The Trails of 1885 has been a recurring theme of summer events in the Northwest this summer, as the 125th anniversary of what is now known as the Northwest Resistance of 1885 is commemorated.
Poundmaker First Nation hosted an entire week of events that culminated in a re-enactment of the Battle of Cut Knife Hill. The event attracted widespread media attention and large crowds.
A slightly less flamboyant, but no less significant event took place July 10 at the site of historic Fort Pitt. That event, which drew 300 visitors, is featured on the front cover of the July 16 Optimist Plus inside this issue of the Regional Optimist.
"Fort Pitt's place in history secure" is the story's headline, but that position of security was never cut and dried. For years the Northwest sites connected to the Northwest Resistance of have languished in relative obscurity, poorly marked and poorly maintained. While designated as historic treasures, locations such as Fort Pitt, the Frenchman Butte Rifle Pitts and Steele's Narrows have struggled to take their place in history.
That has changed at Fort Pitt. The approach to telling the historic trading post's story is simple, yet effective. The total price tag for constructing wood structures to indicate where buildings stood and interpretive signage to tell the fort's story was $150,000. A prudent investment in history after such a long period of neglect.
The project evolved through local agitation and a touch of serendipity, according the local historian Wayne Brown, who participated in the rededication ceremony. Brown has a keen interest in history, and has written a book about the Northwest Resistance - Steel's Scouts: Samuel Benefield Steele and the North-West Rebellion.
Brown says the Trails of 1885 initiative highlighted the need for better presentation of Saskatchewan's historical sites with links to the resistance, and Fort Pitt has reaped the benefit. Fort Pitt, designated as a Provincial Historic Park, comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport and it was provincial funding that was behind the park's rejuvination.
Brown gives credit to west area Parks Manager Bob Wilson of Meadow Lake for providing the vision and direction that drove the project from concept to successful conclusion. Wilson, Brown says, went beyond the expectations of his position with the Ministry in his devotion to the project.
Fort Pitt's story can now be explored thoroughly by those who visit a site that has been described as reeking with ghostly images. The improvements are unlikely to diminish that mystique, but, instead give, it context.
Preserving the improvements into the future will be an ongoing challenge, but it is unlikely those who have devoted so much time and effort to the project will allow the park to return to its former obscurity.