Alberta Culture Days in Claresholm!

Donning my orange shirt, I got Max out for a quick walk on city sidewalks, dropped him home to a delicious breakfast (yeah, right?) and hopped in the car for a road trip to Claresholm, Alberta.  My friend-descendants of British Home Children were gathering for a display opportunity in the Claresholm Exhibition Hall and I really wanted to join them.  Yesterday was the first National British Home Child Day and I felt very pleased for the recognition and the remembrances that were shared yesterday by descendants who had grown up with mystery, secrets and shame around their ancestry.  I think that the disconnect from any roots at all is likely the most upsetting aspect of growing up in home child culture…very few children ever found solace in a relationship with siblings or Mom or Dad.  There was a helplessness there, a disconnect and a sense of true abandonment, often in powerlessness against abuse of all sorts.

In Canada, so many years later, families are hard at work, trying to unearth unspoken histories and share narratives that have been revealed via contact with the people who continue to house the files and reports on our ancestral family.  At a price and with great patience, piece by piece, we are all discovering who our people were, though most will discover that, at a point, the information will drop off.  Never did our ancestors show up on a Canadian census unless they were working as domestics in very wealthy homes.  I know that I have not found my great grandfather on any binding document between ages 13 and 21.  Those eight years are gone, although the families under which he was employed are well-documented in the foot prints of time.

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On a lighter note, I was so pleased to find Bruce and Connie, Hazel and John gathered before a beautiful display.  Hazel worked very hard to establish our representation at the open house and I have much gratitude for her efforts and her lovely display.  I appreciate that Bruce collected both Connie and John for the afternoon drive on such a cold and blustery day.  And I thank Bruce for the lovely addition to our Western Canadian collection, the poster featuring our new logo.  Excellent.

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Although I have other photographs of my four friends, I enjoy the fact that John Vallance’s true personality is showing through here and that Connie is taking it all in.  If any of you would like a more formal photograph for your files, just contact me.

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The woman who did the physical work here…and a visionary for BHC in the west, our Hazel Perrier.

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The program that the Claresholm museum hosted was fabulous!  I want to thank the town and its people who extended their hospitality.  I know that it was a cold and grey day, but the events and the people created a warm and happy experience for all in attendance.  I really enjoyed the sincere presentation/words and hoop dance performed by Sandra Lamouche. Due to lighting, very few of my photographs give justice to her performance and I hope that my readers will take a look at her website.

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At a point, Bruce, Connie and I went for a cup of tea in a neighbouring restaurant and we enjoyed a very yummy lunch.  It was nice to catch up with Bruce and Connie.  They are great people and I am so happy that they are in my life, with a common interest of family research and history.  I also had the opportunity to wander both the exhibition hall and the museum.  There is nothing like a focused wander through a museum, especially one with an RCAF display!  I enjoyed conversations with two ‘hookers’ who produce amazing works in the tradition of East Coast hooking and a lady who descends from family in Norway.  Very interesting stories and generous contributions!

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When I pulled out of my parking spot to head home at 4:30, I could still hear the ringing of beautiful music coming out of the concert tent.  Today was a perfect day and I’m grateful for the opportunity to enjoy another Alberta Culture Day.

Remember…please…Leave NO CHILD BEHIND!

Hazel, John, Kath, Bruce, Connie

 

Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage

My friend, Pat, has an astonishing way of discovering new and wonderful places to visit around Calgary.  My tendency is to always say “YES” when an invitation comes my way from Pat because, in the end, I learn something new and see something fascinating.  So, when I received an e mail to travel south to Nanton and to see the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage, I was keen.  Included in the experience would be a lovely and reasonably-priced brunch served up by Brown’s Catering and live music under a tent (although we all agreed the musician of the day might have turned down the mic…just a little).  As well, we then strolled about and admired the gardens and the buildings.  Delightful!

We could not have had a nicer day…a huge open sky and golden canola fields in full bloom created a backdrop of magic. The drive was filled with our usual enthusiastic banter and that always makes the miles fly by.  Gail, Mary, Pat and I embraced the visit and the views.  It was an exceptional time.  I’ve been digging myself out of a period of sadness, despondency and disconnect.  I am grateful for dear friends who have stuck with me through the malady, and anticipate, as I do, better days.  What can be more healing than amazing sky, flowers and forever-friendship. Thank you, Pat.

Click on individual photographs, in order to have a better look.

 

Thanks to Gail who hosted a further debrief at her home in High River.  I appreciate the hospitality and it was so wonderful to see you again.

Mrs. Shoveler

I discovered her, first, on December 14.  The temperatures, the week before, had been frigid, plummeting to -27 on some days.  I had, a couple of times, walked around the pond, breathing hot air into my wool scarf, tied tightly around my mouth and nose.  My eye lashes grew icicles.  Max, sometimes wound up with cold feet and I would stoop to clear snow from between his pads.  On the 14th, the weather seemed better.  At the bottom of the slope that edged the football field, I first saw her, recognizing her beak profile as being that of a Northern Shoveler.  “What the heck?” I thought to myself.

I had my first experience of closely observing Northern Shovelers on the far side of the fence, last summer, and never did get a good photograph of a Mr.  On the other hand, I had several very beautiful encounters, image-wise, with females.

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I am not one for making a big deal of things in nature, knowing that, for the most part, nature will find its way.  I watched her, thinking that perhaps she had been widowed during the extreme temperatures.  Mates will remain where they have suffered loss, for weeks, sometimes months.  I had made observations of a mating couple of geese last summer and when one had obviously lost its mate, the bonded partner remained at the same place on the pond for June and most of July.  Therefore, I didn’t make any calls for assistance right away.  Today, this is my only regret.

Finally, with the vacation approaching and having experienced two days of intensely bitter cold wind, on Frank’s Flats, I decided I should look for sanctuary for little Mrs.  What one discovers as one begins to seek support in this city is that sometimes it doesn’t come easy.  Without recounting my negative or non-productive experiences, I wish to merely express gratitude for those who did reach out with empathy and concern.  First, Bob of Birds Calgary, took the time to research, make inquiries and hook me with other organizations.  I’ve followed Birds Calgary for some years now and love the documentation of birds in our community and the narratives that some times surface on the website.

My second communication with Calgary Wilderness Rehabilitation Society, again, functioning mostly on volunteer-steam and funded by donation, seemed to be hopeful, but a New Year’s blast of winter, meant that services were taxed in other areas of need.  This was a non-emergency situation.  I’m sending on a link to their Wish List, in hopes that this experience of mine might lead to positive change and solicit support for organizations such as these.

In the end, I received the greatest and most professional treatment from the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) and I certainly hope that you might, if this is one of your interests, support this organization.  Please spend some time perusing their blog.  They were quick, responsive and had a nice flow to their communication; e mail response, phone and on-line website.  The City of Calgary 311 on-line request form needs some careful attention in order to become expedient and avoid glitches.

I documented my visits with little Mrs.  Sometimes the photos were lovely…sometimes not.  Do I regret being obsessive over an injured duck for the past few weeks?  No.  I learned so much.  I regret to report that sometime in the night or the wee hours of morning, a predator did carry and kill Mrs.  I followed the edge of the pond, the tracks and the narrative until I found her soft fan of feathers in the snow.

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I’m thankful to all my friends and my daughters, for their hearts, ears and suggestions.  I love you all for caring.  I think that we are all called to action.  I think it is easy to get comfortable in our own lives, sometimes.  I think that Mrs. is a mere metaphor for ‘the other’…for the marginalized who are living in our own city.  It is important that we not become so comfortable that we forget that there are others who are cold, without shelter, circling the small pond of their own lives because it feels as though there is no way out.

I am in gratitude that nature has taught me more.

Leah Came to My Door

Early this morning…over my first cup of coffee, I posted this.  I think this. I live this. I shared this.  I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary…but now I do.

AncestorsI had a preparation period very first thing, after a long weekend and after walking my Grade threes down to the gymnasium.  WHOOT!  What a way to begin the week.

The work and busyness of marking, planning and hanging up last week’s giants began.  I was hard at it, with head down when I looked up at the door.  There stood Leah.

I met Leah on my birthday, 2015.  I had turned 60.  My mother was missed.  I hadn’t had a chance to speak with my sister.  I was, on that day, filled with thoughts of mothering, sistering, womaning and just feeling connected to sister-friends, in general.  Meeting Leah, such a spectacular creative, was really important.  She was such a gentle and soulful presenter of the process of needle felting, with my students and I listened intently to her engaging presentation because I know, for fact, that I want to try this.  Once we had even a few moments to chat, I learned that one of her favourite places to visit and to collect supplies is north on the highway to Carstair’s Custom Woolen Mills.

I had the shear joy of sharing with her that much of the equipment in the mill was equipment that my grandfather, John Moors, used and maintained over his career in Magrath, Alberta.

John Moors Woolen Mill Magrath, Alberta

As an aside, I told her that I’ve been on the look out for almost twenty years for a blanket from that mill.  Once, a dear friend, living in Grand Prairie at the time, gave a special gift to me and that was the corner of her wool blanket.  She realized that it was from the Magrath mill…but I guess, was unwilling to part with the cozy blanket and wrapped up the label in a Christmas card just for me.

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Now…don’t get me wrong…I DO appreciate that gesture, but as I explained to Leah…I would dearly treasure a Golden Fleece wool blanket.  She said, “Kath…leave that with me…I’ll keep my eye out for one.”  I took pause, thinking to myself, “Hmmm…this lady doesn’t know how hard I’ve looked.  I don’t think she’ll ever have any luck.”  But…as we do, we believe in the kind gestures of others and Leah DID seem sincere.

Well…you know what’s next.

Leah left the doorway and stepped up to me with a reusable bag in hand…saying as she stepped before me, “You remember that I told you I would keep my eyes open…”

I looked into the bag…and this treasure…this object of my dearest affection, was there.  I saw a green wool blanket…the most beautiful colour with its Golden Fleece, Magrath, Alberta label.  I pulled myself into the embrace of this beautiful woman and fell to tears.  Unbelieving…filled with joy…remembering my grandfather, amazing John Moors.  I knew that, for fact, my grandfather had remembered me.  Our ancestors and their love is unstoppable and endless.  It is important to keep eyes wide.

We chatted for a while.  I remembered the smell of the mill.  Leah said that she knew that moist wool smell from Carstairs.  Wool connected us.  She just kept nodding.

The paraphrased story from Leah…”The night before your classes to be taught on May 8, I was cutting up my woolen blankets in preparation.  These would be used for the students’ needle felting.  I came up to this blanket (having not met you) and decided that it was just a beautiful woolen blanket.  It even has a tiny piece of red wool woven into it.  I asked my son if he might like a nice blanket for his car and he accepted.  And then I met you.

I went home from the workshop and thought that I had recently seen the Magrath label somewhere.  Sure enough, when I checked the green blanket, there it was.  It was meant for you.”

I took a contract at this school…

I ended up with this amazing collection of grade threes…

The workshops for MOTHER’S DAY had been set and dated during the month of September…

The workshop would be needle felting and the instructor, Leah C. Donald…

I had been asked because of booking error, would I be willing to take Friday morning…

Without hesitation and regardless of missing a prep, and focus time in Math and Language Arts, I said…YES!

I met Leah who loves wool…almost as much as I do.

And….the rest is magic.  And the rest…is history.

Thank you, Leah, for being a channel of ancestral love.  Thank you for the red thread and for the woolen blanket.  It will be wrapped around me on my red sofa tonight.

I have found a tremendous friend in you.

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Leah Donald…contact her via ArtFelt Studio.  Book now, teacher friends, for next year!

May 8, 2015

…my 60th birthday!

Whoot!  It was a wonderful day!  And, yes, I taught the full day.  But then I had the pleasure of sharing a late afternoon walk with my daughter, Erin and pooch, Max. We did our bird, coyote and muskrat watching and enjoyed the warmth.  The afternoon with my students, was spent needle felting with Leah C. Donald, visionary for Art Felt Studio.  With our previous experience painting spring flowers, this was an amazing extension and a great opportunity to create a more-than-special Mother’s Day gift.  I enjoyed connecting with Leah and learning that one of her favourite spots is the Custom Woolen Mill near Carstairs, Alberta.  I told her that I had grown up with the smell of raw wool and we gave each other a big hug.  Thanks to my gang of grade three friends who made the arrangement for this magical activity!

Some people might be fearful of age, aging and the changes that passing years bring.  For me, being 60 means a freedom to be and I stand firm in my gratitude for that.

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Cell May 8, 2015 Franks, Needle Felting, Birthday 009

Where are you, Eleanor Witbeck?

Somewhere in our interview, Auntie Eleanor told me that she received names from both of her Grandmothers…Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors and Mable Burrows Elliott. Eleanor Mable, of anyone, brings to mind my own Gramma Moors.  While our time was so short, I have to say that I absolutely loved having Auntie Eleanor all to myself.  It seems that when families get together, they are all about LOUD and CRAZY…so much food…so much laughter and fun.  On Tuesday morning I reveled in having quiet conversation with this dear dear soul.

For a zillion years, Auntie Eleanor and her beloved husband, Uncle Ted, hosted our family reunions.  There was always a campground bustling with fun of every sort, a family program in the afternoon to show off just what an insanely talented family we have, big meals and candy toss.  So many golden memories come from our family reunions.  In the days of being a wee little thing, my most precious recollection is of our Grampa Moors sitting on a chair all by himself…his huge family sitting perfectly quiet in front of him on the grass.  His eyes watered with his smile…he tapped his toe…held both hands on his knees…his racing cap on…looking out upon his family…and sang Froggie Went a Courtin’.  He knew all of the words.

John Moors Hanging With a few of His Crazy Grandkids

John Moors Hanging With a few of His Crazy Grand Children

Auntie Eleanor told me that she didn’t remember much of anything.  Hmmm…funny…as we connected with one another she spilled out all sorts of little narratives.  It was pure magic.  That evening, I slept out at the farm…all alone with Max.  It was funny, but at the same time frightening because it was dark and perfectly silent.  I wanted to go out and buy myself a snack, but I was afraid to leave.  As I write, this sounds ridiculous.  My second cousins, Kecia & Mack and their beautiful baby, Maverick, delivered chips, dip and a can of pop and just hung with me for a while…that was awesome!

When they left, I took photos of the photos on the walls.  I felt surrounded by the spirits of my ancestors…very powerful experience indeed!  Thank you, Auntie Eleanor.  I love you.

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George Elliott and Mabel Burrows Elliott

George Elliott and Mabel Burrows Elliott

My Great Grandfather, John Moors

My Great Grandfather, John Moors

My Great Grandmother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors

My Great Grandmother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors

This…from my beautiful cousin, Margy…daughter to Auntie Eleanor…a treasure to me in my deepest soul…this free write is something that she wrote ages ago.  I cried when I first read it, but it sort of captures what happens when our family gathers.  While the shape of our family changes over the years as we lose precious members and gain so many new babes, the love remains the same, forever.

Tents, trailers, cars and campers, sleepless nights, babies screaming, pancakes in the morning, soothing. eggs, bacon and parade, duck pond, and the creek, stinky suckers float on by, laura screams, we’re all insane.

Family in one space, generations multiplied by genes of persons past, I don’t wonder anymore, your ears, your lips, your skin.  Aunt Ruth,  always here, feelings, love, connections, Our family made from all that’s good and all that made us strong. move over now, get me cake, this program will be long.

God has made us one, you have my eyes, energies, blood that pulses through our veins, we are the same, different, strong, loving arms embrace, come and sit, you are so beautiful, sit down, spend some time.

pains, children, love, divorce, disease, wisdom, who is who? great aunts and uncles, getting old, sadness seems to flee away by memories of love, hope, hearts and blood flows through our veins, with all the world we stand apart, brought together by our hearts.

how is it that we fit so well? friends are in, so are we, they feel right, everyone will it better, united, open, fresh and new, old ones, young ones, blessing on the food,

dig in, bottomless pots of heaven sent. salads, salads, feed my sheep, in a line we go to graze on carrot cake, barbeque beef, Mom exhausted, wouldn’t have it any different. chinese salad, pasta too. Baked beans, grandpa, chocolate cake, belly ache, fruits and greens, bowls of color, left over food, feast continues far past noon.

Kids with tap shoes, clogs and strings, made up songs they will sing and family grins, French, english, hip hop dance, pride, laughter, sweet, kind, upside down on the table, puppets talking, let’s go on, parts and pieces glued together, flexibition, poetry, babies sit on grandma’s knee, Aunt Jackie holding two or three, there’s jamming in the kitchen

Here’s the show, the drums, the sticks, music played, with energy, and laughter fills sacred air and hence the divine, togetherness, thrill of thrills, here we go, old times, gay little eskimo, a froggy went a courting go. sit still, quiet say the mothers. tradition has it place.

rodeo and competition, candy throw, run and play, peanuts for our uncle bob, coffee on, he drinks the pot. cousins, sisters, aunts and uncles, grammas, grandpas, brothers, hope you make it, distance time, life beginning, life change and happens, who is sick? and who is able? what age are you now,? heart to heart, eye to eye who’s your Father? never mind, I see it in your smile.

Now stand quiet, hold it still, seems the same, just new faces, children, family, other races, permeates, with resounding pleasure. Cecil’s boat, and strong wind, take it home, no fun again. disappointed children.

freedom to be who you are, who’s your partner? who’s the star?, who affords such a car? circles, squares and dirty looks, just be forward, don’t be shy, get another plate, here we feast together, have a smoke behind the barn. I’m sure you’ll find another.

fishing like they have been given, grandpa moors, river banks, lakes and roadside fishin. breeze, smells, don’t stay long, mosquitos, flies and black eyed suzannes, come back just in time for seconds. adults sit in shelter, wait, guarding home, home, always there’s forever.

genes, talents, eyes, hair, lips and disguise, I fit in, so do you. come back and stay awhile, you are a puzzle piece, without you there, I wonder why.  I have your butt and you have mine, Moors they say, what about this nose I carry, it’s a guess, it’s from genetics, blood and cells, make impressions, we are tied with heart of hearts, we are strong, weak and needy, we have life, we have freedom.  Life is good, we’ll meet again if God is willing

John and Florence Moors

John and Florence Moors

Where are you, Ruth Rollingson?

My Auntie Ruth is a force not to be reckoned with!  She is a very strong woman who has a sharp memory and a very particular type of wit.  Ruth holds strong opinions about most things (it runs in the family) and articulates them with emotion and power.  A woman who puts family first, she loved spending extended periods of time in both Peace River and New Zealand.  With fondness, she talks about branches of her/our family who are separated by a huge physical distance as though they could not possibly be held any closer in her heart.

This week she shared some of her narratives and I treasured every moment of the time we spent together.  As I delved deeper into the paternal side of my family history, I wanted to hear, first hand, the recollections of two of the matriarchs of the family, my Auntie Ruth and Auntie Eleanor.  It is with great fondness that I recall visits out west while my own military-family seemed to be, every couple of years, on an east-west migration.  Auntie Ruth and her family were a big part of what it meant to be ‘a Moors’.

Many hours were spent in friendship and family…teasing one another…complaining…and typically, exploding into laughter.  I am so happy for the previous interviews that my second cousin, Danielle, has worked on and the beautiful family album that contributed so much to our chats early in the week.  Several of these photographs are borrowed from this treasured resource.

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St. Mary's

St. Mary’s Dam…Ruth swimming with friends…

Family Reunion St. Mary's Dam...cousin, Linda in foreground...Gramma Florence Elliott Moors with her back to us.

Family Reunion St. Mary’s Dam…cousin, Linda in foreground…Gramma Florence Elliott Moors with her back to us, likely late 1960s.  My own mother’s face, just slightly above Linda’s arm…

I am so grateful for our conversations, dear Ruth…and look forward to connecting some of these narratives with the research I have already documented.  I love you.

Meeting J. Bernard Bearshirt: An Exchange of Goodness

I had been looking for Jordan. I just had a drawing he did for me in 1980, reframed and wanted to get it back to him…or find out if he was still making art.

This meeting was inspiring and was so chucked full of wisdom and goodness, that I’m going to let the two photos I post speak for themselves.  I passed Bernard his son’s drawing in the Denny’s parking lot.  He passed me this beautiful feather.  I wept.  He kept saying, “Jordan did that.”  We shared a prayer, a meal and shared a world of ideas.  I am blessed.  This was proof again that a person’s life goes on.  Watch what the Creator God has for you today.  Try to notice instead of rushing past the lesson He has for you.

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Bernard and I shared tears about his son.  I continue to think about Jordan, an exceptional artist and I’m glad that I treasured his drawing for all of those years and that I was able to return it to family.

BEARSHIRT, Jordan Bernard – May 26, 1968 – May 29, 2013 Jordan Bernard Bearshirt of the Siksika Nation passed away May 29, 2013 to be with our creator at the age of 45. Jordan was known for his sense of humour and kindness. He is survived by his father, J. Bernard Bearshirt; Uncle Rodger (Patti), Uncle Victor Starlight, Terry Krueger, Aunt Elizabeth, Alice Spence, Auntie Pauline Little Chief; Grandmothers: Gertrude Turning Robe, Rosellam Manyshots, Irene Favel; Sisters: Sharon, Josie, Marie (Josh), Tammy, Robin, Loretta (Darin), Lori (Max); Brothers: Gordon, Sheldon (Jaylene); Traditional Siblings: Darcie Brertton, Jerry Hill, Jade McHugh, Jocko McHugh and numerous Nephews, Nieces, and Cousins. Relatives: Sunwalks, Manyshots, Breakers, Wolf Legs, Sitting Eagles, Yellow Suns, Crowchiefs, Many Guns, Little Chiefs, Sam Pelletier (Heather), Axes. We apologize if we have missed anyone. Jordan was predeceased by his Mother, Nancy Bearshirt; Stepmother, Linda Bearshirt; Grandparents: James and Helena Bearshirt and Uncle Ronald Bearshirt. The family would like to acknowledge The Grey Eagle Casino for their support. Wake Service will be held at Sister Celine Memorial Parish (Siksika Nation, AB) on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm. Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Siksika Nation, AB) on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 11:00 am with the Rev. Gerard LeStrat, Presider. Graveside Service to follow at Old Chief Crowfoot Cemetery (Siksika Nation, AB).

Surprise #5: Taking Care of Business!

P1120253 P1120254 P1120255 P1120256 P1120257 P1120258 P1120259 Randy Bachman really shook up the crowd.  One awesome act after another, but this one seemed to inspire YouTube video and got the most people up off their seats.  I was surprised that his set resonated with me so deeply.  I had no idea that of all the music to be heard the evening of the Alberta Flood Relief Concert, Bachman’s tunes would so reach into my heart and memory.  He was not only entertaining, he was genuinely musical.  There was so much energy in the band that the crowd could not help but get pumped.  Nice going, Randy!  And, thank you!

This would be the YouTube video that really put a smile on my face.  I was too busy dancing to create one of my own!  This one’s titled, “Guy givin’ er at Alberta flood relief concert”

Surprise #3: Ian Tyson

I saw this Legend perform ‘back in the day’, when I was a bit of an activist as a member of the Friends to the Oldman River Society.  A beautiful artist and friend, Joane Cardinal Schubert, created the image used on the poster advertising a great musical and political event at the edge of Maycroft Crossing back in 1989.  Ian Tyson, along with people like Andy Russell and the Chiefs of the surrounding Nations, gathered along with thousands of Albertans to persuade the Government of Canada that construction of a dam would be of great environmental impact on this river. From The Art Gallery of Calgary’s catalogue for the Calgary Collects Exhibit in the Fall of 2011, this…

Joane Cardinal Schubert and the River

From Wikipedia…

“Russell also sometimes confronted environmental issues in the field, directly on the front lines. In 1977, for example, he was successful in persuading officials in British Columbia to reconsider plans to grant timber harvesting licences in the Akamina-Kishenina region, an area with which Russell was intimately familiar as a result of the decades he spent guiding and outfitting in the area.[23] While wilderness landscapes like the Akamina-Kishenina region were central to Russell’s writing and film making endeavours, he also directed some of his environmental advocacy to the rural working landscape he shared with his neighbours. For example, when Shell Canada in 1970 put forward an application to divert additional water from Drywood Creek, Russell monitored the proceedings to ensure than no more water was taken than necessary, and that the resulting effluent was properly treated.[24] In another instance, to draw attention to problems with the Government of Alberta’s use of sodium fluoroacetate as a predator control compound, he joined two of his ranching colleagues and assisted to gather ten poisoned and rotting coyote carcasses; these were then left on the grounds of the municipal office in Pincher Creek, Alberta, as part of a plan that drew public attention to the issue through prearranged media involvement.[25] Russell also involved himself in larger projects, including in the politically charged opposition to the construction of the Oldman River Dam in southwestern Alberta. He was a founding member of the Friends of the Oldman River and he participated in actions to oppose the dam project, most prominently as a speaker at musician Ian Tyson’s benefit concert held at Maycroft Crossing on June 12, 1989.[26]”

Maycroft 3Further to this, on the University of Lethbridge site

“Active resistance on the Oldman River Dam came from a group of Peigan Natives, the Peigan Lonefighters Society, who in August 1990 began to divert the river using an excavator to render the multi-million dollar dam useless.  The claim was simple, the government of Canada was intruding on sacred Native land, land owned by the Blackfoot Nations. According to Milton Born with a Tooth, “the Oldman River is located in Blackfoot Nation’s territory, something we have always taken as being within our own domain. We all grew up by the river, and that’s how the river has a personal attachment to myself and the people. So that’s what drove us to do what we did on August 3, to let the people know we still had this connection to the river.” Though resistance to the Oldman River Dam has been pacified in the past few years, Peigans still claim that reservior land is their own.

Another part of the controversy has to due with the environmentalists. The environmentalists call themselves, “Friends of the Oldman River Society.”  They formed in the early 1990’s, over the environmental concerns in the construction of the large scale Oldman River Dam. They note that the construction of the Oldman River Dam required an environmental assessment impact, and this was not conducted at all, by Ralph Klein’s government. An environmental assessment impact is a neccessity according to the “Navigable Waters Protection Act”, where it would be determined if its construction would have any notable environmental impacts on this region. The Friends of the Oldman River strongly felt that the construction of the Oldman River Dam, would severely alter and damage local riparian biomes, wildlife habitat, and aquatic life in down stream from the dam. A environmental impact assessment was later conducted by the government, and found the dam to have no significant environmental impact; but the Friends of the Oldman River Society amongst others regard it with much suspect.”

I had studied at the University of Lethbridge, perched on the edge of the Oldman River, and lived in residence there, so for four years, I had a huge relationship with the river.  Everything that Ian Tyson and Andy Russell stand/stood for, I felt deeply about.  And I guess that’s just never changed.  While I am faulted often for being a bit of a ‘bleeding heart’ in my family, I care very much for our environment and see, this many years later, what impact our choices as consumers have upon this wealth of land, water and air that we, as Canadians, often take for granted.

I’ve danced to this song many times over the years and to hear it on the night of the Flood Relief was a surprise.  Thank you, Ian, for your work on behalf of Albertans over all of these years.

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