Glenn Kilmer and Golden (Goldie) MacDonell rode a wave when they imagined a pioneer village close to their homes and hearts.

History was hot in the early 1960s. Canada’s Centennial year, 1967, loomed just over the horizon. As farmland vanished to make way for soon-to-be subdivisions, some people glanced back nostalgically and wondered what was being lost of the past.

Rescue efforts opened such places as Doon Pioneer Village in Kitchener in 1957, Fanshawe Pioneer Village in London in 1959, and Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ont. in 1961.

Kilmer and MacDonell — long-time friends and teaching colleagues in Brantford — brought a shared passion for Ontario’s settler story to their own what-if talks about starting a place where history wasn’t just stored and conserved, but given life. In the gritty experiences of 18th- and 19th-century settlers, the two men saw the remarkable resiliency of their own parents and grand-parents.

Just before Halloween in October 1960, Kilmer and MacDonell found themselves owners of a 30-acre parcel of land off Highway 52 (now Kirkwall Road) beside Rockton, Ont. They began collecting buildings and artifacts.

Westfield Pioneer Village officially opened to a curious public on June 13, 1964. This year is the 60th anniversary of what is now Westfield Heritage Village, “pioneer” having been replaced years ago to reflect Westfield’s lengthening timeline.

Anniversary celebrations are often about remembering and reflecting about one’s past, but Westfield is also taking the time to consider and think about our future. While Westfield’s origin is deeply entrenched in presenting the history of colonization it is through our programming and events that we are seeking to represent our history more accurately. We are committed to embracing a more inclusive narrative of history and culture of Indigenous Peoples.

We recognize that the learning process of Truth and Reconciliation is ongoing and not something that we will achieve within a set time frame. Understanding that progress requires action, we acknowledge the need to make changes. We recognize the importance of working with Indigenous communities and being willing to listen and grow.

Westfield’s future will be looking to become a place where everyone feels they belong.

We are kicking off our 60th year June 15 and 16 with a special weekend of activities and exhibits. We are also remembering that June is Indigenous History Month. Each Sunday you can visit with Rope Loft to find out more about his Indigenous family history. Check out this recent Hamilton Spectator article about Rope’s journey of discovery. On June 15 we will also be opening a special art installation by Tracey-Mae Chambers #hopeandhealingcanada. Tracey-Mae is a Metis installation artist and a member of the Metis Nation of Ontario.  She creates site specific art installations across Canada and we are looking forward to having Tracey-Mae’s work on display until the fall.

Keep an eye on our website for celebratory events throughout the season.

Stay tuned for our next blog: “Five Facts About Westfield’s Early Days”.

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