Manitoba History: Introduction - The North in Manitoba History
by Paul Thistle, Conference Co-Chairman &
The Manitoba Historical Society is pleased to present this theme issue on the North in Manitoba’s history. A number of the items contained in it became available in the usual waysthat is, through unsolicited submissions or through special requests to likely contributors from the editors. However, other items were prepared for the Northern Manitoba 75th Anniversary Historical Conference held in The Pas, 1-3 October 1987. This event was held in order to mark the anniversary and examine the history of “Northern Manitoba,” the 180,000 square miles between the 53rd and 60th parallels that were incorporated into the province in 1912.
The Conference featured many different kinds of sessions. There were practical workshops on using oral history, on writing local history, and on organizing local historical societies. There were papers delivered by professional and lay historians dealing with subjects such as treaty rights, agriculture, and women. There were also tours of, and discussions on, programs and facilities developed in The Pas to interpret Northern history.
The individuals involved in the Conference possessed varying backgrounds and interests. However, all participants were motivated to attend and contribute by a love for the land, lifestyle, and people of the North, as well as by a pride in the cultures and historic achievements of Northerners.
While the terms “colonialism” and “underdevelopment” were scarcely used during the conference, it became clear that many speakers and members of the audiences were expressing disappointment with the status of Northern Manitoba as an internal colony controlled by, and exploited for the benefit of, southern and eastern interests. Unfortunate developments such as the deliberate sabotage of the Hudson Bay Route, the excessive costs to the North of hydro development, and the long delays in treaty land entitlement have beenattributed to a Laurentian “absence of mind” and to Marxian theories of conspiracy. Just which explanatory framework is most appropriate will continue to be debated. There can be no doubt, however, that Northerners are frustrated.
For Northerners perhaps the most positive and satisfying feature of the Conference was that they were able to hear perspectives on the North presented in their own voices. It was also refreshing to have non-Northerners sitting in audiences, listening to Northern perspectives and opinions.
A weakness of the Conference was its failure to deal with some of the major themes in the history of the North. Two of the most important were mining and missionary activity. The latter omission was especially unfortunate since 1987 marked the centenary of the establishment of the Roman Catholic mission at The Pas. The fact that there were too many important subjects to be covered in a three-day conference points to the rich Northern heritage that remains largely unexplored. In the next few years there will be ample opportunity for examination of that heritage, because Northerners will be celebrating such events as the sesquicentennial of Henry Budd’s Anglican mission at The Pas and the three hundredth anniversary of Henry Kelsey’s first Indian-guided tour of much of the western interior.
Members of the organizing committee of the Northern Manitoba 75th Anniversary Historical Conference are pleased with this issue of Manitoba History. The presentations which could not be published are available on video tape. Both the organizers of the Conference and the Manitoba Historical Society acknowledge the assistance of Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Recreation. This Department provided funds which helped make possible the conference, this issue of Manitoba History, and a bibliography of Northern history which will soon be completed.
Page revised: 23 October 2012Back to top of page