Mennonite Heritage Village

Mennonite History Goes National

February 29, 2024

By Gary Dyck

Last month I had the privilege of attending the annual meetings of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC). The meetings alternate every year between Manitoba (some would say the centre of the Mennonite world) and another province (most recently Saskatchewan and Quebec). This year the meetings were held at the Mennonite Heritage Archives (MHA) in Winnipeg.

There are a variety of activities this group participates in to keep Mennonite history relevant for the next generation. Many of the provincial societies, including the Mennonite Historical Society of Manitoba (MHSM) could use more volunteer support. From research, to building historical trails, to organizing events. If you are interested, attend one of the meetings in your area. In Manitoba, there is a group that meets in the Steinbach/Winnipeg area and another in the Winkler area. The following is taken from MHSC’s press release about last month’s annual meetings:

“In spite of a polar vortex that created chaos for some travellers, board members gathered from across the country to hear reports of the past year and to explore ideas for future projects.

Each member of the society gave a report that included some accomplishments of the past year along with challenges they are currently facing. It was an opportunity to be inspired by and to encourage other members. A theme of change emerged over the course of the meetings. There are changes in our Mennonite churches and organizations and the question of how to respond to these changes produced a lot of discussion.  A committee was formed to examine this in greater detail and to develop ways to reach out to the larger constituency.

…A major project of MHSC in 2023 was the Memories of Migration: Russlaender 100 tour, organized by the Russlaender Centenary Committee. This event was a cross-country train tour, commemorating the initial journey taken by the Mennonite Russlaender immigrants from Soviet Russia to Quebec City and as far as British Columbia from 1923- 1930. The tour began in Quebec City in July of 2023 and made stops in Montreal, QB, Waterloo, ON, Winnipeg, MB, Saskatoon, SK, Didsbury, AB and Abbotsford, BC. At each stop, local historical societies planned a series of events and concerts celebrating the faith of the newcomers, remembering the loss of their former communities, memorializing the challenges of resettlement, and acknowledging race and displacement in Canadian history. A documentary of the centennial is being planned.

Colonel Dennis of the CPR receiving thanks from Mennonite girls in 1937. (Photo: Coaldale Alberta Mennonite Archival Information Database)

Along with the tour and celebrations the Russlaender Centenary Committee established the Russlaender Remembrance Fund through Mennonite Central Committee Canada. MCC was originally formed to help Soviet Mennonites in 1920, so this fund has a historical connection to MCC’s beginnings. A total of $103,000 was raised for the general fund and for three special projects: MCC’s Indigenous Neighbours program, MCC’s Ukraine program, and MCC’s International Refugee Settlement program.

… Board Members agree that a highlight of the yearly meetings are the connections made over a meal, the shared learning experiences and the spontaneous conversations that arise, which are often the beginnings of a new project!”

Upcoming Events:

It Takes a Village… Spring Gala 2024, May 24th. Celebrate the MHV’s 60th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of Mennonites in Manitoba by contributing to this ongoing legacy. Tickets are on sale now at

Mennonite Village Photography Exhibit, open now till summer 2024. See a beautiful collection of never-before-seen photographs left behind by four Manitoba Mennonite photographers who lived and worked in the early twentieth century. The images are from glass and film negatives from 1890 to 1940. After being scanned and given a new life in print, the photos provide a clear view into Mennonite life and early settlement in Manitoba.