Healing and Reconciliation: Siksika
Times Jr Reporter
Siksika Nation celebrated the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation on June 11, a celebration that is anticipated to become a yearly event. The day’s significance was to begin a recovery process to overcome the brutalities that members of the Siksika Nation have endured while attending past residential schools.
The day’s events started at 10 a.m. at the Old Sun College, from where members of the nation walked, ran and biked to the Siksika Powwow Arbour to continue events until to 6 p.m. The opening ceremonies included a prayer followed by the youth runners who performed an opening dance, followed by speeches from individuals who introduced and spoke about the meaning of the event, including Donnie Yellow Fly, who has first personally experienced many of the hardships of attending the residential schools.
Beginning at a residential school at the age of 5 and continuing on for a total 13 years, Yellow Fly recollects his experiences, stating that the bad memories stand out to be the most prominent.
“The policies at that time were to civilize and to ‘Christianize’ us,” said Yellow Fly. “It wasn’t so much the religion itself that was responsible for the brutalities; it was more the people who were waving the religious flags.”
In an attempt to ‘civilize’ those attending the residential schools, Yellow Fly emphasizes that their policies were enforced through physical and, unfortunately in some cases, sexual abuse. Yellow Fly states that physical abuse was mostly what he had encountered. The schools weekly ‘pay days’ still stand out in his mind.
“They used to take some of the older members of our school to document throughout the week how many times they caught us speaking our language,” he said. “They would gather us, and would take girls on one side and boys on the other, and would call out our names; who was going to get whipped on the buttocks. You would literally have to pull your pants down in front of everybody; consider the humiliation of that experience.”
Yellow Fly remembers the thought of, “I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry,” because he did not want to let them “beat him at the game” so to speak. He believes the suppression of emotion was what contributed to the eventual psychological damages and emerging addictions which he personally acquired, as did many other residential students.
Consequential to his drug and alcohol addictions, which were his biggest sources of comfort, Yellow Fly was sent to prison for several years, and recalls that experience to be life-saving. He states that if he had not gone to prison, he currently would be buried six feet under the ground. After his release, Yellow Fly became an addictions counsellor and is currently working for the land claims department.
“I have moved on. Because of my experiences, I’m embracing the healing journey,” he said. “I know our history, I’ve experienced our history and the need for this healing to begin. I think it will not only benefit the populace here, but our interactions with the broader society.”
To symbolically begin the healing process, a tree planting ceremony took place where four trees were to be planted in the four corners of the Arbour. Chief Fred Rabbit Carrier states that the trees are significant because they begin as a small seed and take many years to grow, like the healing journey. He laughs that the trees will also beautify the area because, “there are no trees!”
In letting go of the past, a balloon releasing ceremony took place as well, along with a Candle Light Memorial, and the closing activity of the Round dance, a friendship and healing dance which put a close to the day’s events.
Chief Fred Rabbit Carrier emphasizes that the day’s games and events would not have been possible if it were not for the many helping hands of the volunteers, with a special thank you to Marsha Wolf Collar for spearheading the event.
Rain hinders dig but students keep in good spirits
Every week students involved in the archaeological excavation will be submitting their own account as to how things are going. Readers will have an opportunity to follow along as they unearth pieces of history.
During the past two weeks, I have learned to love charcoal. While this strange affection may be lost on all but BBQ aficionados, I can assure you that as an archaeology student, your first real find becomes incredibly dear to your heart. I spent the first few weeks digging through a more or less sterile unit, hoping and praying that my next level would contain something, anything, other than nearly invisible charcoal flecks. Bones, beads, maybe a crystal skull or two…THOSE were the things I so desperately wanted to find.
As I dug deeper and deeper however, I began to see how charcoal could be just as exciting and informative as other, “more interesting”, artifacts, ecofacts, and features. This was proven when I opened my new unit, and discovered a rather dense, deep charcoal stain. The location, density, and depth of the charcoal stain all tell a story…one that is waiting to be interpreted and placed in the grander scheme of things. While my charcoal stain is probably not going to revolutionize the world of archaeology, it has certainly revolutionized my attitude towards all those artifacts I deemed uninteresting.
Just because you don’t find a lost civilization, the missing link in the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens sapiens, or the Rosetta stone of yet indecipherable ancient scripts, doesn’t mean you aren’t doing, and learning something important.
Once we all got the hang of excavation techniques and a better feel for using the trowels, everyone was looking forward to our second week of excavation. Unfortunately, with the rain we were unable to excavate. Instead we used the time to learn more about the history of the site as well as excavation techniques and various aspects of archaeology that are more valuable now that we have field experience.
After a week of being unable to excavate I was ready to jump in and really make some headway with my unit. I opened two new units, bringing my total to three units for the field season so far. The last unit I opened has been quite exciting with the find of a bead, which is always something interesting. Anything beyond charcoal, unmodified lithics, and small bone fragments gets everyone excited! This week also involved intense practice and use of the Total Station, which is used to survey and take accurate points of the artifacts found in our units. The end goal of practicing with the Total Stations is to be able to set them up in under five minutes, which is no small feat. Trying to level the machine and enter the correct information that quickly can be difficult but everyone is getting the hang of it!
New opportunities in Strathmore
The official grand opening of the McBride Career Group was held on June 2, at their office, on 103, 227-3rd Avenue.
“We do feel our services are quite helpful and needed in Strathmore,” said manager Terri Phillip.
McBride Career Group caters to unemployed and underemployed Albertans.
“We want to help people connect with as many local employers as possible,” said Phillip.
The public can feel free to come in and have access to local job postings, community boards, telephone, faxing and photocopying, local newspapers, resource library and career and employment publications.
However, it is the other services that McBride Career Group provides that sets them above many other career services.
Services include job search preparation and assistance from a career coach, who will help identify work skills, develop a job search plan, preparing resumes and cover letters and develop interview skills. Career Coaches will also help with career and personality assessments, occupational information, career decision making and educational options. Workshops will also be held to help with the job search and career planning, including labour market information, and job maintenance skills.
Career and hiring fairs for local employers will be held, where they post their job advertisements, offer workshops and workplace training reimbursement.
There is also a McBride Career Group location in Three Hills, but it is a satellite office, meaning it is only open one-day a week, unless by special appointment.
A new program, aimed at recognizing local youth, is set to be hitting the streets of Strathmore within the very near future.
“I know it has been quite successful in other communities and it starts a positive relationship between youth and authority,” says Councillor Bob Sobol.
The “Positive Ticketing Program” was launched June 2 at the FCSS offices, located in the same building as the Strathmore Public Library. The By-law officers and Councillor Bob Sobol, among others, were in attendance.
The recipients of this program will be youth under the age of 18. It is for youth who are “caught” doing good deeds. For these good deeds, the winners will be rewarded a voucher for a fun, free activity.
These vouchers will be issued by caring law enforcement personnel for good behaviour. For example: good driving or performing a good deed in the community.
The purpose of such a program is to build a good and trusting relationship between youth and authority, and encourage youth to reach out and have a good relationship with the community around them.
“I know for a fact that there are a lot of good things done by youth in this community, but for the most part, youth get a bad rap,” said Sobol. “Vandalism and other crimes are something that always occur, but unfortunately most youth get painted with the same brush and it’s not fair to the rest.”
This program will be tried until September just to see how successful it proves to be.
Another chilly year for SpringFest
Despite the chilly weather, this year’s annual SpringFest celebration, held June 4, was a success according to event organizers.
After last year’s event was cancelled due to blizzard-like weather conditions, this year’s celebration went off without a hitch in downtown Strathmore.
Originally known as “Geranium Days,” it was an event to which all the greenhouses in the area could come out and sell their plants.
Now it is an event for the entire family.
This year featured a few local greenhouses, such as Brassard Greenhouses, the EnCana stage, which hosted local youth performers, an obstacle course and face painting for the little ones, and a matinee was featured at Joyland Theatre for the afternoon.
“We’re way down in our number of tables this year partly because of the poor weather. People who registered that just didn’t show up and also because the small home business base event is taking place at the same time and they’re indoors,” said President Lin Walker.
“SpringFest and Relay for Life are almost guaranteed to bring you bad weather” said Walker in a jokingly manner.
“We’re a little disappointed that the numbers don’t appear to what we would have liked them to be, but today was supposed to be sunny and 24 degrees.” said Walker.
Despite all factors, there were some people of all ages who were out and about and braved the cold.
“Maybe next year we will have it in December and have a nice summer day,” laughed Walker.
The Boys and Girls Club of Strathmore has been affiliated with the Airdrie Boys and Girls Club up until now. They are now in need of core funding and the help of volunteers to sustain the program.
“It’s a really important program here in Strathmore,” says Shannon Zieman of the Boys and Girls Club. “I believe it is an affordable option for parents and it gives children the opportunity to participate in (different) activities. It’s a proactive approach into getting children involved in their community.”
The Boys and Girls Club runs eight summer camps. Each camp is one week long and runs Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. until noon. The cost of these camps is $100 per week for members and $120 per week for non-members. The age of the campers is 6-12.
Each week the camp has a different theme, and activities participated in revolve around that set theme. For example, the first week’s theme is “Back in Time,” so time-period games will be played and other activities will focus on the Centennial. Fridays are spent doing community service around Strathmore.
As for older children ages 13-17, the Strathmore Boys and Girls Club offers a training program for junior counsellors. They must apply then they will go through a small training program.
“It’s a good idea for the older kids because they can use this experience on a resume, or even as volunteer hours towards school,” says Zieman.
However, for this program to continue to operate, core funding is majorly needed.
“Any company that wants to take us on and become a sponsor would be great because Strathmore needs a program like this,” says Zieman.
The Strathmore Boys and Girls Club is indeed in Fundraiser mode. On May 28, they held the “Abraca Dazzle” magic show at the Hope Covenant Church in Strathmore. All the money made from the show is going towards operating the summer camps this year.
“We are definitely going to continue to fundraise. Nothing is concrete yet but we will continue to raise money towards operating our club,” says Zieman.
For more information on how to make donations or on how to volunteer feel free to contact Shannon Zieman at
Successful Camp Day at Tim Hortons in Strathmore
Each year, Tim Horton’s owners partner with local youth organizations to select economically disadvantaged kids to attend one of six foundation camps.
Since 1975 the foundation has served more than 150,000 kids through its variety of camp programs, designed to help each camper discover their best.
Lindsay Rohl, general manager and partner of the Tim Horton’s Restaurant in Strathmore, was pleased with the turnout on June 1. Rohl had a number of volunteers from the community come to help out with this worthy cause, including those from the Chamber of Commerce and local firefighters.
The restaurant in Strathmore sends four children to the Tim’s Camp in Kananaskis. Camp Day is the one day each year when the owner/operators donate 100% of their proceeds from coffee sales made on that day to the Tim Horton’s Children’s Foundation. In 2010 Camp Day raised more than 9.7 million dollars.
Rohl said the “heart of the community sure comes into focus on days like this” and is never surprised at the generosity of local sponsors and donors for their contributions to the silent auction that they have in conjunction with the coffee sales that day.
Hussar donates hair to Locks of Love
Katelyn Sandum from Duck Lake, Alberta, decided that she wanted to help kids with cancer by donating her long, blonde locks to the Locks of Love program.
Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. They meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses provided will help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.
A small gathering of friends and family assembled at the Hussar Arena on Friday evening to help cheer on six participants shave and cut their hair. Michelle Hager (one of the organizers), who had her head shaved, was convinced that she needed to “do something.” Her Aunt was in her second round of cancer treatments and had lost her hair in the last round. Hager woke up Easter morning and decided that “my decision was made and now the raising of funds and promoting the cause began.”
Her Dad, Jurgen Schempp, nine-year-old son Colby Schempp, seven-year-old nephew Cadin Schempp and good friend Kim Larsen joined Hager in her head-shaving quest. Katelyn was the only participant who donated her hair.
Mom Tara Sandum, swelling with pride and emotion, said that she is “overwhelmingly proud of what a little girl could selflessly do for someone else.”
Sandum said that Katelyn was doing it in honor of her friend Leeza Neilsen from the community of Hussar who has been battling with cancer for a number of years. Leeza will be doing the honorary lap in the Relay for Life in Drumheller later in the month.
On the agenda for Strathmore
A regular town council meeting was held on June 1 in Strathmore Town Office.
Talk of opening a museum in the Town of Strathmore was brought up by Councillor Pat Fule. Council discussed that almost 20 years ago this was brought up, but nothing ever came about.
A motion was then made to form an official committee dedicated to making plans towards building a museum in the town of Strathmore.
Councillor Fule mentioned a small side project which had been started, video-interviewing seniors in the community to learn about Strathmore long, long ago. If a museum is indeed opened, these archives will be used to help educate the community on the history of Strathmore.
Heritage Days security
Enhanced policing was discussed for August long weekend, during the annual “Heritage Days Stampede” event, held July 28-Aug. 1. As it is a busy time for the town, RCMP officers are often required to work overtime during this weekend due to the amount of people attending the event, and of possibly rowdy behaviour. The extra costs will be paid by the Town of Strathmore.
Councillor Fule also mentioned some of the general concerns regarding the irrigating and watering of the Birth Forest. A representative of the Horticulturist and Parks staff assured that these trees are being carefully looked after, and will be watered for the next two to three seasons by the town, until the trees reach proper maturity at which time nature can take its course. Council was also assured that trees that appeared to have any winter damage were being taken care of in a different manner to ensure their survival.
Councillor Fule also named the citizens of the month. For June 2011, Strathmore`s Safety Patrollers were named citizens of the month.
“Strathmore has over 100 Grade 5 and 6 students who volunteer to be safety patrollers. These students often arrange to get to school early, and may have to stay late at the end of the day,” said Fule. “They work at their patrol stations in all kind of weather. They help friends and family cross busy streets safely and they are very reliable.”
Donating to a good cause
The devastation that occurred in Slave Lake was also discussed.
“Our hearts go out to those in Slave Lake,” said Deputy Mayor John Rempel. “Some have not only lost their homes and everything they ever worked for, but also their jobs due to the raging fire that struck through their town.”
The Town of Strathmore had decided to donate a total of $5,000 dollars to Slave Lake through the FCSS. They agreed that it may be a better idea to not donate the money all at once, because it is usually a little ways down the road (from the disaster) that the money is most needed. As for items that were donated by local citizens and were dropped off at the town office, the town will find another organization that is transporting items up to Slave Lake and hopefully send these items along.
“We want to extend our deepest sorrows to those in Slave Lake. We are a community of significant size and I believe Strathmore can do a lot to help Slave Lake,” said Rempel.