Canadians will have a new way to learn of the rich and complex history of the human rights struggle of the Métis.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg officially launched a Métis tour on Monday to mark Louis Riel Day in Manitoba.
The tour explores the beginning of the Métis people, through the Red River Rebellion of the late 19th century all the way to Métis involvement in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Mireille Lamontagne, Manager of Advanced and Professional Programs for the museum, says the Métis tour is an important addition because she feels many Canadians are unaware of the battle for human rights many Métis people faced.
“Even in our own fair city of Winnipeg many don’t understand that Métis communities were destroyed, burned to the ground, and bulldozed,” she told MBC.
Lamontagne spoke of the story of Rooster Town as an important history lesson for Canadians. At the turn of the 20th century a strong and vibrant Métis community was established on the outskirts of Winnipeg. This neighbourhood came to be known as Rooster Town. However, by the end of the 1950s the entire community was either bought out or forced out by the city for future development. Many were evicted, houses were burned and bulldozed as the six decade old Métis community was wiped out. The popular Grant Park Mall now sits where Rooster Town once stood.
“Human rights can be a very abstract concept,” said Lamontagne. “This (tour) is really about how do we make these concepts more concrete for people to understand and reveal perspectives on history that have not previously been revealed.”
After being available for only a few days, Lamontagne says she has been blown away by the response so far.
“We didn’t think that we would get such an incredible reaction because there is a lot going on in Winnipeg on Louis Riel Day,” she said. “But as soon as we opened the doors…we had hordes of people.”
As the tour continues Lamontagne says they hope to expand it in the future. She says they are in the process of developing an online version and have other projects in the works to bring the history of Métis rights across Canada.
On Louis Riel day the museum guided 105 people on four separate and scheduled tours. Moving forward, the tour will be available for group bookings upon demand.
(PHOTO : A guitar painted by Métis artist Christi Belcourt in the exhibit about Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Photo provided by CMHR)