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Rooster Town Revisited: The Other Side of the Story.

As most people know the community of Rooster Town existed for over six decades on the
undeveloped land south of the Crescentwood area of Winnipeg. In the 1950s the City of
Winnipeg facilitated the removal of the residents so that Grant Park Plaza and Grant Park
School could be built.

On Saturday January 30, 2012, the Winnipeg Free Press published a lengthy article by reporter
Randy Turner which outlines the history of Rooster Town. This article tends to portray people
and events in a negative way.

I prefer a more positive view.

Up until 1959 Rooster Town had existed in the bush south of Crescentwood in Winnipeg. It had
been known as a distinct community since the late 1800s. The residents, who were largely
Metis, lived in self-constructed shanties. The population in this area increased significantly
during the hard times of the 1930s. The people living in this area had no streets or roads,
electricity, or sewer and water services even though they paid city taxes.

By 1959, the City of Winnipeg had facilitated the removal of Rooster Town residents so that the
area could be developed. It then became the site for Grant Park School, the Grant Park
Shopping Mall and later the City of Winnipeg Pan Am Pool.

Although the relocation created untold hardship for Rooster Town families, these resilient
people gradually moved on to better jobs and better housing. Interviews have revealed that
large numbers of these people went on to gain employment and have careers with various City
of Winnipeg departments. Recent research also reveals that a number of these Metis people
had served in the Canadian Armed Forces in World War I and World War II. The parish church of
St. Ignatius which for decades had schooled and ministered to the Rooster Town families
continues to carry on its good works.

It can be argued that the plight of the Rooster Town residents led to the creation of better
social programming with the subsequent creation of the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre,
Kinew Housing and more proactive initiatives through the Social Welfare Council of Greater
Winnipeg. In fact, province wide housing and employment issues for people in similar situations
gave impetus to the formation of the Manitoba Metis Federation in 1967.

Since 1959, the Grant Park Mall has employed dozens of Metis people and served a clientele of
thousands of Metis customers. Grant Park High School has employed Metis teachers and
educated large numbers of Indigenous students.

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Thus the memory of Rooster Town is bittersweet. It deserves designation as a historic place in
Winnipeg.

Lawrence J. Barkwell
Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research
Louis Riel Institute
(204) 586-8474 ext. 298
Barkwell2@shaw.ca

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