Friday, 21 July 2017 05:21

Swift Current resident shows gratitude to regional park with unique donation

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Swift Current resident John Froese (left) explains the history of his cart's build. Swift Current resident John Froese (left) explains the history of his cart's build.

A blessing ceremony for a full-size replica of a Red River cart took place at Lac Pelletier Regional Park, July 13.


Swift Current resident John Froese built the cart and donated it to the park. The cart is mounted on a cement pad in a visible location near the Meadows campground next to the main road through the park.
“With the provincial government designating Lac Pelletier Regional Park as a heritage park, it is fitting that we recognize the Métis culture with this Red River cart,” he said afterwards.
Froese has a long association with the Lac Pelletier Regional Park, both as a property owner and as a former parks manager for many years. He is currently the board chair for the Regional Parks Association of Saskatchewan.
He wanted to do something to express gratitude towards the park and he decided to create a replica of the historic Red River cart.
“It’s very significant to the Froese family,” he said. “This dedication now symbolizes how much we enjoy and appreciate the lake and the facilities. My family grew up here, my grandchildren grew up here. So we just wanted to give something back to society and to the lake and something that have some meaning.”
The dedication ceremony was arranged by Métis elder and Prairie Dog Métis Local 123 President Cecile Blanke.
“This cart is a very special symbol of our long history and it’s very special for it to be here and placed here,” she said. “That’s how my great grandmother and grandfather got here. So to have this cart here, donated by John Froese, is just wonderful. It gives us such a great feeling.”
She presented a Métis sash to Froese during the dedication ceremony to acknowledge his efforts to recognize the historical presence of the Métis at the lake. A historical marker was erected in the park in 2006 to honour the Lemere family, who settled at the lake in 1865. He also provided assistance with the establishment of the Métis veterans monument in the park.
“John and I have come a long ways with agreeing what to do for the Métis, and now he has graciously built this cart to my surprise,” she said. “He didn’t tell me that he was doing it, and I’m so grateful for him that it’s here in it’s place today, and we’ll treasure it forever.”
Froese was inspired to build the cart after he researched the 19th century settlement of Métis families in the Lac Pelletier valley. He obtained plans to build a cart from the University of Oregon.
“I was looking for the trails,” he recalled. “It was what my interest was, what paths did they follow, when I came upon a drawing of a Red River cart. So I researched it a little bit and found where they were available and I actually wrote to the University of Oregon and ordered a set of plans of the exact replica of an original Red River cart, and I got them and I have built this to that.”
He built the cart last winter over a period of four months. His goal was to use wood from the local area for the project.
“It had to be something that grew up in the community that I was satisfied with, not just taking a two by four and cutting in half and say it’s good enough,” he said. “That’s what the plans call for, but that wasn’t good enough for me.”
The stays were made from diamond willow that he harvested along the banks of the Swift Current Creek.
“I was very careful that I got the character of wood I wanted,” he said. “ I got a lot of diamond willows. ... “The wood in the box and in the floor and in the walls is a derivative from the saw mills at Cypress Hills. They were rough cut slabs that I sanded down until I had them down to where only the cut of the saw blade showed. All the roughness is gone from the furring of the blade and then I put some colour to it to make some contrast in here.”
He used salvaged logs from a SaskPower scrap yard to make the wheel hubs. He estimates this wood might be close to 150 years old, because it was used as a power pole for over 35 years and he also counted the growth rings in the wood.
“This being 150 years of Canada, it is very significant that there’s something here in this park the same age as Canada is,” he said.
He also built another Red River cart last winter, which he donated to the Grasslands National Park. That cart will be in the Grasslander Classic parade in Val Marie on July 29 at 10:30 a.m. and the cart’s official unveiling at its permanent display location inside the park in the vicinity of the Frenchman Valley campground will take place that afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
“They have already chosen a spot by the Frenchman River in a set of trees where they’re going to park it, and that’s a beautiful setting,” he said. “The epitome of the whole thing would be if I could ever get a picture of the buffalo smelling or rubbing his neck on my Red River cart. That would be a picture of a lifetime.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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