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Duck Lake's Outdoor Gallery

DUCK LAKE -- Being located smack-dab in the middle of western Canadian history gives this place a certain cachet. And Duck Lake flaunts it.

The famous Carlton Trail, which brought settlers and supplies to the area, is featured in this main street mural by artist Ru Huang

Wall murals depicting the people, events and trends that changed lives and filled newspapers in the 19th and early 20th centuries can be seen at a dozen locations around this community of 700, located 50 minutes northeast of Saskatoon on Highway #11. And it is pride in the quality of these paintings that is reflected in the road sign welcoming visitors to "one of the world's largest outdoor art galleries".

The Battle of Duck Lake launched the North West Rebellion. Mural by Ru Huang

Duck Lake was the scene of the battle that launched the North-West Rebellion of 1885. The fight was fought between Metis (people of Indian and European blood) forces augmented by Indian warriors, and North-West Mounted Police assisted by civilian volunteers from Prince Albert. The Metis won the battle but lost the war, thereby clearing the path for the Government of Canada to settle and develop the West. But history here did not begin and end with the rebellion.

Detail from another portion of the Carlton Trail

In the decades before several thousand troops were sent west to quel the uprising, what's now the main street of Duck Lake was part of the famous Carlton Trail that linked Edmonton, in present-day Alberta, to Winnipeg, in what's now Manitoba.

The Carlton Trail was actually a system of trails used in connection with river traffic to transport people, goods and resources in and out of the vast region. The mural illustrating the meeting and perhaps clashing of cultures on the trail is one of the highlights of Main Street.

The buffalo skull and broken feather in the foreground of Glen Scrimshaw's mural address the plight of the Indian after the white man arrived

Artist Glen Scrimshaw's mural depicting a settler floating a red river cart across the South Saskatchewan River -- a common practice before ferries came into use in the 1870s -- is another feature of Main Street, as is a third work that reminds the viewer there were times when this area was alive with buffalo.

Kisse-Manitou-Wayo (Almighty Voice)

The sad story of Almighty Voice (Kisse-Manitou-Wayo) is told through one of the most colorful murals in town. The story begins with the slaughter of a stray cow used for Almighty Voice's wedding feast and ends 18 months later, in 1897, with the death of one Mountie, Almighty Voice and two of his friends. Painter Ray Keighley deftly illustrates Indian and white perspectives on the same true tale by dedicating half of the piece to each viewpoint.

Nearby Fort Carlton, to the west of Duck Lake, was the setting for the pomp, circumstance and last-minute negotiations associated with the signing of Treaty Six, in 1876. The treaty that promised Indians reserve land and assistance in return for their claim on traditional lands is remembered in a mural that features chiefs Big Bear, Poundmaker and Beardy looming high above the earthly proceedings.

Cultures meet in this mural that runs the length of a church wall in a residential portion of Duck Lake

Dumont above the village of Batoche

Elsewhere, a church wall reflects the meeting of aboriginal and European cultures as a solitary Indian watches a group of settlers arrive by train.

Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, the political and military leaders of the Metis during the fighting of 1885, are given the same soaring treatment as the Indian chiefs in still another mural.

Riel and Dumont are shown floating high above Batoche, the spiritual home of the Metis that exists today only as part of a national historic park located south and east of Duck Lake.

Visitors to town may wish to check out the Duck Lake Regional Interpretive Centre, a showcase for regional history located right beside the highway.

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