Register and publish your 2016 Culture Days in Saskatchewan event by July 17, 2016* and you could win a tailor-made video like the one below to promote your Culture Day activity.
It’s easy to enter! Just visit the Culture Days registration site to register and publish your Culture Days in Saskatchewan event bymidnight on July 17, 2016 and you’ll be automatically entered to win!
Up to four registered and published Saskatchewan Culture Days activities will be randomly drawn. Winners will contacted within three business days of the draw to make arrangements for interviews and videoing. Videos will be delivered to event organizers for Culture Days activity promotion by September 1, 2016.
* Events registered and published prior to the contest launch date are automatically entered to win.
It’s been a whirlwind of a spring, summer and fall. My fellow Community Engagement Animateurs and I began our journey last April, and now, more than six months later, we’ve covered tens of thousands kilometres and engaged in more than 75 communities across the province. Each of us had our own unique way of engaging with those communities, but I think we can all agree that one thing we shared in common was stories.
Whether telling stories, hearing stories, or capturing stories, Carol, Kevin and I were champions of storytelling. Storytelling is one of the most profound ways that people connect with each other. One of my goals in my position as a Community Engagement Animateur was to empower people to tell their own stories, as individuals and as communities.
I am a storyteller myself and as a folklorist, I study and try to interpret other people’s stories as well. My work with Intangible Cultural Heritage is essentially about safeguarding stories, whether they’re tall tales or the knowledge passed from one person to the next. In my workshops, I used storytelling as a tool to connect people to place, to each other, and to their own selves. I asked each participant to tell me about their home place and the story of that place in relation to their own identity. I showed communities how story can be used in powerful ways to connect community members with each other, and to connect community with the wider world.
In the later stages of my time as an animateur, I had the unique opportunity to partner with the National Film Board of Canada’s Grasslands Project. The Grasslands Project is a series of short films documenting life in the southern prairies of Saskatchewan and Alberta which has been shooting over the past six months. I teamed up with the project’s director to offer media clinics in communities across southern Saskatchewan, in Gravelbourg, Mankota, Ponteix and Radville. In addition to communities, we had a couple of workshops which resulted from outreach to people who may not typically access opportunities like this: one was with the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge and one with the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre.
It was an intensive day which began with my presentation on story, what it means, how we can learn to tell our own stories, and exercises which demonstrate how storytelling brings us together. From this exploration of story and place, participants had a good foundation to begin learning about the craft of film-making from the Grasslands Project director Scott Parker.
Video is one of the most powerful media available for storytelling, for it combines the visual with speech, and it allows us to share our stories with a global audience. But the media clinic participants were not concerned with the global during the making of their short films – each and every one was grounded in local place. The films speak for themselves, and all of them can be viewed on the Grasslands Project Media Clinics Youtube Channel here.
At the end of this particular journey, I have heard many more stories than I told, which is how it should be. I have seen, and heard, firsthand the incredible diversity of this province. And I have learned that despite the diversity of people, landscape and story across this province of ours, we all share one thing in common: we all belong somewhere and we all have a story to tell.
Here is the film we made in Mankota. For the rest of the Grasslands Project media workshop films, visit its Youtube Channel. For more information, see the Grassland Project’s blog and like it on Facebook.
What a thrill for us all to have SaskScapes featured in an episode of the national CBC radio show “Podcast Playlist”. The show features podcasts from around the world and in this weeks episode entitled “Keeping it Local” episode 57 of SaskScapes is featured in the last segment.
A stand-out experience this summer has been the opportunity to feature a series of podcasts on “The 60’s Scoop”. Episode 57 features Dr. Raven Sinclair. Raven’s story is heartbreaking yet triumphant and I was honoured by her openness.
A big thank you to CBC for bringing SaskScapes to “Podcast Playlist”. It is my hope that Raven’s story, and all of the stories that comprise SaskScapes continue to be heard in Saskatchewan around the world.
I’m from the deep south of Saskatchewan, where the only natural trees grow in coulees and on creek banks. Down here, life is defined by the open prairie, the rugged hills, and the vast sky. Place defines our cultural identities. It shapes who we are and how we live. This past week, I was given the opportunity to travel north and to participate in cultural experiences that, though they are within the boundaries of the same province, were new to me, and very much shaped by the natural landscape.
SaskCulture Outreach Consultant Damon Badger Heit and I made a trek north to the Meadow Lake area, nestled in the boreal forest. It was the furthest north I have ever been to date, though when I checked out a map of Saskatchewan, I realized that it is still only about halfway up our vast province. Life there is defined by forest and abundant lakes. As soon as we travelled west and north from Prince Albert on Highway 55, the change in both landscape and culture was evident. For instance, one of the main topics of conversation was berries, particularly blueberries – where to find the best ones, the distances people had travelled in search of them, the quality of this year’s berry harvest. We drank wild mint tea that had been picked in the nearby forest. The road was full of logging trucks, not the grain semis and farm equipment I’m used to in the south.
As a community engagement animateur, my job is to engage and animate communities about culture. But I always end up on the receiving end of engagement and animation. I am constantly learning new things about the cultural fabric of this province. On this particular trip, Damon coordinated a series of learning adventures which allowed me to interact with a few cultures that I had previously had little personal experience with: Métis and traditional Cree culture.
First we attended the opening of Northern Indigenous Media Arts Project exhibition at the Mann Art Gallery in Prince Albert. The project enabled aboriginal youth to explore culture through the art of photography, allowing us to glimpse the world as they see it. Next we stopped at Keewatin Junction Station in Green Lake, a café housed in a former train station which doubles as a Métis cultural interpretive centre. Over the next couple days we visited three First Nation bands, experiencing a sweat lodge, feast and a Pow Wow. Oh, and I managed to squeeze in a workshop on Intangible Cultural Heritage in Meadow Lake as well.
The most profound experience of all was inclusion in two traditional Cree ceremonies. At Waterhen Lake First Nation I was honoured to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony. It was my first experience at a sweat, and Damon made sure I knew the proper etiquette: the offerings of tobacco and broadcloth, the proper attire, and the importance of bringing a towel! Though I was nervous since this was all new to me, I was so graciously welcomed by the elders leading the ceremony and all the other participants that it was easy to put my anxiety aside and commit to fully experiencing the ceremony. I will never forget it.
During my time at Waterhen, Damon showed me a place of offerings atop one of Water Hen’s Seven Hills. There people have left gifts for the Little People. Cultures around the world honour local spirits in this way, and it was humbling to see the reverence with which they are regarded by the many gifts left for them. The forest and the lake are a powerful force, and I felt compelled to make my own small offering in that place.
Before beginning our long journey home, we were invited to attend a Feast at Flying Dust First Nation. I was again immersed in traditional Cree culture, and thankful for the honour of being there, and for the guidance I received in how to conduct myself during the ceremony. We feasted on traditional northern foods like moose and elk meat, bannock, berries and wild mint tea, as well as more modern fare like garden potatoes and frosted cake. I learned that at a Feast, you eat until the food is all gone. Needless to say, Damon and I did not feel the need to stop for snacks on the drive home!
On the way back to Regina, we stopped at the Mistawasis First Nation Pow Wow. Dancers in traditional regalia mingled with the crowd, and I was struck by the pride I could see in the performer’s faces. It was a potent reminder that the celebration of culture is powerful. Altogether, my quick trip to the north was something of a crash course in traditional Cree culture. It was a totally immersive experience one of great personal significance.
We live in a province of incredible diversity: diversity of landscape, of people, of culture. So often we exist only within our own cultural comfort zones. We may observe another culture by reading about it, looking at art about it, or watching videos of it, we may eat so-called “ethnic foods” at a restaurant, or watch a cultural performance. But to truly understand culture, we must experience it in a personal way – by participating. I am grateful I had the opportunity to do just that in my first ever northern Saskatchewan experience.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a portion of the 28th International Two Spirit gathering which was held at Batoche, SK. Since 1987 this weekend retreat has been held for First Nations and Indigenous Two Spirit people and their partners, family and friends.
As I learn about this part of the indigenous culture, I am struck by the high regard held for the two spirit individual within many tribes. That someone who embraces both male and female traits would be revered and being very special people. In modern culture, where the fluidity of gender is evolving it is necessary to find ones place within that cultural landscape. My observation during the opening “Lighting of the Pipes” ceremony and the lighting of the fire (which burned throughout the three day event), was that those who gathered held the First Nations rituals in the highest regard. The opening ceremony consisted of the building of the sweat lodge, the lighting of the pipes, and the sharing of the feast. Under the star-lit skies, we gathered around the teepee, and there was a palpable feeling of unity present. This was a weekend where participants felt safe to celebrate and to heal. Myself included. And indeed, it was an international gathering.
I had the opportunity to attend the sharing/healing circle. It began with the “smudging” as was done in the opening ceremony. The eagle feather, is passed to each individual as they share their own story and how they name their experience. It is an intensely personal time. As with the opening ceremony, I was struck by the strength of the women in the leadership role. And hearing them speak brought me to tears.
I had many questions about the tradition of tobacco within the First Nations’ gatherings. Mostly out of ignorance and fear of making a mistake. I had some very good guidance from within the Two Spirit community in Saskatoon as well as SaskCulture.
Elders and traditional teachers are held in high regard within First Nations culture. They are leaders, teachers, role models and mentors. Tobacco is one of the four sacred medicines. I spent an evening in advance of the weekend making white fabric pouches and filled each with tobacco and tied with a blue ribbon. The colours were purposely chosen. I had originally planned to make an offering of tobacco in exchange for the chance to talk and share stories for a podcast (as is the case in episode 52 of SaskScapes with guest Jack Saddleback). The three women who led the opening ceremony and who spoke so powerfully at the sharing circle the following day was so significant for me, that what I intuited to be most appropriate was to make an offering as a personal thanks. A deeply personal thanks. Not asking for anything in return, for what was given me had already been done. The experience. I was, in that moment, not there representing SaskCulture alone, I was there for me. I found time to take each of the three aside privately and as I place the tobacco in the left hand of each, tears came to my eyes. “Thank you for what you have given me this day”. As a member of the LGBT community I identify with what had been shared around the issue of finding ones place and of healing. And in that moment of offering I began to understand the true significance of the presentation of tobacco and the feeling of profound gratitude for being in that moment and sharing this tradition.
…or is it the culture of nature? Both are loaded terms with varying definitions. But, taken at their most basic, culture is “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another” while nature is “the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities” (both definitions come from www.dictionary.com). To make it even simpler: nature is the world as it is without human interference and culture is the world as it is perceived and lived by humans. Culture is always influenced by the natural world, and we usually give meaning to the natural world based upon our cultural background.
Head-scratching definitions aside, when nature and culture intersect as they do at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, it is truly an animating and memorable experience. The park is perhaps best known for its recreational opportunities: camping, hiking, horseback riding, birdwatching, snowmobiling, and ziplining. Of course, these are all cultural activities, too, since the way people choose to spend their leisure time is reflective of cultural values. But enough with the definitions!
Beyond the recreational activities which allow people to interact with the stunning natural landscape of the Cypress Hills, the park also offers opportunities for engagement with arts and culture. There is the park interpretive centre as well as nearby Fort Walsh National Historic Site. But nothing connects people to place like story. Park interpreter and master storyteller Mimi Martin leads visitors on a spine-tingling Haunted Happenings hike through the trails of the park.
As visitors follow Mimi up and down the hills of the evening-shrouded paths, she spins tales of the Northwest Mounted Police, of First Nations people, who called it the Thunder Breeding Hills, of the Métis bison hunters, and of the settler era of covered wagons and sod shacks. She also tells more recent stories, of camp counselors necking in the woods whilst a murderer lurks in the shadows, of bloodcurdling screams disturbing the peace of the forest. To listen to stories below towering lodgepole pines and learn about the intangible cultural heritage of the park is an experience that could happen in no other place. The stories and the natural world of their setting are totally intertwined. Though the Haunted Happenings walk is perhaps the most popular (because who doesn’t love a good ghost story?) other guided tours focus on astronomy, since Cypress Hills is a designated Dark Sky Preserve, and a Floriography, Fairies and Folklore walk which explores the park’s flora and its associated lore.
Another way of expressing culture is through the creation of art. Art in the Park, sponsored by the Saskatchewan Arts Board, is an artist-in-residence program. All summer long, selected artists have the opportunity to work on their projects as well as present workshops to the public in the Artist’s Cabin. The art grows out of nature, in the form of inspiration, and sometimes literally in the form of paintings on rocks and fallen tree branches. One of this year’s artists-in-residence, Wendy Nuttall, is a photographer who offers workshops to teach people how to capture their own particular interpretation of nature through a camera lens.
All places are cultural, but when culture is celebrated in a place that has been set aside to preserve its nature, there is an opportunity to experience a place even more meaningfully. If one has a creative bent, art, in any form, whether a photograph, a painting, a sculpture, or a well-told story can be the result. Next time you are out in nature, ask yourself, “what are the stories of this place?”
It might sound strange to ask the question, what do 9000 year-old bison bones, handmade Italian pizza and passenger trains have in common? But the answer, “you can find them all in Ogema” makes sense to anyone who was in that corner of the province this past weekend.
Ogema is usually known for its pioneer and settler history, since it is home to the Deep South Pioneer Museum and the Southern Prairie Railway. However, from July 3rd-6th, a whole new level of Ogema’s past was unearthed. The Saskatchewan Archaeological Society presented a public excavation of the Farr Site just a few kilometres from the town of Ogema.
At the same time as the dig was going on, Ogema was celebrating its 101st Agricultural Fair on Saturday, July 4th and its Museum Day on Sunday, July 5th. Both the fair and the museum speak to the deep pioneer roots of this farming community. As well, the Southern Prairie Railway train chugged along the tracks, visible from the dig site. This resurrection of what used to be common on the prairies – passenger train travel – is an example of cultural tourism. Main Street Ogema was thronged with people visiting the local ice cream shop and the Italian pizzeria, indicative of 21st century culture. Meanwhile, at the dig site, the fierce prairie wind blew as participants scraped away thousands of years’ worth of soil, unearthing processed bison bones and projectile points dating from about 9000 years ago, identifying the site as part of the Cody Complex and potentially marking it out as one of the oldest excavation sites in Saskatchewan.
The Farr Site is on the northern slope of a hill which affords a stunning view of the surrounding countryside, and its cultural markers. To the right there was a decaying homestead, bookended by a barn with a missing roof. Just down the dirt road from the dig site, there were the ruins of the former Ogema Wheat Pool elevator, or part of it, turned upside down in a field, while a van spray painted with “Ogema” and “Riders” stood sentinel in front. Further down from the site in the opposite direction, modern farm equipment reminded us that this land, which has provided a livelihood for thousands of years, continues to provide one in a completely different way. Meanwhile, at the Deep South Pioneer Museum just a few kilometres away, there was a parade of antique tractors, one a steam-powered tractor from 1911. All of these images are cultural ones, from the 9000 year old spear points to the 21st century farm equipment. All of them tell us something about the culture of southern Saskatchewan – the many layers of culture, both tangible and intangible, that reside in any one place.
Ogema is not unique in this regard, though last weekend presented a unique opportunity to witness all of these layers intermingling. Each and every place has its own layers of culture. Take a look around at your own community and see if you can identify the different cultural layers, past and present, that contribute to the unique cultural map of your place.
It is so exciting to be back as Community Engagement Animateur to continue the SaskScapes podcast series. There are still so many stories to tell.
Having someone tell you their story can be a very important moment in their lives and yours. Our stories are the great “unifier”. A common bond of shared experiences.
SaskScapes is an “aural archive” chronicling stories of the past, present, kindness, courage, creativity, decency, dignity, resilience and strength. 48 episodes to date, over 28 hours of conversation and a listenership of over 11,000 and growing – from as far away as Kenya – the world is listening to your stories Saskatchewan! And this year you get to have your voice heard.
I welcome the opportunity to talk to any of you who feel there is a story that needs to be heard. And I want to ENGAGE your communities in this series. There seems to be a tremendous interest in “StorySlams” which is one of my most favourite podcast types to listen to. A StorySlam is a public event where folks who have signed up have had a chance to craft a true story from their lives and distill it down to it’s essence of 5 minutes in length. That part is done in a workshop the day before, then your community is invited to attend as the stories are being shared. And, if you’d like, it’s tradition to have a bit of a friendly “competition” and have the audience choose their favourite story of the evening. That person could perhaps be featured in your town’s newsletter, or website.
You can find all of the previously recorded episodes here on the iheartculture.ca website, or download them for free from iTunes or Stitcher radio.
I’ve enjoyed meeting Carol and Kristin, my two CEA colleagues. We’ve been travelling together of the past few weeks, along with Damon Badger Heit and meeting with members of the communities in group sessions where we’ve shared what we can bring to your communities. Your response has been wonderful!
Just incase you’re asking yourself “what is this podcast thing all about anyway?” Here’s how I like to think of it:
Podcasts are the fastest growing form of spoken word and music on the Internet today. Millions of people download them daily. Think of a podcast as a radio style talk show. But unlike radio, you don’t have to wait for your favorite program to air. It’s on demand, ready for you to listen to when you want – streaming from the Internet or downloading to your computer, iPod, smart phone, iPad or other devices that can play mp3 files. Podcasts are portable. Listen to them while you’re driving, gardening, camping, exercising….
I look forward to engaging with you and your communities once again!
It’s been over five years since Saskatchewan joined forces with other provinces across the country to host Culture Days – a three-day celebration, held annually the last weekend in September, which encourages the public to engage in the cultural life of our communities.
“Culture Days emerged as a way to highlight the diversity of cultural activity available in the province, and as a proactive idea to help develop new audiences,” explains Rose Gilks, general manager, SaskCulture and member of the national Culture Days Board of Directors. “After five years, the numbers and testimonies show that Culture Days has contributed to a steady growth in cultural awareness, and increased participation by residents in the cultural life of their communities.”
Thanks to SaskCulture’s Culture Days Funding Assistance Grant, many organizations have received grants to help them engage new audiences in interactive cultural experiences during the Culture Days weekend. Since its inception in 2012, SaskCulture has given out over $400,000 to groups supporting Culture Days. “Thanks to this grant, we have also had many new groups learn more about what SaskCulture has to offer,” adds Gilks. And, this support continues.
2014 Culture Days in Saskatchewan
In 2014, Culture Days continued to gain momentum in Saskatchewan. The number of registered activities grew, social media connections flourished, animateur liaisons developed, and participation increased. Promotion of the 2014 campaign included a participation guide flyer, “save the date” postcards, a promotional insert which was delivered to over 300,000 Saskatchewan households with SaskEnergy bills, paid Facebook and Twitter campaigns, ads placed in rural Saskatchewan weekly newspapers, comprehensive event guides for Saskatoon and Regina which were inserted in the Prairie Dog, Planet S, the QC and Bridges, highway billboards as well as reusable vinyl banners and blank posters for use by activity organizers.
Culture Days 2014 by the numbers:
- 263 registered activities
- 50 communities
- 91 activity organizers
- 960 new Facebook likes, 645 new Twitter followers
- 870 video views on YouTube with an estimated 1,423 minutes watched by viewers
- 44 episodes of the SaskScapes podcast produced with over 12,000 downloads
- 26,264 total estimated attendance at Culture Days activities in Saskatchewan
Click on the graphs below to enlarge them…