‘There’s still life there:’ Vera Pezer explores small town Meskanaw history

Vera Pezer answers questions about her book The Little Community That Could: The Story of Meskanaw at the John M. Cuelenaere Library in Prince Albert on Feb. 8, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Vera Pezer brings a little bit of Meskanaw wherever she goes. 

The small Saskatchewan community located southeast of Prince Albert kickstarted Pezer’s journey to become a softball and curling champion and the chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan from 2007 to 2013.

Now, she’s sharing Meskanaw’s rich history in her third published book—The Little Community That Could: The Story of Meskanaw—to shed a different light on the province’s small towns.

“(I hear) how small town communities are dead or dying. In one definition that’s true, but there’s ought to be alternate explanations as well,” she said.

“There’s still life there.”

About 15 people joined Pezer for a book launch on Saturday at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library. Some in the audience were also from Meskanaw, and personally knew many of the people she spoke about.

The book, as Pezer explained, is a compilation of her research, personal experiences and stories that were passed down about the community.

“I spent two good trips out to Meskanaw. They have coffee there every Tuesday morning in the winter, so I can go there and connect with a dozen or 15 people and they all get talking.”

Pezer lived there until she was 18 years old, before moving to Saskatoon to pursue her education in psychology. 

When she was growing up, there were over 100 people living there. Now, there’s less than 20.

“Certainly that is a change and you can’t deny that, I’m not trying to deny that. The use of energy I used as kind of a justification,” said Pezer at the launch. The topic of the community’s energy is woven throughout the book.

“I can now make the case and say ‘Okay, I’m now living in Saskatoon, but I’ve brought a little part of Meskanaw with me,’” she said.

“It affects how I was in school; it affects my relationships; it affects lots of things.”

‘Meskanaw’ is the Cree word for trail or road. 

It may be small, said Pezer, but visiting the community brings back a whole lot of memories.

“I see where the curling rink is, see where the hall is—that’s where the fall supper is—sometimes we’ve had family events there, too. Of course, that brings back all kinds of memories,” she said.

Seeing the sports grounds takes her back to playing softball in her teenage years.

Pezer’s previous books are about the social history of curling in Canada’s prairie provinces and mental training for curlers, including concentration techniques.