Friends of the Oral History Centre Newsletter - August 2016

The University of Winnipeg Foundation

Friends of the Oral History Centre banner
Oral History Center Affiliate Publishes Book

Matt Tetrault

Matthew Tétreault is an OHC Affiliate and a UWinnipeg graduate with a BA in Creative Writing, and is now studying English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. What Happened on the Bloodvein, his debut collection of short stories, was published by Pemmican in 2015. His book explores themes of francophone and Métis identity in Manitoba, a topic which he discovered at UWinnipeg as an Oral History project.

Matt first explored this subject while taking the UW course, History of Winnipeg, where he presented this project at the OHC Student and Community Conference in Autumn 2013, only to further develop it in the Introduction to Oral History course at UWinnipeg.

A fascinating exploration of Métis identities in contemporary Manitoba, his Oral History project featured in-depth live story interviews revealing the shifting boundaries of Métis identities in Matt’s own family over several generations. In these interviews, one narrator describes his emersion in Métis culture and deep-seeded identification as a Métis, only to discover that he has no claim to Métis legal status. This experience stands in sharp contrast to other narrators who legally receive membership cards but either never knew of their Métis genealogy, or, who were aware of it but denied it.

The Oral History Centre at The University of Winnipeg congratulates Matthew on publishing his first book and wishes him many future successes with his writing and potential Oral History Research!

Inter-Departmental Collaboration helps translate Oral Histories of Winnipeg Refugees

Salvadoran Voices of Manitoba The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures has adapted two courses to assist the Oral History Centre in transcribing interviews from Spanish to English. The Oral History project, titled “Stories of Homeland, Violence, & Migration: Memories & Histories of Refugees in Manitoba 1945 – 2010,” is led by the Director of The Oral History Centre, Dr. Alexander Freund. This project will create an archive of oral histories about refugees in Manitoba, focusing on: postwar refugees from Europe (including their descendants); the Salvadoran community of Winnipeg (who immigrated in the 1980’s and 90’s); as well as recent refugees (arriving from Afghanistan, Burma and elsewhere).

So far they have interviewed 50 refugees in 162 interview sessions for a total of over 262 hours. Non-English interviews account for 40 percent of the total including 18 Salvadoran interviews in Spanish (95 hours) which need transcribing. (The cost of labor for transcribing 95 hours could cost up to $38,000!)   

The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures has adapted two courses that will not only provide students with hands-on transcribing and translating experience, but also help the Oral History Centre complete this important project at a much more affordable cost. Monica Ruiz, a Certified Translator and Faculty member of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at UWinnipeg, will teach Spanish Transcribing as a part of her existing Spanish-English translation course.

Testimonies from participants reveal that the activity of telling and collecting oral histories has had a significant impact on their lives. They not only gained a better understanding of history but also a better understanding of their own lives and those of their parents and grandparents. The oral history archive of their stories will also have a significant social impact by changing the way historians write the history of immigrants in twentieth century Manitoba. This project in terms of research practice will shape future research and teaching methodology.

To learn more about this research and collaboration please go here.

This project was funded by a $125,000 SSHRC grant (2011–2014) and three smaller grants from Manitoba Heritage (2013–2017) as well as ongoing funding through the University of Winnipeg Chair in German-Canadian Studies and the Oral History Centre. It is also currently being supported by a crowdfunding effort run by the UWFoundation.


Did you know The Oral History Centre now offers an Audio Digitization Workshop? This could be an excellent opportunity for our Friends who have already taken our introductory courses, and are looking to take their Oral History experience further. The workshop teaches you how to make your cassette tapes into computer files.

To anyone interested in taking an Oral History Workshop with The Oral History Centre at The University of Winnipeg please consider following the Oral History Centre on Facebook or Twitter for real-time updates on times and offerings.

Farewell to Nolan Reilly

Nolan Riley On June 30, 2016, Co-Director of The Oral History Centre, Dr. Nolan Reilly, retired from The University of Winnipeg after 38 years, the last twelve of which, he had devoted to the creation of the Oral History Centre with Director Dr. Alexander Freund.  Janis Thiessen will join the OHC as its Associate Director.

Nolan is not leaving the OHC entirely as he has formally been appointed Director Emeritus of the Oral History Centre. Nolan will continue his involvement in community projects and you may still see him, occasionally, around the Centre.

Good Luck Nolan!