Former area resident wins provincial heritage award

On June 15, Jon Kalmakoff, a former Canora resident, received the 2019 Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society (SHFS) Baker Award for Saskatchewan Heritage.

Kalmakoff, who now lives in Regina, was presented with the award at the SHFS Gathering in Regina at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and Wascana Place.

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The SHFS indicated that he received the award due to his “immeasurable volunteer hours, dedicated to the cause of preserving and promoting heritage in Saskatchewan through both academic and on-the-ground pursuits. In particular, his public presentations, as well as numerous books and articles about the history of the Doukhobor community and the municipality of Canora; his extensive field work to locate and identify unregistered Doukhobor cemeteries, and the creation of a Doukhobor genealogy website are truly above and beyond.”

According to information provided by the SHFS, the award is named for the group’s first president, Everett Baker.

“Throughout his life, Everett Baker was a strong believer in the importance of understanding the past to build a better future, and as such he worked tirelessly to preserve local history. In that spirit, the Baker Award recognizes individuals, groups or organizations who have gone “above and beyond” to preserve and promote heritage in Saskatchewan. The award also recognizes efforts to call public attention to aspects of little-known Saskatchewan history.”

In support of Kalmakoff, The Town of Canora Tourism Committee wrote a nomination letter which further detailed his credentials for the award.

“Jonathan’s work primarily focuses on researching the history of the Doukhobor community in Saskatchewan as well as the local history of Canora. A major project within these areas involved researching the development of the Doukhobor Trading Company in Canora. Jonathan published a series of articles in the local newspaper, Canora Courier, describing his research and depicting this company’s importance in the community. Jonathan also gave numerous public presentations about Doukhobor and Canora history at schools and libraries to better educate the population and connect them directly to their past. However, Jonathan goes beyond the academic and educational to directly protect and preserve Saskatchewan heritage.

“He has undertaken extensive volunteer field work in a pursuit to locate unregistered Doukhobor cemeteries. To this end, he has had five places officially named and added to the map of Saskatchewan. This work involved extensive research on a little known topic, significant and difficult travel as well as making formal submissions to the Saskatchewan Geographic Naming Committee.

“He also took it upon himself to create and oversee a Doukhobor genealogy website, http://www.doukhobor.org.”

A letter of support for Kalmakoff was also submitted by the National Doukhobor Heritage Village of Veregin. 

The former Canora resident said winning the Baker Award came as quite a surprise.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” he said. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of sharing our history with others. I don’t do it for recognition or gain.  But, after all the time I have put into this over the past 20 years, it is very nice to be acknowledged for it.  I’m grateful to the Town of Canora Tourism Committee for identifying this opportunity and taking the initiative to nominate me. I’m also grateful for the National Doukhobor Heritage Village in Veregin for its letter of support.”

Kalmakoff said his interest in history goes back to his time in the Canora area.

“And growing up on the farm near Canora, I was surrounded by it,” he recalled. “Remnants of ethnic village sites, early settle cemeteries, trading posts, abandoned pioneer flour mills, and indigenous artifacts and camps were all around, if one looked for them.  Also, growing up surrounded by grandparents and great-grandparents in the same locality allowed for a lot of historical knowledge and stories to be shared from one generation to another.”

Even after receiving the SHFS Baker Award, Kalmakoff said he still has plenty of ambition left for future history-related endeavours.

“I have a very long list of potential projects and a number of projects currently in various stages of completion,” he said. “One, for example, is writing a history of the various grain elevators that have historically operated in Canora, which is a subject that really hasn’t been tackled in any of the existing history books. Time, energy and health permitting, I’m looking forward to talking this and other projects.”

As regular Canora Courier readers may recall from a January article, Kalmakoff has earned his latest award while dealing with a challenging health situation. He has been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and continues his search for a kidney transplant.

“I’m currently recovering from a hernia operation several weeks ago,” he reported.  “Unfortunately, hernias are not uncommon among peritoneal dialysis patients such as myself.  During my recovery I have lifting restrictions and need to undergo hemp dialysis at the hospital. That aside, I’m continuing my social media campaign in the hopes of finding a living donor so that I can have a transplant and then resume a more or less normal lifestyle,” Kalmakoff concluded.