In February, Adele Perry asked her HIST 2282: Inventing Canada class at the University of Manitoba to work on a commemoration project after reading Evelyn Peters, Matthew Stock, and Adrian Werner’s Rooster Town: The History of an Urban Métis Community, 1901–1961. We will be posting all ten projects over the coming weeks.
Group 8: SK, FR, NM, YD, AM
Many people are unaware of the rich history of Rooster Town, a close-knit Métis community that thrived on the outskirts of Winnipeg for the first six decades of the twentieth century.
This ignorance is understandable; the homes of several generations of hardworking families no longer exist, all replaced by a shopping center and a high school. We so often get caught up in our daily lives that we forget to stop and remember the people that came before us and why they are no longer here.
We see a beautiful city that was established by white settlers who came eager to explore the resources this beautiful vast country has to offer. But on whose land did our houses and business and recreational areas belong to? How is it that our malls and schools and homes acquired this land?
How can we commemorate the lives and communities that were here before and remember the prejudice that led to their removal? And how was a whole community pushed out?
We have chosen to make a documentary to mark the history of Rooster Town, to show the way people lived, celebrate the community that once existed, and challenge the racism and commercial growth that lead to their dissolution.
We want to pay homage to the community that housed more than 51 Metis families that were wrongfully evicted and spread out across the city, simply by a lack of knowledge and ignorance.
We want to highlight their lives as they were lived and contrast it with how the community was portrayed in the media of the time, which painted Rooster Town as a place of filth, debauchery, that begged to be torn down. Which as a result caused the Métis people, that once proudly lived there, to keep silent about or even have to deny being a resident of that very community.
We hope that through the stories we tell, and the faces we will show will help us strive to make changes in how we react and treat people today.
This will include, we hope, stories from people who grew up there, or who are descendants of Rooster Town residents. It will hopefully lead some people to reflect on how we live nowadays, look at how we treat others and even change the way some people think about Indigenous communities.
We chose this picture to simply show that the community that was so wrongly discriminated against, looks just like you and me.
It is easy to assume the worst of others but we need to get to know people before setting our visions of them in stone. To do so we must learn how they came to be who they are, their hopes, their fears, the things they love and the resources one might have compared to your own.
The residents of Rooster Town were families who deserve to have their stories told, not just be represented by a monument of a kettle.
About Rooster Town
Melonville. Smokey Hollow. Bannock Town. Fort Tuyau. Little Chicago. Mud Flats. Pumpville. Tintown. La Coulee. These were some of the names given to Métis communities at the edges of urban areas in Manitoba. Rooster Town, which was on the outskirts of southwest Winnipeg, endured from 1901 to 1961.
Those years in Winnipeg were characterized by the twin pressures of depression and inflation, chronic housing shortages, and a spotty social support network. At the city’s edge, Rooster Town grew without city services as rural Métis arrived to participate in the urban economy and build their own houses while keeping Métis culture and community as a central part of their lives.
In other growing settler cities, the Indigenous experience was largely characterized by removal and confinement. But the continuing presence of Métis living and working in the city, and the establishment of Rooster Town itself, made the Winnipeg experience unique.
Rooster Town documents the story of a community rooted in kinship, culture, and historical circumstance, whose residents existed unofficially in the cracks of municipal bureaucracy, while navigating the legacy of settler colonialism and the demands of modernity and urbanization.