Historic trail travelers stop in Cando, Battleford

Hugh Henry of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society brought history to Cando Community Hall last Thursday, and Fort Battleford on Saturday.

Henry led a group of walkers travelling approximately along the historic trail from Swift Current to Battleford. The walk began Aug. 3 and ended Aug. 20 at Fort Battleford.

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About a dozen people turned up at the Cando Community Hall to see the presentation and greet the travellers. Henry gave a presentation with historical and contemporary photos projected onto two vertically-standing tables. 

Travellers couldn’t walk the actual historic trail because most of the area is now farmer’s field, so much of the journey was along dirt road and pasture near the actual trail. Henry said a farmer told him grass grew shorter where the trail passed through his land.

Henry added input to a long-standing family dispute, which involved a disagreement about two possible locations the trail passed through. Henry surmised likely both trails were used.

Aboriginal people established a number of trails across the prairie for trading and seasonal rounds. Métis used the trails as a means of transporting furs, hides and manufactured goods. Métis merchant Goodwin Marchand was one of the trail’s first users in 1883, and the trail’s usage increased in 1883 as the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in Swift Current. The trail became a major trade route.

It was also the route used by Colonel Otter in the spring of 1885 as he led a militia of 543, along with North West Mounted Police, from Swift Current to Battleford prior to an engagement with Chief Poundmaker’s followers at Cut Knife Hill.

The year 1890 marked the end of the trail’s frequent use. 

This year’s use of the trail saw members of the walking party come and go as they pleased. Some, including Henry, walked the entire distance, while others joined later on. 

Henry, along with Dr. Matthew Anderson of Concordia University, similarly walked the distance of a historic trail in 2015, when they made the journey along the North West Mounted Police trail from Wood Mountain to Fort Walsh.

Judy Erickson from Frontier tented in Cando with the walking party. Her goal was to walk the distance to Battleford, after which her cousin would drive her back home. Erickson said she’s interested in history, especially the history near where she lives.

In addition to the historical component, Erickson said her reason for the journey was simple.

“I just like to walk,” Erickson said.

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