Living Treasures of Battle River Country

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Ida Bull, Maskwacis

Watch the video interview with Ida Bull:

Ida Bull was born and raised in Nipisihkopahk Samson Cree Nation. She said the creator helped her choose her parents, the late Louis Saddleback who was a brilliant, cultural Cree man and the kind of person she still holds beautiful memories of. Bull spent 40 years teaching the Cree language and continues to work as a Cree Language Specialist in Cree communities. Bull’s greatest educational accomplishment was when she graduated from a Master’s Degree program with all three of her daughters in 2007.  Most recently, she has been seconded to the Indigenous studies program with Nipisihkopahk Education Authority.

Marjorie Hanson, Viking

Watch the video interview with Marjorie Hanson:

Marjorie Hanson was born at Vegreville Hospital in 1920 and grew up on the Battle River Trail. In 1940, she graduated from Normal School then went on to the University of Alberta and took up wartime teaching in Viking School and nearby Lake Alice School.In 1978, she retired from teaching; “graduated” to service on Viking Town Council and in 1995, she became an early champion/leader of Communities in Bloom (Alberta and Canada levels). Hanson initiated Viking’s Scandinavian theme by adding with natives trees, plants and folk art to Troll Park and was instrumental in modernizing Viking CN Station, now Tea House and local art centre. In 1996 she received the Anthony Henday Award for tourism promotion in Battle River region and in 2003 was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for outstanding service to community. Hanson is a great cook and tireless advocate for local, healthy foods, particularly for seniors who reside in residences and institutions and no longer have their own gardens.

Stan Trautman, Duhamel

In 1926, Stan Trautman was born at home on the family farm, which is still owned by his son and grandson. In 1950, he met and married Mary Smith from Bittern Lake and the couple have eight children, 20 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. Trautman has sat on many boards and associations, including New Norway Home and School Association, the New Norway Recreational Board, Alberta Wheat Pool, National Farmers Union, St. Thomas Parish Council, Camrose Co-Op, Ducks Unlimited Camrose and District Fish and Game Association and the Camrose County Hockey League. He was a county inspector of well sites for Alberta Department of Environment. He has been a donor of Land through Conservation easement to nature conservancy and was President of the Duhamel Historical Society for 35 years.

Bev O’Riordan, Camrose

Bev O’Riordan graduated nursing school in 1958 as a Registered Nurse and for 32 years she was on staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in Camrose, beginning in 1959, a year after she graduated as a registered nurse from Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary. Over the years she served as head nurse on the medical unit for 10 years and for more than a decade as evening supervisor, when she was responsible for the entire hospital during her shift. She visited every patient at least once — sometimes more — circulated in the OR, the ER and the case room as needed, did all the IVs and blood transfusions, supervised the staff. She retired in 1991 and in 2004 helped establish Norbo Resident-Families Group in support of people in care. She has actively pursued broad-range improvements in institutional care, hygiene, nutrition and spiritual care, and assisted with a family member in long-term care for 11 years. For 55-plus years she has had the support of her husband, Jim O’Riordan who supported her endeavours and was helpful with childcare during working years.

~bios by Christina Martens (Wetaskiwin Times)

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 4.54.37 PMLorraine Arnold, Wetaskiwin

Lived on a farm in Hobbema community from 1958 to 1991 with her husband Mervin. Their farm was just south of the village and was a good place for them to raise their family of four children. In 1969 she was asked by Alberta Department of Advanced Education to start a community-based adult education program. Together with Esther Rix the first class was launched in the Four-Band building and then for four years was in a one-room school, formerly Samson Day School. From there, the school moved to the Ermineskin Residential School residence where Lorraine co-ordinated the Hobbema Alternate School for the next eleven years. It was during this time that linkages with college students in the anthropology class at Camrose were started. In 1989 Lorraine was asked to open the Samson Alternate School for upgrading courses in the Cree Tribal Administration. Courses were offered in areas such as Pre-Apprenticeship, Office and Life Skills. The most exciting thing about this school was the Art Program which had the good fortune of attracting the services of the late Mel Benson, an Ojibwa from Peterborough, and Ken Louis, from Samson Band. Both were excellent artists and able to teach the many talented men and women who wanted to be in the arts program. Adrian Raine was the first Hobbema First Nations person to win the prestigious Peace Hills Trust Native Art Contest. The classes were successful and many former students of the programs now work in band, town and trade offices. Many have gone on to earn university degrees. As Lorraine puts it, “The students loved the art and they are so good at it. When people experience success through art, it carries over into other areas where they can accomplish goals such as finishing high school or qualifying for entrance to the trades. We have learned a great deal from the students, friends and neighbours. Since retirement in 1992 I have been able to maintain valued relationships with First Nations people I worked with at the schools”.


Calvin Johnson, Edberg

Calvin was inducted into the Camrose County Agricultural Wall of Honour in 1994 after several years of serving his community, an honour which recognized his many contributions. He is a farmer who started farming with horses and tractor on a mixed farm. Things have changed greatly since then. Although he and his son Stanley now farm with modern machinery, Calvin’s love and appreciation for rural history and Battle River Country landscape has not diminished. In fact, it is stronger than ever. Commitment to community is a passion Calvin shares with his wife Betty. In their many years together they have found and continue to find ways to apply their deeply held values. Mr. Johnson excels and is treasured for his great commitment to any organization he belongs to, and works with all members for improvement. It is impossible to calculate the value and number of the volunteer hours he has contributed to community work. At 92 years of age, he is still going strong. He continues to be involved and says “I wish I had started with community volunteering earlier in my life”. To the delight of many, Calvin has quite recently started to use his fine singing voice in public gatherings. He is definitely a life-long and life-wide learner who enjoys living life to the fullest. Among his many contributions, these are only some of them: Edberg: Home & School Association, Unifarm, boys’ hockey and baseball, Red Cross, Credit Union, Senior Citizens’ Association; Bashaw Rural Crime Watch. UFA Advisory Committee, Friends of Fridhem Society, including Fridhem Cemetery Caretaker, Alberta Wheat Pool. Younger people find Calvin Johnson and his wife Betty (Turner) Johnson inspirational examples of life-wide engagement. We are proud and blessed to have them as good friends and wise neighbours.


Elder Cecile Makokis, Hobbema

Cecile is from Samson Cree Nation combines support, encouragement and constant love for others with traditional knowledge, including the traditional way of parenting. These skills that have sustained her and her eleven children. During the most difficult times she was determined that all her children should be healthy, fit, and hardworking so as to ensure their future with high school graduation and higher learning. On retirement, she pursued her lifelong dream to study commercial cooking and graduated with honours from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. She lives independently and loves to garden, sew, and bead traditional regalia for many grandchildren and great grandchildren. She continues to bring life and light into this world as a role model mother and grandmother in Maskwacis Cree Nation where she is deeply respected as a spiritual woman who combines both native and Catholic faiths. She is a kind neighbour who demonstrates her interest in others by sharing what she has. She is known for her kind and charitable contributions to people in need. She believes in people and often took risks to support people in need, providing them with encouragement, mentorship and comfort. At times she has observed special gifts in children whose parents were unable to afford supporting their development. Accordingly, and without public notice, she has supported the growth of many young people having artistic talents. She has spent many hours creating hand-made regalia for ceremonial use, and is known for making moccasins to honour her children and others when they make spiritual pilgrimages. An artist herself, she inspires others with her unique connectedness to creative forces that bring joy and meaning to the daily lives of those around her.


Rita Nyback, Battle River and Camrose

Rita was born at the beginning of the depression and felt her world revolved in a one square mile radius: one mile to school, one mile to the store and one mile to Church and one mile to her mother’s family home. As a pioneering woman She drew strength from her grandparents and the elderly neighbours who homesteaded near the Correction Line. Always a dreamer, she knew the direction she would go and that vision never left her. As a child, Rita did not let rheumatic fever frighten her from setting and reaching her goals. One of her dreams was to be a missionary in Africa and look after lots of children, but due to health issues it could not be realized. After having four natural siblings, adoption made it possible to have five more children from mixed cultures that have blessed the entire family, thus fulfilling her dream of a large family. Another dream was to carry a briefcase after all the diaper bags for so many years. That dream came true with many public service assignment, her first being one that focused on meeting the needs of children-in- care better. Over time Rita was instrumental in helping formulate government regulations and accountability for social care facilities, thus contributing to improved standards. It has always been important to Rita that others experience the beauty of living in the country enjoying the gift of landscape and the personal touches of seeing flowers from every window of her home, including the window boxes on the barn. Rita’s love for preserving the past set her course in life and her home testifies to that. She loves the past and history of all the areas within Alberta and ensures her library has a history book from each community. The Battle River has always been special in her life. As a child, many trips were made to its banks to pick berries and run in the hills. At fourteen she was baptized in the waters of the Battle River. Over their 61 year marriage, Rita and her husband Ken were worked hard to develop their Canadian Nurs-ette business. Ken lived long enough to enjoy every member of his family numbering 50 and to support Rita in all her dreams.

Esther Rix, Offerdale and Wetaskiwin

Esther had grandparents who were among the Swedish settlers in Fridhem District between what is now Ferintosh and Edberg. She grew up in the Offerdale district north of Gwynne where she taught in four country schools – Peace Hills, Bears Hill, Wang and Offerdale – all in the county of Wetaskiwin. During her years at Bears Hill School she met her future husband Harry Rix, a farmer. After their marriage in 1954 they settled on their farm where they raised their family. “That put my teaching career on hold for a while”, says Esther. “I wanted you to know our connection with Battle River country. The river quarter, as we called that part of our farm is on the Battle River. We have had picnics beside the river when our children were young , and I remember wading across so I could pick saskatoons. Also we have camped at Battle Lake where we went fishing”. In 1967 she and her friend Lorraine Arnold were contacted by Alberta Vocational Center in Edmonton. They were looking for teachers to teach an adult upgrading class in Hobbema. “I enjoyed getting to know First Nations students. Some of them were or later became Band chiefs. I remember one of them saying that “if you want to be chief go to school”. Esther completed studies at U of A for her B.Ed. degree and following her time at Hobbema taught kindergarten for students going into Clear Vista School, though my classroom was at the Composite High School because of lack of space at Clear Vista. Esther’s interest in the preservation and growth of rural organizations is longstanding. Lone Prairie Camp has had a great impact on her and her spiritual growth since her childhood as a camper, and later as a counselor and teacher. All five children of her children have been campers at Lone Prairie Camp. Honouring God, family and community motivate her life. Esther now continues her commitment to local landscape and services through her position as a member of the Lone Prairie Board, an independent organization that manages and seeks future developments for this beautiful part of Battle River Country.

Elder Maurice Wolfe

Maurice is a true pioneer in every sense of the word. He and his wife of sixty years passed on a strong work ethic to their children and grandchildren on their family farm. Since he was young man he served as community leader in education, arts, politics, sports, rodeo and has been a strong promoter of first nations culture, arts and traditional singing and dancing in pow-wow circle. He has served loyally as elected Chief and Councillor of Ermineskin Cree Nation for many decades. In early 1970’s, he began the Maskwacis Cultural College which is an independent first nations college recognized by the Government of Alberta and Canada. It was at this time that he became involved with and supported the first courses about indigenous Canadian people at Camrose Lutheran College, now Augustana Faculty, University of Alberta. Also, in 1970’s, Elder Maurice participated in regional treaty celebrations involving First People and Settler People. Strong friendships were formed as a result, with benefits that continue to the present day. He was a lead singer with Pigeon Lake Singers, a Pow-wow group recorded by Canyon Records. In 1983, he acted and was associate producer of movie ‘Running Brave,’ the story of Billy Mills, an American Indian athlete who won the 10,000 meter long distance foot race in the Tokyo Olympics. We are pleased that Elder Maurice Wolfe continues to serve as an Elder and a mentor to many Maskwacis youth as well as to inspire his friends and neighbours in communities bordering the reserve and beyond.