Sakitawak Bi-Centennial, Ile-a-la-Crosse 1776 - 1976

We Have Not Lived In Vain

Voyageurs. Voyageurs.

"Two hundred years we have been here. Our home is a Metis home. We have shared it with our Cree, Chipewyan and white parents. We have grown and prospered in these many years. We have shown that the "Metis Nation" has not died. Rather, our nation has surged forward to find a place in a world that many times is blind, in a world built by all peoples. We shall continue to grow; our nation shall be stronger. We are Metis. We are free to grow as our heart, heritage and spirit desires. We the "bois brule" of the north have much to call our own, much to find pride in, and much to share in our land. We have given of our children and our labours that Canada should prosper. We are proud Metis - two hundred years proud!"

And what of us today? Listen to the words that follow; look around our village; talk to our people, young and old alike.

January, 1976! We are preparing to enter our third century. First, we must turn our eyes to our past. Two hundred years have passed. We are thankful that we have survived and have grown to be stronger and more self-reliant. Celebrate! Three days of fun and merriment; three days of skill and adventure; three days of pride.

Dogs lay uneasily in their traces while their masters make a final check on their lines and hitches. Ready now; go! With a blast from a loudspeaker the dogs are off and running. Miles to travel and the cold to brave, the race is on. This travel as it used to be. Participants from across Canada have come together to share in the celebration of our bi-centennial. Even a few people from the United States have come. The minutes race by - where are the dogs? Finally a thin line of dark is bending on the white trail. The race is done.

What else to do? Follow the people. They are heading to the snowshoe racing course. Even this traditional skill is alive and thriving in our village. Men of all ages wait for the starters gun. With a mad rush, each man surges forward through the snow. The shoes rattle against each other. Someone has fallen. Feet are becoming sore and blistered. Turn and back again. The course is faster now. Trees float by like dark phantoms. There's the finish line. Push, push!

A sporting salute to the two hundred years of northern life carries on with the events of backpacking, log-chopping and bannock baking. The three day winter festival does not dwell on the past alone. Snowmobile races, bingos, dances, curling and special events for the children. Finally dusk falls on Sunday evening. People retire to warm houses for smaller, more private celebrations. Time now has come to begin planning for the official celebration in July.

Summer has come again to Sakitawak. The rivers flow strongly and mighty. Still the beaver, the muskrat, the moose and the fish find nourishment in these northern waters. Sakitawak is the past alive and the home of today, as well as the hope of tomorrow for it's Metis people.

Down a flight of stairs, in the basement of the convent, a group of elderly women are busy with scissors and needles. Moosehide is cut to form the traditional clothing and footwear of long-buried ancestors. Beads sparkle on the fawn-colored leather, in a rainbow of colour. Designs and patterns, tell tales and legends, that have today lost most of their words. Two of the women, guide younger apprentices through the traditional arts of their special handicrafts. Mary Ann Kyplain, and Margaret Caisse, patiently teach and create. Each day passes, and their work travels to distant parts bringing a special fame to Ile-a-la-Crosse. Welcome, to the handicraft shop, of the Ile-a-la-Crosse Women's Co-operative.

Saskatchewan Map.
Saskatchewan Map.

Saws race through wood with a screeching whine. Men are hammering, painting, gluing and planning. The Ile-a-la-Crosse Men's Co-operative labours over modern cabinets and shelves for a soon to be erected building. In season, with a demand, several men sit patiently and practise the old art of snowshoe construction. Babiche and wood are joined in the patterns and purposes of the craftsmen. Still others bend their skills to the construction of the northern lake skiff, the dependable craft of the independent fisherman. Here the past and the present meet happily in economic harmony.

A few older citizens still practise the art of curing and tanning of hides. Their work is much preferable to the commercially tanned hide. The pungent odour reminding the wearer of the days when all lived by the hand of nature. Men and women such as Alphonse Daigneault, Albertine Laliberte and Mrs. Nap Johnson keep true to the lessons taught by parents and grandparents when applying their hands and spirits to the hide. But, the body grows weak and the hands begin to ache at these tasks. Will anyone follow in their tradition?

Margaret Caisse. Handicraft Work.
Margaret Caisse and Handicraft Work.

Fish Plant at McKay Point - Ile a-la-Crosse.
Fish Plant at McKay Point - Ile-a-la-Crosse.

Department of Northern Saskatchewan.
Department of Northern Saskatchewan.

Hudson's Bay Store - Ile A-La-Crosse
Hudson's Bay Company Store...Ile-a-la-Crosse.

The lake still draws the men to place their nets in its depths. Men like Joseph Favel and Ronald Daigneault. Young men still follow their elders to man the skiffs and clean the nets. Whitefish and northern pike abound and give a good living to the industrious. A fish plant readily accepts their catch according to quotas arranged the previous winter.

Muskrat pelts, beaver pelts, lynx, fox, and wolf are still respected and valuable currency for the trapper and trader alike. In this modern age, their ancient skills as trappers are in peak demand. Men such as Kurt George still visit and tend traplines established centuries ago. Sadly, no one appears to want to follow and learn this occupation. Will the trapline die with the last of the old trappers?

The bush, towering spruce and twisted pine give a living in many ways. In this age of almost instant and unlimited travel, the enemy of the forest has become an even more dangerous being. Fire - the killing flames race at heart-breaking speed leaving a wildlife refuge or a beautiful camping area smoldering and charred. Men are needed here to war against this enemy; many men. Men as these who proved themselves the best in Northern Saskatchewan.

Sharing quarters with these firefighters the department of Northern Saskatchewan spends double-duty watching over the livelihood of the fish and fur and feathered wildlife. Jonas Daigneault in the employ of the DNS, uses his work experience as well as his intuitive knowledge of the north in planning and directing field activities

Expensive windows, exhibit the latest of dress fashions and serve to attract customers to the modern and large building now housing the venerable Hudson's Bay Company. Roy Simpson, and his staff, happily serve the demanding tastes of growing consumerism. Inside, canoes, wood cook-stoves share space with colour televisions, stereos and electric ranges. Clothing fashions of Saskatoon, Regina and metropolitan Canada vie for the shoppers attention. Another section of the store offers grocery goods, as to be found in any retail market in the south. All pleasing to the eye.

Best Overall Firefighting Crew
Best Overall Crew.

The Ile-a-la-Crosse fire crew took first place in hand tool, pumper trailer,
and campsite competitions and was judged the best overall crew.

They are (Back row, left to right):
Reg Cockle, conservation officer and fire fighting crew members,
Dennis Favel, Ivan Maurice, Lawrence McCallum, Martin Couillonneur,
William Gardiner, Lawrence Daigneault

(Front row, left to right):
Larry Buckley, conservation officer, and crew members,
Robert Gardiner Jr., Moise Morin and
crew foreman Pete Daigneault.

Photo courtesy of "DENOSA"


Author: Webmaster -
"Date Modified: July 21, 2024."

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