On Sunday, Aug. 12, there was a celebration honouring Saskairie’s 40th Anniversary. Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. approximately 40 people of all ages attended the celebrations.
At 2:30 p.m. a program was held addressing Saskairie’s inauguration and the individuals along the way who have contributed to Saskairie: A Project of the Prairie Lore and Living Society.
Forty years ago three individuals, made up of, Jack MacKenzie as well as Don and Nora Stewart dreamed of a place such as this. A place where people could go to get back to nature and encourage groups of all sorts to enjoy the chance to get away from the city, as they were based out of Regina.
After scouring the countryside the group decided to build the facility at the Moose Mountains, just on the outskirts of the park. They proceeded to send out approximately 50 letters inquiring about a landowner willing to sell a plot of land either on the west or south sides of Moose Mountain Provincial Park.
Of these many letters sent only three replies were received, all negative. Some implying they would not care to sell to outsiders, as MacKenzie and the Stewart’s were from Regina. The group then decided to attempt a different approach to obtaining a plot of land for their dream.
From here they chose seven spots they considered ideal and took the initiative to speak directly to the land owners. Upon deciding on their number one area the group approached Hugh and Mary Kippen, who were convinced of the plan which was Saskairie.
“The Kippen’s were just wonderful to us through the years,” explained Jack MacKenzie.
The group paid for the land out of their pockets and was reimbursed by Saskairie, the charitable society, afterward. The next step in their dream was to create a building tailored to their needs. They took out a loan from the Bank of Montreal with an interest rate of 17.5 percent and eventually, through much volunteer work, they were able to begin building.
Don Stewart was an engineer and after brain storming what type of building they wanted he eventually drew up the plans for the project. The lodge was thusly created with the help of the White Bear First Nations.
“It is a one of a kind building. There is nothing else exactly like it out there in the world,” MacKenzie said while speaking about Saskairie’s development.
The facility has been used by groups; many of them school groups. It has been in use year round allowing for a unique experience where people are able to live and learn outdoors. It provides a setting for anything to be done such as building quincee’s, learning about plants, studying marshes, and enjoying the outdoors in general.
Included in these groups is the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education. Students here enjoyed their time at Saskairie so much they decided to create a club with the acronym H.O.P.E., which stands for Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education. This club is one that has attended Saskairie many times.
Another important aspect of Saskairie was the interaction many groups had with the White Bear First Nations. Many, such as the RCMP, would attend. Elders from White Bear would join them to help teach and explain their culture. It was a way to build relations and good will between people. This was a great way to educate many about the First Nations culture.
During the celebrations stories were told and many reminisced about days gone by, with much hope for the future.
“You could write a book about her [Florence Scarrow’s] adventures here,” explained MacKenzie who proceeded to tell the story of Scarrow and the well.
As she was helping her husband, Tom, clean out the well at Saskairie. Florence was in the bottom filling a pail which Tom would raise to empty it out. As this continued all of a sudden there was a tremendous explosion of water and Florence flew out of the well. To this day it was said that no one knows how she did it, not even herself.
Many fond stories such as Scarrow’s was told during the event, while music was also played. Laura and Glenna Stewart, the daughters of Don and Nora, played throughout the day. Many of the songs were original compositions addressing Saskairie, their experiences, and Saskatchewan.
Honoured that day were many individuals who have contributed and continue to contribute to Saskairie. These honourees included Wade Hertle, Eloise and Bernie McQuat, Bruce Lowie, May and Hugh Kippen, Grace and Ritchie Robertson, Arnold and Marie James, the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina and the H.O.P.E. Club which was accepted by Shelby Adams from Kenosee Lake who has now taken a position at the school in Wawota. Bill Rudichuk, Tom and Florence Scarrow, Liz Hengen and Bev LaBatte, Lori Eberts, Shurli Scarrow, the White Bear First Nations, Pam Haddow and Trevor James, Tom Staseson, George Reed, Peter Robertson, Geoffrey Ursell and Barbara Sapergia, Guy and Cheryl Comeault, John and Mary Crossley, Ray and Leanna Christenson, Debbie and Lance Morrow, the Brady families, and Jack McKenzie were also among those thanked for their time.
It was a beautiful day to gather together and pay tribute to the 40 years of Saskairie’s existence. Everyone enjoyed reminiscing about the older days and many couldn’t stop thanking the younger people from the area who are now taking care of Saskairie, a dream come true.