Fairs in neighbouring towns and cities were a big deal on the prairies in the 1940s and 1950s.
They were a chance to hitch up the wagon, load the whole family, and head to town.
At a time when the Indian agent and the pass system, designed to keep “Indians on the reserve,” were still a recent, sour memory (the pass system existed as late as 1941), the opportunity to travel off- reserve was a welcome event.
Fairs like the North Battleford Fair, pictured above, attracted wagonloads of families from neighbouring reserves. In the Battleford area, mostly Cree, Métis, and Dakota came to the fairs to trade and buy goods, to see the attractions, and, most importantly, to socialize with relatives and friends.
This photograph was taken the day after the fair. The teams of horses are now hitched up; people dressed in their Sunday finest are saying final goodbyes to relations and friends, making last- minute exchanges of goods, and preparing for the long journey “back to the Rez.” These fair get- togethers also echo the old times, when smaller bands would come together at special times of the year, at special places, for ceremonies, trading, and dancing. It is 1945 and despite decades of the reserve system and the restrictive bureaucracy of the Indian Act, the spirit of the people to congregate, trade, and celebrate together has not dissipated.
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