The following are my editorial comments for the Autumn Issue of Folklore Magazine. To subscribe to the magazine and to become a member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, go here and complete this form. Also follow SHFS on Facebook. Cover Photo: 230 pound pumpkin. North Fork. October 17, 1954; Source: Everett Baker Slides.
The three main articles in this issue of Folklore, which span an equivalent number of centuries, take us farther back in time than the average Folklore submission. The stories transport us back to a time when the province of Saskatchewan was either not yet created or just in its infancy. In his piece, John Merasty takes us to the 1700s to the intertribal conflicts of the Ithiniwok or Cree and the Pottnac. Jean-Louis Trudel examines a legend from the early 1800s, and Keith Foster looks at the origin of Swift Current in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The pre-confederation and early-settler content of these three articles bring attention to several key aspects of Saskatchewan’s early history and its relationship to broader historical themes in Canada. The first aspect of Saskatchewan history highlighted in this issue is conflict.
Conflict plays a large role in this issue. In Merasty’s piece, he relates the story of a conflict between several First Nations groups, focusing on the Cree. The article, which focuses on a particularly violent episode in Indigenous history, illustrates the complex interrelationship between separate Indigenous groups in the territory that became Saskatchewan and elsewhere in North America.
Foster demonstrates how the North-West Resistance of 1885 – led by Louis Riel–helped to facilitate the development of Swift Current, which, due to its location, was used as a supply base. Conflict with immigrants, varying visions for the fledgling town, and moral standards are also involved in the development of Swift Current that Foster presents in his account.
In “The Legend of Marguerite,” Trudel examines the story of a conflict between traveling European voyageurs and a group of Sioux. He examines the way in which the story of the attack on a group of settlers has evolved and become a kind of folk tale by way of generations of written and spoken word.
The three pieces all commonly share a connection to the complexities of the Indigenous-Newcomer relationship in Canada’s past. This association highlights another theme of this issue, which is the interconnectedness of Saskatchewan’s past to the rest of the country. Many of the articles in Folklore tend to relate to history at the personal or familial level. The articles in this issue step back and demonstrate the way in which this region, geographically, economically, and politically, played a major role in the development of the country.
The signficance of the fur trade in this region of the country and nationally is examined by Merasty, highlighting the reason many European settlers moved westward and also showing how this economic activity affected the lives of Indigenous peoples in the area. Trudel’s piece further examines the early westward movement of people, and Foster looks at the way in which these settlers created a sense of community once they stopped to plant roots.
Lastly, as keenly demonstrated by Trudel, this issue underlines both the unique challenges and opportunities of writing about early Canadian history. The written record becomes more sparse the further one goes back in time, but fortunately we are able to rely more on oral histories, such as the ones given by Merasty’s relatives, and other personal accounts.
It is in the production and distribution of these kind of personal sources that Folklore truly shines. The stories that you share with me and the other readers of Folklore are an invaluable resource for today and for future generations.