The History of an Urban Métis Community, 1901–1961
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.
For more information on Rooster Town, including census records, historical documents, and research materials, visit the Rooster Town Online Archive, hosted by the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
- #1 Non-Fiction Manitoba Bestseller, McNally Robinson Booksellers (2018)
- NOMINEE, Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher, Manitoba Book Awards (2019)
- NOMINEE, Manuela Dias Design and Illustration Award, Manitoba Book Awards (2019)
“Rooster Town challenges the lingering mainstream belief that Indigenous people and their culture are incompatible with urban life and opens the door to a broader conversation about the insidious nature of racial stereotypes ubiquitous among the broader Canadian polity.”
– Brenda Macdougall, Associate Professor and Chair in Métis Research, University of Ottawa
“In addition to addressing the gap in scholarship regarding Métis urban experiences, and impressive attention to detail, the real strength of Rooster Town lies in its successful dismantling of colonial narratives that depict Indigenous people as out of place in modern urban society.”
– Chantal Fiola, University of Winnipeg, Transmotion (Link)
“Takes important steps toward building a greater understanding of #Métis and urban history in Canada.”
– Danielle Chartier, Canada’s History
“We have many accounts of suburban development, in Winnipeg and elsewhere, but none like this. Rooster Town tells an unusual, revelatory story, adding a new dimension to our understanding of the Canadian urban experience.”
– Richard Harris, McMaster University, The Canadian Geographer
“The stories of the Rooster Town families, their genealogies, and detailed maps together provides an important and interesting study for those seeking to better understand Winnipeg’s history. It also provides insights into the ongoing impact of colonialism in terms of the settling of the Prairies, the priority placed on suburban land development by local governments and the displacement of the urban Métis population.”
– Christopher Adams, Winnipeg Free Press (Link)
“Winnipeg is haunted, appropriately, by Rooster Town. I am so glad we will soon have Evelyn Peters’ book to learn from and work with.”
– Adele Perry, Professor of History, University of Manitoba
“Very little is written about Indigenous urban histories. They are typically hidden, or erased, from the histories of Prairie cities, and Canadian cities generally. Rooster Town is an authoritative correction to that colonial erasure in the written record.”
– Ryan Walker, Professor, Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan
About the Authors
Evelyn Peters is an urban social geographer whose research has focused on First Nations and Métis people in cities. She taught in the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies, where she held a Canada Research Chair in Inner-City Issues, Community Learning, and Engagement.
Matthew Stock lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where he works as a civil servant. His research interests include social policy and Canadian history.
Adrian Werner is a GIS analyst whose work has included research in urban form and urban history.
Other contributors: with Lawrie Barkwell.