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

Photograph: Hobbema First Nations Family Group, ca. 1915. SPRA 0052.02-2002.57.01 Part of Field’s Studio 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.

For seven years, American born Clarence Field operated a photograph business from his studio in Grande Prairie. He often took the show on the road in an old Model T van. With the Depression reducing the interest in expensive studio portraits, Field’s closed his studio in 1929 and returned to farming. After he died two years later, his wife moved out of the area. Field’s collection of glass negatives were held by various family, friends, and neighbours before finding their way to the South Peace Regional Archives.

Unlike many photographs taken of Indigenous people, this family is largely identified: Michael Buffalo’s family from the Hobbema First Nations in Central Alberta, left to right: Bella, Mary (Nepoose) Buffalo, Margaret, possibly Peggy (Allard) Buffalo, Michael’s mother. It is unknown who originally commissioned these images and for what purpose. Similar images in the Field’s Studio fonds were printed as postcards, which suggests they were posed for commercial reasons. Whatever the original intent for the photograph, for descendants researching their history, images like these can help make important connections to their past.

We have a relatively small number of images depicting Indigenous peoples at the Archives. The disparity between Indigenous and settler records can somewhat skew our understanding of the history of the region. If you have any records you would be willing to share, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Stanley Thorsteinson

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: 472689
Rank: Private
Branch: 54th Battalion

Stanley was born in Ísafjörður, Iceland on October 10, 1892. He filed on SW 18-74-8-W6 in July of 1915. In November of 1915, he enlisted in the Canadian Army. Stanley was wounded on November 18, 1916 at 6:30 AM, twenty minutes after his battalion went over the top at the Somme. He suffered from shrapnel wounds to his right knee and the right side of his head. Stanley was moved two miles by stretcher, and invalided to Canada in March of 1917. On November 30, 1917, he was discharged, having been found medically unfit as a result of his injuries. In 1920/1921, Stanley filed on a second homestead at NW 8-74-9-W6. By this time, he was married to Dorothy Lettice Wilson. Stanley and Dorothy left the area in 1923. Stanley died on December 7, 1957.

Sources: Buffalo Trails p. 219

Finding Memory: Highlights from the Indigenous Reference Files

Image: SPRA 510.12.18.015 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 item is an article from the Daily Herald Tribune in 1980 about members of the Grande Prairie Friendship Center performing a rain dance in Bear Creek Park to help farmers in the area who were battling with dry fields. The nine members pictured, who are unnamed, were joined by the Mayor Al Romanchuk.  Joe Campbell also joined in full regalia despite being on crutches. The article says that the dance must have worked as it rained the next day!

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: Douglas Blackie

Douglas Blackie (Memories & Moments p. 276)

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.

Douglas Blackie was born and raised in Edmonton, and attended a year of normal school and a year at University of Alberta studying Engineering. After his studies, he moved to Spirit River and became the teacher at the White Mountain School, where he taught from 1933 to 1936. In 1939 he married Alice Brown in Spirit River. Douglas joined the Air Force in July 1942 and was trained in radar and wireless communication. He was discharged in June 1946 and returned to teaching in the Spirit River School. Because he was going to operate the “Blackie Radio Electric” business, he resigned from teaching in 1950. Becoming the Post Master in 1954, Douglas also was a member of the town council for nearly ten years. Both Alice and Douglas enjoyed involvement in several musical and dramatic productions in the school and the United Church. In 1969 he was elected National President of the Canadian Postmasters Association, which required a move to Ottawa. When he retired, they moved back to Spirit River. Alice and Douglas had 3 children: Stuart, Heather and Patricia. Douglas died at age 89 in Grande Prairie in May 1999.

Source: Memories and Moments p. 76 Photo in uniform p. 276
Chepi Sepee p. 183 Photo in uniform

The Remembrance Tree

The Remembrance Tree has now been taken down.  Thank you to all who participated.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles and the conclusion of the First World War.  To commemorate this important anniversary, the South Peace Regional Archives has partnered with the Grande Prairie Museum on an interactive exhibit. The Remembrance tree contains identification tags (“dog tags”) of local veterans from the conflict. Visit the museum to collect a tag from the tree and then visit the Archives’ online Soldier’s Memorial to learn more about your veteran and thousands of others from our region.

Find Your WWI Veteran Here

or

Find Out More About the Solider’s Memorial Here

The South Peace River country of Alberta supplied thousands of recruits for both the World Wars. The South Peace Regional Archives is creating an online memorial to the veterans from the South Peace area who were involved in these conflicts. We have over 1,100 WWI soldiers and over 2,300 WWII soldiers listed on the site so far, and the list is growing. As we gather information about each soldier, it will be added to the memorial.

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

Photograph: Two Cree women fleshing a moose hide, 1935. SPRA 0177.074 Part of Ann Macklin 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.

A picture is worth a thousand words but without words to provide context, a photograph often raises more questions than they answer. Who were these two women and where was the photograph taken? What was the relationship between the photographer and the women? Are these two women looking over their shoulder to pose for the camera? Or were they startled by it? Was this scene captured by the photographer as an aide memoire or to share “their” experience with friends and family?

We do have some context for the image. Within the Ann Macklin fonds, there are several photographs of hunting trips, including photographs of “Cree family guides”. Perhaps these two women were part of guiding family. With the limited caption, “Two Cree women fleshing a moose hide” we cannot know for sure. The image does provide some evidence of Cree women’s labour and their hide-processing techniques. But it leaves us bereft of valuable personal information that would add richness to the history of the region, the Cree community, and these women in particular.

If you have any information about who these women might be, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.

Soldier Spotlight: Sergeant Walter Eaton

Photograph: The Lake Saskatoon baseball team in the Twilight League, in 1914, before the First World War. Players included Walter Roberts (second base), M. Stewart (shortstop), Frank Douglass (left field), ? (right field), Ulia Douglass (pitcher and third base), Clem Douglass (catcher), ? Stokes (pitcher and third base), Walter Eaton (first base), and Harold Anderson (pitcher and centre field). The photograph was donated by Mrs. Luella Roberts.

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: 101230
Rank: Sergeant
Branch: 66th Battalion; 49th Battalion

Walter was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 7, 1880. He filed on a homestead at NW 36-71-8-W6 and also worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Lake Saskatoon. Walter married Julia around 1906, and the couple had three children. He enlisted in the Canadian army in September of 1915 and was sent overseas. Late in 1916 there were mistaken reports that Walter had been killed in action, but a letter he sent to the Grande Prairie Herald in January 1917 confirmed that he was “very much alive and in good health.” In August of 1917, he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. Walter was killed in action in the vicinity of Passchendaele on October 30, 1917.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 195; Lake Saskatoon Reflections, p. 30, 147, 175, 250, 254; Edson to Grande Prairie Trail p. 101

Walter’s military will (Library & Archives Canada)

Finding Memory: Highlights from the Indigenous Reference files

SPRA 510.12.07.012b-c 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 item is an article from the magazine “Legacy” about Indigenous people reconnecting with their culture and spirituality after Residential Schools stripped them of it.  There are stories of a few different people talking about Ka-keh-ci-hi-to-win Gatherings (Group Comforting in Cree) in their community helping them heal.  The photo is of George Amato, Jodi Bork, and Bryn Podolchuk; George Amato is an elder in his community.   He said in the article “we care about each other in this group.  And that’s how my people were.  They Cared. If they had one last piece of meat, they’d be sure to share half with you.  They made offerings of thanks when they killed an animal.  They took time to laugh and sing together.  That’s what we’re doing here.”

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: William Adair

Photograph: William Adair in uniform walking along a city street and accompanied by a woman, ca. 1945 (SPRA 2008.102.01)

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.

William Adair was born in 1892 in Sussen, NB, and he graduated from Fredericton Normal School. He taught in Saskatchewan where his met and wife Nellie Mae Stewart. They married in Regina SK on Dec. 25, 1914. Then William served overseas in WW I. Upon returning, William had the urge to file on land in the Teepee Creek area in Alberta. In 1920 his wife and 2 year old daughter, Christine, moved out west to join him. The first school was built in 1920 and William taught there, as well as doing combine farming. He enlisted in the R.C.A. Medical Corps in WW II in 1941, letting his 17 year old son, Hudson, handle the farm. After William was discharged in 1944, he continued teaching and farming. He was also active in baseball. William died on April 25, 1966, the day of Nellie’s funeral.  Both were buried in the Grande Prairie Municipal Cemetery.

Source: Wagon Trails Grown Over p. 873
AGS website – Obituary Index

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.