Records and Reconciliation: Discover the Spirit of the Peace

Image: [Letter From Auila Productions], Nov. 29, 1996 (SPRA 007.04.18)

In 2020, the South Peace Regional Archives launched a major project, titled “Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records,” with financial support from Library and Archives Canada. The purpose of the project was to increase awareness of and access to Indigenous-related records within the Archives’ collections: by re-appraising, describing or re-describing, and digitizing more than 300 records in 70 fonds. This project is vital step in the Archives’ ongoing work towards Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We are now able to share these records with the community.

The item we are highlighting this week is a letter by Mike Dodson, producer for Aquila Productions, to Peter Goertzen, regarding his plan for the Spirt of the Peace Promotional film, eventually named “Discover the Spirit of the Peace”. This letter in in the Spirit of the Peace fonds (fonds 007) and is available in its entirety on Alberta on Record. Dodson proposed that the principal narrator will be played as a Native elder, introducing the early history and each episode. This 1996 proposal imagines an Indigenous elder, yet the final production eventually would be performed by a non-Indigenous actor and the script will not be written by local Indigenous knowledge-keepers or elders. During the time this project was conceived, issues of cultural appropriation were not yet widely raised or debated, as they would be by the years following 2000.

The Discover the Spirit of the Peace film was featured in our Movie Monday blog series in late 2020. It is available to view and read about here.

Soldier Spotlight: Flight Lieutenant John Archer

Image: John and Jessamy Archer, Jim Carlisle and Bill Archer after an afternoon bird hunting, 1941 (SPRA 399.12.30)

Regiment: RCAF
Rank: Flight Lieutenant

John Archer was born on August 21, 1918 in Lake Saskatoon to Ruth and Joseph Archer. He grew up in Wembley, and he attended U of A for one year. On January 8, 1941 he joined the Air Force in Edmonton, and he was posted in various locations:
Manning Pool in Brandon ON Jan. 9, 1941
Swift Current , SK Feb. 15, 1941 no. 36 SFTS
Regina, SK March 26, 1941 no. 2 Initial Training School – posted to aircrew as pilot
Boundary Bay (Vancouver) BC no. 18 EFTS
Claresholm, AB July 2, 1941 – became flying instructor
Calgary AB no. 3 SFTS
Gimili MB no. 1 SFTS
Souris MB no. 18 SFTS
He married Jessamy Smith August 10, 1942 in Edmonton, and they lived in Claresholm. He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant June 19, 1943. John’s main job was flight instructor, and he gave armament tests. In 1945 he was discharged. John and Jessamy moved to Beaverlodge, where John owned the Marshall-Wells hardware store until 1976. He was also the mayor for 7 years. Archers had 6 children: Fred, Bill, Joe, Mavis, Robert, and David. In 1986 John and Jessamy moved to Qualicum Beach BC. Jessamy died in 1999. John remarried to Mary Peters February. 3, 2001. He died September 10, 2010 in Victoria, and is buried in Beaverlodge.

Source:
Memoirs of John C. Archer (autobiography- unpublished)
Beaverlodge to the Rockies pp. 81-82
Along the Wapiti pp. 412, 332-333
Saskatoon Lake Reflections p. 98

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

From the Vault Friday: Sweet Adelines

Image: SPRA fonds 038

Todays “From the Vault Friday” features a playbill from the Sweet Adelines fonds (fonds 038).

In 1976, a Grande Prairie Chapter of the Sweet Adelines was initiated by Jean Duffy, who had been a member of a chapter in Edmonton but was now resident in Grande Prairie. By 1980, the group was a member of the International Sweet Adelines. To earn a chapter, the group had to have 20 members and prove, via singing competitions, that they had mastered the unique Barbershop style and sound. They had to show that they could organize events and portray the proper Sweet Adelines image and standards, as well as raise the funds to cover the costs of instructors, equipment, costumes and travel.

Over the 19 years for which they existed, the club provided entertainment for the community as a service or in fund-raising concerts, and participated in local events such as the County Parade and the Festival of Carols. They especially enjoyed singing in senior citizens’ lodges. As a chapter, they performed at regional competitions, attended other competitions in the States and Canada, and even sent some members to international conventions.

The group swelled to a total of 28 members, but dwindled in the early 90s. In 1994, with a membership of 12, funding and members became increasingly difficult to attract. The chapter dissolved in 1995.

Read more about the Sweet Adelines fonds (fonds 038) here.

View a selection of our photos on Alberta On Record.

From the Vault Friday is a social media campaign to highlight interesting materials from the Archives. This project was made possible by an Access to Holdings Grant from the Archives Society of Alberta.

Records and Reconciliation: Stanley William Bird Letter

Image: Letter to Dad from Stanley William Bird, 1918. (SPRA 0594.03)

In 2020, the South Peace Regional Archives launched a major project, titled “Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records,” with financial support from Library and Archives Canada. The purpose of the project was to increase awareness of and access to Indigenous-related records within the Archives’ collections: by re-appraising, describing or re-describing, and digitizing more than 300 records in 70 fonds. This project is vital step in the Archives’ ongoing work towards Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We are now able to share these records with the community.

In the letter we are highlighting this week, Stanley William Bird writes from LaGlace to his father about the many rumours surrounding the sensational murder of seven men, the accused, and the money which allegedly motivated the murders. Bird also reports on the local wildlife, the 1 July Sports Day, and the participation of “Indians” in the events. He reports that he will also be going hunting with an Indigenous man, “Wi-Kit-sis”. The compete letter is available on Alberta on Record. It is part of the Stanley William Bird fonds (Fonds 594). Born in England, but raised in Saskatchewan, Bird returned to his Saskatchewan home after filing for a homestead in the Peace, but died of Spanish flu on Christmas Day, 1918.

Today we are self-conscious about using outdated terms are offensive or ethnocentric, revealing attitudes which are not acceptable. What understanding (however limited) of Indigenous life and people does this letter show? How has our contemporary knowledge and attitude improved today?

From the Vault Friday: The Sexsmith Sentinel

Image: SPRA Fonds 180

Todays “From the Vault Friday” features newspaper from The Sexsmith Sentinel fonds (Fonds 180). The Sexsmith Sentinel was an independent newspaper printed from 1949 to 1954 published by A.F. Menzies and Son at Sexsmith, Alberta. It was launched in the Fall of 1949 by Art Menzies who had come to Sexsmith from Saskatchewan in 1938 to run the McDonald Grain Elevator. In 1951, the Spirit River Signal was also started and printed in the Sexsmith Shop. Art’s son Malcolm was a partner in the business, and Art’s daughter Helen was the first editor. The firm continued to operate in Sexsmith until the fall of 1954, when publication of the Sentinel was discontinued. As well as operating The Sentinel, Art Menzies served on the Sexsmith School Board, Town Council and as the Mayor of Sexsmith.

In 1954 the plant was moved to Spirit River and the company’s activities were centralized there under the management of son Malcolm. Art Menzies later established the High Prairie Progress, which they operated until 1959, when both the Signal and the Progress were sold to an Edmonton publisher and the Menzies moved their printing operations to Grande Prairie.

The papers deal mainly with local news from Sexsmith, Valhalla, Wembley, La Glace, Rycroft, Clairmont, and the outlying districts. The Sentinel also included a section titled “They Say”; a gossip section that reports the comings and goings, hospitalizations, and various mishaps of the area, such as a lady going to the hospital to have a needle removed from her hand that had been lodged there for many years. Another notable excerpt is “Sam Rycroft. who left here a few years ago to farm at Red Deer had his combine destroyed by fire when the machine picked up a live shotgun shell in the field. The shell exploded when it reached the cylinder, starting the fire which could not be extinguished.”

From the Vault Friday is a social media campaign that highlights interesting materials from the collections of the South Peace Regional Archives. This project was made possible by an Access to Holdings Grant from the Archives Society of Alberta.

Records and Reconciliation: Tipi Being Constructed

Photograph: Tipi Being Constructed, [1983]. (SPRA 0664.14.08.35)

In 2020, the South Peace Regional Archives launched a major project, titled “Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records,” with financial support from Library and Archives Canada. The purpose of the project was to increase awareness of and access to Indigenous related records within the Archives’ collections: by re-appraising, describing or re-describing, and digitizing more than 300 records in 70 fonds. This project is a vital step in the Archives’ ongoing work toward Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We are now able to share these records with the community.

This photograph is from the Bill Turnbull fonds (Fonds 664). It shows a tipi being constructed. There are additional poles laying on in ground. The photo was taken in July, during Universiade.

Universiade (a portmanteau of “University” and “Olympiad”) is an international multi-sport event held for university athletes and the second largest multi-sport event in the world. In 1983, when this photo was taken, the games were being held in Edmonton, Alberta. Over 2400 athletes from 73 countries participated. Associated celebrations often highlight the Indigenous cultures of the host country.

To view more digitized images of the Edmonton Universiade, visit Alberta on Record. Do you remember the games? Contact the Archives to share your memories!

Soldier Spotlight: Ralph Anderson

Image: Building of the Grande Prairie Creamery, with the ice house in the background. The creamery started operations in the fall of 1920. (SPRA 024.01.09.58)

Regiment: Army Princess Louise Dragoon Guards

Ralph Anderson (brother of Henry Anderson) was born in Starkweather, North Dakota. He moved to Alberta with his parents and siblings in May 1918. After going to school in Beaverlodge, Ralph went to the School of Agriculture in Vermillion. Then he worked at the Grande Prairie creamery. In 1939 he joined the army and was posted overseas. He was wounded in Italy. While in England he married Audrey Prescott, and he was discharged in 1945. After the war Ralph farmed and also worked at the Canadian Forces Base in Beaverlodge. The family moved to Grande Prairie, and then to Prince Rupert BC. They had 3 girls and 1 boy.
Source: Pioneer Round-Up pp. 1-2

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

From the Vault Friday: Wanted Teacher Ad

Image: SPRA 346.05.01a

Todays “From the Vault Friday” features a ‘wanted’ ad from the Two Rivers School District 3497 Fonds (fonds 346).

“Wanted.

Protestant teacher for Two Rivers S.D. Grades 1-11. Must have 1st Class Permanent Certificate. Give references and special qualifications. Salary to be as authorized by Department. Last term $750.00. Walter Willis Sec. Tres, Beaverlodge, Alta.”

Two Rivers School District 3497 was formed in 1917 and named after its location in the triangle formed by the joining of the Red Willow and Beaverlodge Rivers. From 1917 to 1918 the school operated in J.W. Cotton’s house (SE 35-70-10), with Verna Elliot as the first teacher, until the 18′ x 26′ school was built on the southwest corner of SE1-71-10-W6. Because of low student attendance and greater than anticipated costs, the school closed in 1918 and did not reopen again until 1927. The school closed again for about a month in 1929 due to an outbreak of smallpox.

In 1933, trees were planted near the school in order to create a windbreak, and a barn was also built on the school property this year. In 1938, Two Rivers joined the Grande Prairie District, although the school remained very independent. Two Rivers purchased a typewriter and radio for their school in 1938, and they also submitted a proposal for improvements to the school to the Grande Prairie Divisional board. The Board rejected their proposal, but this did not stop Two Rivers. Using volunteer labour and donations, the school financed improvements to the school themselves. With only $21 in financial assistance from the Grande Prairie board, Two Rivers managed to turn the school so that its windows faced east, placed the school on a cement foundation, and gave the building new siding and paint.

The 1938 improvements to Two Rivers School was not the only instance where the community played a major role in maintaining and improving the school. Throughout the school’s history, men from the area worked to improve the grounds, and because getting water to the school was a problem, men from the area, as well as the teacher and pupils, had to haul water to the school. In 1940, the local telephone company donated and installed a telephone. The Two Rivers School was the center of the community. In addition to year end picnics and Christmas concerts, the community would also gather at the school for dances, bingos, meetings and church services.

Read more about the Two Rivers School District 3497 Fonds (fonds 346) here.

View a selection of photos on Alberta On Record here.

Featured Image: SPRA 346.05.01b

From the Vault Friday is a social media campaign that highlights interesting materials from the collections of the South Peace Regional Archives. This project was made possible by an Access to Holdings Grant from the Archives Society of Alberta.

Records and Reconciliation: Douglas Cardinal and GPRC

Image: Grande Prairie Regional College, 1970 c. (SPRA 0190.02.01.0284.01)

In 2020, the South Peace Regional Archives launched a major project, titled “Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records,” with financial support from Library and Archives Canada. The purpose of the project was to increase awareness of and access to Indigenous-related records within the Archives’ collections: by re-appraising, describing or re-describing, and digitizing more than 300 records in 70 fonds. This project is vital step in the Archives’ ongoing work towards Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We are now able to share these records with the community.

Designed by Douglas Cardinal, Canada’s distinguished Indigenous architect, Grande Prairie Regional College was begun in 1974, completed in 1976, in a setting evocative of the Indigenous rhythms of life and textures of the land itself. Cardinal’s design featured sinuous curves and brick carefully laid in a staggered pattern to break up the tendency to linearity which dominated non-Indigenous building. His work is known for its juxtaposition of water and his buildings.

Locate and assess other Cardinal projects, noting the hallmarks of his unique approach to design, and how he links it to Indigenous history and traditional culture. How has Cardinal’s vision influenced other Indigenous architecture since his career began in Alberta in the 1970s?

Soldier Spotlight: Gunner George Vowden

Image: An excerpt from George’s military service file with details about his injury (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 1258073
Rank: Gunner
Branch: Canadian Garrison Artillery

George was born in Wiltshire, England on August 20, 1890. While working as a clerk for a shipping firm in London, a job opening came up in an office in British Guyana. George took the job, and worked his way up to overseer on the sugar cane plantation. At the time of his enlistment in 1916, George was living in Halifax. He injured his left foot and ankle in July of 1918 while unloading ammunition; a shell rolled onto his foot. After the war, George decided to immigrate to Canada. He settled in the Falher area and filed on the following homesteads: SE 3-76-21-W5, SW 2-76-21-W5, NE 35-75-21-W5, SW 34-75-21-W5, NE 34-75-21-W5. George died on May 1, 1955 and was buried in the McLennan Cemetery.

Sources: Guy p. 578; homestead records

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.