Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature

An Overview of Manitoba's past

Winnipeg, Manitoba

March 15, 2000

Winnipeg is the capital of Manitoba and as such is really the only metropolis for that Province. I'm sure that on most occasions, it is quite beautiful, but on our visit, its other residents had for all intensive purposes, taken over the city. Officially designated as either snow pool, or summer Aedes, this small frail mosquito was in complete control of the city. Outdoor events were being cancelled, and the town looked like a ghost town between 4 and 9 PM. Nobody ventured outside as the worse infestation in 17 years gripped the town. They were so thick that they flew in our mouths as we tried to talk. On top of this there was a flood. The Red river was up over its banks and the land lay in water and mud. Through all this, a shining light appeared in none other then a museum. Right in the heart of town, the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature stood ready to bear it secrets to all those who would stop by. The site is a massive building, housing several different sources of education, including a planetarium. The Man and Nature exhibit was the one we selected to see. The museum is broken up into Galleries, each addressing either a time period or geographical area. Many specific but unrelated subjects are covered. Not all are about Manitoba.
The Earth History Gallery illustrates Manitoba's ancient geological history, whose shadows remain in the fossils of the Ordovician Sea that covered the province a half-billion years ago. Geological change is calculated by such fossil signposts of time of these plesiosaur or mosasaur residents, 80 million years ago. Some of the oldest rocks on earth,
taken from the Precambrian Shield in eastern Manitoba, provide clues to the evolution of the Earth.
Arctic-Subarctic Gallery opens with a huge polar bear, symbol of the Arctic, guarding the entrance The main attraction here, is a life-size diorama of a head of caribou on a trial along an esker, re-enacting the autumn migration into the boreal forest. Natives of the region, the Chipewyan, camp nearby, their way of life dependant on the caribou.
The Grasslands Gallery is devoted to the southern part of Manitoba, the breadbasket of the province. Life on the great prairie is presented and includes the story of the aboriginal people, the fur trade, the Red River settlements ear, mass migration after 1870, the present-day agriculture and urban settlements. As towns and farms spread over the region, the character of the grasslands changed. Grain, not buffalo, became the major resource in the growing economy.
The Boreal
Forest Gallery, explores the northern coniferous forest which covers nearly one-third of Manitoba. It contains one of the largest walk-through dioramas in Canada, complete with granite cliffs, running water, a muskeg scene with moose and Cree figures engaged in rock painting and gathering food. Other exhibits illustrate the human and natural history of the region, including present-day settlements and industrial developments. The crazy laughter of the loon, the symbol of the broeal forest, echoes across the land.
Urban Gallery shows the influx of people from western and eastern Europe in the first decade of the 20th century and how this changed Winnipeg from a small provincial capital to a large commercial center. In the Urban Gallery, a moment in time - an autumn evening in 1920, after Winnipeg had survived sudden growth, a wold war, a depression, and major labor conflicts, is preserved in the wooden sidewalks, railway station , movie theater, factories, and commercial establishments of the day. You can stroll the boardwalks and feel the pulse of life in this cultural mosaic.
Within these Galleries, specific subjects are explored in detail. There is the area devoted to the Metis people. The word (me' tis) is defined as one of mixed blood. It could be applied to any child of an Indian mother and a white father. But, in the nineteenth century, the term metis referred especially to half-breeds of French and Indian ancestry. Several thousand of them eventually made their home in the Red River
settlement. They considered themselves a unique group, neither Indian nor white, and they regarded themselves as the Metis nation. The buffalo hunt was their main activity. It shows clearly the influence of both their Indian and their French background. The Metis hunted buffalo much in the manner of the plains Indians, Several hundred people generally joined the hunt and discipline had to be very strict to enable each hunter to make the most of the hunt. In semi-military fashion, a leader and captains were chosen as well as guides. There were set rules to govern the trip an guard the camp. No Sunday hunting was permitted. A priest accompanied the hunters to pray for success and protection from danger.

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