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Manitoba makes progress toward monument honouring historic First Nations leader

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The Manitoba legislature is one step closer to having its first monument honouring the contributions of First Nations people on the grounds of the historic building.

A committee set up to plan a statue of Chief Peguis announced Tuesday that it has narrowed its selection down to two bidders, who will be asked to submit designs.

"The Chief Peguis monument will be a historic and symbolic addition to our legislative building grounds," Government Services Minister James Teitsma said.

"It's our hope that it promotes reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Manitobans."

The scenic grounds already feature statues honouring a variety of people, including a Scottish settler, a Ukrainian poet and Metis leader Louis Riel.

In 1817, Chief Peguis and four other chiefs signed the first treaty in what is now Manitoba. Peguis helped early Scottish settlers survive the harsh climate and the treaty was aimed at ensuring peaceful coexistence.

In 2017, a volunteer committee made plans for a monument to honour Peguis on the legislature grounds. With a $500,000 commitment from the provincial government, the group later sought out potential bidders to build the statue.

The committee said Tuesday that the two bidders left in the selection process are Indigenous. One is located in Manitoba.

They are now being asked to submit design proposals with the aim to have the monument in place just west of the main entrance to the grounds by the fall of next year.

Chief Glen Hudson of the Peguis First Nation, a community north of Winnipeg named after Peguis, said the planned monument is fitting.

"Without Chief Peguis' involvement in history, history could have been very different," Hudson said.

"I don't think the Scottish settlement would have survived without Peguis. And if you look at Manitoba, Winnipeg and the entire region, there's a lot of Scottish people throughout this area."

While the final design of the monument has not been worked out, the general idea is to have a statue of Peguis representing himself and the four other chiefs who signed the treaty. There are no known drawings or photos of Peguis during his lifetime.

"There's no physical image available of Chief Peguis," committee co-chair Bill Shead said.

"What we will see is a First Nations person in the accoutrements of an Anishinaabe chief … and on the plinth will probably be more information about the treaty itself, the spirit of the treaty, the five chiefs and the fact that this is representing all First Nations."

Chief Peguis has been honoured in other areas of Winnipeg, including a monument in a park near the northern edge of the city.

   This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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