Advertisement

The Cart and the Cairn: Re-Enacting the Arrival of the Mennonites

Share:

Cart And Cairn Crop
Ernest Braun and Terry Doerksen at the Shantz cairn on October 8. Ernest N. Braun

A re-enactment of the 1870s Mennonite arrival in Manitoba took place on the morning of October 8. For the occasion, Terry Doerksen of Winnipeg hitched up his 18-month-old ox to a replica Red River cart at the Mennonite Landing site, located southwest of Niverville where the Rat River flows into the Red.

Doerksen then drove the cart to the Shantz immigration sheds, two miles south of Highway 311 at Niverville, following a route that took him along Sixth Avenue South.

The trek was the first part of a longer two-day drive from the Landing into the East Reserve, in commemoration of the experience of the Mennonites who made that exact journey in 1875. It was undertaken on the Thanksgiving weekend, honouring the experience of both the Mennonites and the Métis, who not only brought the Mennonites to the immigration sheds but also often escorted them to selected village sites.

The idea arose in part from Doerksen’s cousin Phil, a retired electrician who built a true replica of the unique Red River carts used by the Métis to haul freight and people after 1802. When the Mennonites arrived at the mouth of the Rat River aboard the International in 1874–1876, Métis men with their Red River carts freighted the luggage and those who couldn’t walk from the Landing to a group of immigration sheds about eight kilometres east.

A year or two ago, under the expert instruction of Armand and Kelly Jerome, Métis cart-builders in Oakbank, Phil learned the mechanics of the trade and then built his own cart while the province was under COVID restrictions.

This is the same cart used by Doerksen to make his run over the Thanksgiving weekend, outfitted with a Mennonite church pew for a seat and flying the Manitoba provincial flag.

Doerksen arrived with his wife Patty, along with his cousin Phil and his wife Carol, at the Landing on the evening of Thursday, October 7, with a motor home and long cattle trailer which housed the ox and dismantled cart.

They assembled the cart before dark, allowed the ox to graze, and made their final arrangements to begin the following morning.

Early on Friday, additional support arrived in the form of friends who helped the trek get started. Terry invited Ernest Braun to sit on the cart with him as it departed the Landing, the first time since at least 1878 that Mennonites had travelled from the Landing by a Red River ox cart.

After 1878, the railway through Niverville made the ox cart route from the Landing redundant.

The group left the Landing at about 7:45 a.m., arriving about three hours later at a cairn that marks the original location of the Shantz immigration sheds. Braun, spokesperson for the Mennonite Landing Site Association, led the ox the last few hundred yards and stopped beside the cairn, recently furnished with a new plaque by the EastMenn Historical Committee.

Here people took turns posing with the ox, the cart, and the cairn.

After an hour-long rest, Doerksen continued east along Road 39N, also known as Hespeler Road, but scaled down the length of the journey when the ox became increasingly recalcitrant.

They overnighted near Highway 59 to give the ox some downtime, then proceeded east again on Saturday morning towards New Bothwell. Although the original had plan had been to journey all the way to Blumenort, they decided to stop in view of the rain.

Even having stopped short of their ultimate destination, they considered their goals to have been achieved: to re-enact the journey from the Landing to the immigration sheds, and in doing so honour the Métis role, express thanksgiving for the land and opportunity received at the expense of the Indigenous peoples, continue on into the East Reserve as had their ancestors, and gain valuable experience in ox-driven travel in a cart made entirely of wood.

For Doerksen, it was an adventure—and a rare glimpse into the past. This was Doerksen’s first sustained trek via cart, but it will serve as training for a much longer run he plans to undertake next year: journeying along the Crow Wing trail all the way to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Advertisement
More LOCAL NEWS

A French School for Niverville, S’il Vous Plait?

It’s been six years since The Citizen last explored the idea of a French immersion school coming to Niverville, in an article entitled “The Demand for French Immersion.” All these years later,...

Read more

It’s been six years since The Citizen last explored the idea of a French immersion school coming to Niverville, in an article entitled “The Demand for French Immersion.” All these years later,...

Read more

Super Citizens: Kori and Mike Plesiuk, Tireless Community Boosters

In this series, The Citizen profiles locals who strive to make our little corner of Manitoba a better place. Each month, we feature a person, family, or business that helps brighten the world in...

Read more

In this series, The Citizen profiles locals who strive to make our little corner of Manitoba a better place. Each month, we feature a person, family, or business that helps brighten the world in...

Read more
Advertisement

Proposed Land Annexation Would Double Size of Niverville

On November 21, Niverville’s town council released information regarding a proposal that, if approved, will significantly increase the community’s land holdings, helping to pave the way for...

Read more

On November 21, Niverville’s town council released information regarding a proposal that, if approved, will significantly increase the community’s land holdings, helping to pave the way for...

Read more

Local Tattoo Artist Seeks to Break Stereotypes

Pokes on You is one of Niverville’s newest businesses, and owner Brianna Marchand is ready to share her passion for body art with the community she loves so much. Marchand’s family moved to...

Read more

Pokes on You is one of Niverville’s newest businesses, and owner Brianna Marchand is ready to share her passion for body art with the community she loves so much. Marchand’s family moved to...

Read more
Advertisement

Legislation Sets Higher Accessibility Standards to Aid Disabled

Beginning January 1, 2023, a new set of codes will come into effect which should help improve life for those with accessibility challenges. The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) was first...

Read more

Beginning January 1, 2023, a new set of codes will come into effect which should help improve life for those with accessibility challenges. The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) was first...

Read more

Bigger, Better Off-Leash Dog Park Ready in 2023

Niverville and area pet owners have waited a long time for the return of their beloved off-leash dog park. The wait isn’t over yet, but the end may finally be in sight. Decommissioned a few...

Read more

Niverville and area pet owners have waited a long time for the return of their beloved off-leash dog park. The wait isn’t over yet, but the end may finally be in sight. Decommissioned a few...

Read more
Advertisement

Local Fatality a Preventable Tragedy

Tim Kleinsasser was a 60-year-old father of eight and a member of the Crystal Springs Hutterite colony near Ste. Agathe. To his friends both on and off the colony, Tim had a personality that is best...

Read more

Tim Kleinsasser was a 60-year-old father of eight and a member of the Crystal Springs Hutterite colony near Ste. Agathe. To his friends both on and off the colony, Tim had a personality that is best...

Read more

Ukraine War Stories Set Tone for Remembrance Day Service

Hundreds gathered at the Niverville Heritage Centre on November 11 to spend a moment in thoughtful reflection over the ravages of wars past and present, and to commemorate the men and women who’ve...

Read more

Hundreds gathered at the Niverville Heritage Centre on November 11 to spend a moment in thoughtful reflection over the ravages of wars past and present, and to commemorate the men and women who’ve...

Read more
Time until next issue
Citizen Poll

How severe do you feel the growing healthcare crisis is in Manitoba?

For related article, see https://nivervillecitizen.com/...