Singing folk tunes for a cause

Kevin Hampson
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Ray Funk sings at the Spruce Home Folk festival on Saturday at his farm north of P.A.

Folk fans came to the Spruce River farm on Saturday for a fundraiser for the Young Chippewayan First Nation.

At 2:30 pm, about 40 people sat in the hot sun at the fourth annual Spruce Home Folk festival, located 20 km north of P.A. on Highway 2.

Ray Funk, a director of the Mennonite Church of Canada (MCC) and the farm’s owner, joined his friends onstage to sing Pete Seeger’s “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” and other folk classics.

Old wooden fences, a vegetable garden and grassy fields surrounded the scene.

Another piece of land that Funk owns -- his grandfather’s homestead -- is part of what was once the Indian reserve where the Young Chippewayans lived.

The Mennonite Church is raising funds to help descendants of those who lived on the reserves to receive compensation for the land they lost and to get their status back, Funk said.

According to the Young Chippewayan Land Claim website, the Stoney Knoll Indian Reserve was created for the Young Chippewayans in 1876 around Laird, located about 70 km north of Saskatoon. But the band was not successful in making the transition from hunting to farming, and in 1897 the land was restored to the Department of the Interior and subsequently settled by Mennonite and Lutheran farmers.

“There was no consent sought or given,” Funk said. “There was no compensation.”

 The money raised by the folk festival will go towards genealogical work that needs to be done in order for band members to compensation for the land they lost.

Over the years, names have been translated into English, variations in spellings have proliferated, and people have moved to other places, Funk said.

“So it’s very hard to trace direct descendants,” Funk said.

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Cam Broten came to the festival to show his support for the MCC’s social justice activism.

“The MCC is a great organization because of the work they do here in Saskatchewan and around the world,” Broten said.

Organizations: Mennonite Church of Canada, Young Chippewayan First Nation, Young Chippewayan Land Claim Stoney Knoll Indian Reserve Department of the Interior

Geographic location: Spruce River, P.A. on Highway 2, Saskatchewan Saskatoon Lutheran

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