A collection of impressive, surprising and sometimes quirky things all Canadians should know about Saskatchewan and its people.
Saskatchewan people have always been irrepressible, our history tumultuous, our land vast and surprising. Even an encyclopedia or Google won’t reveal some of the things we’ve unearthed. Saskapedia expanded into a cosmos of oft-obscure facts and remarkable true stories, as in a conventional encyclopedia but in blurbs, sprinkled with humour. It presents selections from an unpublished manuscript, a veritable Saskapedia. There are guest blurbs by experts, plus profuse photos and illustrations.
We spotlight attention-grabbing stuff like scoundrels and scallywags, public nudity, madams, aristocrats, bigamists, rum-runners, scandals, spies, and unstoppable people.
But mainly our site is meant to be serious, exploring Saskatchewan’s astounding heroes; surprising world celebrities with Saskatchewan links; our lively history; artists and animators; flamboyant ranchers and cowboys; unusual critters we raise; early aviators; business titans and labour firebrands; brazen criminals, outlaws, and heinous crimes; environment (weird weather, our shameful carbon footprint, our eco-heroes); dinosaurs and other fossils; ghost sightings; the Medicare saga; inventions and scientific discoveries; escapers from prison camps; exploits of soldiers, sailors and flyboys; movies, musicals, plays; plucky police; media stars; fiery politicos; odd customs; sports heroes; singers and musicians; Indigenous people; peculiar transport; camping, fishing and boating; quiet retreats; surprising landforms; tourist sites and gorgeous vistas, unusual restaurants and inns; world war history; some outstanding writers.
Feel free to tell us what we’ve missed, using our Feedback section.
More about the blog:
Even poets make lists (How do I love thee, let me count the ways …) We depend on them – grocery lists, to-do lists, and so on. In this age of short, screen-sized blurbs rather than long analytical articles (except in academia) the list format can pinpoint specific facts. And although a cosmos of information can be googled, the internet represents the tip of the iceberg in the world’s ocean of knowledge. So, we made lists of things that should be common knowledge but aren’t, pointing the way to further inquiry.
Our history is especially fascinating but it’s been done. We spotlight the high – or low – points in our history.
Geographically, our province is not just flat plains and endless forest, split by the parkland belt. It is richly varied, with many striking but little-known landforms, and gorgeous vistas. Here we list some of the more striking ones.
The fertile expanses of Saskatchewan have produced much more than grain. “Saskatchewan’s best export is its people,” comedian Art Linkletter observed. Many people know that several internationally famous luminaries came from here or lived here: Joni Mitchell, Gordie Howe, John Diefenbaker, Buffy Saint-Marie, Tom Jackson, Grant MacEwan, Tommy Douglas, Guy Vanderhaeghe, to name a few. But thousands more have shone in a kaleidoscope of fields, all contributing to the fabric of society. Some of their achievements have been stunning. And even ordinary people often have remarkable back-stories.
This blog/website is in many ways a testament to the tenacity and courage of Saskatchewan people who faced fearful odds, just as Margaret Atwood told us in Survival. A theme we noticed while exploring possible topics was how unstoppable our people have been since the earliest days of European settlement, and before. Fur traders, adventurers, and couriers de bois sometimes faced insurmountable obstacles. So have many others — our indigenous people facing starvation when the buffalo disappeared, ranchers trying to save their livestock in fierce blizzards, homesteaders trying to reach their promised lands, doctors striving to reach far-flung patients in winter, the horrors of two world wars, the desperation of the Depression days. Many gave up in despair and left the province, but those who remained overcame it all, or died trying.
For a province with a population that rarely tops one million, our people have always punched above their weight, in a good sense. We chose to highlight extraordinary people, and significant or unusual historical events, rather than emulate a who’s who. Some people or entities fit more than one list. So many people, so little space! There are entire books about our major movers and shakers, but we tried to be selective for the sake of brevity.
Usually we had to qualify our lists somehow — most famous, most unusual, recipients of great honours and so on. When faced with this quandary, often we chose people who achieved national or international prominence in their fields. Often that meant luminaries honoured by the government or universities.
Our Indigenous peoples are a central presence in our history and society, and so in most chapters we have integrated them into our lists, rather than isolating them. From the First Nations come many long, lyrical names for entities, including our province’s name.
We had to devise shortcuts for some terms: “Saskie” for Saskatchewanians; “U of S” or “Usask” (which the university uses) for the University of Saskatchewan, and so on.
We discovered many surprising facts while compiling this book – hard-to-find facts buried in a vast array of sources both written and experiential. We delved into libraries and archives, newspapers and magazines for intriguing topics. We were blessed with input from highly-respected experts. To them, and all those who suggested possible topics, our heartfelt thanks.
We plan to keep adding material and illustrations, as this is an ongoing project. We’re open to suggestions for things we’ve missed. With informed feedback, we might even open up new vistas of knowledge.
Amazing Things about Saskatchewan
Things worth knowing;
Celebrities from Saskatchewan;
Links with fame: Napoleon, Wordsworth, Einstein, Huxley, Capone;
Saskies portrayed in movies and plays;
Saskies honoured by Order of Canada;
Order of the British Empire honourees;
Emblems of Saskatchewan;
Immortalized as statues and monuments
Tourism: Seeing Saskatchewan
Beauty spots as described by authors;
Gorgeous buildings worth a tour;
Unusual places to stay (including yurts, domes and grain bins);
Intriguing restaurants outside the cities;
Surprising natural landforms & features;
Craft beer micro-breweries;
Adaptive re-use of grain elevators;
Repurposed railway stations;
Retreats: Places to write, practice yoga, heal …;
Absolutely the worst roads
Our History and Heritage
Firsts and trailblazers;
Westward ho! Colonization;
Treaty rights: Promises, promises;
A festering wound: Indigenous, Metis concerns;
Quirky facts in 1885;
Wet or dry – Prohibition saga;
Resistance fighters, spies, military intelligence;
POW escapers and evaders;
Riots and mass disturbances
Environment and Geography
This land of ours – its variety, its majesty;
Mainly plains? Well, no …;
Saving the planet: Ongoing community efforts;
Our shameful carbon footprint;
Saskatchewan as energy producer;
Gassy cows? Our greenhouse gas emissions;
Places with First Nations origins
Hottest, coldest wettest (from the Weather Office)
Cold ‘nuff fer ya?
Hot ‘nuff fer ya?
Oldest heritage buildings
The Halls of Academe: Education in Saskatchewan
Prissy rules for school marms;
Life in a one-room school;
High school then and now;
Largest high schools;
Colleges and universities;
Milestones: U of S;
Milestones: U of R;
Firsts at universities;
The Economy: Taking Care of Business
Diversity sustains us;
Economic facts and statistic;s;
Where have all the farmers gone;
Movers and shakers in business;
Our economic engines;
Mines and minerals;
Forestry & fur trade;
Tales of the thirties;
What Saskies did to survive’
What governments did;
A tax rant in the thirties;
Crime and Justice
Notorious legal cases;
Love & murder in Sask.;
Missing & murdered;
Scoundrels & scallywags’
Bandits, rustlers & downright villains;
Chief justices, Sask. Court of Appeal;
Saskatchewan Provincial Police;
Well-known actors on the Big Screen;
Obscure Saskatchewan movies;
Radio and teleivison shows
Farmers and Ranchers Outstanding in Their Fields
Government incentives to persuade First Nations to farm;
Homesteading rules – how they got free land;
Single women homesteaders;
Coping with natural scourges;
Notable farms and farmers;
Taming blowing soil;
New cultivation techniques & crop varieties;
Fabled early ranches;
Celebrated old-time cowboys & ranchers;
Unlikely critters – yaks, buffalo, alpaca, llamas….
Politics: The Art of the Possible
Politicical tendencies in Saskatchewan;
Our voice in Parliament;
Well-known male M.P.s;
Female politicians on the national scene;
Female politicians in Saskatchewan legislature;
Votes for women!
What premiers did before
Medical Care – Health Matters!
Indomitable early doctors
Milestones in Saskatchewwan health care
They also served: Other health heroes
Spanish flu of 1918
Military: Keeping Us Safe
Victoria Cross recipients;
Flying aces in World War I;,
Flying aces in World War II;
Other notable flyboys;
Notable prairie sailors;
Saskatchewan’s war dead
The Sound of Music
Juno award winners;
Other noteworthy singers;
Musicians with aboriginal roots;
Other contemporary bands;
World music performers who live here;
Classical concert music groups;
Celebrated classical musicians and singers
Social and Cultural Life
Quirky facts: Only in Saskatchewan ….
OOPS! Goofs and gaffes
Oft-laid plans, unintended consequences:
Unstoppable people overcoming adversity;
Evading the whisky sniffers
Supposedly haunted places
Baring it all: Public nudity
Customs and traditions
Second sons and remittance men
Famous pets and other animals
Science and Technology
A sample of scientific discoveries at the U of S since 1970
The halls of science: Facilities for innovation
Dinosaurs found here
Other ancient fossils – marine, flying reptiles, mammals
The ingenuity of inventors
History of television in Saskatchewan
Bigger, faster, stronger: Olympic gold medalists in the Saskatchewan Sports Half of Fame
Hockey legends in Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame
Other legendary hockey players
Grey Cup lore
More Rider lore
Legendary Roughriders in Canadian Football Hall of Fame
Baseball (fastball) Major Leaguers
Pros in skirts: All-American Girls Baseball League
Adventure sports: Hang gliding, soaring, hot air ballooning, skydiving, underwater hockey, hunting wild boars
Changing transport modes changed everything;
Fire canoes – Steamboats;
History of railways;
Automobiles hit the road;
Modern pilots fight fires, save lives;
Bush pilots provide a lifeline to remote spots
Visual arts: Art and soul
A few favourite women artists
A few favourite male artists
Big sky Country depicted by Saskie artists
Moulders and shapers: Notable sculptors
Gifted graphic artists, including some who received Oscars
Behind the lens: Well-known Saskie shutterbugs
Our sources and further reading
Articles & chapters in books
Magazines & journals
(Online sources are cited in text)
Writers and Literature
Saskatchewan Writers Guild
Print to screen
GG award-winning nonfiction
Plays by our own playwrights
GG award winning poetry books
National award-winning novels
Get in touch
Do you have some interesting tidbits about Saskatchewan?
Comments? We'd love to hear from you!