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Couldn't Be Done

Gloria Ledoux

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1981      v11 n04 p35  
Mistawasis skating rink The Mistawasis Indian Reserve north of Saskatoon is building itself a unique landmark.

It's a skating rink - a huge rink. Surrounded by only a small collection of houses, the sprawling, silver-sided rink towers above everything else in the area.

The exterior work is done, and inside the carpentry and painting crews are busy finishing off what will be the envy of other small communities for miles around.

Not many places with a school-age population of only 135 could boast such a facility for skating and hockey. Nor could many hope to buy such a facility for $700.00.

Here's the story of how it happened, as explained by Chief Norman Johnstone.

A couple of years ago; the reserve was faced with a situation where funding was available for work projects, but nothing was available to purchase material for capital expenditure. And what was the good of money for labour if you had no money for purchasing the construction materials to work with?

So the enterprising reserve members spent a mere $700 in capital outlay to buy an unused rink in Shellbrook. The Band then set about acquiring the funding for the massive manual task of dismantling the building and re-assembling it on the reserve.

The new owners went ahead with the project even though a government engineer told them it couldn't be done - that the old quonset-shapped building would collapse during demolition. Using care, foresight and hard work, they have managed to do what "couldn't be done". The towering arches were painstakingly removed, disassembled, hoisted back into place and rebuilt on the reserve.

About 90,000 feet of lumber went into a new roof, and, about 200,000 feet of lumber (some of it fresh cut right on the reserve) are being used overall. In fact, the rink was actually lengthened by about 40 feet in the process, so that it now encloses an ample foyer, ticket office, dressing room facilities for teams and referees, plus kitchen and eating areas. To ensure stability, the dome is reinforced with a labyrinth of cables and over 100 turnbuckles.

And talk about economical planning . . . 40,000 feet of cable were collected during the regular refittings on cable ferries along the Saskatchewan River (only 800 feet of cable at a time, but the price was right.

The payoff for all this is not only the jobs and the convenience of a good sports facility, but also the saving of time and money the reserve previously spent on rented rinks in other towns. And while the project involves a lot of manpower it's not the only activity on the reserve.

Ranching, lumbering and farming are the mainstays of the economy. And the community is also constructing new 240" x 90" lagoon to upgrade sewage services.

But while some of those industries will slow down this winter, we can be sure the ice rink will be busier than ever.