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Hope for historic Hay River Reserve mission sites

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 21, 2010

K'ATLODEECHE/HAY RIVER RESERVE - The federal government has announced funding to help create a conservation plan for a national historic site on the Hay River Reserve.

NNSL photo/graphic

The federal government has announced funding to help create a plan to preserve a national historic site on the Hay River Reserve. The site includes St. Peter's Anglican Church, which was severely damaged by ice during spring breakup in 2008. - NNSL file photo

On June 15, Ottawa announced it will contribute up to $22,000 to K'atlodeeche First Nation (KFN), which will kick in rest of the $44,000-planning project for its Hay River Mission Sites.

The historic site, located in the reserve's Old Village, consists of Ste. Anne's Roman Catholic Church, the remains of a rectory, cemeteries containing spirit houses and St. Peter's Anglican Church, which was severely damaged in flooding two years ago.

"The preservation of this important historic site will enable the people of K'atlodeeche First Nation to share this part of their history with other Canadians," federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice stated in a news release from Parks Canada.

"This is a key step in creating a vibrant historic site that will also be a significant boost to the tourism sector that is an important engine of economic growth in small Northern communities," stated Prentice who is the minister responsible for Parks Canada.

The project will produce a conservation plan to guide ongoing work at the Hay River Mission Sites and ensure the preservation of the heritage value of the mission buildings.

"The mission site represents a significant time in the history of this country," stated KFN Chief Roy Fabian in the news release from Parks Canada.

"At the time the site was built, local First Nations and European Canadians were just getting to know each other in the North, and the Hay River Mission illustrates how that relationship developed over the years. We look forward to being able to share this story with visitors to our community."

Fabian could not be reached for further comment.

St. Peter's Anglican Church was damaged by spring breakup flooding in 2008. Large chunks of ice basically knocked down the building and it has not yet been repaired.

Georgina Bassett, a deacon with St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Hay River, welcomed the funding as a possible first step to repairing St. Peter's. "I'm so happy about it," she said. "It's a start, but $22,000 won't go very far."

However, Bassett is hopeful the creation of a preservation plan will help identify other sources of funding to repair the damaged church.

"They're going to need a lot more funding to have it repaired," she said.

Bassett herself has started a fund to help with the repairs and so far a couple of thousand dollars have been raised.

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