Congratulations to the community of Maskwacis, formerly Hobbema, on returning to its traditional name!
The “Bears Hills” (in Cree maskwacis) reserves, being so close, were often in the Edmonton news and shared a close relationship with the community their grandfathers might call amiskwaciy-wà¢skahikan (The Beaver Hills House/Edmonton). Nine-nine years ago on January 7, 1915, this article made the headlines of the Edmonton Bulletin:
The small column describes a gathering of five large Aboriginal nations to the Bears Hills reserves, then known as Hobbema. The convention arranged to send a delegation of leaders to Ottawa asking for a modification of the Indian Act, with requests for more freedom, security of their tradition of collective land ownership, and that the government cease treating them “like children.” The delegation carried with it a collected $1,200.00 to donate to the government for the war effort.
As one often finds when one looks at history, many things have not changed all that much in 99 years: Canada’s Aboriginal communities continue to petition Ottawa and organize for social change, most recently with the Idle No More movement, the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence, and David Kawapit’s 1100 km Cree unity trek.
2013 was the first year we employed an Aboriginal Interpreter on 1920 Street to help tell the continuing story of natives and native communities in the 1920s, especially their efforts to organize for collective efforts.
Canadian Aboriginal leader Frederick Loft had served in the Great War, then witnessed the formation of the League of Nations, the growth of United Farmer movements and Labour Unions. “”Union is the outstanding impulse of men today,” he wrote during his organization of the League of Indians.
Come down to Fort Edmonton Park this summer and seek out our Aboriginal Peoples Interpreters in all four eras. They’ll engage you with the history of Cree, Metis, and other Aboriginals through the Fur Trade, the influx of Settlers, and now the growth of Metropolitan Edmonton. At the 1920s Midway, you might meet a young lady petitioning for a repeal the ban on pow-wows and traditional dancing (pictured), which were popular at exhibitions and fairs. At the Hotel Selkirk you might attend meeting of local natives wondering whether to join Loft’s League of Indians. Perhaps you’d prefer to just munch on some bannock or practice your beading and share a quiet conversation about Edmonton’s many local Aboriginal leaders in the 20s and 30s, including Joseph Dion, John Callihoo, and Malcolm Norris or Euro-Canadian allies* like Rev. John McDougall. Do you have any stories to tell us about your heroes and your experiences with the power in community groups? Come share with us!
* John McDougall’s relationship with aboriginal people is, like most in history, marked by positive and negative influences and aims.