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Kistapiskaw Community School Opening

Phil Morin and R. Merasty

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1982      v12 n06 p104  
The new Deschambault Lake Community School has been in operation for one school term, but the School Committee and residents of Deschambault Lake decided to celebrate the grand opening of their new school late this spring.

Kistapiskaw school On May 31st, 1982, the doors of the Kistapiskaw School were officially opened and dedicated to the children of today and tomorrow.

Kistapiskaw, which means "the main rock" in the Woods Cree Language, implies the importance of a solid education program for the people of Deschambault. The word Kistapiskaw was selected by the School Committee and recommended by student Nancy Ballantyne.

Cornelous Ballantyne, Chairman of the Deschambault Lake School Committee, was Master of Ceremonies at the grand opening.

On hand for the celebration were the school children, parents and teachers, along with supportors from various government agencies and associations.

Chief Joe Custer of the Peter Ballantyne Band encouraged the people to use the school with respect and pride. Chief Custer referred to the success the Pelican Narrows School has experienced since the Band took over the education program from the Department of Indian Affairs, and he told everyone concerned that the Band is capable of doing a good job in the field of education.

Former Chief, Phil Morin, congratulated the people and the federal and provincial government officials for their dedication and willingness to work together to do the job well.

Cy Standing, Executive Member of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, wished the Deschambault Lake people continued success for the future.

Dr. Glen Sinclair of the Department of Indian Affairs, Regina, said that the people and the government officials should be proud of the achievement thus far in the realization of such a beautiful education facility.

Northern Lights School Board Members and officials, Norman Nataways, Alfred Montgrand and Tom Heidt, stressed their appreciation and gratitude for the privilege of working for and with the Deschambault Lake School Committee and staff.

Former MLA, Norman McAuley, reminded the people of Deschambault Lake that they have come a long way from the one-room, coal-oil lit log cabin which served as a school during the 1940's, and praised the Elders of the community for their untiring efforts in securing proper education opportunities for their people.

Newly elected MLA, Myles Morin, from the Battlefords, brought greetings from the Premier of Saskatchewan, Grant Devine, and pledged continued support for northern education efforts. The school was designed by Norman J. Ridge, architect. Bird Construction acted as a construction manager for the project.

The new Kistapiskaw School is situated immediately south of the community along the shores of the blue waters of Deschambault Lake, amidst tall jack-pines and birch trees.

With a total area of 2177 square meters, Kistapiskaw School can accommodate up to 200 students. Currently there are 156 students enrolled in classes from kindergarten to grade ten. The school has a gymnasium, a resource centre, eight classrooms, and home economics, commercial and industrial arts rooms. Part of the construction project included a triplex teacherage.

The school is currently operated by the Northern Lights School Division; however, the community is considering the transfer of responsibility to the Peter Ballantyne Band.

Current members of the Kistapiskaw School Committee are: Cornelius Ballantyne (chairman), Jack Custer, George Sewap, Jonas Sewap, Douglas Ballantyne and Hector Ballantyne.

Old school did more harm than good.

For more than twenty years the old Deschambault Lake School was a source of untold misery for the students, teachers and parents who had no choice but to use the facility.

The old school was actually a make-shift structure which caused environmental and health problems for the whole community and certainly did not promote a healthy environment for the education of children, or pleasant working conditions for the teachers.

The school's heating system broke down often and during the winter months the students and teachers had to wear warm clothing in the classroom even when the system was working. The sewer and water system was almost nonexistent and the sewage lagoon, just a stone's throw from the school, would over-flow into the lake each spring, polluting the drinking water


Kistapiskaw Community School Opening

Phil Morin and R. Merasty

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1982      v12 n06 p105  
source for the community.

For years the teachers tried their best to provide a good education for the children, but it was almost a lost cause under the circumstances. Consequently, the strong basic education background that is needed for students to be competitive in higher grades did not materialize. The result was that very few students passed beyond grade eight. The old school did not have a gymnasium; this prevented the children from entering sport and recreation programs with other communities. Neither did the school have facilities for industrial arts training or even proper school books and supplies.

In 1977, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Province of Saskatchewan signed a capital agreement to fund the construction of a new school in Deschambault Lake. The total package called for a five milion dollar school with DIAND putting up 87% of the money. The agreement, in part, stipulated that the school site would become Indian Reserve land, subject to land entitlement negotiations by the Peter Ballantyne Band. As well, the management and operation of the school would be shared, on a fair basis, amongst the Indian and Metis people through their governments.

The Department of Northern Saskatchewan, the community leaders from the Band and local government level, provided the combined leadership to get the show on the road, and the plans and construction for the new school were completed by 1981. The committee monitored the construction phase of the project and things generally ran along smoothly. Some of the people who were primarily responsible for the new school development in the late 1970's were the Minister of Northern Saskatchewan, J. Hammersmith, Phil Morin and Cornelius Ballantyne of the Peter Ballantyne Band Council, Oscar Beatty of the Local Community Authority and others like Peter Tendeck of DNS and members of the Northern School Board.

The Community at Deschambault Lake

Deschambault Lake is known as "Kimosoom-Pot-Nak" by the Woods Cree, and acknowledges the presence of Dakota (Sioux) Indians in that territory a few hundred years ago. According to local history, the Sioux Indians from the plains would periodically journey to the Woods Cree territory causing some minor skirmishes. Further down and north of Deschambault, is Wapwikoschikanik, commonly called Pelican Narrows by early traders, but which means "the fierce channel", since this is where the Cree would wait for the Sioux.

Today, some Dakota or Sioux still have an interest in the territory because at the Deschambault Lake School Opening, Cy Standing, a councillor from the Wahpeton (Dakota) Indian Band, represented the Saskatchewan Indian leaders in the celebrations. Cyrus, who has been working with the Indians in north-eastern Saskatchewan for about ten years, often camps at Wapwikoschikanik; he is one brave fellow since he is out-numbered by 1,000 to 1.

The total population at Deschambault Lake stands at about 450 out of which 90 percent are treaty Indians; the rest are non-treaty or Metis people.

Like most northern communities in north-eastern Saskatchewan, the Indian and Metis people of Deschambault Lake have a long history of mutual respect and have lived in harmony for many years. The people speak the same language, Cree, and use the living natural resources for their livelihood to a great extent.

The treaty Indian people of Deschambault Lake are members of the Peter Ballantyne Indian Band which has several Indian Reserves throughout the north-eastern boundary of Saskatchewan, all the way from the Reindeer Lake, Missinippi, Pelican Narrows, Amisk Lake and Namew Lake water systems and regions.

The people of Deschambault Lake are historically members of the Ballantyne, Custer and Sewap clan who selected the Deschambault Lake regions to support their traditional pursuits of hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering. The Deschambault Lake area is still rich with fresh water fish, birds and game, and continues to sustain the people as it has for hundreds of years.

Although the people of Deschambault Lake are members of the Ballantyne Band, they are quite independent from the rest of the Band Reserves. However, they maintain a tribal association.

The Metis families at Deschambault Lake are descendents of European fur traders who married Indian women.

Until a few years ago, the Indian and Metis people were relatively free from Provincial Government interference, and relied on mutual decisions to govern their pursuits. In recent years however, the application of provincial laws and regulations, especially on natural resource matters, has affected the relations of the northern peoples. The Treaty Indians have maintained that the Provincial Government has little or no jurisdiction for their social, economic and legal welfare, as confirmed by historic Treaties. On the other hand, the Provincial Government has said that the Metis people have to live within the power of their government. At Deschambault Lake, and at other northern communities, the Indians' resolve not to unilaterally associate with the Provincial jurisdiction has created a back-lash on Indian and Metis relations. However, on the whole, the Indian and Metis people still understand and co-operate with each other on several fronts.

The official opening of the new school was highlighted by the ribbon cutting ceremony. Chief J. Custer and Northern Lights School Board member, Norman Nataways, did the honours, with officials from the Department of Indian Affairs and the Department of Northern Saskatchewan holding the ribbon.

The opening ceremonies concluded with a delicious lunch, compliments of the Kistapiskaw School Committee.

The future looks very bright for the education endeavours at Deschambault Lake, as reflected by the enthusiasm of the parents, students, teachers and affiliates at the grand opening of Kistapiskaw School on May 31, 1982.