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Mennonite Delegates inspecting Manitoba gathered in front of the Dominion Lands Office, Winnipeg in 1873.

Credit: PAM

The majority of Russian Mennonites, two-thirds, chose to remain in Russia and accommodate to Russian conditions and government. This divergent tendency, of accommodation and separation towards society and government, would become part of the Mennonite experi­ ence in Manitoba from the first, and continue to the present.

This ambivalence becomes more apparent when the Mennonite immigration of the 1870's is viewed within the context of early Manitoba history, and in comparison to the Metis experience in Manitoba. When Manitoba became a province in 1870, it was in large part the Red River Settlement of 1869. Settlement was still tied to the parishes along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and consisted largely of French and English Metis. The economy of the young province was still tied to the annual buffalo hunts, with agriculture along the river lots supplementing this activity.

During the 1870's, however, the population, economy and society of Manitoba changed dramatically. Beginning in the 1860's, Canadian settlers had started entering the area with the idea of purely agricultural settlement and securing political ties to Canada. This transition from traditional Red River society to a new agricultural and industrial-