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Thursday, September 15, 2011

A glimpse of Mennonite history

Recently, I've had the opportunity to participate in some of the celebrations for the 75th Jubilee - marking 75 years since Mennonites pioneered La Crete and surrounding area. This has included a boat tour to Cacajou Landing, as well as a horse and buggy ride to the La Crete Landing.

Both of these events have been jam-packed with history, traditional Mennonite foods, and story telling from seniors about the hardships in pioneering Northern Alberta.

At Carcajou, I even had the opportunity to go up in a helicopter - that's right, a helicopter - to view the settlement area. There were a number of buildings still standing that we were able to fly over and take pictures of, and then later go into on a horse and buggy ride. I was even able to meet a man who once lived at Carcajou as a child, and he told me of some of his memories of the area before it became the 'hopping town' of La Crete today.

Recently at the La Crete landing, I was seated on a buggy with a man who knew a lot of the history of the area, and remembered visiting the landing as a child. He told me that at that time, Fort Vermilion, the smallest northern community today, was the 'big city'. Even High Level only had a few buildings. He said it would take them five hours to ride to Fort from La Crete. Today, it takes me about 25 minutes to drive.

I also was able to learn a lot about the naming of La Crete - once the article is published with my findings, I will publish it here. In short, a few French-Canadian brothers, from Quebec, was running from the war and fled to Northern Albert between 1914 and 1917. The ridge where they were hiding, near La Crete Landing, looked like a rooster's comb to them, so they named it 'la crete,' meaning 'rooster's comb' in French. The name stuck and today, the predominantly Mennonite and German speaking town is still referred to as La Crete, under French naming.

There is one more jubilee celebration coming up - an old fashioned dinner and slide show. Also included will be an art exhibit. I am most looking forward to seeing old photographs and art from the pioneer days and hearing more stories from seniors about their hardships moving from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and even Mexico and Bolivia, to northern Alberta.