The City of Portage la Prairie officially apologized this week for past wrongs they say they committed against Indigenous people, including a decision that saw Indigenous people removed from the city more than 100 years ago.

On Wednesday, Portage la Prairie city council held a special meeting of council to “formally acknowledge and apologize for past mistakes of the City in order to rebuild relationships with our Indigenous partners.”

More than a century ago, in the late 1800’s land in the city located west of Winnipeg was purchased by the Dakota Plains First Nation, but in 1911 the city’s-then council passed a resolution asking officials to suggest to the federal government that it was “advisable to have the Indians removed from their present location in the city.”

The resolution said the reason removal was suggested was “owing to their habits of drinking and immorality,” and because children had “nothing to look forward to” once they were out of school.

During a ceremony held on Wednesday that was streamed online, Portage la Prairie Mayor Sharilyn Knox apologized on behalf of the city to members of the Dakota Plains First Nation.

“These actions not only erase their physical presence, but also undermine their cultural identity and heritage,” she said.

“It is a chapter that has left a lasting impact on the Dakota people and their ancestral lands, and one that demands our recognition, reflection and sincere apology.”

In a media release, the city called the forced removal “blatantly racially motivated.”

“One of city council’s top strategic priorities is to take meaningful steps in reconciliation with our Indigenous partners,” the city said. “We must acknowledge our past actions that were blatantly racially motivated.

“We cannot meaningfully move forward unless we speak about our past, understand how it has affected the Dakota people, and learn from it as a community.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 29, 2024 at 15:56

This item reprinted with permission from    The Sun    Winnipeg, Manitoba
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