Winnipeg is the capital and largest city of Manitoba, Canada, with a census area population of 730,018 in the Canada 2011 Census. It is located near the longitudinal centre of North America, at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The city is found on the eastern edge of the Canadian Prairies. The name "Winnipeg" comes from the Cree for "muddy waters". The Winnipeg area was a trading centre for Aboriginal peoples prior to the arrival of Europeans. The first fort was built there in 1738 by French traders. A settlement was later founded by the Selkirk settlers in 1812, the nucleus of which was incorporated as the City of Winnipeg in 1873 with a population of 1,869. Winnipeg is the seventh-largest municipality in Canada, and is the primary municipality of the Winnipeg Capital Region (population of 730,305), with more than half of Manitoba's population.
The economy of Winnipeg includes finance, manufacturing, food and beverage production, culture, retail and tourism sectors. Winnipeg is a transportation hub, served by Richardson International Airport. The city has railway connections to the United States and Eastern and Western Canada through three Class I rail carriers. Winnipeg's professional sports teams include the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (football), the Winnipeg Jets (hockey), and the Winnipeg Goldeyes (baseball). Winnipeg's universities include the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, Canadian Mennonite University and University of St. Boniface (formerly known as St. Boniface College), the oldest post-secondary educational institution in Western Canada.
Winnipeg is culturally diverse. The city has the highest percentage of Filipinos of any municipality in Canada; the Filipino language Tagalog being the second most prevalent mother tongue in the city after English; however, most Winnipeggers are of European descent, and/or classify themselves as Canadian. One in ten Winnipeg residents speak both English and French. Winnipeg's cultural organizations include Manitoba Theatre Centre, Manitoba Opera, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg Art Gallery. Some of the city's popular festivals are the Festival du Voyageur, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, and Folklorama.
Winnipeg lies at the confluence of the Assiniboine and the Red River of the North, a location currently known as "The Forks". This point was at the crossroads of canoe routes travelled by Aboriginal peoples prior to European contact. The name Winnipeg is a transcription of the western Cree word wi-nipe-k meaning "muddy waters"; the general area was populated for thousands of years by First Nations. Through archaeology, petroglyphs, rock art and oral history, scholars have learned that native peoples used the area in prehistoric times for camping, hunting, tool making, fishing, trading and, farther north, for agriculture.
Before the first European encounter, First Nations peoples appear to have been engaged in farming activity along the Red River, near present-day Lockport, where corn and other seed crops were planted. The rivers provided an extensive transportation network linking many indigenous peoples, including the Anishinaabe, Assiniboine, Ojibway, Sioux, and Cree. The Red River linked ancient northern peoples with those to the south along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The Ojibway made some of the first maps on birch bark, which helped fur traders navigate the waterways of the area.
The first French officer arrived in the area in 1738. Sieur de La Vérendrye built the first fur trading post on the site, called Fort Rouge. Francophone trading continued at this site for several decades before the arrival of the British Hudson's Bay Company. Many French and later British men who were trappers married First Nations women; their mixed-race children, the Métis, hunted, traded, and lived in the area.
Lord Selkirk was involved with the first permanent settlement (known as the Red River Colony), the purchase of land from the Hudson's Bay Company, and a survey of river lots in the early 19th century. The North West Company built Fort Gibraltar in 1809, and the Hudson's Bay Company built Fort Douglas in 1812. The two companies competed fiercely over trade in the area. The Métis and Lord Selkirk's settlers fought at the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816. In 1821, the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies merged, ending their long-standing rivalry. Fort Gibraltar, at the site of present-day Winnipeg, was renamed Fort Garry in 1822 and became the leading post in the region for the Hudson’s Bay Company. The fort was destroyed by a flood in 1826 and was not rebuilt until 1835. The fort was the residence of the Governor of the company for many years. A rebuilt section of the fort, consisting of the front gate and a section of the wall, can be found near the modern-day corner of Main Street and Broadway Avenue in downtown Winnipeg.
In 1869–70, Winnipeg was the site of the Red River Rebellion, a conflict between the local provisional government of Métis, led by Louis Riel, and newcomers from eastern Canada. General Garnet Wolseley was sent to put down the Métis rebellion. As a consequence of this rebellion, the Manitoba Act of 1870 paved the way for Manitoba's entry into the Canadian Confederation as Canada's fifth province. On 8 November 1873, Winnipeg was incorporated as a city. Manitoba and Northwest Territories legislator James McKay named the settlement.
Winnipeg developed rapidly after the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881; Canada was eager to settle the west before American interests and railways interfered. The Manitoba Legislative Building, constructed mainly of Tyndall Stone, opened in 1920; its dome supports a bronze statue finished in gold leaf, titled "Eternal Youth and the Spirit of Enterprise" (commonly known as the "Golden Boy"). Many new lots of land were sold and prices increased quickly due to high demand. Winnipeg faced financial difficulty when the Panama Canal opened in 1914. The canal reduced reliance on Canada's rail system for international trade; the real estate market slowed down, and the increase in shipping traffic helped Vancouver in British Columbia eventually to surpass Winnipeg and become Canada's third-largest city in 1920.
Strike to present
Following World War I, more than 30,000 workers walked off their jobs in May 1919 in what came to be known as the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. The strike was a product of postwar recession, labour conditions, the activity of union organizers and a large influx of returning discharged soldiers seeking work. After many arrests, deportations, and incidents of violence, the strike ended on 21 June 1919, when the Riot Act was read and a group of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers charged a group of strikers. Two strikers were killed and at least thirty others were injured, resulting in the day's being known as Bloody Saturday; the event polarized the population. One of the leaders of the strike, J. S. Woodsworth, went on to found Canada's first major socialist party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), which later became the New Democratic Party.
The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression resulted in widespread unemployment, which was worsened by drought and low agricultural prices. The Depression ended after the start of World War II in 1939, when war requirements stimulated the economies of Western nations. In the Battle of Hong Kong, The Winnipeg Grenadiers were among the first Canadians to engage in combat against Japan. Battalion members who survived combat were taken prisoner and endured brutal treatment in prisoner of war camps. In 1942, the Government of Canada's Victory Loan Campaign staged a mock Nazi invasion of Winnipeg to promote awareness of the stakes of the war in Europe.
When the war ended, pent-up demand generated a boom in housing development, although building activity was checked by the 1950 Red River Flood, the largest flood to hit Winnipeg since 1861. On 8 May 1950, eight dikes collapsed, four of the city's eleven bridges were destroyed, and nearly 100,000 people had to be evacuated. This evacuation was Canada's largest ever. The federal government estimated damages at over $26 million, although the province insisted that it was at least double that. In 1953, Manitoba was hit with the worst outbreak of polio in Canada. There were 2,357 cases and 80 deaths.
Prior to 1972, Winnipeg was the largest of thirteen cities and towns in a metropolitan area around the Red and Assiniboine rivers. A consolidated metropolitan "Unicity" government was established on 27 July 1971, taking effect in 1972. The City of Winnipeg Act incorporated the current city of Winnipeg: the cities of Transcona, St. Boniface, St. Vital, West Kildonan, East Kildonan, Tuxedo, Old Kildonan, North Kildonan, Fort Garry, Charleswood, and St. James were amalgamated with the Old City of Winnipeg.
Immediately following the 1979 energy crisis, Winnipeg experienced a severe economic downturn in advance of the early 1980s recession. Throughout the recession, the city incurred closures of prominent businesses, including the Winnipeg Tribune, as well as the Swift's and Canada Packers meat packing plants. In 1981, Winnipeg was one of the first cities in Canada to sign a tripartite agreement with the province and federal government to redevelop its downtown area. The three levels of government—federal, provincial and municipal—contributed over $271 million to the development needs of downtown Winnipeg. In 1989, the reclamation and redevelopment of the CNR rail yards turned The Forks into Winnipeg's most popular tourist attraction.
As of 2012, there are 26 National Historic Sites of Canada in Winnipeg.