Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History
Manitoba, at Canada’s 150th anniversary, looks vastly different than the fur trade outpost it was at the time of the four-province Confederation of 1867. A new exhibit at the Manitoba Museum will use its priceless collection to explore the impact of Canadian Confederation on the people and the land that would become Manitoba, the fifth province to join Canada. The effects were massive and irrevocable. Red River inhabitants resisted Canadian authority and proposed a province on their own terms. The eventual agreement with Canada included guarantees of rights for Métis children and French-speaking residents. Five main Treaties were negotiated with First Nations peoples, including guarantees of support for their education, livelihood and well-being. Within four years the population quadrupled as a huge influx of settlers from Ontario and Europe swamped the province. Prairie and wetland ecology was transformed forever, First Nations and Métis inhabitants were marginalized, and hundreds of thousands of new settlers profited from fertile farmland, railways, and an exploding urban centre – Winnipeg.
Artifacts from the Manitoba Museum collection document this jarring transformation. This includes 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 in the Wolseley Expedition, which tried to impose Canadian order at Red River; an original framed photograph of Chief Kakekapenais, who signed Treaty No. 1 to allow settlers onto land which includes Winnipeg; and the beaded dog saddle of the first Sherriff of Manitoba, a prominent Métis.