Founded as a province on July 15th, 1870. It’s where you’ll find the town of Churchill, the self-proclaimed Polar Bear Capital of the World. Residents are advised to leave their car doors unlocked in case a polar bear turns on a pedestrian and said pedestrian needs to escape, sharpish. Happens now and again. They have a polar bear prison for those naughty bears. I’m actually not kidding, either. In fact, during Halloween, Churchill children are advised against dressing up as polar bears so the police can tell them apart from actual polar bears. Tee, he, he… Churchill is also where Isotelus rex was found, the largest trilobite ever discovered, 27 inches long and 455 million years old. Where you’ll also find the community of Gimli, the largest Icelandic community in the world outside of Iceland. The most common names include Olivia, Emma and Emily, for women, and Liam, William and Benjamin, for men. It’s where you’ll find the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, in the city of Morden, holding the word record for the largest publicly displayed Mosasaur, woefully named Bruce. Sigh. The capital city, Winnipeg, has the largest amount of Slurpee consumers in the world, with an estimated total of 1.5 million Slurpees sold since the first 7-Eleven opened in the province in 1970. In fact, in 2015, Slurpee erected the largest Slurpee statue in the world, in Winnipeg. It’s kinda sweet, when you think about it. Winnipeg is also where Winnie the Pooh gets his name from. And it’s where you’ll find places named Starbuck, Finger, Red Sucker Lake, Windygates, Snowflake, Flin Flon, Cranberry Portage and Bacon Ridge. Mmm… bacon. Today, we’re visiting The Keystone Province, Manitoba.
Manitoba is a province in central Canada, bordered by Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario and Saskatchewan, plus North Dakota and Minnesota. It is the eighth largest province or territory at 250,000 square miles, with the fifth largest population with 1.2 million people. The name ‘Manitoba’ is thought to come from the Ojibwa word ‘manito-bah’ or the Cree words ‘manito-wapow’ or ‘man-into-wahpaow,’ meaning, ‘the straits of Manitou, the Great Spirit,’ referring to Lake Manitoba. On the north shore, the waves lapping against the loose rocks creates a bell-like, wailing sound, which the Aboriginals believed came from a huge drum beaten by Manitou, the Great Spirit. It was chosen by Sir John Macdonald in 1870 as the name of the new province for its ‘pleasant sound and its associations with the original inhabitants of the area,’ suggested by Louis Riel, the leader of Métis, a French-speaking people with mixed European and Aboriginal ancestry. The motto of this place is ‘Gloriosus et liber,’ taken from the English lyrics of the Canadian national anthem, which is Latin for, ‘Glorious and Free.’ Ah, lovely…
The flag of Manitoba is based on the Red Ensign, bearing the shield of the provincial coat of arms. Much like with Ontario, Manitobans were outraged when the national flag, the Canadian Red Ensign, was replaced with the Maple Leaf flag, and so Manitoba ended up with a flag designed to resemble the Red Ensign, seen as a way to preserve the heritage that many felt was lost when the national flag was changed. The shield contains the Cross of Saint George, a symbol of England, whilst the bison is a symbolic reminder of the bison that once roamed the province. I assume we didn’t kill them and eat them all and, instead, they left of their own free will. Ahem…
Manitoba is an Aboriginal land occupied for thousands of years, a place greatly influenced by the traditional Aboriginal and Métis arts plus the hotchpotch of people from around the world that make up a richly eclectic mix of immigrants. A strong music scene here also traces its roots back to the Aboriginal peoples, in particular, the old-time fiddling of the Métis. Many traditions here have strong influence from Europe, too. Manitoba is internationally renowned for its ballets, outstanding theatres, visual arts, writers, and world-class symphonies. Classical and contemporary dance and music can be found everywhere, here, with arts galleries, exhibitions, music and writers’ festivals also well-liked, along with architecture and homemade handicrafts. And many of these things can trace their roots back to those Aboriginal peoples. Intertwined with modern Manitoba rather beautifully.
The ballet and theatre companies here are prominent, as is the love of such, with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet the oldest in Canada and the longest running in North America, the Winnipeg Art Gallery the sixth largest in the country and with the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art, and the Le Cercle Molière the oldest French language theatre in Canada. Arts and heritage go hand in hand here, a partnership eternal and ever bright. Here you’ll find countless schools of theatre nourishing the Manitoban youth’s desire for the arts and the joy it brings.
This place oozes a radiant heartbeat of sound and festivity, too, with festivals taking place throughout the province, such as the Winnipeg Folk Festival today attracting around 80,000 people over five days. The Festival du Voyageur is a 10 day celebration of French-Canadian culture and heritage, held in Saint-Boniface, Canada’s largest winter festival. The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is the second largest of its kind in North America, featuring folk artists from around the world. And Folklorama is often described as the largest and longest-running cultural festival in the world, receiving 400,000 visitors each year. The love and passion for the arts and festivals knows no bounds…
This is a beautiful place to visit and to live in, full of breathtaking beauty, clean, modern and wonderful cities, wide open spaces and farmlands, and mesmerising locations. Here, you’ll find more than 110,000 lakes, including Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world. Whilst it is a mostly flat land, with plains and plateaus aplenty, you will find a few hills and mountains in the southwest. You’ll find coniferous forests in this land, crisscrossed and blanketed by those famous lakes, from Cedar to Nueltin, and rivers, many wonderfully named, from Bloodvein to Wolverine. This is a place known by the kind and warm locals as a slice of heaven on Earth, and rightly so.
Manitoba is a land of a thousand different cultures, all made to feel welcome and at home. It’s the most culturally diverse province in Canada, welcoming people from every corner of the globe, with more than 100 languages spoken here. A place proud of this multicultural heritage, celebrating their diversity whilst embracing their similarities. A province with an Aboriginal history thousands of years old, with a population famed for their friendliness and community spirit, gladly welcoming visitors for centuries gone and centuries to come, I’m sure. A place truly gorgeous in every sense of the word…
There are sights to love such as the canny and beautiful Old Kildonan Presbyterian Church in Winnipeg, and Bloodvein River, the striking and sublime waters nestled amongst bonére greenery, astonishing and majestic, breathtaking in the extreme.
And then there’s the exquisite and meritorious wonder that is the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, its neoclassical form gentle and soothing to the eye, a flawless and irresistible gem, opening in 1920.
Then there’s the testament to exemplary modernism that is the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, the only museum in the world dedicated to such, in Winnipeg. Opening in 2014, its luscious curves and effervescent form titillate the senses and warp one’s perception, a building seemingly melting yet mighty and charismatic. A striking and splendiferous structure indeed.
But my favourite sight of Manitoba is the ethereal majesty of Saint Boniface Cathedral, a beacon radiating a gorgeous and supreme grace, a mesmeric icon of Winnipeg. This grand and imposing structure dominated the landscape for six decades, a resplendent monument to incredible human art and craft, not unlike the province it calls home. Sadly, in 1968, a fire destroyed almost all of the cathedral, leaving little more than a leviathan edifice at the front, with a new, smaller cathedral built in the ruins. Today it stands as a remarkable and bonny jewel, oozing rustic charm and captivating onlookers with its endless enchanting form, sitting in glorious kempt grounds, together forming a complex as stunning as one could hope for considering what happened in 1968. Still the heart, beating proud and strong.
Manitoba. The province of heritage, arts and Flin Flon…
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of Manitoba
2) Saint Boniface
3) The Canadian Museum of Human Rights
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