuk by Goota Ashoona on one of my last working days at the Winnipeg Art Gallery before it closed due to the pandemic.

The dedication for The Gift says it is for the teachers all around us in the land and in our lives who reveal the truth, wisdom, and beauty that connects us all.

Don’t you just love that? I could write another whole blog post just about that gem of a statement.

Why not take a close look at the sculpture yourself? You can find it on the corner of St. Mary Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.

Other posts……….

Sedna is a Planet

Inuit Art at the Zoo

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

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Filed under Art, Education, manitoba, winnipeg art gallery

Bring Your Bear Bells

On Wednesday morning as we set off on a little mini-vacation to Buffalo Point we received this text from friends we planned to visit at their cottage later that afternoon. “Bring your bear bells.”

On our drive, we heard a news report about the unusual number of bear and human interactions this summer in Manitoba. One of the recommendations in the news report was to make noise as you walk so bears know you are coming. That helped us understand our friend’s joking suggestion we bring bear bells.

Our first stop was the beautiful Lake of the Sand Hills Golf Course where Dave and I played 18 holes in near-perfect conditions.

Since we had been hearing about bears I asked Dave to take a photo of me at the hole called Black Bear.

On another hole as we were waiting for our turn to tee off, the course marshall stopped to chat and said there were about thirty-five bears in the area and quite a number had been spotted on the course.

He said on one hole near the lake a mother bear and her cub had spent the better part of a day up a tree gathering acorns. He told us not to be worried, however. Bears prefer to stay away from people and generally aren’t dangerous.

We finished the round without spotting a single bear.

Later we had a lovely time at our friends’ cottage enjoying drinks on their deck, dinner, and visiting around a campfire but we saw nary a bear, although our friends told us they had certainly seen them during their time at the cottage. They showed us a photo of a mother and her cubs parading across their property.

The only wildlife we saw were the deer that routinely visited the yard and seemed to feel right at home there.

As it turned out we were fine even though we hadn’t brought our bear bells.

Other posts……..

A Saskatchewan Great Plains Grizzly Lands Up In Scotland

Golfing At An Old Hudsons Bay Outpost

Where I’m From- Moose Lake

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Filed under manitoba, Nature

Down With Screen Time – Up With Family Time

I have a program on my computer that tells me how many hours I spend on it each week. My report this week said my screen time was down by close to 60%. That’s because for the first time in nearly twenty months our whole family was together. We had rented a beautiful place in Oak Lake Manitoba where we spent several days with our children and grandchildren. It was wonderful!

The beautiful Air B and B where we stayed.

I had written all my blog posts for the week ahead of time so instead of spending hours at the computer keyboard, I spent my days reading stories, playing games, going to playgrounds, visiting an ice cream stand, touring a farm, making smores, singing, sitting around a fire, eating watermelon and roll kuchen, watching sunsets, spotting shorebirds, going for nature walks, helping prepare and eat delicious family meals, visiting, watching my grandchildren…… play and draw and build and jump and swim and write stories and kayak. I reveled in every moment of being together with my whole family after COVID had kept us apart for so long.

I felt so much healthier and happier after my hiatus from screens. My time with my family and away from my computer was so good for my mental health and well-being. I need to remember that going forward.

Other posts………..

Mom Comes to Hong Kong

Pandemic Grandparenting

Kin Work

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Filed under Family, manitoba

Human Rights and February Holidays

In February we recognize two important holidays.  Both remind us we are making progress towards respecting diversity, but each should also remind us we need to continue to be vigilant about protecting human rights. 

Lion dancer I photographed during Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong

We are in the midst of the Chinese New Year celebrations which run from February 12 -26th.  Canada is home to more than one and half million people of Chinese descent. I learned to thoroughly enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations during the six years I lived in Hong Kong. Some of my colleagues at the international school where I taught were Chinese Canadians.  I was interested to learn that their families had been in Canada longer than mine.  

Sculpture illustrating the important contribution Chinese workers made to the construction of Canada’s railroad at the Winnipeg Millennium Library

My Mennonite ancestors immigrated in the 1920s but in the early 1880s 17,000 Chinese workers came to Canada to help build the railroad.  Many stayed here and prospered despite the virulent racism they faced. Their families continue to make valuable contributions to our country in politics, culture, business, science, education, technology and sport. 

Sadly, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, in the last year more than 600 incidents of hate related crimes have been reported to Chinese Canadian organizations. Although some of these incidents are related to historical anti-Asian racism many are the result of the racialization of COVID-19. Vancouver police have reported a real spike in cases. They investigated seven racist incidents in 2019 and sixty-six in 2020. 

Dr. Theresa Tam- Canada’s Chief Medical Officer

Although it is easy to point fingers at the United States where their former president’s continual reference to COVID-19 as the Chinese virus has caused a massive increase in anti-Asian hate incidents, we have a similar problem in Canada. One need look no further for an example of such anti- Chinese sentiment than the comments of former Conservative Party member Derek Sloan. He accused Dr. Theresa Tam our country’s chief medical officer who is of Chinese descent, of being more loyal to China than to Canada. This kind of dishonest racist rhetoric has no place in a respectful society.  

I photographed Winnipeg’s Metis mayor Brian Bowman at the opening ceremonies for Folklorama in 2019

On Monday we celebrated Louis Riel day. Louis Riel was a staunch defender of the rights of Manitoba’s Metis people. The mayor of our capital city Brian Bowman is Metis as was a former provincial premier John Norquay. Think of hockey player Theoren Fluery, writer Katherena Vermette, artist Joe Fafard, actress Tantoo Cardinal and members of Parliament Dan Vandal and Shelley Glover and you will get some idea of just how many important contributions the nearly 90,000 Metis Manitobans have made to our province.  

Yet it doesn’t take long to find stories about Metis people being discriminated against in many different areas of society.  In September of 2020 a CTV news story reported that David Chartrand the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation had sent a letter to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission alleging systemic discrimination against the Metis people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Chartrand said the provincial government had been unwilling to work with the Metis nation in an information sharing process that would have benefited both the Metis and the Manitoba health care system.  

I photographed this sculpture titled Manitoba by Metis artist Joe Fafard at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

In 2018 almost the entire Manitoba Hydro Board, whose members had all been appointed by Premier Brian Pallister, resigned to protest the decision the premier made to not honor an agreement the board had negotiated with the Manitoba Metis Federation. Clearly there is still work to do in addressing discrimination against the Metis community. 

A pair of holidays we celebrate in February recognize the rich contributions of two diverse communities in our country. Those holidays should also remind us we need to continue to work at respecting the human rights of those communities.  

Other posts………

Making Chinese Dumplings

Manitoba is Metis

It’s Louis Riel Day

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Filed under Canada, Culture, History, Holidays, manitoba, Politics

Hecla Hike With A Bird Watcher

We spent a couple of days at Hecla Island last week and one of the hikes we did took us to a lighthouse on a spit of land sticking out into Lake Winnipeg.  There are actually two lighthouses in the same location. The original one closest to the water, which has been beautifully restored, was built in 1898. The larger more modern one was constructed in 1926.  At the time it featured a kerosene lamp, a giant hand-wound reflector, and a foghorn.  A lighthouse keeper was on duty till 1970 when the Canadian Coast Guard took over responsibility for it.  A lighthouse was necessary and important during the era when huge steamships regularly plied Lake Winnipeg carrying passengers, supplies, and cargos of timber and limestone. Dave collected some extra cargo as we hiked through the forest to the lighthouse.  Can you see the trimming of burrs along the hood of his jacket? We were hiking with our friends and we stopped frequently to listen for birds since Dave was eager to get some good photos. He captured a waxwing a Swainson’s thrush a Yellow-rumped warbler a female Mallard a Black-billed magpieCanada geese and a pelican. We passed some marshland and the following day hiked through a marshy area where we spotted deer, frogs, a snake and a fox  The scenery was gorgeous the weather was warm and sunny and our friends Bruno and Caroline were great company. 

We live in Manitoba so fall weather can be unpredictable and this year we know once it gets cold much of our in-person socializing will have to end since we have committed to doing pretty much all of our get-togethers outdoors during the pandemic. 

It was lovely to have this hike with friends on a beautiful day, something to savour during the isolation of the winter ahead. 

Other posts about hikes with friends…………

Hiking the Virgin

A Perfect Afternoon in Gambo

Up to Weaver’s Needle

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Filed under manitoba, Nature

A Different Kind of Folk Festival

At the Folk Festival in 2011

If 2020 had been like other years Manitobans would have been attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Birds Hill Park this past weekend.  The event was cancelled due to the pandemic but the Folk Festival organized a virtual concert for July 11 and encouraged people to get together outside on their yards to watch it on Saturday night. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a country property near Lowe Farm for an alternate Folk Festival evening hosted by our friends Roger and Ruth. A screen and speakers had been set up on the yard for watching the performers and listening to the music. We parked our cars alongside the grain bins. Tie-dyed sheets billowing in the breeze and a painting of a quilt on the barn gave the farmyard a ‘folkie’ kind of feel.

Before the festivities sponsored by the Folk Festival hit the big screen Roger our host favoured us with four numbers he had written himself, accompanied by two members of his family.

Roger tells us about the songs he has written

One of Roger’s songs had been inspired by a trip on the Trans Siberian railroad, another by a trip to South America and one celebrated a barnstorming baseball team from the American Negro Baseball League that came to play a game in nearby Roland Manitoba when Roger’s father was a young man. Roger’s band also shared a piece about his father’s perspective on the world when he was over a hundred years old. The evening included a fabulous meal and………….. an opportunity to explore a labyrinth that had been cut into the field behind the house. You could pick up some stones, that represented your hopes or wishes to hold as you made your way down the paths. I was all alone in the labyrinth as I wound my way through the beautiful wild prairie grasses and flowers.  I basked in the beauty of the yellow fields in the distance, the sound of the wind in the grass, and the endless blue sky above me. 

labyrinth entryAfter the music was over some of the guests engaged in games of catch with ball gloves and balls supplied by Ruth and Roger’s neighbour.  We left as the sun was going down. 

It wasn’t the same as being at Bird’s Hill Park for the Folk Festival but it was a great alternative in a setting every bit as beautiful. Thanks, Roger and Ruth. 

Other posts…………..

Knuckleball- Think Mennonite Corner Gas

Inspiration at the Winnipeg Folk Festival

Winnipeg Folk Festival- It’s Who You Know

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Filed under manitoba, Music

Check Before You Write the Cheque

I was introduced to a young woman last week who works for a Manitoba based NGO (non-government organization) that addresses a pressing and important social issue.  The woman was intelligent, articulate and had an exciting resume in her line of work. She gave me some great insight and information about the social issue that is the focus of her NGO.   I was really interested and thought I might write a story for my newspaper column about her work.    

Canadians donate to charity generously

So I did a little digging on the Charities and Giving website maintained by the government of Canada.  You can go there and type in the name of any organization in Canada with charitable tax status.    Turns out the NGO the woman I met works for, only spends 17% of the funds it takes in on actual charitable work. The other 83% goes for overhead, administration, expenses and fundraising efforts.  

I did a little more research and found out the Better Business Bureau suggests healthy charitable organizations should spend between 25- 35% of the money they take in on administration and fundraising.

I donate my time to a Thrift store that supports Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba

Then I looked up Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba, an organization to which I donate my time and money.  It gives 85% of the money it receives away and only uses 15% for administrative costs.  Almost the exact opposite of the other Manitoba based NGO.   

I did read an article that suggests charitable organizations shouldn’t just be judged on how much money they invest in overhead. You can spend too little money on administration.  

You need to have stable leadership, solid financial planning, evaluation tools in place to determine the impact and effectiveness of your charity’s work, and a vibrant media and publicity outreach if you want to maintain a healthy, worthwhile and viable charity. Establishing those things takes money.  I agree. 

But I think there should be a balance between donations spent on overhead and money actually given to a charity’s work and beneficiaries. Before you donate to a charity it is worth checking out exactly what that balance is. 

Other posts…………..

Is Service Always a Good Thing? 

Monk Chat

Are You A Performance Ally?

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Filed under Canada, manitoba

Black Days in May

The beautiful Minneapolis Art Institute. Photographed during a visit in 2014.

As I’ve been observing the violence and anger erupting in Minneapolis I’m remembering all the good times we have had in that city.

At a Vikings football game in Minneapolis

We have seen plays at the Guthrie Theatre, cheered at professional basketball, baseball and football games, visited the city’s fabulous free art gallery and enjoyed meals at amazing restaurants. We had so much fun with our boys when they were little at the Mall of America’s entertaining Lego Land.

With friends at a wedding in Minneapolis

We attended the wedding of friends in Minneapolis a few years ago which was held in a lovely little historic church and had such a special weekend.  

Minneapolis is a marvellous place but the New York Times this morning reminds everyone that while Minneapolis does have a rich cultural scene and one of America’s highest standards of living, decades of government decisions have discriminated against black citizens. Loan programs for buying homes have favoured white Minnesotans. In order to facilitate new infrastructure black neighbourhoods have been razed. The police force is predominantly white. According to another article in the New York Times, disparities in employment, poverty and education between people of colour and white residents in Minneapolis are among the worst in the country. I worked for the Mennonite Church as a volunteer in a Minneapolis inner-city playground program one summer more than fifty years ago and know first hand those injustices are long-standing. 

Police and Rioters, 12th Street, Detroit, July 23, 1967
Photo from  Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

The last few days I keep thinking about something my husband told me about the race riots in Detroit in 1967 during which some forty people died, thousands were injured and thousands of building were burned.  

Dave’s Mom picking tomatoes in their fields the 1960s

Dave’s family had a vegetable farm just across the border from Detroit in southern Ontario and when they were working in their fields they could see the smoke from the burning buildings in Detroit billowing in the sky.  It reminded them of just how close they were to a place filled with anger over racial injustice and inequality. 

Reincarceration by Kent Monkman- The building in the background is Manitoba’s Headingly Penitentiary

I think we would do well to let the ‘smoke’ we are seeing on our television and computer screens and in our newspapers remind us of how ‘close’ we are here in Manitoba to the same kind of injustice and inequality that is fueling the current violence just across our border in the United States.  Injustices like……

Manitoba indigenous men represent 15% of our general population and 75% of our prison population. Source

90% of the children in foster care in Manitoba are indigenous.  Source

Indigenous children living in Manitoba are the most impoverished in Canada  Source

There are Manitoba First Nation reserves with no indoor plumbing and no clean water supply. Source

Gordon Lightfoot wrote a famous song about the riots in Detroit in 1967 called Black Day in July. Sadly lines from the song still resonate more than fifty years later. 

And the people rise in anger
And the streets begin to fill
And there’s gunfire from the rooftops
And the blood begins to spill
And you say how did it happen
And you say how did it start
Why can’t we all be brothers
Why can’t we live in peace
But the hands of the have-nots
Keep falling out of reach

Other posts…….

Minneapolis Wedding


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Filed under History, manitoba, Politics

Kindred Spirits

Last week I spent a morning in Carmen Manitoba talking to a group of some twenty -five women about my life and travels.  Susan Mooney had invited me to speak. She and her husband Tom are long-time residents of Carmen, but Tom’s parents Isaac and Lottie Mooney lived in the Steinbach area from 1944-1980.  One Christmas Lottie gave her son Tom and his wife Susan a gift subscription to The Carillon and they have been subscribers ever since. Susan has been reading my newspaper column Viewpoint since I first began writing it in 1985.  She had always wanted to meet me and decided inviting me to Carmen, as a speaker for her women’s group, would be a way to do that.

I was interested to learn that the group, which meets at the Carmen United Church, has been in existence for almost forty years. Every Wednesday they invite a speaker to make a presentation and then they ask questions and have a discussion. In the weeks prior to my October visit, Theresa Oswald, a former Manitoba Health Minister had been a speaker as had Jean Friesen a university professor and spokesperson for the Treaty Relations Committee of Manitoba. The week following my visit Nilufer Rahman a Muslim community builder and filmmaker was scheduled as the guest and after her retired Canadian senator, Joanne Buth was speaking.  I was told authors Miriam Toews and recent Governor General award winner Joan Thomas had presented in past years.

The women began their meeting by introducing themselves and then answering a question posed by Susan Mooney. She said since she had always wanted to meet me she wondered who might be a person the other women had always wanted to meet. A number thought they would like to meet Queen Elizabeth while several named favorite childhood authors like Lucy Maude Montgomery, Beatrix Potter, and A.A. Milne. Others mentioned the Dali Lama, Michelle Obama, Margaret Atwood, and Eric Clapton. One woman was looking forward to meeting a refugee family that would be arriving in Carmen shortly. Hearing the women’s answers was a great way for me to get to know the group a little better. I told them I already felt like we were kindred spirits. 

In my talk, I used examples from my own life to expand on an idea I was first introduced to at my son’s university graduation many years ago.  On the journey of life we have a choice to be pilgrims or tourists.  Which will we be?   After my presentation, the women asked questions and made comments and their ideas and contributions were thought-provoking and meaningful.  During our lively discussion, I learned more about the women’s families, travels, reading preferences, community work and faith affiliations.

The women take turns bringing soup for lunch each Wednesday, so I was treated to a hearty bowl of hot vegetable soup and some fresh bread before beginning my drive back to Winnipeg.  The women in the group are busy with all kinds of other interesting things.  The woman to my left at lunch had come to our meeting from her yoga class and the one on my right told me she was headed off to a community choir practice.

Before I said goodbye the women posed for a photo with me.  I wanted a reminder of my morning with them. I gave Susan Mooney a hug and thanked her for inviting me. Two other women who also happened to be near the church door as I left gave me hugs too.  I left Carmen enriched, blessed and delighted to have spent a morning with such a group of caring, engaged and intelligent women. 

Other posts…………..

Strong Women

I’ve Been A Newspaper Columnist for Decades

Women Were Honored?  Think Again John Kelly. 


Filed under manitoba, New Experiences, People, Retirement