Friday, April 29, 2016

Larry Loyie

Constance and Larry - Book launch at the Peace River Museum 2014

Author, philosopher, gentle Cree man

It is with sincere sadness that we convey the news of Larry Loyie’s passing April 18, 2016.  As staff of the Museum and Archives, we had the pleasure of knowing both Larry and his partner and co-author Constance through book launches of his acclaimed titles and through their visits when they travelled in this part of the northern boreal forest. Often the visits would coincide with travels to our regional schools to share Larry’s stories with the children, which was always a great pleasure of Larry’s.

Larry was born in Slave Lake and spent his childhood living a traditional Cree lifestyle with his family until he was taken to Grouard to the St. Bernard Mission residential school. Through this experience, his education was disrupted and  it was not until he was 50 years old that he returned to school to fulfill his lifelong goal to become an author – and what an expressive author he became.

Together, he and Constance published numerous books about the Aboriginal culture and heritage of northern Alberta. As an author and a speaker, he spoke gently but firmly about the impacts of the world war, the teachings of Elders, the residential school system and the importance of treating everyone with respect. Throughout his writings, his gentle nature, his humour as well as his seriousness, communicated to the reader his strong respect for his Cree culture and heritage and his open mind and optimism for tomorrow.

The last time we saw Larry and Constance was at Donnelly, Alberta at the Société  historique et généalogique de Smoky River where they had come to thank the volunteers at the centre for their help with researching their book Residential Schools - ever acknowledging people who supported them. I believe Larry Loyie’s legacy will be in having sown seeds for a kinder and gentler place for us all to live in.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Peace River Warehouse District 100th Year

It seemed fitting to take a stroll throughout the Warehouse District of Peace River, which served so many communities – people – in the Peace Country North during the Warehouse District’s and Jane Jacobs’ 100th birthday. Staff of your Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre, along with members of the Heritage Places Committee, hosted the stroll on a beautiful, sunny Sunday, April 10.

The stroll began with a gathering at Athabasca Hall (built 1936) and a tour, by Lorne Mann, owner of the former Crown Building, under his renovation direction. Following a tour of the building by its passionate renovating owner, the group continued on its way – not exactly following in Jane Jacobs’ footsteps, but nevertheless, observing the essence of her encouragement – to look and listen – observe, absorb, appreciate our surroundings – value them – be willing to change when community and people will benefit, but willing to not, when the sense of community would diminish.

Yes, she advocated for not only smelling the roses, but, also taking time to see the roses’ surroundings – environment – the bees – other insects – the effect of the wind stirring the petals – their affect on you – the community – and so much more.

  • PRMA1980.1150.001 – The Warehouse District on east side of Peace River showing the Midland & Pacific Elevator on the left and the S. S. Athabasca on dry dock on the right of the photo. The exact year unknown, but believed to be prior to 1919.

 Jane is quoted: No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at … suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models or inventing dream cities. You’ve got to get out and walk. That’s what the April 10 stroll/walk/conversation/sharing memories/gathering did.

 She refers to cities, but we in rural communities, would do well to take note. Her credentials are immense – one only needs to research them to appreciate this multi-awarded American-born Canadian resident woman’s accomplishments pertaining to community – people comprising that community – people and their need to be part of a viable, comfortable place to live for generations.

“Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance – not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is replete with new improvisation.” – Jane Jacobs, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities"

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Its Wildlife Week! And Canada Celebrates an Important Anniversary!!

Canada is celebrating a very important centenary this week! The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the United States. This treaty embraces the important need to conserve our wildlife, as well as their habitats, and focuses on all of the wonderfully winged birds (that is, if it does not include insects and bats who also have wings) that inhabit our skies. And it just so happens that the week of April 10th is Wildlife Week!

This conservation work began with John Thomas Miner, also known as Jack Miner, or the ‘Father of North American Conservationism.’ Growing up in Ontario, Jack’s careful observation of the migratory bird path began when he noticed that Canada geese were stopping on ponds on his property in the spring on their way northward. From this, Miner had seven clipped, tame Canada geese and created ponds on his property in 1904 to attract more wild species of birds. By 1913, his entire property became a bird sanctuary for all creatures with wings. Three years later he pioneered the banding (the process of attaching a small metal or plastic band around a bird's leg in order to identify individual birds from the band's unique number) of migrating waterfowl. The data that was collected through this was instrumental in the establishment of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 between the United States of America and Canada as no government banding programs had been in existence until that time.

Coming forward to today, gathering baseline data in aid of further understanding breeding birds is the mandate of the northern Alberta Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation (BCBC). The BCBC is the only educational and research facility in the world strategically located to study boreal birds on their breeding grounds. Located in Lesser Slave Lake, the BCBC also contributes to the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory.  This project monitors landbird migrations using daily mistnetting (capturing birds in nets using a procedure developed at the Manomet Bird Observatory), visible migration counts (recording every bird species observed within a defined space at set intervals) and casual observance.

The Peace River is an important stopping area
for many migratory birds in the boreal.

PRMA. 2008.082.013
Yet another organization in our area that is not only concerned with birds, but all wildlife in our boreal forest is the internationally acclaimed project called EMEND (Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance). EMEND is a forest research centre located north of Dixonville dedicated to improving our understanding of how the western boreal forest ecosystem responds to disturbances, natural ones (such as fire or pest infestation) and human ones (such as harvesting).

Wildlife Week is celebrated each year around April 10th, Jack Miner’s birthday, to honour Jack Miner and to celebrate conservation successes as well as bringing awareness to issues still challenging the survival of our wildlife.

If you want to learn more about EMEND, the museum is hosting EMEND 101, exploring how the research gathered through EMEND impacts our environmental stewardship.  We will see you on April 14th 2016, 7pm at the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Artists of the Month:   You might already know them -

it’s those Sew ‘n Sews!

Beginning as an organization of enthusiastic Peace River quilters in 1997, the Sew ‘n Sews meet weekly at the Senior’s Drop In Centre. Since 1998, the Centre has been the place they gather to share their love of quilting, to learn from and encourage each other and to challenge each other to create special projects, such as, incorporating a photograph into their quilting, creating prayer flags, supporting the Salvation Army Christmas campaign with Bags For Teens or the Slave Lake Relief Quilts of 2012 and they have built and donated over 300 quilts to the local Women’s Shelter. It seems for this altruistic group of artists, that giving your creations away to an appreciative person is often the motivation behind the hours of design and sewing.

The camaraderie of this group of 15 women has taken them on trips together to shop for enticing folds of fabric to the 2015 Quilt Canada show in Lethbridge, Alberta.  

Lois Stranaghan, long time volunteer at the Museum and at the Senior’s Centre, says she sees the quilters at the Centre every week and they seem always to be having a great time together. If you would like to join the Sew ‘n Sews just reach Shonna at 780-624-4125. In the meantime, drop by to view the April Art Wall, sponsored by the Peace of Art club, which currently showcases quilted works from this group of creative and industrious quilters.


Terry Alm, Ann Rosin,Shonna Lagace, Lois Laurin  and Teresa Cambridge

Teresa and Ann enjoying watching the curation of the Sew 'n Sews exhibit

Monday, March 28, 2016

Two new fonds for researchers to use - Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route Association and RCMP Centennial fonds

Two new fonds, or ‘collections’ are available to researchers at the Archives of the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre. Our Archivist Carson has been working very hard on processing them for several months thanks to a grant from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation through the Archives Society of Alberta. The two fonds are F055 : Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route Association Fonds and F056 : Royal Canadian Mounted Police Centennial Fonds. Both fonds commemorate big events that happened in Peace River.

The Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route Association fonds (or AMVRA for short) is the collection of documents and photographs pertaining to the association that did a lot of planning for the 1993 Bicentennial. The Bicentennial was commemorating the completion of Alexander Mackenzie’s overland journey – the first white man to cross the North American continent, in 1793. The Association began as the Alexander Mackenzie Trail Association (AMTA) in 1985, and were advocates for the preservation of the Mackenzie Trail, an ancient trade-route used by the South Carrier Native Americans known as the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail. Eventually as the bicentennial got closer, the association became more actively involved in planning the BC portion of the celebration. A group of university students from Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, in northern Ontario, retraced Mackenzie’s route, paddling thousands of miles of rivers across the country. This troupe arrived in Peace River in 1992, and set off from Fort Fork in 1993 to complete the final leg of Mackenzie’s 1793 journey. The Association hoped to reach a national level, with branches all across the country celebrating and commemorating Mackenzie’s milestone achievement and Canada’s furtrade history. Unfortunately, after the bicentennial was completed in 1993, the Association began to lose steam. They eventually became part of the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Historical Society here in Peace River until AMVRA’s dissolution in 2013.

The records of this Association include numerous letters and planning documents pertaining to the Bicentennial and the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail/Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail. There are a number of photographs of the trail and the various sites along it during the Bicentennial Celebrations.

The RCMP Centennial Fonds consists largely of meeting minutes and correspondence pertaining to the organization of the centennial events held in Peace River in 1998. The Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP) arrived in Peace River in 1898 to help maintain peace and order. The RNWP was later reorganized into the Alberta Provincial Police in 1917. In 1932, Alberta reorganized its police force again, and joined it with the RCMP. 1998 also happened to be the 125th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police nationally. Most of the Peace River centennial was spearheaded by Mrs. Beverly Tailleur. She spent countless hours writing letters asking for sponsorship, coordinating events in Peace River including a formal ball, and keeping in touch with what other communities were doing in the Peace region to celebrate. An interesting series in this collection is that of murals painted in McLennan. It is believed Mrs. Tailleur photographed the murals as an example for what Peace River could do. It’s very interesting to see how some of the buildings have changed!

Drop in and have a look at the material. Descriptions and finding aids should be soon available on Alberta On Record and on the museum’s website – - have a look at what else we have while you’re there!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What’s in a woman’s name?

Mary Moore and Val Vaillancourt on their wedding day in 1946. PRMA 1973.531.044
We have heard, it seems forever, women have no names except for that of their husbands – that women are obliged to take their husband’s family name and thus become known as Mrs. So and So, not acknowledging the fact she has a name given her at birth by her parents, such as Mary or Anna.

Agreed, there are cases in which it has been the fault of women for letting this happen – on the other hand – society and a sense of decorum has been the dictator. There have even been women who have the audacity to not relinquish their family name for that of their husband.

Also, too, there were times in the early years and still, today, journalists/newspapers chose to refer to women by their husband’s name because of its political acceptability.

That’s how it was in the early years – not only in Peace River, but elsewhere. The practice created some difficulty for researchers, whether from newspapers or people seeking genealogical information and for women themselves who value – what they consider an important aspect of their identity – their name.

Most of us are familiar with what began as T. A. Norris High School, now T. A. Norris Middle School, named in honour of Thomas Albert Norris, proprietor of a Main Street furniture store – a man heavily involved in education and other important community aspects. According to one account in Peace River Remembers (Reprinted from 1955-56 issue of the Pioneer, Peace River High School Year Book): “Mr. Norris married [in 1901] and gained a companion, who gave him unfailing help and encouragement until her death in 1948. As well as caring for their children – two sons and a daughter, Mrs. Norris also served her church and community faithfully in a multitude of ways.” Nowhere in this particular article does it tell the reader this wonderful woman had a name. It is doubtful the exclusion was T. A.’s oversight – an oversight nonetheless. Research reveals her name – Lyde Jean – Etta, their daughter’s name.
So, what’s in a name? Much. Just think, April 19, 2016, is the 100th anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in Alberta – does voting not require identity verification?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

If an Unmarried Man is Called, ‘Bachelor,’ then an Unmarried Women is called a…?

Today, March 8th 2016, is considered an international day of the celebration for all women. There is a wee bit of disagreement on when exactly the first International Women’s Day occurred. According to the United Nations this day was celebrated first in the United States in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York City. On this day, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, and better pay, along with the right to vote.

Throughout the 108 years since this first demonstration took place, we have seen the societal role of women change dramatically, as well as the terms used to describe these women. Historically, ‘Spinster,’ and ‘Old-Maid,’ have been used to describe women who had reached a certain age and were considered no longer desirable for marriage. There obviously could be many reasons why a woman historically wouldn’t wish to be married and still live a fulfilling life outside of traditional societal expectations.  Today, single women of any age are seldom referred to as ‘spinster’ or ‘old maid’, society having moved on from defining a woman’s status in society based on whether or not she is married. When describing an unmarried woman, ‘independent’, ‘single’ or ‘bachelorette’ are much more suitable and have fewer negative connotations associated with them.

As a community museum, we have a duty to highlight women’s contributions to our area, as much as men’s. For every man in history, it is important to recognize that he likely had the support of some strong female as an influence in his life – a mother, sister, wife, friend. This is evident even in our own community. In Peace River Remembers, many of the family histories highlight the role women played, though usually behind the scenes. The Quinn’s are a perfect example: “Mr. and Mrs. Quinn ran a bake shop…Ed was the baker, and his wife looked after the merchandising.” Aleda Evans Taylor recalls her uncle Thomas P. Evans, “with the invaluable assistance of my aunt, established his own grocery business.”  Without further research, we are hard pressed to know who those women were.
This year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is acknowledging how women’s roles have evolved throughout history. There have been great strides made in many different facets of life by working women, both inside and outside the home. Therefore, for this year’s campaign, the IWD is having a call to action! #PledgeForParity is calling everyone, men and women to consider how they can “take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly - whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias.”

Mrs. Cruickshank (on the right) and Mrs. W.G.N. Johnston (on the left) with their gardening tools, a shovel and pitchfork. Peace River. ca. 1940s. PRMA: 1973.531.043

Alberta is doing great things for gender equality in the province! Yesterday, Alberta’s Status of Women Ministry, being Canada’s ‘only stand-alone ministry for the status of women ‘laid out a plan to improve gender equality! “We cannot build a stronger, more prosperous province if we leave women behind,” Premier Rachel Notley said in a media release. More information about this can be found here:

The Federal Government announced today that the image of an iconic Canadian woman will appear on the next issue of bank notes, expected in 2018!! More information can be found here:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Artistic stirrings with felted wool

Adele Boucher setting up art works made of buffalo fibre
The boreal forest exhibit at the Museum has inspired some though-provoking and divergent discussions. As the back drop to our livelihood in the Peace region, it’s preservation requires that we employ good stewardship practices and develop a finer appreciation for the diverse resources that make up this complex ecosystem.

For something a little unconventional, artistic expression derived from the resources of this boreal forest are on exhibit this month on the Museum’s monthly art wall. Wool and hair fibres have always been integral to human survival. Northern forest fur and hair bearing animals have been utilized by people to create objects to stay warm with like the soft woven rabbit blankets and tanned buffalo hides of the northern Cree, to the felted wool Hudson Bay Company trade blankets woven in England, the felted beaver top hats, the buffalo hide coats of the NWMP and the many carded wool quilts of the early settlers.

Creative use of the natural fibres of buffalo and sheep wool comes naturally, so to speak, to two local  fibre artists Rhonda Warren and Adele Boucher. Each have experience and knowledge working with the characteristics which buffalo down (yes, down) and merino sheep wool present to the process of wet felting, carding, spinning, weaving and knitting.

Felting, a lesser known heritage skill, compresses and entangles the scales of the wool fibre by hot water baths and energetic beating. The result is a thick, almost waterproof, fibre to sew or shape into utilitarian wear or wearable art. Between Adele and Rhonda, they have created felt insoles, vests, hats and coats (think about the boiled wool Austrian sweaters) as well as purses, necklaces or hair accessories. Adele has also on exhibit items knitted, crocheted and woven with yarns made from buffalo down.

If you cannot attend the Felting With Wool presentation on March 5th, 1pm at the Museum with Adele and Rhonda, you can still enjoy their wool fibre art on exhibit  the full month of March.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Peace River's African Canadian Heritage

In today's multicultural society, we sometimes forget that our community, and Canada, has not always been as diverse or welcoming as it is now. February in Canada is Black History Month, and gives us a chance to reflect on the contributions African Canadians have made to Canadian culture, society, economics, and politics just to name a few. Alberta's Black heritage began in the mid-19th century with the migration of escaping Black slaves from the southern United States, and those that were free, but looking to escape the segregated life of the U.S. In moving to Canada they were able to be there own person, but many still faced discrimination and racism.

Dan Kelly and his family moved to the Peace Country in the 1920s, although it is possible they came to the Prairies between 1907 and 1911 with the wave of Black American settlers fleeing segregation. Nevertheless, he and his family, at one time, lived in a house one can see standing amongst the trees adjacent to what is now the Belle Petroleum Centre.

Kelly hauled the honey wagon around Peace River – an essential service in those days. He, too, was called “Nigger Dan” or “Nigger Kelly”. Many children of early Peace River will remember careening wildly down a steep incline, which takes off from 98 Street and 94 Ave., known locally as “Nigger Hill”, near the current Peace Country Co-op.

The Kelly daughters were well- known in town for their singing talents. It was in pursuit of honing these talents that led him and his family to live in Toronto. Dave and Johanna Steedsman bought the Kelly's house in 1937.

PRMA1979.1015.002 - Peace River School photograph. The Black girls in the photograph are thought to be the daughters of Mr. & Mrs. Dan Kelly. They were: Elizabeth, Emma & Stella.

Kelly, eventually returned to Peace River, alone. He lived for a time with Mrs. Magrum who was raising her family on her own at the time. As Lois Stranaghan recalls "At that time, everyone was poor - some more, some less - one cannot be critical of how people made their way." It is believed that a child was born from this relationship. Some sources say that Dan died of a heart attack but there are no confirmations of this.

The Museum would appreciate receiving more information and recollections about the Dan Kelly family and contemporary Black Canadian stories and experiences in Peace River.