One of Winnipeg’s most historic buildings will open its doors to both schoolchildren and the public this summer because of a new funding agreement.
The Louis Riel Institute and Parks Canada recently announced that funding from the Manitoba Métis Federation will provide programming at Riel House for Grades 1 to 6 students in both English and French.
Riel House National Historic Site (330 River Rd.) is the former home of the mother of Métis leader Louis Riel, and it is where Riel lay in state after he was hanged in 1885. It is also a prime example of a Métis river lot, a unique form of prairie settlement.
Students visiting the house will experience hands-on activities and dramatizations of historic events of the time. Officials say the institute has signed a Licence of Occupation with Parks Canada, which means the curriculum-based educational school programming will run throughout June. In July and August, there will be guided tours at the site to help visitors learn about a key part of Canada’s history.
MMF president David Chartrand said in a news release that it’s important to "ensure the prominent role of the Métis Nation and our contribution to building Western Canada continues to be part of the Riel House student and visitor experience.
"The Métis, under the leadership of Louis Riel, negotiated Manitoba into Confederation in 1870 and this site is an important part of that period in our country’s collective history," he added.
Last year, Parks Canada announced it would not renew its contract with the St. Boniface Historical Society to continue funding interpretive tours of the site and replace them with self-guided tours.
Tom Kynman, superintendent of operations for Parks Canada’s Southern Manitoba region, told The Lance in August 2012 that "we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to find a solution to keep the place open and accessible to the community."
Since then, St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover has helped facilitate stakeholders and community groups and the recent agreement was reached following meetings held last fall and winter between Parks Canada and community-based heritage organizations.
Educators wishing to book a class visit to the site can call Riel House co-ordinator Ashley Viner at 204-984-9480.