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

Photograph: Beaver Camp on the Beaverlodge River, 1911. SPRA 0024.01.05.01

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.

The original caption for this image reads: “Three men and a child in front of three teepees at a Beaver First Nations Camp on the Beaverlodge River. Lovering.”

George Lovering filed for land in the region in July 1911 and drove from Edson over the Long Trail with Fred Saul and his family in November of that year. Snow appears in the foreground of this image so possibly it was taken during that winter drive. According to the community history book, Pioneers of the Peace, the Saul family celebrated Christmas with decorated trees, a pine-bough laden tent and candles “… to the wide-eyed amazement of some 75 Indians who came to view the glittering spectacle.” Were these three tents part of that group? Who were the Beaver families that were camped at this location?

If you have any stories you would like to share that might help us add to our knowledge about this photograph and the people it represents, please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105. We would love to hear from you.

Soldier Spotlight: Private John Kneafsey

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 155105
Rank: Private
Branch: 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion; Canadian Forestry Corps

John was born in Glendale, Minnesota on May 5, 1878. In 1913, he filed on a homestead at NW4-74-8-W6.  A newspaper headline from October 5, 1915 reads that “For the Third Time this Pioneer Country Has Responded to the Call for Volunteers;” John was listed among these volunteers, having enlisted at Lake Saskatoon on September 20, 1915. On June 14, 1916, John received shrapnel wounds to his right side while in the trenches at Ypres. He notes in a letter sent to a friend back home that “I was lucky as I was able to walk as my wound did not bleed much.”  John was much impressed with the care he received while in hospital.  He also had several weeks’ leave in Ireland; John did not feel he needed so much leave, but “the officer said it would do me good, so I went.” Some time after this injury, John was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps. In February of 1918, John was thrown off a truck and suffered from a concussion and a fractured clavicle. After this injury, he became forgetful;. the medical notes in John’s service file note that he appeared and acted more like a man of 70 than of 40. John was later diagnosed with dementia and arteriosclerosis, and in October he was sent back to Canada on a hospital ship. He died “by apoplexy at Cobourg Military Hospital” in Ontario on May 15, 1919, and was buried in Credit River (St. Peter’s Cemetery), Minnesota.

John’s entire military service file has been digitized by Library & Archives Canada.

Read a letter John wrote to a friend back home just months before he was injured the second time.

Notes from John’s service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Notes from John’s service file (Library & Archives Canada)

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 this photo (SPRA 0291.04.11) as an Indigenous Man With Pack Dogs (1942-1943). The man is not identified; he is described as “a man stands outside in winter with a couple of dogs beside him.” This photo is part of Ray Menard Alaska Highway collection. The Ray Menard fonds contains 92 photographs taken by Ray during the time he worked as a mechanic and machinist on the construction of the Alaska Highway from 1942-1943.

If you have any idea of who this man might be we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.

Archives Receives Provincial Recognition for Telling Our Stories Magazine

Last month, the South Peace Regional Archives received provincial recognition for Telling Our Stories magazine.  The Archives Society of Alberta (ASA) presented the Alan D. Ridge Award of Merit (Print) to this “high-quality publication,” published by the South Peace Regional Archives. The nomination stated that Telling Our Stories is “an inspiration to the other heritage institutions in our Network and is what many aspire to achieve.” ASA Board Member Carson Murphy formally presented the award to Archives staff on Friday, May 31st.

Alan D. Ridge Publications Award

Each year, the Archives Society of Alberta “recognizes excellence in the form of research, opinion, analysis, etc. on some aspect of archives studies, records management, the use of records, archival institutions, or the archival profession.” The Alan D. Ridge Award of Merit (Print) recognizes these contributions via print resources such as books, pamphlets, brochures, peer-reviewed articles, etc.

The award is named in honour of Alan D. Ridge, Provincial Archivist of Alberta from 1968-1984. His active involvement in archives and records management in England, Canada, and the United States has provided leadership and stimulation to the archival community in Alberta and beyond.

Telling Our Stories Magazine

Telling Our Stories is a quarterly magazine, published by the South Peace Regional Archives. The magazine highlights content and resources from the Archives’ collections and includes submissions from Archives’ staff, volunteers, and members of the public. First published in 2009, Telling Our Stories began as a newsletter before transitioning to a magazine format in the fall of 2017. Issues in 2018 highlighted “Timeless Love: Weddings of the South Peace” (March), “National Indigenous History Month” (June), “South Peace Fish & Game” (September), and “International Travels” (December). Telling Our Stories is available to the public, free of charge, at the Archives or through our website. Members of the Archives’ Society receive print copies via mail.

ASA Board Member Carson Murphy formally presents the Alan D. Ridge Award of Merit (Print) to Archives staff Alyssa Currie (Executive Director) and Josephine Sallis (Archivist), 31 May 2019.

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

(above: Christ Church Mission. 1906. SPRA 0157.20a Part of Jessie & Robert Holmes fonds)

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.

The postcard featured above depicts a walk a winter walk to the Mission Church. The caption on the back reads:

“Christ Church, Shaftsbury Peace River, 1906. Old Nookom over 90 and walk every Sunday to Church 5 mile. Many years ago when going to church, she was met by a bear. Nookom climbed up a tree & the bear climbed up after her as far as he could & chewed her heel off. I have seen her foot. Every after she always carried a knife in her belt.”

This is a wonderful local story, possibly written by Jessie Holmes, wife of the minister at Christ Church. It would be more wonderful if we knew who “Nookom” was. If you have any idea who this woman might be, we would love to hear from you.  Please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.

Christ Church Mission. 1906. SPRA 0157.20b (reverse of top image) Part of Jessie & Robert Holmes fonds.

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 this photo (SPRA 0032.08.08.1097) as “First Nations Women, ca. 1914. Two First Nations women sitting on the steps of a log cabin.” This photo is a part of the Campbell family fonds.  Isabel Campbell made numerous contributions to preserving the history of the Peace Country, including photographs like this one which document Indigenous people of the region.

Do you recognize the women in this photo? Photographs that are left blank or without complete information creates a gap in our local history that we would love to fill.  If you have any stories to share about Indigenous women in the area, where this photo may have been taken, or who these women are, we would love to hear it! Please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.

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.

Bonnets for Easter

The Kentucky Derby hasn’t got anything on these ladies! New clothes for Easter had been a tradition for many families for years. The Just-A-Mere-Ladies Club took that a little bit further with their annual Easter bonnet creations. Seems like something we might to revive.

La Glace Just-A-Mere-Ladies Club group photo featuring their specially made hats. Ladies present include Isabelle Christiansen, Mabel Hagen, Alice Wartenbe, Gloria Cavanough, Glady Maple?, Jean Haakstad

Happy Easter!

We’re sorry to announce that we are closed for Easter Monday. Here’s a little Easter joy to alleviate the inconvenience.

Cards and postcards are wonderful bits of personal correspondence that can shed bits of light on personal history. These two Easter postcards from the Grimm-Vader Family fonds are an example. The first has no correspondence, suggesting good intentions but perhaps a bit of forgetfulness or procrastination on the part of a young man (Ora Grimm). The second was sent to Mr. Ora Grim while he was visiting family in Venus, Nebraska.

“Raven, Nebraska, April 21, 1916

Dear Nephew,

As we got a letter from Ralph telling us you was here from Canada, would be glad to have you Boys both come up or I make up a visit. We are all well. It has been cold and windy now for some time. Drop us a line. With Best Wishes from Aunt Celia & family, Raven, Nebraska, Brown, Co.”

This short piece of correspondence helps us build a picture of an extended family with a foothold in two countries. Luckily, we have more than this to go on for the Grimm-Vader family. Processing for this fonds is nearing completion and will soon be ready for researchers. It includes almost a thousand photographs, postcards, and two extensive family histories.

We are very grateful to Nora and Ray Grimm for sharing their family history with the Archives. It will be a wonderful treasure for years to come.

SPRA’s 2019 Annual General Meeting in Review

On Saturday, March 30, the South Peace Regional Archives board of directors, staff, volunteers, and members of the public gathered for SPRA’s 2019 Annual General Meeting.  Reports from president Jan Shields, executive director Alyssa Currie, and treasurer Gail Prette highlighted the successes, achievements, and challenges of the past year.

Three volunteers received awards to mark milestones they had reached in their work at the archives. (not pictured: Mary Nutting, 250 hours)

Meg Archer has dedicated over 250 to researching and writing biographies for the soldiers on our WWII Soldiers Memorial

Leita Askew has volunteered more than 1500 hours, working on clipping files, newspaper indices, and many other projects.

The Beth Sheehan Award recognizes individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the goals of gathering, preserving, and sharing the history of the South Peace region. Recipients of the award become Honorary Members of the South Peace Regional Archives Society.  This year, the award was presented to Mathew Wozniak and the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society.

Alyssa Currie presenting the Beth Sheehan Award to Catherine Gabriel of the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society

In 2018, the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society donated over 20 boxes of archival materials, amounting to one of the most significant material donations of the year. This donation documents the community and culture of the Beaverlodge area and includes textual records, maps, pamphlets and over 1000 photographs. Shortly after the records were donated, the community of Beaverlodge was inundated by floodwaters, including the location where the records were previously stored.

Mathew Wozniak

Mathew Wozniak has been an avid supporter of the Archives since 2007: as a donor, advocate, volunteer, and magazine contributor. From 2007-2015, Mathew donated several accruals to the Wozniak family fonds. These records document the family’s immigration from Poland during the interwar period and settlement in the Wanham area. His volunteer involvement at the Archives began in 2012, with the transcription and translation of his family’s records from Polish. Since then, he has contributed over 600 hours to the Archives doing transcription and translation work.

To close the meeting, attendees heard presentations from a panel of community members who put archival records to work.

Maxine Maxwell of the Grande Prairie & District Branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society discussed the importance of archival records in genealogical research.

Charles Taws of the Grande Prairie Museum shared how he uses the Archives when preparing exhibits and programs.

Breanna Gouschuk of the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association discussed how she has used Archives photographs in social media.

Anna Ladwig shared how the Archives had contributed to the Glen Leslie Church restoration project.