Winnipeg, MB (February 9, 2017): Commemorating the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation, the Manitoba Museum opens a new temporary exhibit today entitled, Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History. 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.
“Every curator at the Museum had a hand in developing this exhibit. The opportunity to re-examine Manitoba’s past through a contemporary lens within the context of Treaties, a better understanding of Indigenous history and the environmental impacts of settlement, has been an important experience for each of us,” says Dr. Roland Sawatzky, Curator of History at the Manitoba Museum. “The Museum recognizes that, while Confederation created great opportunity and wealth for many people, this prosperity came at price to others and the land itself. It has never been more important for Manitobans to understand this dynamic.”
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.
“Legacies of Confederation offers Manitobans a truly meaningful way to engage in Canada’s sesquicentennial through a thoughtful and broad overview of our province’s history,” says Claudette Leclerc, Executive Director and CEO of the Manitoba Museum. “We invite our visitors to reconsider our past and come away with a deeper appreciation for the land and the people who live here.”
Various educational programs are available in conjunction with the Legacies of Confederation exhibit including school programs, Canada Day activities, and summer tours. Launching this month, From Talk to Table invites visitors to come to the Museum on Sunday afternoons for highlight tours of the exhibit with our curators, followed by discussion, delicious food and refreshment at Peg Beer Co. Be sure and visit our website ManitobaMuseum.ca for more details and to purchase tickets.
About the Manitoba Museum - The Manitoba Museum is the province's award-winning heritage and science centre. It is unique in its combination of human and natural history themes and renowned for its vivid portrayal of Manitoba’s rich and colourful history, Planetarium shows, and Science Gallery exhibits. The Museum features immersive dioramas, multi-dimensional interpretation, science and astronomy education, and quality school and community programs. The Museum has collected and protects over 2.8 million artifacts and specimens, including the Hudson's Bay Company Museum Collection.