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A Unique Collection of the Past

Barb Frazer

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 2001      v31 n01 p19  
Frazer Museum 'Funny Rock' greets visitors
Top: The Frazer Museum has
been in operation for 40 years,
Right Top: "Funny Rock" greets visitors,
Right Bottom: John and Mathilda Frazer
proud owner of the museum.
John and Mathilda Frazer proud owners of the museum

Frazer's Museum carries the honour and distinction of being the only First Nations owned and operated museum in Canada. For over 40 years entrepreneur John G. Frazer along with his wife Mathilda Frazer, have offered the public a rare glimpse into the rich heritage of the province. The museum represents a lifetime's work of endless gathering to celebrate the proud cultures of the Cree, Dene and Metis whose ancestors who settled the area. The collection is best described as an eclectic range of pre-contact to the fur trade era, naturally chronicling the settlement of the north.

John found his first artifact while helping his father with the farm. As a young boy he remembers quite clearly finding the groove stone maul most likely used for butchering in the fields next to the Ahtahkakoop First Nations. Today, as he looks back to how the collecting all began, "It seemed as if things would come to me naturally - like it was easy."

He recalls that once he had overheard his father telling his mother he worried about the hobby their son had chosen. Mr. Norman Frazer pondered out loud if perhaps their son was `crazy' for storing people's old junk in their shed. Soon people began to hear about the endeavors of young Frazer and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Therein, begin a life long affair with antiquities. Before he passed into the spirit world, Norman acknowledged his son's work and importance of keeping the past alive.

Frazer's Museum is located 14 km south of Beauval, near the `Forks' of the highway 155. In essence the museum is located at the doorway leading into northwest Saskatchewan and since 1969 has served as a good will ambassador for the region. Visitors and friends are greeted by a huge painted rock called the `Funny Rock', which stands at the entrance into the museum. For those who wish to visit, the facility is open free of charge to the public during the summer months, however donations are gratefully accepted.

John and Mathilda raised 8 children, who all became tour guides when they could walk and talk. It was important to give their children a good foundation with the mix of traditional and western education. Both parents encouraged their children to get the best possible education available to them and above all to be curious about life. They also instilled a hard work ethnic because living in the north meant one is always in preparation, be it picking berries or piling wood for the winter months. Today, the grandchildren have assumed the role of tour guide replacing their parents during summer holidays and continue on a family tradition in keeping the history of artifacts alive. Whenever possible they still accompany their grandfather on tours listening to the stories associated with each piece in the collection.

The collection is varied and diverse, which amazes the visitors both young and old alike. For many of the seniors the museum is a reminder of their childhood and a glorious past revived. John and Mathilda can tell whether their hard work and dedication has been appreciated, just by the amount of time a person spends touring the museum.

Those who peruse at their leisure often recall using many of implements in the museum and compare how drastic the changes have been in lifestyle. The most common sentiment expressed by visitors is `how hard one had to work in order to survive' and quite often lament that modern times have been reduced - to pushing buttons.

Frazer's Museum is a place that honors the superb and masterful craftsmanship of our ancestors and above all it is a storage house. The museum provides both education and entertainment for their children, as well as a symbol committment between John and Mathilda.