South Point Park honours Indigenous past in new developments, pathway at The Forks

The pathway through South Point Park at The Forks has officially been named Niizhoziibean to honour Winnipeg's Indigenous heritage, and more development on that theme is planned for the area.

'Niizhoziibean​, meaning 2 rivers in Ojibway, honours the part that the Red and Assiniboine played'

The pathway through South Point Park at The Forks has been renamed Niizhoziibean, which means two rivers in Ojibway. (CBC News Graphics)

The pathway through South Point Park at The Forks site has officially been named Niizhoziibean​ to honour Winnipeg's Indigenous heritage, and more development on that theme is planned for the area.

"Niizhoziibean​, meaning two rivers in Ojibway, honours the part that the Red and Assiniboine played historically," said  Niigaan Sinclair, project advisor and associate professor in the University of Manitoba's department of native studies.

"Niizhoziibean​ not only embodies the spirit of the traditional past of The Forks but enhances our understanding of what this place means — a collaborative space where people have been coming together to trade, grow and make life for millennia."

The name was uncovered by elders Clarence and Barbara Nepinak, he said.

A rendering of the sculpture that will be part of the redevelopment along the Niizhoziibean pathway. (Forks North Portage Partnership)

"Nowadays, we are rediscovering the original names of our home. Some have names we can find carried by elders or we can find in archival documents. Some we ask for from living people today," Sinclair said.

"In early 2018, elders Clarence and Barbara Nepinak were offered asemaa [tobacco] to uncover the name for the South Point path."

In August, a ceremony was held and a name was revealed to them, he said.

The Niizhoziibean path will be part of a 2.5-kilometre loop along the riverbanks at The Forks. (The Winnipeg Foundation)

Niizhoziibean​ is currently undergoing a $1.2-million refurbishment that prompted the search for its historical name. The space, set aside for Indigenous themes since the inception of The Forks back in 1989, is intended to be a place of reflection for all visitors and a connector to other neighbourhoods via a Main Street entryway, says a news release from The Forks.

The improvements to the path will include a nine-metre-high sculptural piece to be installed as a landmark and visual enhancement at the pedestrian entrance to the site from Queen Elizabeth Way.

Three artists, K.C. Adams, Jamie Isaac and Val Vint, were chosen from a call for submissions to create pieces on the site and chose to work collaboratively to create one impactful sculpture, the release from The Forks says.

The path will also be linked to the promenade and pathway being developed on the St. Boniface side of the river, creating a full 2.5-kilometre loop between Esplanade Riel and the Norwood Bridge.

Further plans for the Niizhoziibean​ site redevelopment include:

  • Preserving the existing forest in South Point, across the historic rail bridge from the main Forks site.
  • Improving the pathway for universal accessibility.
  • Relocating trees for a reconfigured pathway.
  • Including a drum park ceremonial space.
  • Improving lighting.
  • Restoring native plants.
  • Installing interpretive elements to recognize Indigenous history.
  • Establishing a boardwalk within the forest canopy.