Subjects, Settlers, Citizens: The 1870s Mennonites in Historical Context

Oct 04-05 8:45AM-5:00PM

Convocation Hall, University of Winnipeg

A Conference Hosted by the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies
at The University of Winnipeg
In-Person and Livestreamed

In 1874, the first of more than 7,000 Mennonites arrived in the newly-created province of Manitoba, in a migration that would continue through the end of the decade. Facing a broad program of government reforms that eliminated their status as privileged subjects, they had left imperial Russia in favour of settlement in Canada, which promised religious freedom and the opportunity to live according to traditional patterns.

This sesquicentennial conference will consider the history and legacy of the “Kanadier” Mennonites, as they became known, from an interdisciplinary perspective.


Friday, October 4

8:45–9:00 a.m.
Welcome and Introduction
  • Directors, Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies
  • Acting Dean of Arts University of Winnipeg
9:00–10:30 a.m.
Leaving the Russian Empire: Religion, Identity, and Neighbours Transformed
  • Chair: Blake Hamm
  • Aileen Friesen, “Community Tensions and Migration: Negotiating and Explaining an Exodus”
  • Naemi Fast, “Mapping Russian Mennonite Spirituality Practices in the Mid-19th Century”
  • Olena Khodchenko, “Sociocultural Adaptation and Characteristics of Preserving Ethno-religious Identity among Mennonite Immigrants of the 1870s”
  • Nataliya Venger, “Unsuccessful Compromise: Russian Local Nobility in its Discussions about Mennonite Possible Emigration”
10:30–11:00 a.m.
Coffee Break
11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Delegates, Immigration Agents, and Treaty-Making
  • Chair: Aileen Friesen
  • Ernest Braun, “‘But Not Manitoba’: William Ewert’s 1873 Visit”
  • Blake Hamm, “Theology Visualized as Geography: The Settlements of the 1870s Migration”
  • Ryan Eyford, “Public-Private Colonization Schemes in 1870s Manitoba: The Mennonite Reserves in Context”
  • Patricia Harms, “A Tale of Two Treaties: A Reflection on the 1874 Mennonite Migration within Canada’s Treaty-Making Era”
12:30–1:45 p.m.
Lunch Break
1:45–3:15 p.m.
Mennonites, Land, and Settler Colonialism
  • Chair: Michaela Hiebert
  • Joe Wiebe, “Using Critical Indigenous Concepts in Mennonite Studies”
  • Shelisa Klassen, “Manitoba’s Most Prosperous Agriculturalists: Mennonites, Land, and the Settler Colonial Project”
  • Jonathan Hildebrand, “Water, Land, and Indigenous Presence: Reconsidering the West Reserve’s ‘Barren’ Prairielands”
3:15–3:45 p.m.
Cake and Coffee

Celebrating 20 Years of the D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation

3:45–5:00 p.m.
Cross-Border Alternatives, Comparables, and Continuities from the 1870s to the Present
  • Chair: Ben Nobbs-Thiessen
  • John Thiesen, “Re(-)membering the 1870s Mennonite Migration from a US Perspective”
  • Richard Scheuerman, “Fearsome Treasure Meadow: Folktales of Pacific Northwest Germans from Russia”
  • Nora Vosburg, “Continuity and Change Among Mexican Mennonites in Kansas”
5:00–6:30 p.m.
Dinner Break
6:30-8:00 pm
Documentary Film Screening: Where the Cottonwoods Grow
  • Presentation of a new film about the 1870s migration documentary, directed by Dale Hildebrand

Saturday, October 5

9:00–10:35 a.m.
Keynote Address: Elder Dave Scott (Swan Lake), Oral Histories of Indigenous-Mennonite Encounters
10:30–11:00 a.m.
Coffee Break and Showing of “The Secret Treaty” by Jonathan Dyck
11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
Knowledges Out of Place: Nature, Politics, and Art of the 1870s Migrants
  • Chair: Jeremy Wiebe
  • Royden Loewen, “Siloed Knowledges: Manitoba Settlers Think about Nature, 1880–1890”
  • Christopher Sundby, “The Mennonites’ Other Anarchists: Peter Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Abraham Isaak”
  • Roland Sawatzky, “Beyond Folk Art: Historic Mennonite Art and Design as Social Practice”
12:15–1:30 p.m.
Lunch Break
1:30–3:00 p.m.
Newcomers Remaking Villages and Communities
  • Chair: Conrad Stoesz
  • Graham Schellenberg, “Rediscovering Lichtfeld: Exploring the Dividing Forces in West Reserve Villages”
  • Jock Lehr, “The Village of Blumengart and the Schmiedeleut Colony of Milltown”
  • Sherry Sawatzky-Dyck and Joan Garbutt, “1920s Russländer Women in 1870s Kanadier Villages: Intergenerational Legacies as Protective Support”
  • Ralph Friesen, “‘No Longer Mennonite’: Steinbach’s Identity Shift in the 1930s”
3:00–3:15 p.m.
Coffee Break
3:15–5:00 p.m.
Opening Ruptures and Forging Connections: Cultural Production Among 1870s Descendants
  • Moderator: Robert Zacharias
  • Featuring Armin Wiebe, Miriam Rudolph, Di Brandt, and Andrew Unger
5:00 p.m.
Wrap-Up, Thank-Yous, Reception

Major Contributors: Special thanks to the Plett Foundation and the University of Winnipeg.

Register to attend this event

How will you attend?
Mailing List Opt-In