Winnipeg’s story begins millennia ago, as a gathering place for Manitoba’s Indigenous peoples. Situated at the intersection of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, the area known as The Forks has been used continuously for over 6,000 years for gathering, celebrations, trading, transportation and settlement.
Today, Winnipeg has the largest urban Indigenous population of any city in Canada, and is located on Treaty No. 1 territory, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe peoples and the Homeland of the Metis nation.
Participants of Broadway Neighbourhood Association – Positive Athletic Cultural Experience (PACE) program. Photo courtesy of The Winnipeg Foundation.
In the centuries following European contact, Winnipeg’s culture became increasingly diverse with successive waves of European migration. Initially a key point along French and English fur trading routes, the establishment of the Red River Colony by Scottish settlers in 1812 marked the first permanent European settlement in the region. As a result of Metis leader Louis Riel’s establishment of a provisional government in 1869 and subsequent negotiations with the British Crown, Manitoba officially became a province in 1870 with the passage of the Manitoba Act.
In the decades that followed, Winnipeg’s central location and the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 made it a key transportation hub and gateway to Western Canada. Winnipeg became a major destination for immigrants from all over Europe, which continues to be reflected in the city’s multicultural makeup. More recent waves of immigration from Asia and Africa have helped make Winnipeg one of the most diverse cities in Canada, with over 100 different languages spoken.
Participants of the Wiggle, Giggle and Munch program. Photo courtesy of The Winnipeg Foundation.
The coming together of these many peoples, languages, and traditions has created both the demand and the foundation for an expansive variety of artistic expression and cultural industries. As a result, Winnipeg is widely recognized as the “cultural cradle of Canada.” Thousands come to Winnipeg to annually take part in cultural festivals including Folklorama, Festival du Voyageur, Manito Ahbee Festival, Culture Days, Nuit Blanche, and Pride Winnipeg Festival. Winnipeg also boasts some of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious performing arts organizations, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Winnipeg celebrates its rich heritage and diversity through the creation and curation of a myriad of permanent installations, museums, and exhibits, including the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in 2014 and the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s establishment of the Inuit Art Centre, which will house the world’s largest collection of Inuit art.
Student volunteers at the Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre. Photo courtesy of The Winnipeg Foundation.
Ultimately, Winnipeg is, and has always been, a vibrant meeting place at the heart of the continent, which is why we are so excited to be hosting the Canada Games in 2017. The Canada Games are not only a unifying force in sport; they also promote diversity, multiculturalism, health and wellness, the use of both official languages, and community spirit. The Games are a national gathering that brings together teams from all 13 provinces and territories and unites people from across the country. In July and August 2017, Winnipeg will welcome those teams, along with over 20,000 visitors, to share in the spirit of competition, showcase sporting excellence, and to experience and celebrate the cultural diversity of our city, province and our country.