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Rooster Town Kettle and Fetching Water

October 16, 2019

As a new art piece is taking shape at the SouthWest Rapid Transitway station, we asked the Winnipeg Arts Council to share some information about it. We hope you enjoy the piece as you see it created over the next few months: 

Have you seen the big kettle near the new Beaumont Rapid Transit Station? Rooster Town Kettle and Fetching Water are new artworks by local Métis artist Ian August. This work is part of Winnipeg's SouthWest Rapid Transitway expansion project and will be completed and celebrated in spring 2020. The concepts behind the artwork are a response to the history of the nearby area.

Rooster Town, also known as Pakan Town, was a Métis road allowance community that existed on the outskirts of Winnipeg from 1901 to 1961. At its peak, it housed 59 families and a population of 250 people. Some families called Rooster Town home for three generations. Much of Rooster Town’s housing started out as simple one- and two-room structures and, over time, additions were made. The houses were said to rise up out of the tall prairie grass.

In this tight-knit community, a knock at the door was always greeted with a welcoming call and a place to sit, promptly followed by the kettle being put on for tea.

Rooster Town did not have access to basic amenities such as running water, sewer, electricity, and roads. The only source of water was a town pump located over a kilometre away, so residents carried water in buckets, filled empty dairy cans to pull by sled, or paid for water delivered by horse and cart.  The Fetching Water silhouettes located along the Active Transit pathway illustrate this daily activity. Lack of access to clean water is a crucial issue that in 2019 is still relevant to many Indigenous communities across Canada.

In 1959, the City of Winnipeg ordered that the houses of Rooster Town be torn down and its residents evicted to make way for Grant Park Mall, Grant Park School and the expanding city neighbourhood of Fort Rouge. Rooster Town residents were consistently maligned in local media during the lead-up to the eviction. This media campaign of stigmatization inaccurately and unfairly portrayed the character and lifestyle of people in the community, while working to justify their removal. It propagated harmful stereotypes, Contributing to harmful stereotypes, contributing to public support for he unjust displacement of Métis people from their homes.

Rooster Town Kettle is modelled after the big copper kettle that would have had a permanent place on every wood stove in every home in Rooster Town.

Rooster Town Kettle was made large enough to boil the minimum amount of daily water needed to sustain a population of 250 people, as identified by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 64/292, the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.

Rooster Town Kettle is a permanent acknowledgement that a Métis community existed near this site from 1901 to 1961. This copper kettle is a symbol of the strong sense of community, generosity, and sharing found in Métis households and communities. The offering of hot tea and with it a chance to sit, gossip, tell stories and catch up is still the cornerstone of a Métis visit.