Discovering Manitoba

Selkirk Settlers Bicentennial Coming up in 2012

Pipe and drum band celebrated the anniversary of the Settlers’ arrival.

Almost 200 years ago, the Selkirk Settlers arrived in Manitoba and Winnipeg. Their arrival marked the beginning of a change from a fur trade dominated settlement at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers to a new agrarian economy based on farming.

The year 2012 will mark the bicentennial of the historic arrival of the first group of settlers, 120 men accompanied by an unnamed number of women and children. This year, 2009, will be the fifth year of an ongoing celebration, which has been under planning since 2005, by the St. Andrew’s Society. The commemoration was conceived as a long-term event to heighten interest in the Selkirk Settlers and in Scottish culture in Manitoba.

September 12, the official date of the 2009 celebration, is timed to coincide as closely as possible to the date of the ceremony held September 4, 1812, to celebrate the safe arrival of the original party at Red River. A parade, which will include Scottish and Celtic groups, associations, historic societies and members of the public, will leave from City Hall concourse at 12 noon to the skirl of the bagpipes.

Several pipe and drum bands will lead the march along Main Street to Bannatyne, and from Bannatyne to Waterfront Drive (where homage will be paid at the storied Settlers Monument), then proceed along Waterfront Drive to the Scots Monument where a colourful ceremony of recognition will take place.

The event concludes with an address from keynote speaker, Bill Matheson, president of the historic Lord Selkirk Association of Rupertsland.

Since 2005, a small working group has been busy assembling concepts for the year’s activities and events inaugurating the Annual Selkirk Settlers Parade and making preparations to enable the fully fledged board and relevant committees to get a flying start in June of this year. The collaboration of governmental agencies, Scottish cultural groups, associations, societies, individuals, sponsors and linked organizations such as museums, art galleries, and many significant arts and culture groups are part of the planning.

A not-for-prof it governing body to orchestrate the Bicentennial, the Scottish Settlers 1812 Commemoration Inc., was registered in late 2007.

President and chair, Rob R. Bruce-Barron, and Northern co-chair, Mark Ingebrigtson, spent 30 days in Scotland last year, participating in 26 meetings over a 30-day period, following up on previously qualified contacts. Amongst these were, Lord and Lady Selkirk; Lord Jamie Sempill; Scottish First Minister Mr. Alex Salmond; and Hon. Michael Russell, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution. Douglas Eadie, renowned documentary film producer, is already working on a documentary about the Selkirk Settlers in Manitoba for release in 2012.

Lord James Douglas Hamilton of Selkirk has agreed to be Patron of the event. Lord and Lady Selkirk have accepted an invitation to be present for the major events and ceremonies in 2012, while the First Minister and Hon. Michael Russell have both intimated their willingness to both assist and participate.

All in all, with encouragement for public participation throughout Manitoba and beyond, this promises to be one of the most momentous historic celebrations in Manitoba’s history.

-by Rob Bruce-Barron

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