Park in Winnipeg renamed to honour former Métis residents

The park located at Pan Am Pool near Grant Park Shopping Centre has been renamed to honour and recognize the Métis community that originally settled in the area.

On Tuesday, the city unveiled the new name Rooster Town Park, which was approved through the Welcoming Winnipeg: Reconciling our History Policy.

Along with the park name change, the city is adding a new historical marker which says “Pakan Town,” which is what residents used to call the area.

Rooster Town was the name of the area in southwest Winnipeg where a largely Métis community lived from 1901 to the late 1950s. The city said six Métis families had settled on the land (now known as Grant Park) in the late 1800s after they were pushed from their Red River homes.

The community grew, and by the 1911, more than 40 families lived in Rooster Town. However, to make room for new suburban development, the city said it looked to remove the families, using false and racist stereotypical stories to harm and humiliate the community. The city bulldozed the last few houses in Rooster Town in 1960.

The city’s renaming has brought some healing to some residents with connections to the area’s past.

“Overjoyed for sure. Very happy seeing all the smiles on people’s faces,” said Darrell Sais, whose family members were Rooster Town residents.

The historical sign unveiled in Rooster Town Park on Aug. 23, 2022. (Source: Devon McKendrick/CTV News)

He said his dad grew up in the area and was forced out by the city in the 1960s. He said it was tough on his entire family as they quickly had to find a home somewhere else in Winnipeg.

“(My dad) was so proud of coming from here…the city said (back then) the reason why they wanted to relocate (the Métis residents) was because they were poor, on social assistance, on welfare and they needed help. My dad says those stories weren’t true. They were a vibrant community that looked after each other.

He said the renaming of the park ensures the history of the area continues to live on and people can understand who used to live and call the area home.

Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights – Fort Garry) said he grew up in the area and didn’t know all the stories about the people who lived in Rooster Town, saying this process has taught him a lot about the history.

“They weren’t interested in leaving. I always assumed that…they were looking forward to moving and relocating, but that wasn’t the way. It was a forceful removal, it was some pretty underhanded ways that they did,” said Orlikow. “So learning about that was quite humbling to me, as a resident of the neighbourhood, and really drove the fact home that, you know, we have to reconcile our past so we can move forward.”

Sais said Thursday was the first time that he had heard his dad say he was happy with the renaming process, adding it shows the first sign of healing for him.

Orlikow said it warmed his heart to hear that.

“To hear that about the people that were here, and the pain that it had caused, and they’ve been carrying for so long…it fills my heart with joy.”

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