Organized as a team-building exercise by the Aboriginal Student Achievement Plan (ASAP) committee, the competitive relay featured 10 different events for students to demonstrate their traditional winter skill set.
“Basically they are survival skills that the pioneers needed to survive in the winters and in Saskatchewan,” SIAST aboriginal student advisor Shelley Belhumeur said.
“So (the students) had to start a fire, they had to snowshoe, they had to haul logs or haul some freight, they had to cross-country ski (in addition to) log-throwing, log-cutting … different skills that are needed to survive in our Saskatchewan winters.”
The winter relay was inspired in part by the SIAST summer relay challenge, in which students compete annually in events such as horse riding.
Five 10-student teams competed in the winter relay, with each team including students from a particular program at the school. The five teams consisted of first and second year natural resources, correctional studies and first and second year basic education.
Each team member competed in one particular event, such as cross-country skiing.
“We just went from one end to the other and we had to pass the baton to the other team player who was supposed to be waiting at the other end,” student participant Nicole Ross explained.
Some of the events involved more physical exertion than others.
The freight haul, for example, involved pulling a toboggan loaded down with weight for more than half a city block.
“That would have been something that the pioneers would have had to do once they unloaded their canoes or barges,” Belhumeur said.
“They would have had to go haul their freight around. So that was part of the event, and basically I think it was a 20-pound bag of flour that was in their toboggan that they had to pull.”
Another event, fire-building, involved students pouring a bottle of water into a tin can and successfully boiling the water by starting a fire.
Students had three matches, but had to make their own kindling and get the blaze going with whatever materials were at hand.
Despite three weeks of planning for the winter relay, in the end all teams completed their events in just over 18 minutes. The fastest team were the first year natural resources students, with a time of 13 minutes and 34 seconds.
Basically they are survival skills that the pioneers needed to survive in the winters and in Saskatchewan. - Shelley Belhumeur
“It doesn’t take long, especially when it’s a challenge,” Belhumeur said.
“When students are out there to win, they really hustle. I mean the skiing only took a couple of minutes. I think the thing that took the longest was the fire-building … Most people had their fires going and water boiling in about four minutes, maybe five.”
Based on the results of the first SIAST winter relay challenge, it appears very likely that the school will hold the event again next year.
“I think this first annual relay was a huge success,” Belhumeur said.
“We probably had over a hundred students out here participating and cheering on their team members … Just seeing the amount of students that were around their teams to help them at the end and cheer them on, getting this water going, was great to see.”