Monday, August 15, 2016

Kindness Makes the World go Round

Madeline at her 2016 summer tour spot in Downtown Peace River.
There is one tour left on August 18 starting at 12:00; 12:30; and 1:00 pm
by Madeline Martel

Random acts of kindness can strike anywhere, and anytime, which has proven true for me. One may not even be aware that something they do can have such a vast impact on someone’s day, or even life. It’s so easy to generalize human beings as being bad when we look at all the atrocities that people have committed in the past, and are still presently committing, but  anyone who has been witness  to, received, or given, a random act of kindness would disagree with that generalization.

While working as a summer student at the museum this summer, I have been the recipient of a couple acts of kindness that have stood out in my mind all summer long. From generous Shaftesbury Trail residents bringing me water on a particularly hot day at the Mackenzie Cairn, to a young man taking a strong interest in the walking tours, I have truly been moved by the kindness that people have to offer.

Bad news and serious stories plaster the internet, newspapers, radio, and everything in between. Sometimes the headlines are all bad and it seems like nothing good ever happens on a global, or even on a local scale.  Although the “feel good stories” mainly affect a very small portion of the population, they do have a domino effect on a community. Someone does something nice for you; you do something nice for someone else, and so on. Good deeds deserve to be recognized as having a major impact on people’s well-being and overall happiness. 

It’s not as if acts of kindness were not happening while I was growing up in Peace River, living my day to day life, but they seem to stand out so prominently now that I’m only back for the summer. Growing up in a small town can make a young person want to flee, in hopes of finding a more exciting life. This was true for me, but now that I am home for the summer, soon to go back to the city, I am taking in the beauty and kindness that so many people in the Peace Region have to offer. I take the time now to recognize these acts and be grateful that I live in such an amazing place, with so many kind-hearted people. So, thank you, on behalf of everyone who has received a random act of kindness, to those who take the time out of their lives to do these deeds and expect nothing in return.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lone surviving Canadian Dambuster has Peace River connection

(Source: East Kootnay News Online Weekly, July 24, 2016 – Elinor Florence)
·   2009.014.320, Glenn Murphy Collection F041
  (l-r) Clara Sutherland (Fred’s mother), Margaret Murphy, Fred 
Sutherland and Margaret Baker Sutherland. ca 1963.
There is so much about Peace River, its people, its history of which many of us are unaware. Take, for instance, Fred Sutherland, whose father Dr. Frederick Henry Sutherland, was one of Peace River Crossings first physicians and whose mother, Clara Caroline Richards was one of the “Crossings” first nurses.
Fred, who shared his parents with sisters Kathleen and Alma, made history in his own right. He is Canada’s last surviving Dambuster – “one of only two men left in the world who participated ‘in one of the most deadly, daring missions of the Second World War’.

When Fred left school at 18, his dream was to be a bush pilot in Canada’s wilderness. To reach that goal, he enlisted in the air force and trained as an air gunner at Brandon, Manitoba. In the spring of 1942, he completed his operational training at Royal Air Force Cottesmore in Rutland, England, where “he crewed up” with Australian Les Knight as his pilot – Sergeant Fred Sutherland the front gunner. They began flying the Lancaster at Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire, in their first operational unit – Royal Air Force Number 50 Squadron.

The seven-man “close-knit” crew survived 25 trips over Europe – a full tour was 30. By March 1943, the crew looked forward to making the remaining five trips and the brief respite that would follow before their final tour of 20 additional trips.

Two crews from the squadron were chosen for a special, top secret project, in exchange for which they would be granted the last five trips of their first tour. “If you had made it through 25 trips, you were doing very well,” Fred recalls in an interview with reporter and relative by marriage, Elinor Florence, in the East Kootnay News Online Weekly, July 24, 2016. “Our crew was considered one of the best. We volunteered for the special mission because we wanted to stay together.”

As it turned out, the mission involved a “bouncing bomb” concept of scientist Barnes Wallis. There were stringent guidelines: “The bomb had to be dropped from an altitude of precisely 60 feet, at an air speed of precisely 390 kilometres per hour, and at a precisely specified distance from the target.”

The crews practised – first with dummy bombs, then with those filled with sand – still unaware their actual target(s) until the night of Operation Chastise – May 16, 1943. “It was a suicide mission”. Targets – three key dams to knock out hydroelectric power and reduce the water supply to the heavily industrialized Ruhr Valley. Fred never expected to survive. Of the 19 Lancasters taking off that night, eight were lost.

The last of the three dams on the agenda – the Eder. Five aircraft pursued the target in heavy fog – the approach made more difficult by the surrounding hills. Fred’s nose gunner position – lying in a transparent bubble at the very front of the aircraft below the cockpit was, as one might imagine, a vulnerable one.

The other aircraft had unsuccessful runs. Then, Fred’s aircraft released the final bomb “at just the precise moment” blowing the dam wide open. “As soon as the dam was hit, the water was going everywhere. There was a bridge down below the dam that just disappeared, just disintegrated. The force was terrific. We couldn’t believe it. We were just yattering away.”

Fred credits his pilot, Les Knight, with this feat. “Jumping over the hill and hitting the right speed and the right height as an act of genius.”

In total, 53 of the 133 airmen on the attack were killed – a casualty rate of 40 percent. Of the 30 Canadians, 14 were killed, one taken prisoner and 15, including Fred, returned to base.

Although this is the end of this mission, it is not the end of Fred’s war experiences before returning to Canada and home in 1944. Waiting for him at the station in Edmonton were his parents and his soon-to-be wife Margaret Baker.

For the rest of the war, Fred served as a gunnery instructor. Following the war, he became a forestry inspector for the Government of Alberta working in Calgary, Edmonton and Rocky Mountain House where he and Margaret currently live an active life – she 94 and he 93.

2009.014.374, Glenn Murphy Collection F041 – Margaret and Fred Sutherland. ca 1990s.

Fred and Margaret Sutherland have three children – Joan, Thomas John and James Duncan. Well, he may not have become a bush pilot, but he did fly and eventually spent time in Canada’s wilderness.   

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dave Matilpi – FROM THE HEART - Artist of the Month of August

A face that easily breaks into a smile, a gray braid down his back, a feather in his hat, Dave Matilpi is an Elder, a Pow Wow dancer, a teacher, an artist, and a gifted communicator.

Dave Matilpi was born in Alert Bay, British Columbia, which is the traditional territory of the Kwakiutl First Nation. 

Papa Dave, as he is known to many students in the Peace who have been influenced by his insight, humour and wisdom, teaches using his traditional and personal stories. These stories are very often the inspiration behind his art work.  As a self-taught artist, he works in wood, antler, ink, paint and murals. One need only visit the Sagitawa Friendship Centre to view a full wall mural created by Dave or see him dancing in his Pow Wow regalia, created in the traditional style with his West Coast designs to appreciate his artistic abilities.

Dave’s West Coast images are striking and bold in colour, expressing, in some, the well-known characteristics of the Wild Woman or the Summer Sisters (also known as, mosquitoes). These works can all be viewed at the Sagitawa Friendship Centre gift shop. I remember when he first presented at the Museum as the Artist of the Month a couple of years ago, he explained how he was beginning to see a blend of West Coast and northern Cree images in his work – the influence of years of living in northern Alberta.

Stolen Family Teachings
Most recently his work reflects his life’s journey, specifically the impact of attending residential school in Alert Bay. His formative years were spent in Alert Bay Residential School. One can see in the images painted on canvas the inspiration and strength he derives from his traditions to move forward and bring awareness and greater understanding to those who see and hear his stories about this personal journey. These are the works currently on display at the Museum. In them, you will see traditional images freely moving on the canvass within the confining shapes and symbols of his residential school experience. The two dichotomies seem to express the ever present memories with the strength and wisdom of the ancient Elders.

Ancestor's Love


Dave Matilpi’s art, like the art of Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket, currently on exhibit, help break the silence about Canada’s residential school system and contribute to the national conversation and healing our country is experiencing.