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

Image: Sturgeon Lake Indian Reserve, 1942. SPRA 0294.19  Part of Lee Pooler 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 are sharing some of these images and documents.

The caption for the photograph above reads: “Copy of an original photograph. Treaty Day at Sturgeon Lake Indian Reserve in the company of Constable Brown of the RCMP.” Treaty 8 is a pivotal document with a profound impact on Indigenous families as well as Indigenous and settler relationships. For such an important document and process, we have remarkably few records that specifically mention the Treaty. These kinds of records are important as they provide documentary evidence of the ongoing relationship between the federal government and local Indigenous communities.

If you have any stories or records you would like to share about the history of Treaty 8 in the South Peace region,  we would love to hear from you. Please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.

Soldier Spotlight: Sidney & Stanley Crane

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.

Sidney Henry Crane

Regimental Number: 101116
Rank: Private
Branch: 49th Battalion
Date of Birth: December 12, 1889

Stanley Wright Crane

Regimental Number: 427826
Rank: Private
Branch: 46th Battalion
Date of Birth: March 25, 1894

Sidney and Stanley Crane were born in England and came to Canada as young men.  After spending some time in Saskatchewan, Sidney came up to the South Peace and on April 9, 1914 he filed on NE 3-73-6-W6 for himself and on SE 10-73-6-W6 on Stanley’s behalf.  Both men enlisted in the Canadian Army in the summer of 1915.

A grim letter from Jim McDonald printed in the Grande Prairie Herald on February 13, 1917 lists seven local men who were killed in action at Courcelette.  Among them were both of the Cranes.  Sidney was killed in action on October 8, 1916, and Stanley on October 13, 1916.

Finding Memory: Highlights from the Indigenous Reference files

SPRA 510.12.05.002 Part of the Indigenous Reference Files collection

One of the large projects for our summer student this year was digitizing the Indigenous reference files. This project involved digitizing and describing the reference files related to Indigenous peoples in this region. There are twenty-two Indigenous reference files with twenty centimetres of textual records. This project was prioritized to support the Indigenous History Committee, whose purpose is to examine the ways we can preserve and promote the history of the Indigenous Peoples in the south Peace in order to support reconciliation. This committee was established in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s (TRC) Calls to Action. The Indigenous Reference File Project was chosen because it helps make Indigenous centred information publically available.  This helps to do our part in fulfilling the TRC Calls to Action. This project was made possible with funding support from Young Canada Works.

The digitization portion of this project was finished in mid-July. As we create an itemized finding aid for the files we will start to share some of the items through blog posts, like this one!

This item is a photocopied version of the 1875 Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Winter Arrangements in the Athabasca District. The HBC list includes every fort in the district with the names of people serving those areas and their role, signed by the Chief Commissioner, James A Grahame.  This item came from the Culture and Arts reference file which includes photocopies of historical documents (like this one!), magazine articles about Indigenous culture, newspaper clippings, and more!

The reference files give us a glimpse into our local history, and especially now that they are digitized, are an incredibly valuable resource! If you want to see more from the Indigenous reference files, keep your eye on the blog for posts like this.

Soldier Spotlight: John Spry

Photograph: Graduation class, Jack Spry front row middle, 1941 (SPRA 292.02.36)

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.

Jack Spry was born in Sexsmith, Alberta, the son of Walter & Rose Spry.

Jack served in the Royal Canadian Air Force for five years during World War II. He was certified as a wireless operator in 1941, became a certified Wireless air-gunner in 1942, and later that same year a S.E. Coastal Operator.

In 1943 Jack was stationed near India. One day out on anti-sub patrol with pilot Sgt. Gallagher they sighted lifeboats and fourteen survivors of the S.S. Montanan. In attempting a landing their hull was damaged in a heavy swell. This had them scrambling into a rubber dinghy and in need of rescue. The lifeboats they had been sent to rescue came to their aid. On June 9th, after 2 days and 7 hours adrift, they were rescued by Catalinas Y & G and later made landfall at Marsira.

After the war Jack returned to the Sexsmith area, where he farmed until his death at the age of 57 on Aug. 14, 1980. He was buried at the Emerson Trail Cemetery.

Finding Memory: Highlights from the Indigenous Reference files

SPRA 510.12.17.007 Part of the Indigenous Reference Files collection

One of the large projects for our summer student this year was digitizing the Indigenous reference files. This project involved digitizing and describing the reference files related to Indigenous peoples in this region. There are twenty-two Indigenous reference files with twenty centimeters of textual records. This project was prioritized to support the Indigenous History Committee, whose purpose is to examine the ways we can preserve and promote the history of the Indigenous Peoples in the south Peace in order to support reconciliation. This committee was established in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s (TRC) Calls to Action. The Indigenous Reference File Project was chosen because it helps make Indigenous centered information publicly available.  This helps to do our part in fulfilling the TRC Calls to Action.  This project was made possible with funding support from Young Canada Works.

The digitization portion of this project was finished in mid-July. As we create an itemized finding aid for the files we will start to share some of the items through blog posts, like this one!

This first story is from a newspaper clipping from May 13, 1948. Mrs. Florence Calliou gave birth to a baby girl on Mother’s Day in the Grande Prairie Municipal Hospital after a long journey with her husband and two-year-old son. The journey began with a one hundred and twenty mile (193 KM) walk to reach Fort Nelson, which took eight days. Mrs. Calliou explained that the snow was still very deep where they were travelling through even though it was May! After their long walking journey, they got on a plane to Grande Prairie and traveled four-hundred miles (643 KM) in less than an hour. The baby was born shortly after their arrival to Grande Prairie and Dr. A. M. Carlisle said the baby was in good shape (SPRA 510.12.17.007).

The reference files give us a glimpse into our local history, and especially now that they are digitized, are an incredibly valuable resource! If you want to see more from the Indigenous reference files, stay tuned to the blog for posts like this.

Other stories:

510.12.17.006  – 510.12.18.015

Soldier Spotlight: John Neys

Photograph: An aviation enthusiast, Jack Neys helped build this plane and flew it in the early 1930s.

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: 3208198; VR-6374
Rank: Private
Branch: Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve

Jack was born in South Dakota on June 7, 1896. He was living in Sexsmith when he was drafted in April of 1918; his homestead was located at NW 1-76-2-W6 and he later filed on NW 18-74-5-W6 as well. In 1918, Jack was discharged from the army and joined the Navy, where his brother Henry served as well. On October 5, 1927, Jack married Nellie May Warn. Jack had a keen interest in aviation and in 1931 earned his pilot’s license. He later owned a plane, and made several mercy flights. Jack died in Washington in January of 1973.

Sources: homestead record; Grande Prairie Capitol of the Peace p. 111-112; Wagon Trails Grown Over p. 646, 1148; Buffalo Trails p. 261

Soldier Spotlight: Alexander Atkinson

Photograph: Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery

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.

Regiment: Royal Canadian Engineers
Regimental Number: M17553
Rank: Corporal

Alexander Atkinson was born in Togo, Saskatchewan on December 30, 1908. His father was Albert Edward Atkinson. He lived in the Kleskun Hill and Clairmont area of Alberta since 1934 and was a farmer and a driver. At age 32, on June 23, 1940, he enlisted to serve in WWII. Alexander was married to Abbie Alice (Atkinson). He was killed in action in the Netherlands on November 1, 1944, and is buried in the Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery (Grave Ref: 10.B.3)

A page from Alexander Atkinson’s service file

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

Photograph: First Dominion Day Celebration On Grande Prairie. 1910. SPRA 0001-2001.01.102 Part of Pioneer Museum Society of Grande Prairie and District 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 original caption for this image reads, “Aboriginal Teepees and Metis Tents at Saskatoon Lake for the first Dominion Day Celebrations on the Grande Prairie.” The journals and diaries of early white settlers to the region often mention regular and positive relationships and interactions with all the Indigenous communities already in place. Some of those interactions include trading, labour, guiding, and fun events such as the Dominion Day celebration depicted. While we have a number of records and holdings that document white settler experience of fun, we have very little evidence of the Indigenous experience of fun during the early days of white settlement. What were their special cultural events, sports, and entertainment?

If you have any records of stories you would like to share about any aspect of Indigenous history in the region,  we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.

Soldier Spotlight: Acting Corporal Mark Jones

Photograph: Golden Age Club Wapiti River Picnic, August 3, 1960.  Mark is second from right. SPRA 699.01.18

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: 14451
Rank: Acting Corporal
Branch: Fort Garry Horse

Mark was born in Glen Ewen, Saskatchewan on October 7, 1888. He traveled to enlist in the Canadian army on September 24, 1914. In fall of 1916, Mark injured his left shoulder about 40 miles behind the lines; he was giving a horse some medicine when the horse threw up its head. He was hanging onto the halter and injured his shoulder. Mark required surgery to remove some new formation of bone in front of the shoulder joint, which caused him much discomfort even after surgery and massage therapy. On March 21, 1918, he was discharged in Regina, having been found medically unfit. According to his medical record, he had a 12 inch surgical scar.  Mark filed on the southwest quarter of 13-72-4-W6 in December of 1918.  On January 8, 1921, he married Margaret MacDonnell, a widow who had worked as his housekeeper for a time. Mark died on September 18, 1965.

Sources: Pioneer Round Up p. 395

A page from Mark’s service file, Library & Archives Canada

Soldier Spotlight: Eva Nadkrynechny

Photograph: Tatiana & Alex Nadkrynechny with daughters Anne and Eva, ca. 1932.  Source: Where the Red Willow Grew, p. 558

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.

Eva Nadkrynechny was born on January 26, 1926 in Reshnivka, Ukraine which was occupied by Poland at the time. Eva immigrated to Canada with her parents and sister in 1929, landing in Halifax on April 1. After travelling to Edmonton, they went to Glendon where her father had put a down payment on a farm. After three years, they couldn’t make the payments on the land and they left. Her father then filed for homestead in Sunset House, southwest of High Prairie. The family came to High Prairie in the spring of 1932 and traveled to the homestead along the “winter trail.”

In 1936, the family moved to Edmonton and Eva and her sister went to a regular school. Eva was an excellent student. In the spring of 1938 the family returned to Sunset House. After walking to High Prairie for her mother to receive her Canadian Citizenship certificate, Eva’s brother. Ken, was born. In June, Eva wrote the grade eight departmental exam and completed her education. That fall, Eva moved to High Prairie to work. She sent money and clothes back to her family.

Eva enlisted in the RCAF (WD) and graduated at the head of her photography class. She also completed high school. Eva spent the war in Rockcliffe, Ontario, working in air mapping. After being honourably discharged, Eva worked as a pattern and style designer in the textile industry and at the time of her death in 1977, she was teaching at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario.

Eva passed away on January 20, 1977 at MacMaster Hospital. She was predeceased by her husband, Ted Murray.

Sources:
The Military Service Recognition Book, Vol. VI (p.245)
Where The Red Willow Grew (p.557)