MCC Photo/Leona Lortie

Hereditary Chief George Kingfisher (in front) with four rate payers at Stoney Knoll before signing the petition to add the Cree name to the nearby road sign (back row from left: Eldon Funk, Allan Friesen, Wilmer Froese, Ray Funk).

On April 24, 2015, after a morning of listening to different voices explaining the historical importance and settlement of Stoney Knoll, students of Rosthern Junior College (RJC) were told that they are now part of a story and that their response to hearing this story is important. Cheryl Woelk, a member of Walking the Path, explained “it is too late, you are now involved.”

Stoney Knoll, also known as Stony Hill, has a long history of being considered a sacred place, a thin place, where heaven and earth are closer together. It is the highest point of Reserve #107, the Young Chippewayan Indian Reservation located in Treaty Six Territory. Today at the top of this hill, you find a cemetery and a memorial of the Lutheran Church which was built here in 1910 and later moved to Laird. This traditional home of Nehiyawak or Plains Cree People, was taken from the Young Chippewayan Band in 1897 by the Federal Government and became a Reserve for Mennonite Farmers who were soon joined by Lutheran settlers. Both the Mennonite and Lutheran communities were unaware of having settled on Young Chippewayan land.

In 1976, the 100-year anniversary of the signing of Treaty Six, members of the Young Chippewayan band approached farmers living on Treaty Six land to talk about their land claim. Since this time MCC has been involved in this issue and encouraged relationships between the Young Chippewayan Band and the Lutheran and Mennonite communities. Today, after almost 4 decades, all three communities are working together in bringing resolution to the Young Chippewayan Land Claim.

The chapel service at RJC was one of the milestones of this journey. Representatives of the three communities gathered to tell this story to the next generation in order to get them involved. Later that day students were taken to Stoney Knoll and given the opportunity to sign a petition to add the Cree name (Opwashemoe Chakatinaw) to the sign that currently says Stony Hill: Historical Site and Cemetery.

As students and community members gathered on Stoney Knoll, Harry Lafond, the Executive Director for the Office of the Treaty Commissioner explained the importance of identifying the history of this place. By adding the Cree name to the road sign at the entrance to this hill we acknowledge the history and the people who have a connection to this place. Furthermore, by placing an English and Cree sign there we merge the histories of this place and by doing so, Lafond suggested, “we bind us together as people.”

If you would like to be involved in this story or stories of other landless bands, MCC invites you to join the Spruce River Folk Festival in Prince Albert, SK on August 22, 2015. This cultural event hopes to create awareness and bring people together to build relationships and engage in conversation. The event includes a pipe ceremony, storytelling, live music, food, and kids’ activities.