Two Moose Jaw students walked away with awards during this year’s provincial Heritage Fair, held virtually for a second-straight year because of the pandemic.
Grade 4 student Kai McGowan-Julien — who attends the Prairie South Virtual School — received the highest score for his grade for his project entitled “Strength and Determination,” a genealogical look at his father’s African ancestry. His project also placed fourth in the video presentation category.
Meanwhile, École Palliser Heights School Grade 8 student Alex Blondeau received the Saskatchewan Archaeology Society prize for his project entitled “The History of the Métis.”
Strength and Determination
This was the first time McGowan-Julien participated in the Heritage Fair or had even heard about it, he said. He was slightly nervous about participating but thought it was great that he could submit his project digitally.
His mother, Taryn McGowan, gave him the idea for this project since she is a genealogist and helped him gather the data. McGowan-Julien’s interest also grew through eavesdropping on his mother’s phone conversations about this topic.
Winning two prizes during the Heritage Fair was a nice surprise for McGowan-Julien. While watching the video that announced the winners, he experienced a “mini-heart attack moment” when he heard his name.
“I’m definitely proud of myself because I’ve come this far. I did not even expect to show up on the minor awards. I didn’t even know there was minor awards or anything like that … ,” he laughed. “It made me feel real good for myself.”
The award for the video presentation was the most shocking, considering McGowan-Julien was terrified of putting the video together since he has Tourette syndrome, his mother said.
“That was my least favourite part of the entire thing,” he added.
McGowan-Julien named his project “Strength and Determination” because those are the attributes his father’s ancestors required to survive after they were captured during the slave trade, he explained. Those same qualities also helped other generations of ancestors immigrate to Canada — and later, to Saskatchewan — to start a new life.
McGowan-Julien plans to participate in next year’s Heritage Fair and is thinking of focusing on another line of his family tree.
The History of the Métis
This was the third time Alex Blondeau had participated in the Heritage Fair and the first time he received an award. When he saw his project announced during the awards video and heard his name, he was in disbelief since he hadn’t thought he would win.
“I couldn’t really think straight. I was surprised (and) I was shocked,” he said. “I’m glad that I won it, though.”
Blondeau focused on the Métis since that is his cultural background and he thought it would be a great topic to pursue. He searched through several websites to gather information and learn more about this part of history, such as leader Louis Riel and the two resistance movements he led.
The Grade 8 student also came across information about Cuthbert Grant, another prominent Métis leader who is the great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of his dad, Joseph Blondeau.
“I’m proud that my family tried to do right and fought for things they deserved,” Alex said.
Looking back, Blondeau is satisfied with how he did and how the project turned out, although he thought he could have done better in a few places.
“When we do Heritage Fair, it gives us an opportunity to learn more about Canada,” he added. “That’s what I like about it.”