MMF Cabinet Reacts to Wolseley Petition - Says No to Erasing History

June 18, 2020

Winnipeg, MB - A recent local petition calling for the City of Winnipeg and respective school divisions to rename Wolseley Avenue, Wolseley School, and Lord Wolseley Elementary School has been frequently discussed in the media.

The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF), the democratically elected government of the Manitoba Metis, held a two-day Cabinet meeting on June 16 and 17 to discuss matters affecting the Manitoba Metis Community. One topic of conversation during this meeting was the petition, titled Wolseley was a cop, and what it means to the Manitoba Metis and, indeed, all Canadians.

"We acknowledge the social and economic harm that has been done to the Metis and other Indigenous people at the hands of Wolseley and his Reign of Terror," explained President David Chartrand. "But the MMF Cabinet came to the conclusion that we should not erase the names of those who harmed our ancestors from history and risk forgetting them."

"It is important that we keep these names around so that we can use them to educate the public on the suffering of our ancestors," President Chartrand continued. "Using these historic figures, we can better tell our true story and ensure that colonial history does not repeat itself."

"It's often said that history books are written by the victors. Our Ancestors' pain, loss, and suffering were ignored and their dreams forgotten," he continued. "Our Ancestors - witnesses to injustice - lived under a cloak of public silence. Their shared experiences have come down through the generations. Now we are able to tell our story."

MMF Cabinet agreed that controversial names and monuments can create good teaching moments. The 1816 Battle of Seven Oaks commemorative monument is one such example. The Battle had earlier been known as a massacre, and the primary historical narrative blamed the Metis for the attack. The Metis never called it a massacre. It was a victory - and they never took the first shot. The Métis were portrayed as the villains.

It wasn't until the immediate leadup to the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Seven Oaks that this narrative was questioned outside of the Manitoba Metis Community. Redeveloping the park back in June 2016 and adding interpretive panels around the monument provided a focus and an opportunity to share the Metis Nation's perspective and explore the facts of what really happened 200 years ago.

"The MMF Cabinet in their deliberations came to the consensus that Wolseley's name should not be removed from buildings, streets, or neighbourhoods. Seeing some names and remembering their histories will be at times difficult or uncomfortable," concluded President Chartrand. "These names provide a reminder of a history that cannot be forgotten, that cannot be repeated, and what we must guard against. We cannot allow colonial history to merely slink away and escape judgement."

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