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Though Manitoba was not yet a province in 1867, the effects of Confederation on the Red River residents when their homeland was acquired by Canada were momentous. The Legacies of Confederation exhibit illustrates the massive consequences for the people and the irrevocable changes to their land – the land that became Manitoba. The exhibit highlights iconic artifacts and specimens from the Museum’s extensive collection, as well as some loaned items including the seldom seen walking stick used by Louis Riel and a Treaty document dating to 1875.
Manitoba in 2017, at Canada’s 150th anniversary, looks vastly different from the isolated settlement it was at the time of the four-province Confederation of 1867. The Legacies of Confederation exhibit tells the story of how Red River inhabitants resisted Canadian authority and proposed a province on their own terms.
Following Confederation, the population of Manitoba increased tenfold over the next 30 years as a huge influx of settlers from Ontario and Europe swamped the province. Visitors to the exhibit will learn that the Prairie ecology was transformed forever and discover how this surge of immigrants marginalized First Nations and Métis inhabitants, overthrowing relationships established during a two hundred year history of trade.
Artifacts and specimens in the Legacies of Confederation exhibit include: the ceremonial brocaded uniform of James Aikins, John A. MacDonald’s secretary of state; the 1889 Tupper Quilt, which outlines the history of Charles Tupper, a father of Confederation who met with Louis Riel at the height of the resistance; the uniform of a soldier during the Wolseley Expedition, a militia of 1,200 men that tried to impose Canadian order at Red River. Visitors will see a medal representing Treaty No. 1, the Treaty negotiated to allow settlers access to land that includes Winnipeg; and on special loan, the original parchment side promises document wrung from the Treaty negotiators five years later when First Nations leaders realized that not all they were promised was reflected in it. A bison head from an animal that was a part of the herd that repopulated the species in Canada, and the last passenger pigeon ever collected in Canada from Winnipegosis in 1898, whose disappearance ushered in a new conservation ethic, are also on display.
Canada’s History takes you behind the scenes in these two videos:
Every week we’ll be posting a new blog post which will give a new perspective, insight, context or story behind the newest exhibit at the Manitoba Museum, Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History Click here to read the blog posts.