News Story

Family Discovery Day Encourages Preservation of Family Heritage and Cultural Traditions

Family Discovery Day, sponsored by the Saskatoon branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, brought together family history and indigenous culture on October 14, 2017. A variety of workshops attracted a large crowd in the Church’s Saskatoon family history centre, where participants were introduced to the basics of family history research.

“Today I teach my children and grandchildren the importance of knowing who they are, being proud of their heritage, where they come from, their traditions — the things we do to remain strong and grounded as a family,” stated Yvonne Michael, an educator and grandmother from the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation, who delivered the opening address at the event.

Workshop attendees learned how to write their personal histories under the guidance of John Spencer and how to make family photos into heirloom pieces, led by Leah Karch. Curator Catherine Quinton urged her class to remember the first rule when preserving family artifacts: “Don’t do anything you can’t undo!” Participants also had an opportunity to record some memories in the digital storytelling venue with Delaney Crosby.

Terry Atimoyoo and Harry Michael gave a powerful presentation that helped listeners appreciate indigenous traditions. Atimoyoo spoke of his discovery that he is related to Chief Big Bear and how he is organizing a gathering for all descendants of Chief Big Bear next year. Michael related the place of the Creator at the centre of the universe in the “Legend of the Star Blanket” — everything covered by the blanket of stars in the night sky is considered sacred.

“Family Discovery Day was a great experience with excellent presenters,” declared Peggy Mausch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society. “I especially appreciated the participation of the First Nations people who presented, attended and prepared the delicious lunch. I hope to see more of this joint participation in the future.”

Crystal Farlow of Waterhen Lake First Nation applauded the focus on First Nations throughout the day: “I loved it. We needed this to educate ... about the past of our people.” She also noted the invocation of Reverend Colin Clay of the Anglican Church, in which he acknowledged Treaty 6 Territory: “He prayed for the ancestors to help us and we to help them. Events like these are a foundation for unity, understanding and connection with each other.”

Family heritage, cultural traditions, faith — at Family Discovery Day, participants came away with new ideas and renewed enthusiasm to help them on their search for their ancestors.

Mormons have always placed great importance on preserving family histories. Dennis B. Neuenschwander, formerly of the Seventy, once stated, “Genealogies, family stories, historical accounts, and traditions … form a bridge between past and future and bind generations together in ways that no other keepsake can” (“Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes,” Apr. 1999 general conference).

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