2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. Commemorative events like Canada 150 invite us to consider how our heritage has shaped the present, to learn lessons from the past, and to discuss what we would like our future to be. In recognition of Canada 150, Heritage Saskatchewan invites you to explore the diverse living heritage of our province through a video series, launched July 1st. Every two weeks until the end of the year, a new video will be released that examines some facet of Saskatchewan’s rich living heritage. These videos are not a definitive collection of Saskatchewan’s heritage in 2017, but rather a sample of the diverse practices, beliefs, and experiences of Saskatchewan people. Visit this page often for updates, and subscribe to our YouTube channel!
This Canada 150 video – our second last! – was actually one of the first to be filmed, all the way back in January, 2016 in Spiritwood, about 2 hours north of Saskatoon. It’s a little different from the rest of the videos in that it was filmed as part of a Discovering Local Folklore intangible cultural heritage workshop. As you'll see in the video, we had plenty of folks with us that day to learn all about living heritage and intangible cultural heritage. To demonstrate ICH in action, I had previously requested a demonstration of some sort of local tradition or custom, and was looking forward to learning how to make the sweet treat of toffee on snow. I well remember the journey to Spiritwood, driving on dark, snowy, unfamiliar roads through the forest, and finally arriving to my gorgeous bed and breakfast with much relief.
The next morning dawned bright and sunny, though cold, as I made my way to the Pioneer Centre in Spiritwood. I had asked my community host, Geraldine Lavoie, how to get there. “It’s down by where the old hospital used to be,” she told me. This was my first visit to Spiritwood, so I really had no idea where the old hospital used to be. This amusing anecdote has served me well the past year, as I use it all the time to demonstrate ICH, or living heritage, in action. Though the old hospital is long gone, its existence lives on in memory, and in contemporary concepts of space. What is physically gone remains conceptually present, enough so that it can be used to give direction – but only if the person being directed understands the language of this particular place – its memory of landscape.
So much of who we are grows from the places where we grew up and the places we end up. It’s virtually impossible to separate our selves from our places, whether we are typically aware of that or not. And sometimes we carry bits of places with us through time and space, a way to "keep" a part of something that had meaning for us as individuals and/or as communities. In this particular video, we see how francophone settlers in the prairies adapted a particular tradition to their new home.
Lorraine Lavoie takes us through the process of making toffee on snow, or tire sur la neige. Lorraine explains in the video that in her parents’ home province of Quebec, this was made with maple syrup. But in their new western home, maple syrup wasn’t something you could easily buy. So they improvised, concocting a syrup made of sugar, butter and cream (fresh from their own cows, in those days). It’s not as simple as dumping the ingredients in a pot, however, as Lorraine demonstrates in the video. You have to know when it’s ready, and what to look for. We hear Lorraine remark several times how you can "tell" that it's ready. "Tells" are often referred to in the context of a game of poker - something to look for on an opponent's face, perhaps. But when it comes to ICH, there are lots of "tells" - the things to look for in the creation of something. These are usually learned by observing and by experience, and sometimes by being told from the person showing you how to do something. A "tell" in a tradition is an important marker of intangible cultural heritage.
Lorraine’s daughter-in-law, Geraldine, stands by and we see her questioning Lorraine about some of these "tells." Though Geraldine herself grew up in a Ukrainian-Canadian tradition, of which she holds to strongly, she married into a French-Canadian family, and is determined to carry on traditions from both of these family connections. As Christmas approaches, I am sure that the Lavoies in Spiritwood are getting ready to create some of their special family traditions once more.
As winter settles in, our newest Canada 150 video takes us back to the full bloom of summer at Natassia Brazeau’s acreage outside Saskatoon. I visited Natassia at her home and workshop in early August. I've been devotee of her natural body products for some time, so it was exciting to get a chance to see the process of creating them firsthand. We spent a gorgeous day among the lush, leafy green foliage of Natassia’s garden, and also wildcrafted in the woods near her home.
This is the second business I have profiled in this series - the first being Daybreak Mill, owned by Nicole Davis. I find it inspiring that there are women like Natassia Brazeau and Nicole Davis in this province who are dedicated to sustainability and local, community-minded business practices. Living heritage weaves itself through both of their businesses, naturally. I hope at this point in the series, as we near its conclusion, that it has become clear how living heritage weaves itself into almost every aspect of our daily lives, whether we’re aware of it or not.
I hope it goes without being said, but just to clarify that although I have featured Northlore and its products in lingering detail, this is not meant to be an advertisement, and Heritage Saskatchewan did not receive any kind of payment for this video. I reached out to Natassia and also to Nicole because I admire what they do and think it speaks strongly to the relevance of heritage in contemporary life. After all, what is more relevant thank making a living? These are inspiring examples of how we can utilize the resources we have right here to create sustainable, community-based, local economies.
Natassia started Northlore in 2014 at a time, as she explains in the video, when some of her interests were intersecting. She'd long made her own beauty products, but was also exploring the properties of wild and cultivated plants in her own backyard. This exploration grew out of her realization that she couldn't actually name most of the native plants she saw on her own property. As she began to experiment with making products from locally available plants, the idea for a small business took root. But not just any small business - one with a very clear and conscious ethical foundation. Natassia has a degree in Political Science, and during our conversation that day, she made the statement, "I believe the most political thing we can do is grow our own vegetable gardens," meaning, the less we rely on the globalized profit-driven economy, the more power we have to create sustainable, resilient, and connected communities. Natassia's business is more than just a business; it is a community of its own.
In growing, wildcrafting, infusing, distilling, and concocting, Natassia's hands are literally on almost every step of the process of creating Northlore's products. It is a cyclical, seasonal process - one which necessitates adapting to the rhythms of nature, rather than a production schedule. Consequently, sometimes certain products are only crafted seasonally, or, depending on the season itself, a product may be unavailable. This means that Natassia sometimes has to educate consumers about the nature of making truly natural products. As she states at the video's beginning: "there's something about slowing it all down and reconnecting to the land and the rhythm of this land." Living in tandem with the natural world was the only way our ancestors could survive, and throughout the milennia they collectively amassed a wealth of knowledge about the world around us. In the past century, much of this knowledge has been lost. But people like Natassia are consciously seeking it out, and so ensuring its survival into the future.
In Saskatchewan, when we think of pioneers, we often picture the familiar story of the white European/Canadian/American homesteader arriving on the prairie a century ago to build a new life out of the harsh elements. Though this has become the dominant narrative, it's only one of many versions of the pioneer story in Saskatchewan. I was put in touch with Sabreena Haque, a teacher at Regina Huda School, several months ago by the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan. When we were first introduced, I made the mistake of assuming that Sabreena was a newcomer to Canada. She quickly corrected me, telling me that she was born and raised in Regina, the daughter of Bengali immigrants. Her parents were pioneers to the prairies.
When Dr. Anwarul and Mrs. Nilufar Haque arrived in Saskatchewan in the mid-1960s, they were one of only a handful of Muslim couples in Regina. Everything about Saskatchewan was new to them and the Haques had to learn how to live in a new land. For Nilufar, this was a particular challenge. She had grown up in Bangladesh as a well-educated girl who had never done domestic work. In her new life in Regina, she had to learn to cook, clean and do laundry. And cooking traditional Bengali food that is halal (permissible according to Islamic law) required a great deal of extra work, and a lot of creativity. Since there were so few Muslim families in Saskatchewan at the time, halal ingredients were impossible to buy. This meant that Anwarul and Nilufar had to butcher their own meat in the basement of their home. Nilufar also recalls that in those days, telephoning back home to Bangladesh was very expensive, so when she had a question for her mother about a particular dish, she couldn't just give her a call. Cooking required a lot of trial and error - hallmark of all pioneers!
The Haques quickly adjusted to life in Saskatchewan and raised their children as Canadians strong in their Muslim faith. Sabreena and her husband are now raising their own children in the Haque family home. Anwarul passed away several years ago, and Nilufar lives with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. When it's time to prepare meals, Nilufar has now stepped back to allow her daughter Sabreena to carry on the tradition. But as we will see in the video, she still has lots of advice to impart to the younger generations of her famly.
Back in late August, I had the privilege of spending time with members of the Haque/Ashique family while they prepared both a traditional goat curry for Eid al-Adha celebrations, as well as a more contemporary Thai Red Curry for their regular, weeknight supper. I had a lot of fun filming this video, which unfortunately could not capture the fragrant aromas of homemade curry simmering on the stove. As always, it was difficult to edit so much interesting information down to a few short minutes, but in this video I hope you will enjoy the inter-generational dynamics between Nilufar, Sabreena, Raeesa, and Sakeenah. To apply a couple of well-worn phrases, sometimes it might seem like there's "too many cooks in the kitchen," but really, "many hands make light work." I truly believe there is no better place to learn about culture and heritage than in the kitchen. In fact, I would argue that it's in the kitchen that much of our living heritage is passed down through families - especially when it's time to prepare for an important holiday.
By Katherine Gilks, Education Coordinator at Heritage Saskatchewan
Especially given that 2017 marked the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, Heritage Saskatchewan was thrilled to administer the Young Citizens contest in this province as part of this past Heritage Fairs season. (Canada’s History Society, with sponsorship from Great West Life/Canada Life/First Life/London Life as well as from the federal government, has run this contest nationally since 2014.) Thirteen students, chosen from our Regional Heritage Fairs Saskatchewan, submitted videos this year.
As part of the program this year, Heritage Saskatchewan hosted a day-long filmmaking workshop in Regina open to all of the students chosen at the Regionals. The workshop ended with a tour of the Saskatchewan Soundstage. Thank you once again to Adrian Halter of HalterMedia Productions for leading the workshop, and to Tobi Lampard of the Saskatchewan Soundstage for an excellent tour!
There were lots of interesting topics that our Young Citizens finalists taught us about this year – among them were the 100th anniversary of 4-H clubs in Saskatchewan, several family immigration stories, the pioneer Jack Hitchcock, the National Ballet of Canada, and the Canadian Pacific Railway. (Check them out on Canada’s History’s website! Also available are videos from 2014, 2015, and 2016.)
Our 13 videos were posted online mid-June and the public was invited to vote for their favourites. Two winners from each province and territory won the grand prize of a trip to Ottawa to participate in the 4th Young Citizens Forum Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2017.
Saskatchewan’s 2017 winners were Ethan Done (for his video The Klondike Gold Rush) and Daysha Garner (for her video INCA / CNIB). Ethan is now in grade 9 at Tommy Douglas Collegiate in Saskatoon, while Daysha is now in grade 6 at École Centennial School in Regina. Congratulations once again!
I returned to Ottawa as the chaperone from Saskatchewan for the fourth time and once again had the opportunity to meet with my various counterparts from other provinces and territories. I was also able to present our new Heritage Fairs promotional video and talk about the wonderful year we had in Saskatchewan, including our new Regional Fair hosted by the Saskatoon Tribal Council. Another important part of our national coordinator meeting was to discuss plans for the future, but more on that later.
Ethan, Daysha, and I – along with Sunny the Owl (our Heritage Fairs mascot) – headed off to Ottawa on Oct. 29. We arrived amid rain that alternated between drizzling and pouring, but we still had an exciting tour of the Parliament Building. The students met counterparts from across the country, which is a difficult thing to do when we are usually so geographically dispersed. We all had a great time getting to know each other and sharing our common love of history and heritage. We learned more about what makes us Canadians, especially our institutions, and had a lot of fun exploring! (Sunny especially!)
This year, as part of Canada 150, the students created a video that Canada’s History Society will release around the end of November. The video commemorates their experience in Ottawa and shares their perceptions of Canada’s past, present, and future.
(Sunny and I did not get to participate in the filming, so we are very excited to see the finished version!)
As have our six previous YoungCitizens winners, Ethan and Daysha were wonderful young ambassadors for our province. The trip was an unforgettable experience: we got to visit the Parliament Buildings, the Bytown Museum, the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, Rideau Hall, the Byward Market, and (specially for this year) trick-or-treating at and around Rideau Hall!
Ethan and Daysha also got the chance to meet Sheri Benson, Member of Parliament for Saskatoon West (Ethan’s home riding).
The students were honoured at the Canadian Museum of History with certificates and we all got to view a compilation of video-clips from their winning videos. There was a variety of topics, some of which were very personal and local, while others were about the broader history of Canada.
The students also participated in a group activity about imagining the future of Canada and a survey about the study of Canadian history. While these activities were less exciting than the tours or trick-or-treating, they were important both for the students (to reflect) and for educators for the future. Hopefully, the students will be able to take what they learned and apply it as they continue through school.
What I have truly appreciated most about the Young Citizens program has been the fact that it is a unique opportunity for students from every province and territory to get the chance to meet each other and spend time together. Most of us rarely get the chance to visit and get to know the different regions of Canada, and it is thus easy to fall into using stereotypes and absorb ideas that we hear around us about people from other parts of the country. On this trip, students meet their fellow Canadians. Provinces and territories have names and faces now. Where else would we get students (and chaperones) from Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, PEI, and the Yukon trick-or-treating together?
It is easy to get caught up in the past – and the present, to a lesser extent, when discussing heritage, but equally important is our vision for what we want Canada to be and how we picture ourselves and our fellow Canadians within it. All of us on this trip, chaperones and students, returned home with a renewed appreciation for our shared Canadian heritage as well as our diversity, our democratic institutions, and our evolving identity. There was plenty of time to dwell on (and revel in) the past, to focus on our country’s future, and to just hang out together and have fun.
Now for the news about 2018! At our coordinators’ meeting, we discussed the future of the Young Citizens program, and there is a lot of enthusiasm for it to continue. However, funding is not certain and there is pressure to a) reach more students; and b) focus more on the content and less on the technology aspect. Canada’s History came up with several ideas – depending on levels of funding – to modify the program and get it out into the Provincial/Territorial and Regional Heritage Fairs throughout the country. Should funding be secured, Canada’s History would provide discussion questions for the students that they would then use to create their videos, but that all students would get the chance to have the discussion, rather than just a few selected from the Regional Fairs. Thus, there will still be a video contest and ideally 26 students will be able to go to Ottawa next fall, but that is not confirmed. If funding is not secured, fewer students would be able to travel to Ottawa.
So, in the spirit of onward and upward, Heritage Saskatchewan will take some of Canada’s History’s ideas into consideration for our Provincial Heritage Fair – namely incorporating discussion into the agenda of judging, tours, and activities. We will also once again select students during the Regional Fairs season to create videos.
Thank you again to Canada’s History for running the Young Citizens program, as well as all of the parents, volunteers, and teachers. Thanks especially to Ethan and Daysha for representing Saskatchewan so well to the rest of the country!
Regardless of what happens at the national level, our 2018 Heritage Fairs season will begin soon! The Regional Heritage Fair committees are already hard at work on the preparations!
Registration for teachers opens on our website on December 1, 2017, and will remain open until February 5, 2018. (This is for teachers to register their schools/classrooms so that we have an idea of how many students in total are creating projects and can determine how many students from each school can attend the Regional Heritage Fairs.) Students who wish to participate, but whose school is not participating, can also be registered independently and assigned a local school fair to attend. The deadline to register independently is also February 5.
As of November 2017, we have four of our Regional Heritage Fair dates confirmed:
Moose Jaw – Thursday, April 19, 2018 Swift Current - Thursday, April 26, 2018 Regina – Friday, May 4, 2018 Saskatoon – Thurs./Fri. May 10-11, 2018
The Saskatoon Tribal Council Regional Heritage Fair date is not yet confirmed, but will take place in late April or early May of 2018.
The Provincial Heritage Fair will be Wed./Thurs. May 23-24, 2018, in Regina.
Last year, we had over 3400 students create Heritage Fair projects. Of those, I got to see 400 of them at the Regional Fairs. I look forward to seeing another 400 new projects in 2018, learning more about Canada’s Living Heritage, and hearing more stories from our students!
As Remembrance Day approaches, many Canadians wear poppies to honour veterans and current members of the armed forces, to commemorate Canada's involvement in various armed conflicts, and perhaps to remember family members who were killed during military service. The Royal Canadian Legion runs the poppy drives each year and many branches continue to host Remembrance Day services each November 11th.
I have attended these services all my life. Many of my family members served in the armed forces during World War I and World War II. The Remembrance Day service was particularly important to my grandfather, who was a member of the Legion for several decades following his service in WWII. He passed away twenty-five years ago, but my family continues to attend our local service and to lay a wreath in his memory.
At last year's service, I was struck by how well attended it was by people of all ages. I saw little children there and remembered myself attending these services as a young child, understanding the great solemnity of the occasion, but not fully comprehending the reasons behind it. When I was young, there were still several veterans who sat at the front of the hall. Last year, the Radville Legion branch had only three surviving veterans. I wondered how children these days connect with events that are increasingly receding to the past. We talk of freedom and sacrifice in Remembrance Day services, and we repeat the names of those who were killed in conflicts as long as a century ago. As the world changes, and these "wars to end all wars" become further removed from us in time, how are these issues still relevant for people today?
My sister and I joined the Legion as associate members a couple years ago. Last year I decided that my contribution to our local branch would be to record video interviews with our three remaining veterans: Leonard Anderson, who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in post WWII Germany; Alphonse Fossenier, who served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Korean War; and Stewart Scott, who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.
Editing this Canada 150 living heritage video was especially challenging. All three of the interviews were more than an hour long and contained a wealth of fascinating stories and recollections. How could I possibly narrow that down to the 5-8 minute parameters of these Canada 150 videos? In the end, I decided to focus on the beginnings and the aftermaths of these three men's experiences. How and why did they "join up" in the first place? How have their experiences stayed with them ever since? In essence, their memories are not just interesting anecdotes from significant historical events. They are personal, they are real, and they remain with them to this day. In that sense, these events live on through the people who experienced it firsthand. They are our living link with the events we commemorate every November, and as we lose more and more of them with each passing year, so do we lose that living heritage.
Since I recorded these interviews in January, 2017, Mr. Alphonse Fossenier has passed away.