Manitoba one of the ten provinces
that comprise Canada
. Along with
, it is one of the three
Population (2001): 1,150,000
Mean income ($C): 31,180
Area: 649,950 km2
covered by water)
Highest point: Baldy Mountain, 831 m (2727')
Bird: Great grey owl
Flower: Prairie crocus (anemone patens)
Tree: White spruce
Manitoba is situated at the longitudinal center of Canada, bordering Saskatchewan to the west, Nunavut to the north, Ontario
to the east and Minnesota
and North Dakota
to the south. The province, however, is not landlocked, as the shores of Hudson's Bay
form the northeast portion of its boundaries.
Much of Manitoba's geography has been defined by the several ice ages that have occured in the last 35,000 years. After the last glacial maximum (some 18,000 years ago), the ice sheet that had covered most of Canada began to recede northwards. It left behind a massive reservoir of water, now known as Lake Agassiz, which covered nearly all of southern Manitoba 9600 years ago. Eventually, the glaciers and Lake Agassiz disappeared, leaving moraines, drumlins, eskers and remnant lakes scattered across the province. In total, over 100,000 (take that Minnesota) lakes can be found throughout the province -- the largest being Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis.
Manitoba has two distinct geographical regions: the Canadian (or Precambrian) Shield in the south and east, and the prairie grasslands (considered part of the Great Plains). The Shield is largely boreal forest and muskeg, interrupted by the occasional rock outcrop or river. This area is largely uninhabited, except for several dozen First Nations communities, scattered mining and lumber mill towns and the port of Churchill. Many communities (including Churchill) are inaccessible by car, and supplies and people must be flown in or brought in by railroad.
The bulk of the province's population lives in the southern plains; it is here that almost all of Manitoba's large cities are found: e.g. Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage la Prairie. Two river systems dominate this area, the Red River of the North (which runs northwards from the US border into Lake Winnipeg) and the Assiniboine (which runs into the Red in Winnipeg). Nearly all of Manitoba lies south of the tree line, except for a narrow corridor along the Hudson's Bay coastline.
Manitoba's climate is continental -- varying seasonally and relatively dry. Winters are rather cold (average Winnipeg January low temperature is -15C/5F, before wind chill) and summers are sunny and warm (average Winnipeg July high temperature is 23C/74F). As can be expected, conditions vary regionally, with average temperatures dropping at higher latitudes.
The first humans entered what is now Manitoba some 10-13,000 years ago, likely following migrating herds of animals. Many settled in the region, eventually developing into many of the indian cultures we know today: Inuit
The first European to set foot on Manitoba soil belonged to Captain Thomas Button, who spent the winter of 1612 on the Hudson's Bay shores. In 1670, King Charles II of Great Britain gave the Hudson's Bay Company its charter, granting it claim over all land that drains into the bay, including all of present-day Manitoba. The HBC, along with the rival North West Company, co-operated with local natives to open the region up to the fur trade. Explorers like the Sieur de La Vérendrye and Rene-Robert de La Salle mapped the waterways, paving the way for the construction of trading posts like Fort Garry and Fort Rouge (present-day Winnipeg}, Fort la Reine (now Portage la Prairie), Fort Churchill (now Churchill) and Fort Dauphin (now Dauphin).
Many of the voyageurs who first explored the region settled in Manitoba, either living near the forts or in Indian settlements. The descendants of these men would eventually become the Métis -- a culture mixing both French and Native Canadian customs and ancestry (the term has also been extended to descendants of English/Native and Scots/Native parentage). The first attempt at a permanent European colony came in 1812, with the arrival of settlers from Scotland sponsored by the Earl of Selkirk. They established farmsteads on the Red River of the North and, although they clashed several times with the Métis and suffered from the elements, the Red River Colony persisted.
In the mid-1800s, the economic focus of the region shifted away from the fur trade (due in part to decreased demand for furs in Europe and to dwindling numbers of fur-bearing critters) and more towards agriculture. New waves of settlers arrived from eastern Canada and from the United States, causing alarm with the local indians and Métis.
Following Confederation in 1867 and the subsequent transfer of title of the North West Territory from the HBC to the new Canadian Government in Ottawa, the arrival of new settlers increased exponentially. Armed Métis, led by lawyer Louis Riel, turned back government surveyors and took control over the Red River Colony. Riel eventually negotiated Manitoba's entry into Canada as its fifth province, winning several concessions from Ottawa to guarantee Métis rights (see The Many-Sided Manitoba Wars for a more in-depth treatment of this topic). Manitoba's borders were expanded from its original postage stamp shape in 1881, and again in 1912, bringing it to its present boundaries.
The rights that Riel -- hanged for treason after he led another Métis rebellion in Saskatchewan -- supposedly secured came under fire during the debates over the Manitoba Schools Question. eventually, an agreement was hammered out between Premier Greenway and Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. Seizure of Métis land, however, continued and many land claims still have yet been resolved.
Once the trans-continental railroad arrived in Winnipeg (whose businessmen lured it away from Selkirk, slightly to the north) in 1881, a 35-year boom period begun. The railroad shipped grain from the prairie farms eastwards, and brought in manufactured goods, immigrants and prestige. Winnipeg's population swelled from 20,000 in 1884 to 150,000 in 1913, making it Canada's third-largest city and earning it the nickname of "Chicago of the North."
The railroad boom slowed after World War I, and the focus of growth in the province shifted northwards. People moved northwards to exploit the rich natural resources found there. Those that didn't leave faced problems, notably the Winnipeg General Strike and the Great Depression.
During World War II, Manitoba sent many of her sons to fight...and die. The Winnipeg Grenadiers were annihilated during the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada were badly mauled at the Dieppe Raid. Back home, Manitoba played host to thousands of pilots from the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and was one of the main hangars in FDR's "Aerodrome of Democracy".
In 1950, much of southern Manitoba (including Winnipeg) was flooded when the Red River spilled its banks. To prevent this from recurring, the federal and provincial governments constructed the Red River Floodway. The Floodway, known as Duff's Ditch (after then-Premier Duff Roblin), and its system of locks and dikes saved Winnipeg from a potentially disastrous flood in 1997
Manitoba's economy is very diversified. As with most of Canada, the principal industries are the service industry and manufacturing
. Other major industries include agriculture, mining
, forestry, and petroleum
Manufacturing is largely restricted to plants in and around Manitoba's major cities. Both light and heavy manufacturing is present; major products include consumer goods, agricultural equipment and aerospace materials.
Several large-scale mining operations are located in Flin Flon (Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting, copper and zinc), Thompson (INCO, nickel and copper), Snow Lake (HBM&S, copper, zinc and gold) and Bissett (gold). The area has also been developed by the forestry industry, with major milling operations at Pine Falls and The Pas.
A growing sector in Manitoba's economy is energy. Manitoba Hydro is one of the largest producers of hydroelectricity in Canada, with several stations on the Nelson, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan Rivers. Manitoba also has minor petroleum reserves, with a field near Virden producing natural gas.
One of the hinges of Manitoba's culture is the influence of the aboriginal population. Manitoba has the highest per capita
population of Native Canadians in the country, and has the second-highest Native population overall. The last 20 years has seen a renaissance
in Native Canadian culture, with a number of cultural and friendship centers having been built across the province.
Statistically-speaking, the largest portion of Manitobans are British in descent (including English, Irish, Scots and Welsh). Some of these people can trace at least one ancestor to the Selkirk Settlers. The influence of Scots culture is especially evident in Winnipeg, where many of the streets bear the names of Scots-Canadian families: Bannatyne, McDermot and McPhillips are good examples. Every year, Selkirk hosts its Highland Gathering, one of the largest Scottish festivals in the world.
Winnipeg is closely tied to its French-Canadian origins, too. St. Boniface (one of the cities that merged to form greater Winnipeg in the 1970s) is still largely francophone, as are some of the small towns with long French names surrounding the city, like Ste. Agathe, Ste. Rose du Lac, Beausejour and St. Norbert. Every February, Winnipeg hosts Le Festival du Voyageur, a two-week long celebration of French-Canadian culture.
When Winnipeg's population swelled during the boom years, many of the new arrivals were immigrants from central and eastern Europe. Winnipeg's North End filled up with Germans and Poles (including many Jews fleeing persecution), Ukrainians and Hungarians. Mennonites gathered together in large farming communities like Steinbach and Winkler. The Hutterites built several large colonies in the southeastern portion of the province. Icelanders colonized Gimli, a town on the shores of Lake Manitoba.
The mid- and late- 1900s saw influxes of immigrants from new areas: Africa, South-East Asia (notably Vietnam, the Philippines, and Hong Kong), southern Europe (primarily Italy, Greece, Portugal and the former Yugoslav republics) and the Caribbean.
Manitoba celebrates its diversity with Folklorama, an August festival that occurs annually in Winnipeg. Cultural groups representing over 50 nationalities open pavilions to share their cuisine, music and art with the rest of the city. Folklorama has been ranked as one of the 50 best festivals by the AAA.
When your winter lasts five months, you spend a lot of time indoors. It shouldn't be too hard to understand Manitoba's infatuation with music. Native drums, bagpipes, fiddles, harmonicas and guitars are all common instruments. Even though the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is internationally known for its New Music Festival and the University of Manitoba and University of Brandon have recognized music education programs, Manitoba is best known for its rock and roll. Manitoba music burst onto the scene in the mid 1960s, with stars like The Guess Who and Neil Young. The torch was passed to Bachman Turner Overdrive after Randy Bachman left The Guess Who. The 1980s saw the mantle taken up by Harlequin (ugh), the Crash Test Dummies and The Watchmen. Lately, Chantal Kreviazuk and Holly McNarland have started to gain popularity.
Manitoba's culture cannot exclude sports. Sports and culture are inexorably linked in the province, no one sport more so than hockey. Every year, from October to April, thousands of children and teens don pads and play for their community center, high school or junior club. Of all the cities in the world, only Toronto and Montreal have had more native sons play in the NHL than Winnipeg. For 20 years Manitobans lived and died with the Winnipeg Jets...usually dieing. Famous Manitoban pucksters include Bill Mosienko, Bobby Clarke, Butch Goring, Ron Hextall and Ed Belfour. The other major winter sport (although some may question the use of that word) is curling. Winnipeg holds the world record for the largest curling bonspiel ever held. And in the summer? You play street hockey. And baseball. And football (the three-down, 12-man type that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers play). And sometimes soccer.
Red River Rebellion
, The Many-Sided Manitoba Wars
, Manitoba Schools Question
, Winnipeg General Strike
, Portage and Main
, Manitoba's Universities
Statistics Canada - http://www.statcan.ca/start.html
Travel Manitoba - http://www.travelmanitoba.com/contents.html
Facts on Canada - http://www.communication.gc.ca/facts/manitoba_e.html
History of Manitoba First Nations - http://www.mbchiefs.mb.ca/efa/history2.html
Manitoba Industry Trade and Mines - http://www.gov.mb.ca/itm/mrd/index.html