Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records at the South Peace Regional Archives

The South Peace Regional Archives initiated a survey of the region’s holdings in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) call to actions to locate records within their holdings related to Indian Residential Schools. We found very few records related to residential schools, but we did find several records related to Indigenous people and communities in our region. We decided to expand the scope of our research to look for any records related to Indigenous peoples within our holdings.

Thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers, we now have a small database of material to share. While we pursue avenues of access, we would like to start sharing some of these images and documents.

Our caption describes the image above (SPRA 002.01.06.23) as the wives and children of the Metis threshing crew at Tom Sheehan’s farm near Clairmont. Three women are identified by name: Louise Webber, Mrs. Dave Capot and Mrs. Dan McLean. According to the notes, the traditional moss bags the babies are wrapped in took the place of diapers.

Perhaps you know something about the cultural identity of these women and children. Our records often refer to individuals and families of mixed ancestry as Metis, including families of mixed Cree and Iroquois ancestry. We need to correct these entries to show respect for peoples chosen and hereditary cultural identities. In this example, one member of our committee has pointed out that both Mrs McLean and Mrs Kappo both were registered Indians who adhered to Treaty at Sturgeon Lake making them registered “Indians” under the Indian Act. This means, the title for this image should be amended to read “Indigenous Wives and Children.”

If you recognize these people or know some of these families, we’d love to hear from you. Maybe you have stories about Indigenous farm labour, Indigenous women’s labour, or the use and creation of moss bags.

If you have any stories to share related to this photograph, please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.