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tgcts.blogspot.com | 23Mar2010 | David Carriere
Museum for Human Rights ignores graveyard below
Last Thursday on TGCTS, a Metis
researcher told of the significant areas of the Forks which had served
as a burial ground for aboriginals for a century, and his attempts to
get the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to acknowledge this.
Museum champion, Gail Asper did not
return David Carriere's call, delegating the task of blowing him off to
"Elders" had assured the Museum
millionaires that their location was not a burial ground as "we would
not have buried so close to the banks of the river".
CMHR head cheerleader Gordon
Sinclair of the Free Press also brushed off the concerns, based on
assurances from the museum's handpicked aboriginal "experts" that
enabled the pet project of millionaires to proceed unabated.
Carriere explained, because of the
significant financial support of FN organizations such as the Assembly
of Manitoba Chiefs and the Manitoba Metis Federation, if there was any
notion that the construction was disturbing a native boneyard, there
would be an uproar.
The truth about the bones beneath
the floor was an inconvenient truth, for the human rights crowd of
Armed with extensive historical
clippings and academic studies of the region, Carriere took his case to
the vaunted Round Table consultations at the Forks in January, when
CMHR officials ostensibly were asking for citizens to come forward with
their ideas of which human rights stories the museum should tell.
As he described it, "THEIR JAWS
WERE ON THE TABLE".
is not asking for construction of the Museum to stop.
is not asking for existing structures to be torn down.
he is asking for is a cairn, a plaque, a memorial, to allow visitors to
the Forks and the CMHR to give pause and remember the exploitation of a
native burial ground by land developers.
for the Gail Asper's of the world, such an act would require too much
time away from high-society hobnobbing and panhandling for donations
from gullible school children and photo-op craving Premiers.
Carriere has yet to hear back about
his suggestion from anyone connected to the Museum. Here is the letter
he presented at the public session:
I would like to propose that the Canadian Human Rights Museum consider the destruction and
exploitation of the Aboriginal graveyard of “The Winnipeg Forks Region” as an important
story of human rights violation.
The existence of the Aboriginal
graveyard at The Forks was consistently described by early visitors to
the area as “unusually large”. This was
attributed to the smallpox epidemics of 1781-1782. During
this time half of the areas aboriginal population died.
This area was used for burial
from ancient times till at least 1874 (see photo dated 1874).
During this time
the number of burials would have been enormous.
At times, the Red River
flooded. During these floods, much of the
surface evidence of the graveyard would be destroyed. Still,
the significance of the graveyard as a landmark is evidence by the
example; On September 15th, 1817, the “Indian
tombs” ½ miles south of Fort Douglas
was described as the Southern boundary of their new constable’s
jurisdiction (the north boundary being “7 Oaks”). It
is likely though that most of the surface “tombs” were destroyed during
the enormous flood of 1826. During this time
it is said that very few surface structures (from within miles of the Red River) survived. This
flood destroyed the fort at the forks which was later relocated to
higher ground. Still, aboriginal people
continued to bury their dead in this traditional graveyard.
Confederation (1870); there became a huge emigration to Winnipeg.
The cost of land in “down town” Winnipeg shot
through the roof. Enormous profits could be
made off land on main thoroughfares. The land South of Main Street and Portage Ave. was seen as too valuable to
leave as an “Indian Burial Ground”. So,
even areas that were recognized by all on lookers as an Aboriginal
graveyard were “converted to other purposes”.
During this land development
boom, a great number of aboriginal skeletons were unearthed. The
citizens of Winnipeg
were under no delusions. These remains were
from “The Indian Burial Ground”. It was
openly acknowledged in the newspapers of the time.
by then, the descendants of the buried were far away suffering on
reservations. Some claimed that the
aboriginals had abandoned the graveyard. And
that gave them the right to use it as they saw fit. But, the separation of Canadian
Aboriginals from their ancestor’s final resting place has historically
land within the old C.N. railyard is believed to be within the old
graveyard. Some of these areas are not built
upon. But, it is probably still the same
land is seen as too valuable to respect the Aboriginal dead.