Swan River First Nation School and Kinuso School students learned about local history from Swan River knowledge keepers in June.
Esther Giroux, Swan River School Cree language and culture teacher and land-based learning coordinator, was one of the organizers of the event.
“The students are quite fascinated by the history,” says Giroux.
On June 13, Kindergarten to Grade 6 Swan River School students went on a horse-drawn wagon ride with knowledge keepers to learn the history of Swan River First Nation and the Hamlet of Kinuso.
Blaine Cunningham from Driftpile Cree Nation brought two teams of horses and wagons.
The history lesson was done by four knowledge keepers: Eleanor Sawan, Gordon Courtorielle, Dicky Davis, and Marilyn Chalifoux.
The goal of the wagon ride was to keep history alive, says Giroux. “Otherwise, our history will be lost.”
The knowledge keepers pointed out landmarks and where buildings used to be, and told stories from their childhood.
Back in the day, Kinuso had a train station, movie theatre, bank, large outdoor skating rink, and a wooden outdoor dance floor, for tea dances and jigging.
“Everybody took the train to where they were going,” said Giroux.
Kinuso still has some stores, but one of the old ones used to be where the skate park is now.
The movie theatre was also used for dances and weddings.
“I enjoyed it,” says Giroux, who is in her 70s. “I forgot about a lot of it.”
The students also learned how the knowledge keepers helped their parents when they were kids. Back in the day, kids had to chop wood and haul water from a slough. Meat was kept cold in the well and vegetables in a root cellar.
The students were surprised by all of the work that kids had to do in the past, says Giroux. “We had to help around the house. They’re not used to working like that.”
On June 13, rain in the morning didn’t dampen the enjoyment.
“They just loved it anyway,” says Giroux. “They didn’t care. It was quite the adventure. They really loved it.”
At lunch time, the sun started to shine and it warmed up.
For lunch, the students and knowledge keepers ate a traditional soup and bannock meal on blankets in a clearing.
Later in the week, the knowledge keepers took students from Kinuso School on the same ride.
Kinuso and Swan River First Nation are in the Swan River delta, which is in the middle of the southshore of Lesser Slave Lake. The two communities are about half way between Slave Lake and High Prairie just north of Highway 2.
Kinuso is part of Big Lakes County, but geographically within Swan River First Nation, which is surrounded by Big Lakes.
The Swan River School and main office are right next door to Kinuso.