The signage used to provide information for historical sites in Portage la Prairie has recently been renewed. Retiring chair of the Portage Heritage Advisory Committee James Kostuchuk was heavily involved and was also part of the effort that put up the previous set of signs in 2008.
The signs were due for a renewal, after having faded, along with the need to correct some errors.
"We now have access to more materials and more expertise," says Kostuchuk. "I'd really like to give a thank-you to Allen Brown who lives in Ottawa, but he's formerly from Portage la Prairie. Allen has done a lot of work looking at the early history of Portage la Prairie and I've learned a lot from him. The Cochrane sign is an example. It now acknowledges the importance of Indigenous people in the establishment of our city, and notes a chief's real identity. It was through his negotiations with Cochrane that allowed a settlement to start here."
He notes that's new information.
Kostuchuk says they learned more about the Kitson House. It had been listed as having been built in 1887, which turned out to be the result of a misread.
"When I went to the records at the library, they have a Heritage Home inventory there that was compiled about 25 years ago and discovered that they know the Kitson House is still very old, but not built in 1887," continues Kostuchuk. "Another error that was corrected; 1120 Crescent Rd. West was noted as being the home of the man who had captured Riel, if we can even use that word. Riel, I think, surrendered."
He explains it was a transcription error, noting that people used to write cursively, and the person who actually captured Riel was a scout with the last name of Hourie, who was from this area. Kostuchuk says it was reported by the newspapers that his last name was Howie who lived at 1120 Crescent Rd. West.
Kostuchuk explains they added other new information, including the origin of Portage.
"Where did that word come from? People often ask me, 'Where was the portage?' It's not really obvious where that might have been because we're not that close to the Assiniboine River," notes Kostuchuk. "That mystery is now answered. Go for a walk, and make that discovery. So, there's all new information and we've added some content to others. And as we go forward, we'll be refreshing the signs on Fisher Avenue and the ones at Stride Place."
He says, contrary to popular belief, history is really not static. He says it's far from it.
"We're constantly finding new information," says Kostuchuk.
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