The Centre for Human Rights Research hosted a panel exploring themes of commemoration, reparation, and memory in light of the delayed Manitoba 150 celebrations on March 16, 2021. Below is a summary of the discussion.
150 Seen Through the Lens of Treaty One
After introducing her latest book “Treaty Words: For as Long As the Rivers Flow”, University of Ottawa Law Professor and Author Aimée Craft said now is a good time to revisit treaty agreements and interpretations.
“One of the things I’ve spent most of my life arguing is that treaties were made was an agreement to share,” she continued, “I think that this is still fundamentally misunderstood.”
Craft noted that “at the core” of Indigenous Treaty interpretations are concepts of reciprocity, respect, and renewal.
“[Manitoba 150] is an opportunity to reflect on what is the agreement, what it should look like today, and how we should honour it and respect it,” she said.
Kwataa-nihtaawakihk: A Hard Birth
Scholar and Artist Sherry Farell Racette spoke about her role in rebooting and re-engaging Kwataa-nihtaawakihk: A Hard Birth, a Métis art exhibit that was initially planned for a May 2020 opening.
Some goals of the exhibit, which is now scheduled to open on the 5th of February 2022, include centering the role of the Métis in the creation of Manitoba, contextualizing Louis Riel, and recreating impressions of Métis unique artistic and material culture. The exhibit will be home to significant historic documents, contemporary and historic art, as well as community centred programming.
“We hope to be able to have that laughing, dancing, and music,” she continued, “We hope to bring in artists for artist talks, film screenings, and talking circles in front of works of art because they invite dialogue.”
Manitoba 150 x HBC 350
Manitoba Indigenous Tuberculosis Photo Project Research Director Dr. Erin Millions spoke about the intersection between Hudson Bay Company’s (HBC) 350th anniversary and Manitoba 150.
Dr. Millions noted that the famous Winnipeg downtown HBC building is a reminder of a colonial legacy that targeted, exploited, and devastated Indigenous communities. She said the disruptions of both HBC 350 and Manitoba 150 is an opportunity to rethink “commemoration in Manitoba in a way that lets us prioritize Indigenous perspectives.”
A Girl Called Echo
The panel’s final speaker, Métis Writer Katherena Vermette, spoke about the latest book in her graphic novel series “A Girl Called Echo.”
The series follows Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Métis girl who struggles with loneliness and separation as she adjusts to a new home and school. Her journey of learning about her Métis identity becomes an extraordinary tale that brings the past to the present as Echo travels through time to live and experience Métis history in the prairies.
Vermette closed her discussion with a recitation of her poem When Louis Riel Went Crazy, which can be found here.