Big Lakes County releases book of stories

Some of the storytellers in the Big Lakes County book In Our Own Words celebrate at a book launching Dec. 3 at the High Prairie Municipal Library. Standing left-right, are Mary Goede Kohn, 87, Dan Sekulich, 84, Violet Komisar, 85, book editor Constance Brissenden, Rose Lizee, 78, and Gillian Hill, 85.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Stories of life in the early days in Big Lakes County are featured in a new book that arrived just in time for Christmas

In Our Own Words – Hard Times and Good Times in Northern Alberta’s Big Lakes County was presented at a book launch Dec. 3 in High Prairie and Dec. 4 in Kinuso.

“This book is the story of hard-working individuals and families and honours them all,” Reeve Richard Simard says.

“In Our Own Words captures the people of . . . Big Lakes County, from the Depression years of the 1930s to today.”

The book features 50 stories of people who initially shared their early memories in an oral history project in 2011.

“County council said it’s great, put them in a book,” says Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.

“The rest is history.”

Project co-ordinator Constance Brissenden edited the interviews to fit the 234-page book.

“Their memories jump off the page,” says Brissenden, who has edited other local history books.

“I was fascinated by the variety of stories.”

She says the book is sure to be popular for people with family roots in the region.

“Anyone interested in the history of the Big Lakes County area will love this book,” Brissenden says.

People of all ages will enjoy the stories, she says.

“I’m sure that anyone who reads the book will feel a connection,” Brissenden says.

“Students and youth will be inspired to talk about the past and the sacrifices people made to have a secure life for their descendants.”

Stories are from 1,200 to 1,400 words and makes for easy reading.

“The book includes a range of cultures and backgrounds, including Cree, Metis, Norwegian, Swedish, Ukrainian, Russian, British, Polish, French, and many more,” Brissenden says.

Storytellers share countless experiences of persevering through hard and challenging times.

“I learned that one family lived in a cave dug out of a hill all winter because they arrived on their homestead in the fall with no time to build a house,” Brissenden says.

“Some families were on the brink of starvation.”

Many had no roads, not even trails to their homestead, they hacked away with axes in the early days.

On the other hand, neighbours helped one another. They visited one another, had dances and parties. They built schools. They started businesses.

Cree and Metis people went to residential schools, survived, and contributed to their culture and communities.

Storytellers say they are honoured to share their stories as part of the book.

They agree it’s important and valuable to pass on to future generations.

Big Lakes is grateful for the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation that provided a grant to publish the book.

The book is on sale for $10 at county offices in High Prairie and Kinuso.

List of Storytellers “In Our Own Words”:

  • Albert E. Babkirk
  • George Bennett
  • Janis Bloom
  • Arthur Boisvert
  • Ruth Brassard
  • Emma Carrier
  • Leo Casavant
  • Doris Caudron
  • Ed Caudron
  • Richard Caudron
  • Albert Charrois and Fernand Charrois
  • Yvonnette Comeau
  • Gordon Courtoreille
  • Dorothy E. Cowell
  • Archie Cunningham
  • Olivine Rose Duchesne
  • Donald Fevang
  • Mary Goede-Kohn
  • Howard Greer
  • Gillian and Melvin Hill
  • Marguerite Jacknife
  • Violet Komisar
  • Verda Kozie
  • Jeanne Leblanc
  • Corinne L’Heureux
  • Guy L’Heureux
  • Rose Lizee
  • Larry Loyie
  • Gayso Matula
  • Kay McLean
  • Sheila Jessie Nelson
  • Romeo Nobert
  • Christine Nordin
  • Anne Olexak
  • Denis L. Peyre
  • Donald Plante
  • Jeannine Reid
  • Louisa Rich
  • Leonard Sahlin
  • Dan Sekulich
  • Agnes Seppola
  • Anne Shantz
  • Polly Stafford
  • Katherine Strebchuk
  • Margaret Supernault
  • Stella and Stan Sware
  • Venice Taylor
  • Alice Waikle
  • Philip Walker
  • Dorothy Willsey
Storytellers have many memories of life in the early years. Sitting left-right, are Stella Sware, 75, Guy L’Heureux, 72, Jeannine Reid, 84, Anne Shantz, 80, and Dorothy Cowell, 82.

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