Raising Awareness of African-Canadian contributions in Saskatchewan

By: Shaunna Grandish April, 2011

Preserving and celebrating a little known part of this province’s heritage is the mission of the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum Inc. (SACHM). Through its educational and outreach programs, SACHM hopes to raise the public’s awareness on the many positive contributions of people of African ancestry have made to this province’s culture and communities over the years.

“The history of the presence and contribution of people of African ancestry over the past 114 years has not been widely known by the people of Saskatchewan,” according to SACHM’s Co-chair Carol LaFayette-Boyd.

“One of SACHM’s goals is to provide information and education so as to ensure people of African ancestry are included in the history of Saskatchewan and recognized as part of the slogan ‘from many people’s strength,’” said LaFayette-Boyd. According to the SACHM, many Saskatchewan residents today don’t know that people of African ancestry were among this province’s early, non-Aboriginal settlers, particularly in the Melfort, Rosetown, and Shilo areas. Some also arrived with the waves of pioneers who settled here in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

People of African ancestry still continue to immigrate to Saskatchewan and have been doing so for decades. As a result, thousands of people of African ancestry have been living in this province who are from many different countries and ethnic backgrounds who all bring with them many unique experiences and stories.

SACHM began as informal organization in 2002, and in 2004 it formalized its status as a non-profit corporation whose primary purpose is to explore, research, celebrate, document, and preserve the history, heritage, and contributions of people of African ancestry in Saskatchewan. By working in collaboration and partnership with others, SACHM has been busy working on projects and events all in an effort to raise awareness and to celebrate the contributions of people of African ancestry.

Last year, 2010 was observed as the centennial year for the arrival of over 200 people of African ancestry to Saskatchewan. Several events were held to mark the anniversary. This past February, the SACHM and the Kiwanis Clubs of Regina held a fundraising dinner with special guest baseball legend Fergie Jenkins to celebrate a new commemorative stamp. The event was held in conjunction with Black History Month and raised funds for youth baseball and SACHM’s sponsored Centennial Public Art Sculpture, which is slated to be installed in Regina’s Wascana Park later this summer.

“The main success was the opportunity to share history with the many people we encountered,” said Lafayette-Boyd. “Responses from people, including those of African heritage, were that most were unaware of the presence of people of African ancestry in the province since 1896 and the contributions that were made particularly in medicine and agriculture.” She added that, “Many partnerships were formed as a result of events over the past year and will be continued for future events.”