Renaming Rooster Town Park: Métis leader says more consultation was needed

One Metis leader says there should have been more consultation before the city renamed a local park after Rooster Town, which he says was a negative phrase for the Metis community that lived there. Morgan Modjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

A Métis leader says the City of Winnipeg should have done a better job consulting the community before renaming Pan Am Park to Rooster Town Park.

Andrew Carrier says the new name references a colonial phrase used to devalue and disparage the Métis community.

“When they spoke about Rooster Town, it was always in a negative connotation, that there were wild parties and debauchery going on in that area,” said Carrier, the vice-president for the Winnipeg region of the Manitoba Métis Federation.

“Rooster Town was a name given by the City of Winnipeg to coin a group of individuals, a group of Métis citizens who were Indigenous, who lived a traditional life in that area, and to discredit them from the rest of society and justify the expropriation of land.”

Archival documents show in 1959, the City of Winnipeg approved giving the residents of Rooster Town, called Pakan Town by those who lived there, $75 to help them find new accommodation – referring to community members as “squatters.”

Archival City of Winnipeg documents show Rooster Town. (Credit: City of Winnipeg archives)

Carrier says the historic wrong by the city and negative publicity at the time has been acknowledged, but says more should have been done to consult the community before the park was officially renamed.

“All of a sudden, city hall approves a renaming without any consultation, which is again a sign of colonization, that they know better,” said Carrier. “They think that this was a good thing to do, again in good faith, but in reality, it perpetuates a negative stereotype of a community of Métis citizens that lived in that area.”

CityNews reached out to the City of Winnipeg with Carrier’s concerns. They provided a statement explaining the city collected public feedback and input on the renaming request.

At the official renaming ceremony Tuesday city officials unveiled the new name, but also a marker acknowledging the history of the site, and the Pakan Town name.

Family members of those displaced say they were encouraged by the acknowledgement.

“For me, myself, to find yourself you have to know where you come from, and my dad made sure he let us know where he came from that he was proud,” said Darrell Sais, whose family was displaced from Rooster Town.

“And I’m hoping other families will be able to enjoy this signage and the panels over there so this community has not been forgotten.”

Carrier says while it’s positive the city is recognizing one of its historic wrongs, he says more needs to be done in the forms of compensation for families who lost their homes.

“The healing process is a long road and I think it’s a necessary step in that road that we’re taking to first of all, recognize the history and the wrong that occurred, as well as to move forward to be more respectful of the Métis citizens that contributed to Winnipeg.”

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