Sioux Lookout Genealogy and History Club History Walk 2018
As we begin a new year, it seems a good time to reflect back upon the people who helped build this community in to the place it is today.
The Sioux Lookout Genealogy and History Club do an excellent job of this each year during the Blueberry Festival, with their annual history walks.
The following was submitted by the club as a preface to their 2018 history walks:
These walks have been conducted for quite a few years now – first by Laura Doyle, who at the time was working for the Board of Works and got interested in the stories of the folks buried here. From there the Genealogy Club has continued the event. We could not do it as easily, without the wonderful resource that the Tracks Beside the Water local history book provides us.
This year, we acknowledge and honour Peggy Sanders, a key person who encouraged, implored, even badgered folks to produce not one, but three volumes of our local history. Everyone who crossed her path over the twenty- year production of these Books was coaxed to submit their family story, their remembrances of bygone events, descriptions of community life in earlier days, and share pictures of earlier times. Peggy was a historian, an author, a teacher, a librarian who enthusiastically continued to apply her skills and interest to the preservation of Sioux Lookout’s significant historical importance to this country.
We, as the Sioux Lookout Genealogy and History Club, sorely miss her, but are continually grateful for the gifts she gave us. For those of you who don’t have a copy of the Tracks Beside the Water set, we encourage you to pick up a set and explore the fascinating stories within its covers.
Today most of the information we will share with you, was found in these books. Enjoy!
Don and Peggy Sanders
Don and Peggy Sanders aren’t ranked as one of Sioux Lookouts earliest pioneers, but they both had a significant impact on the community of Sioux Lookout since their arrival shortly after World War Two. We stand here to honour them the year after losing Peggy in 2017.
Don was born and raised in Saskatchewan. He had worked for Beaver Lumber Company in Meadow Lake Sask. Prior to joining the RCAF in World War Two, where he had served as a bomber Pilot. Post War, he reported to the Beaver Lumber office in Winnipeg and was given a job in Sioux Lookout as an assistant to Austin Nelson, the local Beaver manager.
As a young bachelor, Don lived in boarding homes that of Mrs. Ethel Lalonde and then Mrs. Queenie Main. Queenie always had seven or eight boarders, predominantly teachers. He had many stories to tell of the escapades that took place there. That summer, though tempted to continue flying, Don began his career in the lumber business. In the fall of 1947 he met Peggy Barager, a new teacher in town and boarder at Mrs. Main’s.
Peggy (Margaret Anne Barager) was born September 26, 1923 in Winnipeg, Man. She graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a BA in History and Languages in 1943, served with the RCAF in Victoria BC during the war and then obtained her Teaching Certificate from the Ontario teachers College in 1947. She moved to Sioux Lookout on the recommendation of her Uncle Frank Barager to be a teacher at the Continuation School.
In 1949 she became a founding member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Legion and then at Easter married Don in Winnipeg. That year Don was elected to the Public School Board and was involved with the Community Centre Board as they commenced on the construction of the arena.
During the next three years, three sons were born to them – Jimmy, Ken and Peter. In March of 1953, Don was transferred to the Head office of the Beaver Lumber Company in Winnipeg, where Don supervised the lumber yards in Manitoba. While living in the city they often talked about coming back to Sioux. Their daughter Christine was born there in 1955.
In September of 1956 they returned to Sioux and started to operate Sioux Lumber and Supply (the old Rands Hardware at 66 Queen Street). That same fall Don was elected to Council for which he served eight years before he had to drop out with the increased business pressures.
During these years Peggy was involved with the establishment of the library. The first in a MNR shed loaned to them, then in the Y.M.C.A. on foldable shelves then opening up in the basement of the Post Office as the Sarah Vaughn Public Library. At that time it had a French Group, Fall Teacher’s Teas and was open on Sundays! She was the Chief Librarian from 1958 to 1986. In 1958 she became the first chairperson of the Library Board and stayed on until 1967.
As part of the SLKT Choral Society, she directed the HMS Pinafore in ’57, the Mikado in 1958 and in 1960 she assisted in the production of the Merry Widow. During these years she taught Sunday school for the St. Andrew’s United Church and became an active lifelong member of the UCW and their Board.
The Sanders’ and their business partner, Stone Oslund, took over Beaver Lumber on King Street in May, 1971. This business association lasted for almost 20 years.
Around 1968, Peggy began daily visits to the Zone Hospital as a volunteer Baby/Mother greeter. She continued this for over 30 years – welcoming the new mothers and babies, with a visit and a hand knit new baby bonnet. She took their pictures and kept them in albums. Many of these photos are now digitized and can be found on First Nation Community websites with names and current family pictures. She was known in the north as the “baby bonnet lady of Sioux Lookout!” This form of outreach and cross cultural relationship building was unheard of at the time – a practice she continued for the remainder of her life. When she turned 80 years of age, a live call in radio show’s phone lines were jammed with over 600 calls from women all over the north thanking Peggy for her friendship.
Peggy and Don helped to create the Friendship Centre in the 1970’s. They worked collaboratively with the First Nations leadership to initiate a movement to improve the communication facilities in the isolated northern communities. The result is the Wawatay Communications Society, still operating today. They were part of the organization of SLECO Fundraising Committee representing NHAG (Nursing Home Action Group), the Senior Activity Centre, the Annual Seniors Christmas Dinner. Peggy was a founding member of the Genealogy Club in 1984.
Don suffered from cancer and died Jan.1, 1988.
Peggy played a Leadership and coordinating role in the research, writing and production of the Three Volumes of Tracks Beside the Water. She was a host and interviewer with CBLS from 1978 until 2003.
Peggy had a significant role in the development of the General and Zone Hospital Amalgamation proposal. The Four Party Agreement was signed in 1997. Today we are blessed with a Federal/ Provincial Hospital – Meno Ya Win, which is truly now a notable Canadian icon that we are blessed to have.
In the years after Don’s death, many lucky people have been welcomed for tea and a book to read in Peggy’s home. Her family, who lived elsewhere, were always part of the discussion, especially when given a cookie that was a favourite of a particular grandchild! Her knitting and cross-stitching skills were continually practiced. Everyone benefited - baby’s bonnets, socks for sons and brothers and beautiful cross-stitched pictures - some of which were her own design.
The Queens Silver Jubilee Medal and the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal have been bestowed upon her. This was followed by being decorated with the Ontario Good Citizenship Medal.
When the Sioux Lookout Museum reopened its doors in the new setting at the Train Station, Peggy was delighted. A historian at heart – she felt that Sioux Lookout was back on track, honouring and protecting the significant Canadian history this community has been a part of.
She was awarded the Order of Canada at the bequest of the Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee. “Our community is a better place, a kinder place, and a more enlightened place as a result of her 50 years of volunteer leadership in the area of race relations, community volunteerism and local history. She is a shining example of how to build positive community relationships and how to create and foster indigenous knowledge in an isolated northern setting,”
Don and Peggy Sanders were a shining example of a couple who recognized the importance of continually fostering a holistic development of this community’s strengths, economically, educationally, multi race culturalism and spiritually. We will continue to benefit from their leadership roles in these areas into the future.