Important Link in Saskatchewan's North

By: Diane Ell April, 2017

Facilitating community engagement in communities spread out over a large geographic area is no easy task.  However, the Northern Sport, Culture and Recreation District (NSCRD) has developed the linkages needed to help develop cultural connections and activities in Saskatchewan’s northern communities. 

The NSCRD consists of eight staff members, who help facilitate the networks of sport, culture and recreation in the area.  Harmony Johnson-Harder is the new Program Manager for Culture and Community Development.  Working out of La Ronge, she works with community partners and others to help build and maintain cultural programming opportunities area each year. 

“Culture is my passion, I love connecting with our communities while supporting them and developing culture programs across the North, says Johnson-Harder, “The north is rich in culture and diversity, we have artists, and singer song writers.  We have birch bark biters, drum makers, and Quilters, writers, jewelry makers and trappers.  Northerners are passionate about our unique culture, and vast geography. Although we find our identity and strength in our isolation, it also is our greatest barrier.

Over the years, the NSCRD has been instrumental in several key programs that are still running today. 


Northern Spirits continues to soar

The NSCRD has been an active supporter of the Northern Spirits program since it began.  Northern Spirits, originally developed and organized by Musqua Entertainment, began engaging youth in performance and production experiences more than 10 years ago.  Each year, youth from the north learn skills in performing and producing a showcase (stage presence, live band, set design, etc.).  The multi-day workshops, held annually in the fall, engage 70 to 80 youth from different northern communities, in experiences designed to help mentor their creative abilities, whether they are aspiring musicians, singers, actors, presenters, designers or production technicians.

After the workshops, 25 youth are selected based on their determination, passion and drive, to be part of the Showcase held in February.  While audiences look forward to the Showcase performance each year, it is the youth that benefit from sharing their skills.  Along with increased confidence and new ideas, many have gone on to put their training to use.


Partners in drama

The NRSCD was instrumental in recognizing the need for drama classes in the north.  A partnership with the Saskatchewan Drama Association resulted in an ongoing program, the Northern Drama Mentorship Program, which provides a network of support to aspiring drama clubs in the north.

As a result of this program, students, from junior high and high school, from five community schools in northern Saskatchewan, belong to drama clubs who work on their own theatre production.  The Northern Drama Mentorship Program supports drama mentors who travel to northern communities to discuss the program with teachers and students, find out participants’ needs, help choose a play, share skills and develop the process, including everything from basic improvisation to technical theatre production.  According to Levay Turner, a teacher from Twin Lakes Community School in Buffalo Narrows, “At the beginning of the school year, kids are already asking “When is drama club starting up!”  Teachers have access to mentors and resources to help these youth succeed.

Each year, one of the participating schools hosts the Northern Drama Festival, supported by the NRSCD and SaskCulture, the festival features the work of three or four of the drama clubs.  The plays are adjudicated and receive review and critique from experienced theatre professionals. 

According to Turner, “They take it pretty seriously.  They work towards competition all year.  They know the rules and they really strive to do well.”


Promoting northern artists

In 2011, the NSCRD published the Northern Saskatchewan Arts and Culture Handbook – a colourful, 50-page publication that highlights many of the region’s creative talent.  The District collected the names of northern artists by conducting a northern Saskatchewan-wide artist registry.  Available in print and online, the Handbook helps promote northern artists, from various disciplines, giving them more province-wide exposure. 

Besides promoting artists, the Handbook includes useful strategies on successfully integrating arts in schools or community programming.  Visit to check it out.


Promotion and support for the Cameco fund

The Cameco Creative Kids Northern Fund is providing cultural opportunities for many youth in the north.  The NSCRD is helping get the word out to communities about this fund, and others.


Connecting the northern schools

THE NSCRD also has a leadership role in the sport, culture and recreation linkages in 22 community schools located in the north.  Each school has a Community and School Recreation Coordinator who facilitates the delivery of various after-school, evening and/or weekend sport, culture and/or recreation activities, usually held at the school, which serves as a community hub.  For more information on this program, contact Brandy Smart at 306-922-2004 or email:


Supporting a growing need for grant-writers

The NSCRD has also helped facilitate several Grant-Writing Workshops for SaskCulture and its partners.  Most recently, Dominga Robinson, consultant, SaskCulture, travelled to several northern communities – Creighton, Buffalo Narrows and LaRonge -- to share information about SaskCulture grants along with key strategies in successful grant-writing.  Thanks to the NSCRD, the workshops were very well attended.

“People are very eager to learn what they need to do to be successful at grant writing and to hear about the variation options that are available to obtain funding for cultural activity,” says Robinson.  “Some participants drove from two hours away to attend and they were so grateful to have someone come to them to provide this type of training. There was a lot of excitement about the possibilities for their communities and I saw more than one lightbulb moment about why they may not have been successful in their applications in the past.”

Thanks to the community-minded spirit of the residents of Saskatchewan’s northern communities, many different cultural activities continue to flourish, and many more are ideas just waiting to get underway.  THE NSCRD, supported by funding from Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation, is a key partner.  Cultural groups seeking to make connections in the northern part of the province are always encouraged to contact the NSCRD, who can help identify interests and facilitate potential partnerships.  Contact Harmony Johnson-Harder at 306-425-3127, ext. 4, email:,  or visit