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Connie Wyatt Anderson Transcript
CONNIE WYATT ANDERSON: Thank you Elders, thank you Canada's History. It's a real pleasure to be here today with all of you. Hello to everybody online. I'm used to being, you know, stuck at my computer at home, so it's an absolute thrill to be here today.
The theme for today's gathering is Called to Act: Truth, Reconciliation, and Collaboration. And the sub theme of my talk is learning together.
As a long time history teacher this has been the crux of my pedagogical journey. How do I create space in my classes, so that my students can see themselves in the great tapestry of Canadian history? In what ways can I upend the traditional approach to history. One rooted in chronology, content, coverage to include the "I". I don't mean changing the spelling of the word history. I mean adding the first person pronoun "I".
By having our students, my students, see themselves in the history of our past. In my experience, the seamless way to add the "I" to history education is through the cultivation of what I call a personal historical narrative, and the best way to start this journey from head to heart is with our feet planted firmly on the ground.
So for the next few minutes plant those feet and we're going to do a little tour. Today we're assembled at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights here at the Forks here in Winnipeg at the confluence of the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers.
Over the next several minutes, I invite you on a journey to the past. Through this local area here in Winnipeg and through several key touch points in Canadian history, and all the while with your feet firmly planted I ask that you do three things.
First, use your imagination. Situate yourself in that spot, in that place, in that time. Envision what it was like to be there. What did it look like? What did it smell like?
Second, I ask that you find room to fit your family and your ancestors into this story. Even if they weren't in Winnipeg and area. Where were they? How do these stories align? How do they differ?
And third, and maybe most importantly, ask yourself what stories are untold? For every stop in our journey today all of which are based on the historical record. Which of these stories have been omitted? Does your story appear in these annals? Does my story appear?
Our historical journey, and all history teachers like to do this, is set between 1817 and 1870ish, so before the bell rings we have about, I don't know that's too much math, 60 years on the ground, and what we're going to do and I asked you to do three things rely on your memory.
We're going to go from this current spot here at the Museum for Human Rights and we're gonna travel in walking distance. And we're gonna travel in cart trail distance. Here we go.
The museum where we gather today is on Israel Asper Drive. If you travel north from here you cross William Stephenson Way. The street becomes Waterfront Drive. About a kilometer and a half away from here right now on the banks of the Red River at Fort Douglas, now Fort Douglas Park, the Peguis-Selkirk Treaty was made on July 18, 1817. Only a kilometer and a half away from here.
You know? Open those windows, open your imagination. What did it feel like? What was it like?
The Treaty was initiated by Chief Peguis, leader of a community of Anishinaabe then living at Netley Creek farming along the Red, and it was both an assertion of First Nations sovereignty and a willingness to share with the newly arrived Scottish Selkirk settlers. A seasoned diplomat, Peguis encouraged four other Chiefs, First Nation Chiefs, to sign the Treaty thus making space for Selkirk's displaced Scottish crofters.
What other stories can we add to this narrative? Much went on in this area after 1817, after the Peguis-Selkirk treaty was made. A fur trade war enveloped this region, leading to the unification of the two rival fur trade companies. The Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company.
Demographically, from this period in time 1817 on, the Métis nation crystallized to become a unique culture, a combination of First Nation and European traditions brought to life by the very prairie landscape that surrounds us right now.
We're going to move now. Where are we? We're on Waterfront Drive. This is a cart trail now. I'm not going to make you walk this one. Let's travel about 20 kilometers south of here. To a place called Brady Road.
To get there, use your imagination, we're going to travel via the Pembina Trail (modern-day Pembina Highway). The trail followed the west bank of the Red River and was used by Métis and European settlers to travel between Fort Garry and Fort Pembina.
In a community pasture near there stood Andre Nault's farm. In the fall of 1869, Nault sought the aid of his cousin Louis Riel to stop one of the survey crews that Canada had sent to plot the land after the sale of Rupert's land in 1869 right. Riel stepped on the surveyor's chain and said you go no further.
How do we commemorate that spot today? Is it commemorated? Now because we can travel really quick when we're imagining stuff — it's Star Trekky. We're zipping back here. We're back here at the museum now, now let's swing back to the museum and where we're going to go now is a less than 10 minute walk from here.
Built in 1822 — Upper Fort Gary. Built by the Hudson's Bay Company. The Fort served as the administrative center of the fur trade within this Red River colony right. In December of 1869, after the sale of Rupert's Land by the Canadian government the Fort was seized by Louis Riel and the Métis.
Where he declared on behalf of the citizens of Rupert's land. He declared a sovereignty in this area. The Hudson Bay Company banner was removed from the fort's flagpole and replaced with a fleur-de-lis on a white background with a small buffalo in the corner. What other stories are there? What was that day like? Sound like?
Now we're gonna move again. We're a little bit 10 minutes away. My knee is sore, it's getting just sore thinking about this walk. We're walking now across the Esplanade Riel — the bridge. We're going across to St. Boniface and we're going to go about two and a half kilometres. So let's call this a cart trail, and we're going to go to a place in St. Boniface called Dawson Road.
The Dawson Trail was the first overland route from lake superior to the Red River Colony bypassing the United States. The first overland route coming out of Fort William. Simon Dawson surveyed the route and the construction began in 1869.
The trail was completed by 1871, and it was the Wolseley Expedition used that trail before it was even finished. The trail actually was a voyager trail before that as well. The Wolseley Expedition used that trail to reach the colony where we are to quell the Red River Resistance. Also along that route there's stories underfoot along that route along that entire journey coming out this way.
About a day or two from the lower fort up the river on the way to Selkirk from here everybody. Chief Henry Prince actually stopped — Henry Prince ("Red Eagle") was the son of Chief Peguis — stopped Wolseley and gave his men right of way and pledged his loyalty to the Queen. Even in the middle of this resistance that was going on here.
What other stories can we seek? Based on the results of the 1870 census — if we could go back to this area — the permanent population of the Red River Colony is estimated at about 12,000. Almost 10,000 people in the settlement were recorded to be 'Half-Breeds'/Métis.
Among the neighbours and the family of the 'Half-Breed' population, according to the census, there were approximately 560 — and I'm using the terminology from the day — 'Settled Indians'. These would have been First Nations people with gardens and farms right.
Relatives belonging to First Nations who were living in tents — and again I'm quoting — or wandering from place to place without a settled home weren't counted. The white population, according to the census, numbered 1,563. Of whom "slightly less than one half had been born in the North-West." There was no 'Black' category. There was no Inuit category.
In this census, do your ancestors fit into this story? Has your story been told? So we're cruising along on Dawson Road now we're going to come back but before we come back to the museum. Let's turn back now we're making our way before we re-cross the bridge. We're going to stop at the cemetery at St. Boniface Cathedral.
And if you haven't had the opportunity some of you are out of towners take a walk tonight it's across the bridge — beautiful walk. And we're going to stand — here's where we're going at the graveyard — we're going to stand at the grave of Ambrose Lépine.
We're going to stand at the grave. His headstone's right next to Riel's. Lépine was Riel's right-hand man. His military lieutenant in charge of enforcement. He actually led the proceedings that passed the death sentence on Thomas Scott and presided over his execution.
Lépine was an imposing man. Six foot three and "built like a Hercules." according to contemporaries. When you have some time later you have to Google image Ambrose Lépine. Very interesting character. There is photography back then.
Lépine and Riel actually fled Red River together. How is Lépine remembered today? We see Riel, how's Lépine? I began this talk today asking you to include the "I" in history. To create space for students to see themselves and their ancestors in the past. I asked you to rely on your imagination and to plant your feet and to use your skills of what Connie calls sedentary wayfinding to travel through time.
We travelled to the site of the Peguis-Selkirk Treaty. We rode a creaking Red River cart to Andre Nault's farm. We ran our fingers along the stones of the Upper Fort Gary gate we traversed the St. Boniface section of the Dawson Trail and we stood reverently at the gravestone of Ambrose Lépine.
I'd like to conclude on one more little cruise. I'm going to ask you to join me on a half hour walk. We're going to go along the Red a little bit west from here. I'm not going to ask you to imagine this spot. I'm going to actually show you a contemporary image. I think.
Located at 99 Euclid Avenue, in Point Douglas neighbourhood, is Barber House.
I'm going to read an abridged description from the property from Heritage Winnipeg. You can see it here.
Barber House was built in 1862. Notable for its connections to Winnipeg's earliest families. It is a municipally and provincially designated heritage building. Although newly restored the house is over 150 years old, and has seen more of Winnipeg's history than almost any other building still standing. Barber House is named for Winnipeg's own Edmund Lorenzo Barber — a humorously unsuccessful merchant that settled to what was the Red River Colony in 1860.
Barber, an American, moved to Canada to head up a store that his cousin had bought. Soon after moving to the Red River Settlement, Barber made one of the most, if not the most, business savvy moves of his career and married Barbara Logan.
Barbara Logan was the country-born Anglo-Métis daughter of Scottish immigrant Robert Logan and Mary, a Salteaux woman. Remember I'm quoting now from Heritage Winnipeg.
Since Barber's own business sense didn't exactly inspire confidence, a certain amount of his continued indulgence for his business endeavours sprang from his social connections, the fact that he was married to Mary. I mean in fact this is where his business came from.
I'm gonna put my "I" in history. Edmond Lorenzo Barber was not the first person to occupy this site. The history of this property goes back further than the 1860's.
Michel Klyne, a Métis, had operated a mill in the vicinity of present-day Barber House. The Klynes had lived on Point Douglas at least as early as 1832. It was Klyne's thatched-roof residence, Thistle Cottage, that Barber moved to — and the house that I showed you either replaced it or was an add-on to Klyne's original house.
Michel Klyne was my four-times great grandfather. He died in 1868, before the Métis Resistance. He didn't live to see his children and grandchildren removed, displaced, pushed to the fringes and the road allowances of Canadian society.
Family lore, according to my dad, says that John Klyne — his son — was at the hanging of Louis Riel. His name does not appear on the commemorative plaque at 99 Euclid today.
Michel Klyne though and the Red River Mill do appear in some written records. Here's a bit from the Manitoba Historical Society. It is worth noting that the majority of the Red River Mills were owned and operated by Protestant Settlers as might be expected from their interest in agriculture.
These Scots, Orcadians, Englishmen and English-speaking 'Half-Breeds' — and after 1852-53 — an Indian. Of more than the 20 millers identified in the Red River census before 1856 only four — Andrew McDermot, Michel Klyne, Narcisse Marion, and Cuthbert Grant were of the Catholic faith.
What does your personal narrative look like? How does it fit into the larger Canadian society? Is it absent from the written record? Is it absent from the plaques on the side of the building? Has it remained part of your family's oral tradition? Is it found in another language?
In the lyrics of a ballad? Does it begin here on Turtle Island in Canada? Or does it stand further afield? Are the snippets of your past tucked in shoeboxes hiding in the backs of closets, hidden in the bead work of a moccasin, or etched on a moss-covered gravestone?
Let's help put the "I" in history for our students. Let's create a shared Canadian past. Let's learn together. Thank you.