From the deserts of the Negev it is now time to wend my way north towards the subarctic, beginning with a brief stay in the capital city of Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg is at the geographic center of North America and gets its name from the First Nations Cree words for muddy water (more about the Cree and the other indigenous people of Canada in a later post). Before the Europeans arrived in the area, Winnipeg was a fur trading center for the indigenous people and was considered a major gateway to the west. Then the Scotts came along with the Hudson Bay Company and with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway on 1885, the city was on its way to becoming a great financial center. It remained on top until a recession hit in 1914, followed by the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 and the Great Depression. Winnipeg wallowed in the doldrums until after the Second World War although its new growth never rivaled its soaring beginnings due to increased competition in Winnipeg’s previous monopoly of agricultural products marketing and distribution. Still, it is now a vibrant city with rich resources and it remains one of the largest cities of the Prairies.
The Railroad is an ever-present reminder of Winnipeg’s history, as we found out during our initial explore of the town. Armed with a map, our cameras and lots of water and sunscreen, my friend Lenore and I decided to hike along the Red River until we came up to its junction with the Assiniboine River at the famous The Forks Historical Site (more on this in a bit):
The hike was lovely – it was a sunny, very warm day (yes even far up north they do get a very brief summer) . We took a leisurely pace, stopping often to look at and take photos of the flora and fauna we encountered:
The last three photos of this adorable peek-a-boo prairie dog, courtesy of Lenore. There were miles and miles of prairie dog tunnels tunnels with multiple entrances and exits along all the parks and prairies we walked throughout our trip.
Before we got to The Forks we decided to visit the very beautiful and emotionally impactful Museum of Human Rights and along the pathway ran into a rather familiar face, for me:
The statue of Mahatma Gandhi was gifted by the High Commissioner of India in 2004 to be placed on the pathway to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. In 2013, the pathway was renamed Mahatma Gandhi Way in honor of the man who fought so hard for the basic human rights for all. And, in a serendipitous moment – I had an in-depth discussion with an artist who was hoping to build global awareness in honor of the upcoming 150th Gandhi birthday celebration coming up in October. In support, this artist is part of an organization that wants to create global awareness and movement for the ideals of non violence. We had a very spirited conversation about my revelations in India and concerns for humanity.
I will write more about the Museum of Human Rights in my next post, as it was a very moving experience, but let me leave you with a lighter quick story about another claim for Winnipeg’s fame.
There was a young Canadian soldier in the early 1900’s who met a trapper who had killed a female bear and then realized she had a little cub. This soldier not only was a veterinarian but a big lover of animals, and he immediately fell in love with the little cub and bought it for $20. Her named her “Winnipeg” in tribute to the soldier’s hometown. Her nickname was Winnie. Winnie was a gentle bear, but when she grew from cub to bear, she went to live in a London zoo, but being quite behaved, children were allowed to ride on her back.
One of the London children who became quite smitten with Winnie constantly begged his father to take him to the zoo to see the gentle bear. In fact, this little boy loved this bear so much that he decided to change the name of his stuffed teddy bear from “Edward” to “Winnie.”
The boy’s name was Christopher Robin Milne and his father’s name was A.A. Milne. Oh, and I forgot to say the full name of his stuffed bear was “Winnie the Pooh,” and it and other stuffed animals in Christopher Robin’s nursery — Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger—became key character’s in his father’s most endearing and enduring stories.
As Winnie the Pooh was fond of saying:
Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”