The Origin of Silver Spring, Saskatchewan

21 May

When I came to Silver Spring, Saskatchewan, people asked me where I was from and I’d answer with Winnipeg, and that was it. There was no follow up question of where my parents were from, though, when the two or three Palestinian families found out my parents were from Palestine, they’d invite me to dinner whenever they had the chance. Here in Silver Spring, if you’re brown, it’s not uncommon. At the turn of the century, immigrant workers from China, Korea, India, Pakistan, and several places in the Middle East and North Africa, settled in what was to become Silver Spring on land that was part of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation. The tribal council protected them, said that they were a part of their family. That may have been an ideology held over from Chief Whitecap, who greeted John Lake in the 1880s and became good friends with him. Here in Silver Spring, there’s a mosque across the street from a United Church, down the street from the Anglican Church, which is across the back alley from a Sikh temple. Here in Silver Spring, there’s a municipal police force made up of members who are Asian, First Nation, and Middle Eastern. We don’t have an RCMP detachment. Here in Silver Spring, there are cattle ranchers, wheat farmers, bankers, medical workers, teachers, and lawyers. Here in Silver Spring, being white means you’re a minority, and that’s okay. For two generations, Silver Spring, Saskatchewan has been a place where immigrants could come without prejudice. Of all the places in this bread basket province, it was Silver Spring that became known throughout many places in Asia, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. Silver Spring was the place if you wanted to emigrate to Canada, you knew you could go and be safe. Sure, we have had our problems, we’ve had crime. But for the most part, it was idiot rednecks who’d waste gas by driving down from Saskatoon. Silver Spring, Saskatchewan was like the Moose Jaw tunnels, before Al Capone began using them to smuggle rum and whiskey. Except Silver Spring was out in the open, completely visible. It was defiant to the Canadian government at the time. Silver Spring said, with one voice, we’re here and we’re not going anywhere.~Fadra Englen, from the first draft works of Spirit of the Hawk, an entry into The Heroic League Project.  Here, she describes Silver Spring, Saskatchewan, a fictitious town on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation.

I sometimes get asked the question of how I came up with a fictitious town in West Central Saskatchewan on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation.  Silver Spring arose from two separate things.  The first came from needing a place to put a character and become a part of the entire Heroic League Project.  That was Fadra Englen, a first generation Canadian born to Palestinian immigrants.  She’d become a doctor, which arose from a genetic mutation she had.  She became interested in human science.  So, that would mostly mean that she’d be better off in a larger city?  Not really, because the Whitecap Dakota First Nation is not far from Saskatoon, and is home to a large research area on the University of Saskatchewan campus.  Called Innovation Place, its home to the Canadian Lightsource Synchrotron.  Fadra could practice medicine, and continue on with her research.

Silver Spring also came about thanks to two very important parts of Saskatchewan history.  The first is much more uplifting than the second.

During the 1860’s, Chief Whitecap moved his people from Minnesota north into the South Saskatchewan River Valley.  By the 1870’s, there was interest from Eastern settlers to start a settlement on the South Saskatchewan River.  John Lake, who wanted to start a temperance colony (temperance meant no alcohol), met with Chief Whitecap who showed Lake some of the best areas to settle.  Whitecap became good friends with Lake, and with many of the settlers who came to create what would become the City of Saskatoon.  During the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, Gabriel Dumont petitioned Whitecap for warriors to fight the government and the Northwest Mounted.  Whitecap agreed but only on the condition that the settlement of Saskatoon remained untouched.  There would be no conflict that would reach those settlers.

The second piece of history comes from Moose Jaw, which aside from having a rather unfortunate and odd name, has a rather dark history.  The Moose Jaw tunnels are a series of tunnels and rooms that run underneath the city.  They are best known as being a place where Al Capone had set up a rum and whiskey running operation, to get the illegal spirits from Canada to south of the border.  There were a few Saskatchewan towns and cities that had Capone’s operations, but Moose Jaw is the most famous.  Before Capone, however, those tunnels where home to Chinese migrant workers.  Often indentured workers, they were hidden away in the tunnels, and forced to work in order to pay off debts or even some way to pay for their families to come to Canada.  Immigration Officials would often search for Chinese workers, and were often foiled.

Moose Jaw wasn’t the only place that had Chinese workers in Saskatchewan.  But it is the most famous.

Putting all of that together, I often though what if a group of immigrants settled on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation.  There’d most likely be huge amounts of paper work, politics and so on, but Whitecap’s people were very peace loving.  They were cattle ranchers, for the most part.

Thus, Silver Spring was born.  As I planned it out, it became home to people of Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern and North African ancestry.  The town’s population in today’s terms would be about 3,000 to 4,000.  It would also incorporate some of the things I’ve seen happen in other communities where a non-Native populous near or on Reserve land would cohabit.  The two groups would benefit from each other.

This has become part of the Heroic League Project, in the chapter called Spirit of the Hawk.  The main characters for this story include Professor Maxwell Running Cloud, Lawrence Chaumers, Fadra Englen, Naomi Simonson (nee Running Cloud) and her son Petey, and Fena Englen (Fadra’s younger sister and a doctor of marine biology).  While set in the world of super heroes and fantastic adventures, there’s also a very human element to Silver Spring.

Both Maxwell Running Cloud and Naomi Simonson have appeared in a previously published work of mine (which I’m going to be inserting into the timeline of the Heroic League Project) called Canyons of Steel.

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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Canyons of Steel, Hawk's Scream, Writing


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