When our Elders were young, recreation activities were family oriented. Elders recall that some of their favorite pastimes were dancing, square dances, jigging and fiddling. Other significant community events included field days, movie nights, sports competitions and church outings. Treaty days were the most anticipated recreational event of the year. When families came together to share and celebrate it created a strong community atmosphere.
Annual Treaty Days
On the First August Sunday, Fisher River holds its Annual Community Celebration at the Leigh Cochrane Memorial Visitor Centre and Adjacent Treaty grounds. The event began in 2005 to celebrate the centre’s completion. The celebration headlines renowned country acts and showcases local and Aboriginal talent. Treaty Days are usually a week long.
In the old days people camped in large canvas trappers’tents along the river and enjoyed competitive sports activities like races and football games with neighboring communities. Dances lasted all day and into the night. Elders recall a man walking around the community and shouting for people to come and get their treaty money. Each person received $5.00 and families received rations such as flour, sugar and tea. Merchants set up booths where people bought clothes, supplies and treats.
For three days in August, Fisher River holds its annual competition Pow Wow and hosts dancers from across North America in a large arbour beautifully constructed from logs. The pow wow was renamed in 2006 to honour Ada Wilson, a well respected community member. Each year the pow wow is organized by a dedicated volunteer committee.
Cree is the native language of people in the community, it is also spoken, mostly by the elders.
Fisher River people adopted Christianity as early as the 1840s when Methodists set up a mission at Rossville in Norway House, then later at Oxford House. Everyone was baptized by the time they arrived at Fisher River. The first church was built at its present site in the early 1880s. It continues to play a vital role in the community. In addition to regular services, activities include the church choir, Bible classes, Women’s auxiliary, youth groups and community work bees. With federal support, the church also provided education in the early years. The church served as a classroom until a school was built nearby.
Missionaries also acted as doctors, dentists and dispensed medication and care throughout the community even after the Peguis hospital was built at Halfway. Doctors made periodic visits until the road was built but people relied on local knowledge and the church for medical care well into the 1940s.
The Methodist religion joined with the Presbyterians and became the United Church of Canada. Other religions in the community include the Pentacostals and Apostolics. The Apostolic religion was introduced in 1905 by Chief John Cochrane and the Pentacostals came a bit later.
Reverend Frederick Stevens arrived in the community in 1907 when he replaced Reverend E.R. Steinhauer. In his honour the church was renamed Stevens Memorial United Church.
There were many fishing camps along Lake Winnipeg including Matheson Island and Snake Island. During fishing season, entire families moved to the camps to lend a hand. Parents believed children benefitted from living on the lake and helping out. Families remained at the camps until fishing season was over but would make the trip home to Fisher River for Treaty.