Most people think learning is just for children, but a group of Prince Albert residents disagree.
© Herald photo by Jodi Schellenberg
Connie Gerwing explains the role of Prince Albert people in the 1885 North West Rebellion during the first Focus on Learning session of the season Tuesday.
The Prince Albert Focus on Learning group had their first event of the season, which centred around the 1885 North West Rebellion, on Tuesday at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library.
It is the fourth year the organization has been in place, Bea Fisher said. It was created to give people over 50 a place to learn about new information or history.
“Lifelong learning in the early 1970s was a buzz word and by the 1980s it had become a fact,” Fisher said. “By the 1990s it was reiterated by seeing people over 60 and 70 years old joining high school classes, going back to elementary classes to finish off things they hadn’t been able to finish as youngsters.”
The group in Prince Albert is working to bring knowledge to more people by bringing in local experts to talk about a number of different topics.
“It would appear that we have opportunities throughout our lives, to the point of death, to learn new things, so why wouldn’t we organize?” Fisher said. “While we may, over time, change our name or the logistical things, we hope to keep on providing for the people of Prince Albert to anybody who is interested but mainly people.”
During Monday’s session, local Prince Albert Historical Society volunteer and board member Connie Gerwing gave a presentation on the Prince Albert people’s involvement in the 1885 North West Rebellion.
“It was from the perspective of the people who lived here rather than the French Métis, which is the part of 1885 we always hear about,” Gerwing said. “The people here were either white, protestant settlers or English Métis from the Red River area who most of them had lived here in Western Canada their entire lives and had been part of the Hudson Bay company, which is a lot of where they came from.”
There were a lot of settlers and English Métis people in the who had a lot of sympathy for the French Métis people but didn’t want to be involved with the violent part of the rebellion.
“I think a lot of people here really don’t know our part and what happened here in Prince Albert,” Gerwing said. “They know a few little things like people came here -- the North West Mounted Police and the Armed Forces were here but really we don’t know a lot. We don’t know a lot about what people’s lives were like at that time.”
The people in Prince Albert at the time would have ben frustrated to watch hundreds of police, militia and army people sitting around, eating their food and playing games while they couldn’t go to their farms or conduct their businesses, Gerwing said.
“There were no support services at that time,” Gerwing said. “People had to earn a living of some sort. The bison had disappeared, so what were they going to do? It wasn’t a simple the war is over and we are done. I had a number of people who said they had never heard that part of the story before.”
Gerwing said learning new and interesting information is something that is important to her, which is why she started Focus on Learning.
“We have some amazing people in Prince Albert who know so much about different topics,” Gerwing said. “Our next presenter has been a publisher of the newspaper and she is going to talk about the library because she was on the board and had grown up here but knows a lot about that. We have a fellow who bands owls and is an owl expert who lives in P.A. We have had people like that in the past. There are a lot of resources here in our own community who we can learn from.”
After each presentation, people are asked to fill out a feedback form to not only let the group know what they thought of that presenter, but what they might like to see in the future.
“I noticed today we have quite a big turnout for the first one of the year,” Fisher said. “Hopefully this is going to presage more and more people showing up over time.”
Although they are focused on continued learning for those over 50, Fisher said anyone is welcome to attend the lectures.
“Since it is lifelong learning, who cares how old you are? That is not the issue,” Fisher said. “Those of us over 50 decided that those over 50 and 60 have learning needs that are different from those in high school or even post secondary school. That’s why we exist.”
Next Tuesday will be the second lecture of the season, “The Library Ladies” with Barb Gustafson, which will also be hosted at the library.
“We are so privileged the library hosts this group,” Fisher said.
They will also have presentations planned for November, Fisher said. They may not have any in December, since it is a busy month for most, but will start up again in January.
“We present things that are appropriate for the season and things that are expanding our intellectual horizons too.”