WINNIPEG will soon be home to the Métis National Heritage Centre, though its address has yet to be determined.
This morning, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett will be in the city to announce more than $5 million in federal funding for the project.
Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand pegged the total cost at $6 million, with its doors to open in 2020.
"Our people are excited," Chartrand said Thursday night. "It’s something that’s been long waited for, and should have happened a long, long time ago, given the significant role we played in the development of this province and Western Canada."
Chartrand said it won’t be a museum about Métis leader Louis Riel, but rather people — families, the message of the Métis, and women — and misunderstood events such as the 1816 Battle of Seven Oaks.
"That’s where the (Métis) Nation was truly born," he said. "It’s going to be a compelling story for the world to see."
"The Métis National Heritage Centre represents Canada’s deep commitment to work in partnership with the Métis Nation to advance reconciliation," Bennett said in an emailed statement. "Today is an incredibly important day."
A location for the museum has not yet been chosen, though Chartrand said he hopes it will be at Upper Fort Garry — the downtown Winnipeg site of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, formed by Riel in 1870, and where the Manitoba Act was signed to join Confederation.
Chartrand said plans have been drawn up that would allow the centre to fit with existing structures on the site.
"I’d love to build my museum there," he said, noting it is a provincial park and the federation’s relationship with the province is currently strained. The federation is suing the province because it quashed a deal with Manitoba Hydro.
Chartrand said, however, he hopes the province will contribute money to the project.
"Nothing’s going to stop me from building this... there’s not a question about it. The question is where," he said. "With the province, or without."
He said downtown Bonnycastle Park is also under consideration. In 1994, the museum was intended to go at The Forks.
"I think it’s a fantastic idea, long overdue, should have been there 100 years ago," said Jean Teillet, an Indigenous lawyer and Riel’s great-grandniece.
She said there are thousands of artifacts and important documents in various museums. She looks forward to the pieces being put together.
"There’s more than enough there to fill 10 museums of Métis stuff," she said.
When the RCMP pledged in 2017 to return Riel artifacts, including a crucifix and hunting knife, the federation asked for them to be transferred to the proposed Métis National Heritage Centre. Since then, several other facilities, including the St. Boniface Museum and Manitoba Museum, have received Riel artifacts.
"It’s been a long, long process of trying to have these artifacts returned to Métis people. It’s a great day," said Jesse Donovan, a Métis from Saskatchewan who launched a petition to have the artifacts returned.
"I think the most important part is the heritage centre will have a museum that is operated and run by Métis people, so we can tell the story of these items in a way that reflects our values and reflects how we want to tell our story," he said.
The project will be announced at 9 a.m. at Métis federation headquarters on Henry Avenue.
Updated on Friday, July 12, 2019 at 6:51 AM CDT: Changes headline