A Dose of Riel-ity
CANADA OR BUST, CHAPTER 8: IN WHICH WE LEARN ABOUT PEOPLE OF THE PRAIRIE
Day 9: Regina, SK, to Saskatoon, SK. Hoping the heat spell has been broken for the remainder of this trip, we woke to a brisk 48° morning in Regina. By the time we packed up and enjoyed a long and interesting conversation with Swapra, a restaurant server with a master's degree in social work from her native India, it was 9:00 before we departed Saskatchewan's capital city. When we mentioned to Swapra that we were headed to Saskatoon, she marveled that we would choose to do so. We didn't tell her we planned a stop in Moose Jaw on the way.
|There goes Rover again. He was just here yesterday.|
Moose Jaw's unusual name stems from a big bend in a nearby creek said to resemble a moose's jaw. During the years when Prohibition ruled in the U.S., Moose Jaw made a name as a haven for American gangsters and their bootlegging allies, earning the town the nickname of "Little Chicago of the Prairies." Today, Moose Jaw is better known as a tourist and retirement center with an industrial base. It is the proud home of an acrobatic flying team called the Snowbirds. Both the flyers and the town's inevitable mascot, Mac the (32-ft) Moose, are honored at the town visitor center.
|Mac the Moose Jaw moose|
The Métis people and culture developed out of the North American fur trade. When Europeans traveled into the Canadian interior to trade for furs, they were forced to rely on indigenous people to help them find food, navigate the area, make clothing, and survive in the unfamiliar environment. They found assistance from native women, whose lives were made easier by goods, such as metal pots, brought by the traders. Inevitably, as dependencies grew, couples became closer and married.
Neither European nor Native, their children formed distinct communities with a merging of cultural traits learned from each parent. Their name derived from the Latin word for 'mixed', the Métis people developed their own language, unique culture and traditions. Their home was the western prairies of Canada, including what is today Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Louis Riel, who became a leader of the Métis people, fought to preserve their rights and culture after Canada began nationalizing under its dominion status.
The first one that caught our attention was in Craik (pop. 453), a former railroad center now completely dependent on agriculture. Billing itself as the "friendliest town by a dam site," Craik has been trying to reinvent itself with a sustainable living project. We drove into what passes for town to learn more about the project but found no signs. Back at Highway 11, the prominently signed Craik Flax House caught our attention. Upon closer examination, this experiment in creative building materials—flax bales—appeared to be abandoned. Grass was waist high around it, and the adjacent visitor center showed no signs of recent use.
|Red River cart and Métis buffalo hunter by Don Wilkins in Craik|
|Don Wilkins' buffalo and Red River cart near Davidson|
Late in the afternoon, we arrived in Saskatoon (pop. 260,600), the province's most populous city. Straddling the South Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon was founded in the 1880s as a temperance colony. Tomorrow we'll explore the 2015 version.
SUNDAY, 16 AUGUST 2015
Daily StatsMiles driven: 221
Miles walked: 2.5
Weather: 48° to 64°, cloudy
Letterboxes found: 1
Swainson's hawks on utility poles: 47
Red River cart sculptures: 9
More Photos from Today
|Craik Flax House (on the right)|
|Roadside Attraction Alert! Davidson's 24-ft coffee pot|
|Wilkins sculpture near McCraney features Louis Riel himself.|
|Roadside Attraction Alert! Kenaston's 18-ft snowman/hockey team mascot|
|Wilkins sculpture near Kenaston depicts Cree mother and her Métis son.|
|"Mount Blackstrap," an artificial elevation built for skiing. The area excavated to create the hill became a lake.|