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Amber Valley history hopefully to be relocated

Sign recognizing black settlers of the region knocked off its posts

ATHABASCA – It took 12 years to get a sign recognizing the contributions of black Albertans and Saskatchewans in the Athabasca region, even with the hard work and dedication of Myrna Wisdom, but just a few years later, that recognition had mysteriously disappeared. 

Gil Williams, the president of the Amber Valley Community Association, told a gathering of local dignitaries and association members Aug. 12 the recognition plaque was originally intended to be placed where people could stop and sit on a bench and read it, but it was placed on Highway 55 near the provincial historical sign that describes Amber Valley, and that is where the problem began.  

Williams said he was contacted in April that the sign was missing and after some sleuthing it was discovered in the Emcon yard in Athabasca. He was told at that time during the winter that as snowplows piled snow near the low sign, eventually the weight broke the posts. Luckily it was recovered with very little damage.  

“I thought at first it was stolen or sabotaged. I called Emcon here in Athabasca and they said they had it safely locked up so I asked if I could come pick it up,” said Williams.  

And it is not as easy as just replacing the posts and putting the sign back because it is federal property. Wisdom dedicated 12 years to get the plaque from Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada meaning that organization is the one who decides if the plaque goes back or if it can be relocated.  

Williams is hoping with the support of the town and county and Athabasca Archives that the board will approve moving it to the Amber Valley Hall, approximately five kilometres west of the original site on the highway.  

“I immediately contacted (the committee members) and Colleen Powell, the mayor in Athabasca … and she actually helped me and suggested how I can handle this going forward,” he said.  

That help was to contact Margaret Anderson at the Athabasca Archives and ask for support from the town and county to request the sign be moved.  

“I'm interested in working on this project because I think it would be a good idea to get that plaque relocated properly, where it's safe and we can keep it secure,” Anderson said. “I don't really have an opinion about where it should go. I see it in the ditch as being very inaccessible and kind of just an insulting place to put it to tell you the truth.”  

Powell and Athabasca County Coun. Doris Splane were also in attendance and stood up to pledge support from both municipalities.  

Williams said the goal now is to raise funds and hope the approval to move the sign to the flowerbed outside the hall comes soon.  

“I can see us redoing the flowerbed ... we do the flower bed and the monument in the middle. And then once we get the board approval, do some costing and then we can look at where do we get some funding,” he said. 


Heather Stocking,
Follow me on Twitter @HLSox

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