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Historical society to commemorate immigrants

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They came in the 1800s, some with hopes and dreams, many fleeing poverty and persecution.

They came with little money and few possessions to a cold and unforgiving land in search of a better life. Somehow they endured, set down roots and went on to enrich the prairie landscape with their diversity, many talents and strengths.

And so it is not surprising that the Seven Oaks Historical Society hopes to celebrate the arrival of these immigrants with a commemorative concert in the fall.

Past president Len Kaminski said they plan to "celebrate those populations who arrived with or after the initial settlers and who have built the community to what it is today."

The small group has been busy. In late 2006 it embarked on ambitious plans to mark the arrival of the Selkirk Settlers with bicentennial celebrations held in 2012.

A Scottish luncheon was held in the spring of that year and a concert featuring local entertainment was held in the fall.

A specially-commissioned musical suite, Red River, was composed by Manitoba’s Sid Robinovitch and performed at the Centennial Concert Hall and at several other events.

A book based on interviews with seniors who lived or worked in the Seven Oaks neighbourhood was begun and is still in the works.

The society began its life in 2005. Kaminski has served as president for much of this period.

"I think the first meeting I attended was at Bleak House," he said. "We started out as rather a motley crew. Beside myself, there is only one member on the board who dates back to that time, Marlene Mouser."

The group initially occupied itself by collecting bits and pieces of history, organizing historic walks and printing walking guides.

One of the issues the group became involved with early on, Kaminski remembers, was the demolition of "an old barn at the end of Red River Boulevard that was thought to have been standing in that location when Louis Riel came to McBeth House to try to re-arrest John Schultz.

We went to the city hall meeting to try to stop this but the councillors gave the go-ahead to knock down the barn."

The society will hold its annual general meeting on Tuesday, May 6 at St. John’s Cathedral and all are welcome.

Because I’m interested in this area’s history I recently joined the society. If you want to learn more about this rich and historic neighbourhood, come on out. For more information call Len at 204-338-6399.

"From its inception the original colony was composed of people from different parts of the world," Kaminski said. "So, yes we have a lot of history to be proud of."

Cheryl Girard is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. You can contact her at girard.cheryl@gmail.com

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