Cairn to honour Collins’ legacy

A century after he evidently shared his discovery of the ore body that would spawn Flin Flon, David Collins may finally be getting his due.
Plans are in place to form a committee that will design and erect a cairn in memory of Collins as early as 2015.
“I think it’s not too late to have a plaque put up in recognition of his contribution to our community,” says Greg East, who is spearheading the effort. “And so I’m excited about having a hand in that.”
East stressed he is looking to take a collaborative approach.
“This wouldn’t be just my initiative, it would be something [where] I would want a committee to form,” he says, “and then sort of have a collective initiative and consensus as to how the thing should unfold, if it does unfold.”
East says the cairn could be made of stone or take on some other design. Possible locations include an area near the Neighbours of the North Park at the south end of Main Street, or a nearby property East owns.
Showed outcroppings
Many historians believe that in 1914 or 1915, Collins, a Métis trapper, showed prospector Tom Creighton the outcroppings of the ore body that led to the development of Flin Flon.
Creighton staked the claim and enjoyed the riches and acclaim that followed. It is said that all he ever gave Collins was $6.30 worth of flour, lard and bulk tea.
Local historian Gerry Clark, who has long advocated for a means of honouring Collins, welcomes East’s endeavour.
“I’ve said it for at least 40 years: it seems to me that it’s an embarrassment
that the community hasn’t recognized that the facts indicate David Collins initially showed Creighton where to look [for ore],” says Clark. “Whether Creighton or Collins deserves more credit is neither here nor there to me.
One helped the other and never got any kind of credit for that, in comparison to what Creighton got.”
Indeed whereas Creighton has a town (and a street within that town) named after him, the most visible tribute to Collins is Collins Street in Creighton.
East envisions the cairn not just as a means of remedying a historical wrong, but of adding another tourist attraction to the community.
He doesn’t believe the cairn will carry a significant cost. His guess is less than, if not substantially less than, $10,000.

Statue sought

This isn’t the first time an effort has been launched to honour Collins in a meaningful way.
In 2008, Flin Flon resident Pascall Bighetty unsuccessfully asked then-Manitoba premier Gary Doer to erect a statue of Collins in Flin Flon.
“In Flin Flon, Tom Creighton is regarded as the founder of the Flin Flon mine,” wrote Bighetty. “In 1949, when he died, the town of Creighton was named in his honour. As for David Collins, he is buried at Bakers Narrows. There is no recognition of him. I would like you to honour this great man [with a statue].”
Also in 2008, Collins’ granddaughter, Amelia McNichol, revealed to The Reminder that Collins went to his grave regretting the day he turned Creighton onto the ore body.
McNichol said her grandfather felt that the smelter pollution that ensued from the mineral discovery would be disastrous for the environment.
Collins died in 1932 while Creighton passed away in 1949.

Pursue idea

East has long had the idea of erecting a cairn for Collins, but he finally decided to pursue it after being inspired by Clark.
During last month’s Culture Days, Clark wrote and performed in a skit starring the ghosts of Creighton and Collins. Its central message: Collins never got the recognition he deserved.
East invites people willing to help him with the cairn project to contact him at 204-687-0754 or 306-362-2331.
He says the public can also watch The Reminder for an upcoming ad as to when a public meeting will be held to discuss the project and formulate a plan.

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