Peace Cairn Dedication, Wetaskiwin, AB, July 2, 1927. Courtesy of City of Wetaskiwin Archives, No. 20231.

Wetaskiwin honours its history with Alberta Culture Days

Festival marks 150 year wîtaskîwin spatinâw Peace Treaty

As legend tells, long ago in this area two warrior chiefs of Blackfoot and Cree tribes, Buffalo Child and Little Bear, respectively, fought a fierce battle among themselves while on scouting missions; and in smoking from the same pipe while taking a break from fighting inadvertently brought peace to the land.

An alternate legend states it was Chief Maskepetoon who brought the peace between the Blackfoot and Cree by negotiating a treaty.

“2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the traditional date of the wîtaskîwin spatinâw Peace Treaty,” said Karen Aberle, Wetaskiwin and District Heritage Museum executive director and chief curator.

This year the Wetaskiwin and District Heritage Museum, in partnership with the City of Wetaskiwin and the Government of Alberta will be honouring the history and heritage of the Wetaskiwin area with several Alberta Culture Days events.

The museum and the community of Wetaskiwin — including city and county — and Maskwacis was chosen as an official host site for the 10th anniversary of Alberta Culture Days.

The events will run Sept. 29 and 30, and Oct. 1 and 2 and have been put together to honour the wîtaskîwin spatinâw Peace Treaty; signed between the Nēhiyaw (Cree) and Niitsítapi (Blackfoot) People.

In 1927, on Canada’s Diamond Jubilee, the City of Wetaskiwin chose to mark the 60th anniversary by erecting a Peace Cairn to honour the treaty’s history. “It’s the Peace Cairn’s 90th birthday this year,” said Aberle.

While officially the Every Child Matters Orange Shirt Day falls on Sept. 30 it will be marked in Wetaskiwin schools on the Friday of Sept. 29, and the museum has scheduled its Orange Shirt Day Walk for Sept. 29 as well.

Participants can gather at the museum at 4:30 and march to the city’s Peace Cairn. Wetaskiwin Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) and the museum have orange ribbons available. “We encourage everybody to wear orange in spirit of Orange Shirt Day,” said Aberle.

This year the museum, the City of Wetaskiwin, FCSS and the Reconciliation Team of Immanuel Anglican Church are holding an Orange Shirt Day contest. School classes or individuals can submit an art design representing the theme Every Child Matters, and by public vote, the winning design will be used for the 2018 Wetaskiwin Orange Shirt Day t-shirt. The submissions will be on display in the museum for the month of October.

Following the Orange Shirt Day Walk, also at the Peace Cairn, is the Celebrating Our First Communities Festival, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m.

The celebration will feature multiple dignitary speeches, including Beverly Crier from the Samson Museum, History and Archives, who will talk about the history of the area from 1867 to 1927, and Aberle, who will be speaking to the meaning of the name Wetaskiwin.

“There will be a drum group, Bear Nation, available … We will be having a mini round dance,” said Aberle. Youth Indigenous dancers will also be participating in the festival.

On Oct. 1 from noon to 4 p.m. the museum is hosting an Indigenous Art and Craft Showcase Market. “We’re calling all Indigenous artists to come and showcase their work here,” said Aberle.

Those interested are asked to contact the museum beforehand at 780-352-0227 to say they would like to participate.

Also at the museum on Sept. 29 and 30 is the annual Wetaskiwin Art Club Show and Sale. It runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.

While Alberta Culture Days is officially Sept. 29 and 30, and Oct. 1, Wetaskiwin FCSS is holding an Understanding the Métis People Workshop on Oct. 2 at the museum.

“We as a team decided it fits the theme of the weekend so we’re including it,” said Aberle.

It is through Alberta Culture Days grant funding, as well as City of Wetaskiwin and the museum’s funds that the communities will be able to participate in the weekend of events.

“We’re greatest together. Wasn’t this a perfect opportunity, this weekend, to bring together as many groups as we could to celebrate this history,” said Aberle.

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