The people of Calling Lake have always enjoyed playing together. We can boast our share of talented athletes, competitive teams and remarkable events in a variety of sports, including hockey, baseball, sailing and martial arts.
No matter when they came or from where, the people of Calling Lake have always engaged in games and sporting activities. Many of those activities took advantage of the joys offered in and by the great outdoors.
Researchers tell us that traditional games played by First Peoples across what is now western Canada included lacrosse, a game invented by Indigenous peoples as far back as the seventeenth century. Canoe racing also owes its roots to Indigenous cultures. Other traditional games included tug-of-war and hide-and-seek; running and playing hard prepared youth for hunting, as did playing with toy bows and arrows and peashooters. In another game, snow goose, one boy would swing a wooden or stone target around in the air as others tried to hit or catch the target while sitting or kneeling.
Were those games and more played here? Did the games evolve as European fur traders and other voyageurs found their way to Calling Lake, whether for the trapping or fishing season or to live? If we were to go back to those times, what would we find folks doing for fun? Perhaps our Elders can help us learn more.
Organized sport in Calling Lake as we think of it today has developed within the past 100 years. Softball, baseball and ice hockey migrated into the community with settlers and others who came to work or live, be it for a short time or a lifetime. As numbers swelled and more folks homesteaded near enough to gather, compete and return home in a day, facilities were cobbled together, from ballfields to indoor recreation centres.
Ball teams and hockey teams came together as well, using men, women, boys and girls to fill the rosters for fun, and for competition. Once Calling Lake got more world class facilities, we used them to attract adults and kids alike off the street, so to speak. What better place to hang out than at the rec centre, the hockey rink or the ball diamond.
As we hunt and gather our sport history, we are learning of talented individual athletes, competitive teams and remarkable events. Our school sport history has its own highlights, including accomplishments in track and field. Events of note include our Annual Bannock Cup and Elite Hockey camps as well as an Australian Indigenous hockey group hosted in 2020. Community claims to fame include “arms for hire,” as other teams borrowed our talent to improve their chances in tournaments. Ball pitcher Dick Nipshank comes to mind, and he is not alone.
We have heard tales of boxing, wrestling, football, sailing, skiing, swimming and more. Of impromptu games, including some passed down from earlier days, such as anti-I-over, murder ball (dodgeball with a twist), scrub (stickball), road hockey, boxing and other martial arts. And of course, hunting and fishing, summer or winter, whether for fun, profit or competition.
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.
Share your sport memories
We invite you to help round out what we know about the history of sport and recreation in Calling Lake. Were you or someone you know on some memorable winning teams? Did you help build some sports facilities, indoors or out? Can you tell us about homemade toys and games used in decades past? (For example, we’ve heard that children played with a toy made of antlers and leather string, and we’re wondering if that might be similar to “ring the stick,” a game using a willow stick attached to a hoop.) Do you have some favourite sport photographs?
Please share what you have in your attics and memory banks with the folks who have volunteered to lead the hunt for our sporting past:
Kevin Prather, firstname.lastname@example.org
Devin Dequaine, email@example.com
Wilf Brooks, firstname.lastname@example.org
Calling Lake History Committee, email@example.com
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.