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Shortgrass Prairie Lessons: Early Education on the Land Around Beiseker

The village of Beiseker is north east of sprawling Calgary, and west of the prairie badlands. It is the hub of an active farming community, and one of many small villages that still dot the region with memories of an age when rural towns were necessary to sustain agricultural operations.

Beiseker is also ensconced within Treaty 7 territory, and part of traditional territory of the Blackfoot peoples, who maintain comprehensive and expansive relationships with the land and its occupants.

Wide dirt road with sundry businesses on each side and horses and buggies hitched outside. Right side includes the King George hotel and telephone poles, The street leads to the train station.

Main Street, Beisker Alberta 1909

Our story explores the many threads of historical educational practice that were employed on this land to teach children. In researching this exhibit, we used archival documents and photographs, written and oral local histories, connections with contemporary students, and interviews with community members. Shortly after work began, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and changed not only our project, but the entire world. We made amendments to our interviews and other research in order to keep all participants safe as possible.

The pandemic ushered in yet another new chapter in education on this land, highlighting both the value of stories from the past, and the undercurrent of change that is always present in models of schooling.

This project is an extension of our school exhibit inside the Beiseker Station Museum located in Beiseker Alberta, and we welcome you to come visit our village and museum in person. We’ve paired each page in this exhibit with a school that once existed in the Beiseker region; although all of the original schools have been destroyed or moved, our community placed markers at each site where they once stood, and we have developed a driving tour:

Route marked in thick red line

Click on map to get a larger more accessible version.

Start reading the story

Beiseker Station Museum