Indigenous beliefs and practices predate all other expressions of faith in Calling Lake, and continue to be practiced. As traders and settlers came north, Catholic, Protestant and Mennonite missions added to the mix.
Topics on tap for this suite of rooms include the following. If you have any memories, photographs or artifacts to contribute, please contact the history committee.
We invite anyone with knowledge of Indigenous beliefs and practices over time in this region to share what they know and wish others to learn so that this can become a fulsome room.
Churches & Missions
We have yet to explore the work of the various missions and churches that have put down roots here over time. Thanks to the Kito Sakahekan Seniors Society, and especially Av Mann, we do have an account the first Catholic Church, The Church of St. Leon le Grand. As the book’s title indicates, this work also sketches the history of some of Calling Lake’s early settler families.
Mennonite Voluntary Service Unit
Between 1955 and 1969, a Mennonite Voluntary Service Unit set up headquarters in Calling Lake, attracted by a promise of help from Slim Ellefson. The Ellefsons were moving their sawmill to Calling Lake, which did not have a Protestant church then, and hoped the Mennonites would offer a worship community for their extended family. (Watch our “Forestry” room for more about Ellefson sawmill history.)
Responding to community need, the Mennonite volunteers’ work expanded over time to encompass health care, transportation, employment, a church and more. Some volunteers remained after the unit left and blended into the community. Among them was Hilda (Eby) Crawford, a nurse; for decades, she attended many of the community’s births.
Ike and Millie Glick, who led the service unit in the early days, have written a book about the experience, aptly named Risk & Adventure. Click on the cover image for a summary of the book, augmented by recent interviews with Ike.
“Stanley Crawford recalled walking down the pack trails following the telegraph line to Athabasca. On the way back home they would build a scow to float their supplies down the Athabasca to Calling River. Next was walking the twenty four miles to Calling Lake. They were back again the next day with the team and wagon to pick up the supplies.” – Evergreen Yearbook, 1966-1967
Ike Glick learned to fly while in Calling Lake, the better to serve isolated communities in the north. Paul Nafziger, who volunteered with his family in the summer of 1957, later described the situation as follows: “Ike somehow came up with a small Piper Cub plane. Slim [Ellefson] bulldozed out a landing strip, and we chopped away some of the taller brush around the strip. A hanger was made of logs and slab wood. Nothing fancy, but it seemed to work pretty good.”
Members of the Mennonite Voluntary Service Unit compiled a binder of memories fifty years later, when they gathered for a reunion. Paul Nafziger’s description of his family’s summer in Calling Lake in 1957 provides glimpses of the volunteers at work and play. To read about other volunteers who served at Calling Lake, click on MVS 50th anniversary binder – Calling Lake.
Recognizing that we are all Treaty people, equally responsible to know our shared history and journey forward in good faith, we acknowledge with respect that Calling Lake stands on land, and alongside water, where Indigenous peoples have gathered, hunted, fished and held ceremonies from time immemorial. Knowing that J.B. Gambler Indian Reserve #183 is part of Bigstone Cree Nation within Treaty 8 Territory, and that we are within Métis Nation of Alberta District 22, we wish to understand the spirit and intent of promises made so that we can take action to create a just and caring future built on truth and reconciliation.