Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Flats

When work begins on Antoine Predock's addling Post-architecture jumble of a Canadian Museum of Human Rights at The Forks (form represents function?), will workers dig up bones from the Native burial ground they stand on?

"There is substantial evidence that an Indian burial ground existed in the area bounded by Water and Main to the north and St. Mary's and Fort Street to the south and west. This was formerly a portion of the Hudson's Bay Reserve...

According to one 1876 account, an old resident stated that burials had taken place in the area as late as 1851. Furthermore, the area seems to have been centered in the space now falling between Water and Wesley Streets. Ham acknowledged this location by citing "tradition" in his book. While the western portion of this burying ground has been built and rebuilt upon with substantial structures, the section known as the East Yards has remained virtually untouched, save for the construction of rail lines since the 1890s. While the Indians had abandoned their burial ground with its shallow graves at the time of the beginnings of the village of Winnipeg, the area known as the "Flats" (now the "Yards") was known as a rather out of the way and disreputable part of the city. This reputation probably stemmed from the latent memory of a cemetery being there, and the area developed accordingly."


After so many years, it may be unlikely that remains will be found. The article above speculates that burials may not have taken place so close to the river, anyway. However, since nothing more than the shanties of what was considered Winnipeg's earliest slum of the 1870s, followed by roadways and railways of followoing decades, themselves succeeded of course by today's illustrious gravel junk pile (that is regularly defended as "threatened green space") has been built on that portion of The Forks since the time when the Natives camped freely there. In short, nothing that required major excavation work. There could be anything under that ground.

On such a historic site, will an archeological dig precede construction (or would that be Deconstruction) of Winnipeg's preƫminent testament to the dark age of architecture that is upon us? Since this museum is apparently all about learning from the past, let's hope so.


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