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Red River 200: A Resource for Teachers



in Manitoba

Lord Selkirk’s





Scots in Manitoba

We begin by building a bridge to the Selkirk Settlers. These activities will draw students’ attention to familiar aspects of their environment that reflect the influence of the Scots in Manitoba: the Selkirk Settlers in particular, but also other leaders in the Red River colony and early Winnipeg. Indeed, their influence on Manitoba’s heritage goes deeper than many of us are aware. As an example, recent census data showed that Manitobans who claim some Scottish blood are the sixth largest group of the population! Their influence is reflected in those Scottish names that have become part of the lexicon of the province’s geography, and commercial and social infrastructure.

While many children in today’s schools will be unfamiliar with this heritage, they will quickly recognize the names of familiar schools, streets, towns and municipalities, as well as the music, dance and food that are part of the Scottish legacy. It is fitting, then, that we begin a study of the Selkirk Settlement by drawing students’ attention to these recognizable names and cultural experiences.

And remember your class can enjoy these activities at the same time you are meeting these curriculum goals.

What's In a Name?

Below you will find activities that encourage students to explore streets, towns, municipalities, schools, parks and monuments with Scottish names in order to prompt their awareness and curiosity about these links to Manitoba’s heritage.

A good place for students to begin their exploration is with this Scavenger Hunt. It sends students on a Google map search for historic monuments in Manitoba that have a Scottish connection. In this activity students will become aware of the interesting stories behind familiar landmarks. As well, they will use mapping skills and can become familiar with using Google Maps as a research tool.

Teachers may want to use specific lists of schools, street names, communities, and municipalities to develop their own activities. These lists contain names that may not be directly linked to the Selkirk Settlers. A broader range is included to provide opportunities to focus on historic sites that may be more familiar to students than others, while still considering important Scottish leaders of this period in Manitoba’s history.

As a suggestion, a research activity could be organized as follows:

  1. Using these lists select street, school, and/or community/municipality names of interest to your students. Display these lists or put selected names on cards, 1 per card.
  2. Students, working alone or in small groups, choose a place name or randomly choose a card.
  3. Using a research frame, students use these links to conduct research on Manitoba landmarks with Scottish names. Teachers may use this reporting frame to assist students to organize and report their research.
  4. As suggested above, students can display or demonstrate their new learning in a variety of ways. For example students can learn to set up a personal or class Google Map and display the sites they have researched on it. Additional information can be added as children explore other activities in this project.

This list of Manitoba schools contains links to information about each school’s namesake compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

An extensive list of Winnipeg streets streets differentiates between those that are named after Selkirk Settlers and those that aren't. Many of these street names are linked to further information about the street's namesake in the MHS publication History in Winnipeg Streets.

A list of Manitoba towns and municipalities may be of particular interest to teachers and students outside Winnipeg. Information about Manitoba communities can be found here (see the sidebar for community profiles). Children will find a Wikipedia link with information about Manitoba communities here. This site can do double duty if teachers also want to pursue this opportunity to review with students how Wikipedia is organized and set up.

Familiar Sounds and Sights: Scottish Music and Dance

Many Manitoba students, whatever their own cultural heritage, will recognize the sights and sounds of Scottish pipe bands seen in live parades on the streets or on television. They may not know the names of the instruments or the funny skirts worn by the band, but they will recognize the music of the bagpipes and the colorful tartan kilts worn by band members.

The YouTube links that follow provide an opportunity to explore the music and dance of Scotland. They can be shown for simple exposure and enjoyment or coupled with more concrete learning activities.

This six-minute YouTube video shows the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Pipe Band winning the World Pipe Band Championship in Scotland in 2008. The band plays a medley of tunes that could be used to illustrate a music lesson on different tempos and song structures. However, for simple exposure, in the first few minutes there are stirring images of a marching pipe band complete with an impressive drum corps:

This three-minute YouTube video, Drum Fanfare - Salute to Willie McErlean '79, also by the SFU band, is very rousing and illustrates the excitement and complexity of a drum fanfare:

The fiddle also has strong links to Celtic music. In this video, Sierra Noble, a popular Métis fiddler and musician from Manitoba, is accompanied by Scott Senior, and performs during the Wolseley episode of The Artist Next Door:

To remind children of Scottish dance and provide a glimpse of the people of Scotland, this three-minute promotional video, Dance the Scottish Way, is very engaging and shows images of both highland and country dancing. In the background is a much loved and historic Scottish folksong, Scotland the Brave:

Discussion questions that will stimulate children’s prior knowledge of bagpipe and fiddle music, highland and country dancing might include:

  1. Have you heard this kind of music before? Where have you heard it?
  2. What is the name of the instrument? Where have you seen it or heard it played before?
  3. What are the characteristics of highland and country dancing; how are they the same/different

Music teachers may be interested in exploring the music of Scotland in more depth. Curriculum-related activities that could be further developed in a music program include these:

1. Learn to recognize the tempos of traditional Scottish reels (2/4 or 4/4) and jigs (6/8). This will also prepare children for the Scottish country dances that are included in this study of the Selkirk Settlers.

In the Orff tradition, children will begin with activities that allow them to experience the rhythm with singing, movement and simple accompaniments, starting with clapping and moving onto percussion accompaniments. They might then move on to playing these or more complex Orff arrangements in that time signature with their recorder, depending on ability. When children are familiar with the feel of both time signatures, a discussion of the similarities and differences of each can lead to discussion of jigs and reels as traditional tempos for Scottish dancing, including highland and country styles.

Free downloadable sheet music and lyrics are available online.

A traditional Scottish folksong with 6/8 rhythm is Sky Boat Song. Another is a popular Burns poem, A Fond Kiss (Farewell To Nancy).

A traditional folksong with 2/4 time is Green Grow the Rashes, O.

A traditional folksong with 4/4 time with music and lyrics is Scotland the Brave. A score for recorders will provide an extra challenge for students with recorder skills.

2. The folksongs introduced to students in the activity above can be further refined for performance at a school assembly or perhaps a concert that might also include a display of Scottish dancing.

3. Students who are interested in bagpipes might want to research their history, structure and function, and their musical traditions. A history of Scottish bag pipes links their invention to first century Rome and suggests that the Roman occupation of Britain in the next century facilitated its spread throughout the island. The presence of bagpipes in the cultures of countries throughout Europe, North Africa and the Persian Gulf may surprise some! How do bagpipes make sound? This page describes the structure and function of the instrument and provides some interesting related articles and videos.

Scottish Festivals and Holidays

Many Manitoba children will have some familiarity with Scottish festivals and holidays that are part of the province’s rich calendar of cultural events. It is here that they may have tasted shortbread and haggis and seen displays of music and dance. Children can use the links below to gather information that can be shared with their classmates and perhaps form the basis for a class celebration of one or more of the festivals.

Tartan Day on April 6 honors the role of Scots in the early history of Manitoba and Canada. It is celebrated in Manitoba with a special event organized by the Manitoba Scottish Heritage Council and includes interpreted characters from the Red River Selkirk Settlement, performances of Scottish dancing and music, and greetings from the Lieutenant Governor and representatives of the Manitoba government.

Check out the activities in this colorful presentation On the Culture of Cloth at Hands On! The Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library. The focus on the Manitoba Tartan makes it a useful teaching resource for Tartan Day. Its background information and student activities are very well presented.

On March 9, 2011, Canada’s Minister of Heritage declared the Maple Leaf Tartan a symbol of Canada alongside the coat of arms, the national flag and, of course, the beaver. Children may want to compare the colors and patterns of the two tartans and the symbolism of each.

Burn's Suppers on January 25th celebrate the birth of Robert Burns, widely acknowledged as Scotland’s most famous poet. Burns is so admired by Scots around the world that annually millions celebrate his birthday with a traditional meal and program that has changed little since the first on January 25th, 1803.

One of Robert Burn’s best known poems To A Mouse is enjoyed by children who easily connect to the poet’s concern for a little mouse whose nest has been destroyed by the poet’s plow. Burns, who although a famous poet was also a farmer, saw a mouse running away and started philosophizing about the relationship of man and nature. One of Burn's most famous lines “the best laid schemes of mice and men go oft' askew….” is in the last stanza of this poem.

St Andrew’s Day on November 30th is the Feast Day of St Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament designated St. Andrew's Day as an official bank holiday. Your students may be interested to discover that several other countries also recognize St Andrew as their patron saint. The St Andrew's Society of Winnipeg has information about celebrations in Winnipeg.

The Manitoba Highland Gathering is a celebration of Scottish culture that takes place in June every year. It is a busy exciting day with dance, pipe and drum competitions, traditional Heavy Games, sheep shearing competitions and sheep dog trials, canoe and kayak races, clan booths, a Scottish market, massed bands and a Scottish pub with traditional entertainment. The Scottish Heavy Games are athletic competitions requiring great strength and skill and include the caber toss, stone put, and Scottish hammer throw.

Winnipeg's Folklorama celebration is a two-week August festival that is recognized as the largest and longest running folklore festival in the world. The Pavilion of Scotland is a huge Celtic party that is one of its most popular pavilions. The program includes pipe bands and dancers, as well as a show band. Visitors can also visit the cultural display to see authentic costumes being modeled by the Manitoba Living History Society and to view fabrics being created on loom & spinning wheel. Visitors are invited to participate in simple Scottish country and ceilidh dances taught by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

The Manitoba Scottish Festival, held on the third weekend in February, annually presents a weekend of adjudicated competitions for pipe band and highland dancers that attracts participants and spectators nationally and internationally as well as local pipers, drummers, pipe bands and dancers.

A sample reporting form is available in Word format here.

Page revised: 18 October 2011

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Website created by the Committee for the Bicentenary of the Red River Selkirk Settlement 2012.