Remembering Rooster Town - Public Help Wanted
October 18, 2012
UWinnipeg Researcher Dr. Evelyn Peters Seeks Stories From Winnipeg's Hidden Community
WINNIPEG, MB - When we head out to the Grant Park Mall area today, we see shops, restaurants, apartment complexes, a movie theatre, the Pan Am Pool and a high school.. Yet just a few decades ago, this populated area was mainly bush and mud tracks. It was here, as the Depression took hold in 1929, that Metis families settled in small, self-built houses. The Metis were among the first and last residents of what came to be known as Rooster Town. Since the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad ran along Grant Avenue and Rooster Town, it was an attractive place for seasonal railroad workers to roost or rest, giving the settlement the name of Rooster Town. Many Rooster Town residents lived in wooden boxcars purchased from the railroad, without the city services of water and sewer lines.
Now The University of Winnipeg's Dr. Evelyn Peters, Professor and Canada Research Chair Centre for Inner-city Reseach, Community Learning, and Engagement, working in partnership with Lawrie Barkwell, Senior Historian, Louis Riel Institute of the Manitoba Metis Federation, are looking for real life stories from Rooster Town.
It is an interesting story, because in the 1940s and 50s the Winnipeg Tribune and Winnipeg Free Press had a number of articles on Rooster Town, depicting this area mainly in terms of poverty, welfare dependence and disease, and in 1959 the City of Winnipeg expropriated the remaining houses and tore down what remained of the community, said Dr. Peters. However, we have found quite a few people who remember Rooster Town as a vibrant Metis community, presenting quite a different view of the shanty town than the mainstream City and newspaper one. People remember fiddlers, dancing, ball teams, and mutual support. Families owned or rented their houses, paid taxes, and worked in seasonal jobs including working for the City of Winnipeg. We are just at the beginning of the research, but it is proving quite fascinating.
Dr. Peters is calling on all Manitobans who have stories and memories of Rooster Town to contact her by phone at (204) 982-4811 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to contact Lawrie Barkwell by phone at (204) 984-9480 or e-mail at email@example.com.
Peters and Barkwell would like to write a new history of Rooster Town and if there is enough interest, they may consider doing a documentary on the settlement.
METIS AWARENESS DAY AT UWINNIPEG
At the 2012 Autumn Convocation on Sunday, October 21, UWinnipeg is awarding an Honorary Doctor of Laws to David Chartrand, President of the Manitoba Metis Federation, for his dedicated leadership and commitment to the community.
In partnership with the Manitoba Metis Federation and the Louis Riel Institute, UWinnipeg is also proud to celebrate Metis culture on campus in conjunction with Convocation. Activities will include:
cultural and educational displays including a Red River cart, Rooster Town display, scrip display, sash weaving, dress up / photo booth, membership booth, ASETS scholarship information, in the Riddell Hall atrium
a drop-in reception in UWinnipeg's Aboriginal Student Services Centre - Friday, October 19th
Public lecture on Metis rights and claims by Jason Madden - everyone welcome - October 19th
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ROOSTER TOWN CONTACTS
Dr. Evelyn Peters
Diane Poulin, Communications Officer,
The University of Winnipeg