Abandoned places, Halloween and the boreal forest

Hello Flatlanders,

I am working on a Halloween issue and would love to hear your stories. 

  • What were some of the spooky locations that captured your imagination as a child while growing up in Saskatchewan and Manitoba? 
  • What are your haunted stories from where you live? 

Deadman’s Farm

When I was growing up, our school in Regina backed out onto farmers’ fields and out in the distance was an old abandoned dilapidated farmhouse.

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My friends and I thought it was haunted. We called it Deadman’s Farm.

Some older kids claimed they went there at night, but I doubt it as an adult. The school only went up to Grade 8, and no one 13 or under could drive; it was too far to walk. 

Abandoned places

Now, in the age of YouTube, there are “explorers” who enter abandoned houses and buildings, film them and share what they see on YouTube, like this video on abandoned places in Saskatchewan from Kyle Klippenstein.

The Saskatoon StarPhoenix did an interesting five-part video series on abandoned places in Saskatchewan, which is worth watching on Youtube:

There is the Abandoned Manitoba series by Graham Street, Shaun Cameron, and Gordon Goldsborough for those in Manitoba. It’s available on Bell Fibe TV1. To learn more about abandoned places in Manitoba you should check it out.

An abandoned farmhouse in Saskatchewan. Across the Prairies there are many abandoned places like this.
An abandoned farmhouse in Saskatchewan. Abandoned places like this can be found across the Praires. GETTY IMAGES

Halloween events around the Prairies

What Halloween events are happening in your town or city that you are looking forward to? 

Community discussion thread

  • Send pictures from your community Halloween events, and I will share them on The Flatlander’s social media.
  • Also, every community has a house or two that goes all out with Halloween decorations, so if you can send pictures of some from your town or city, please do, and  I will share them on The Flatlander’s social media. 
  • I’ve pinned a post on The Flatlander’s TwitterInstagram and Facebook pages for people to share and discuss their Halloween stories and traditions. Or you can reply to this email.

Something spooky

Check out APTN’s The Other Side if you want something spooky to watch this Halloween. It is a paranormal investigation show that includes an elder and spirit guide. A lot of the last season is spent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

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If you don’t have access to the APTN TV channel, you can watch it on the APTN lumi app. 

They also did a web series on YouTube, which features two short episodes. One in Beauval, Saskatchewan (here) and the other in Manitoba (here). 


  • Retired Regina Public Library programmer Warren James, turned storyteller, has been writing original scary tales and sharing them on YouTube.
  • Or, if you like reading horror novels, you can check out some by Winnipeg author Susie Moloney.

The issue this week: the Prairie forests 

I often refer to the issues written about in The Flatlander as Prairie issues. It is only in the sense that Saskatchewan, Manitoba (and Alberta) are referred to as the Canadian Prairies, even though Manitoba and Saskatchewan are both 75 per cent forest.

  • And the Canadian Shield stretches into Manitoba and across the top of Saskatchewan.

Forests bigger than many countries

Canada has the world’s largest intact boreal forest ecosystem, the 1.2 billion acre Canadian Boreal, which covers the northern sections of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

  • If Manitoba’s boreal region were its own country, it would be bigger than Japan, Sweden, or Spain. 
  • The boreal covers 140 million acres (56 million hectares) in Manitoba. 

What do those words mean?

I zoned out in school when we talked about the boreal region, so I had to look up what boreal means. And it simply is a word that refers to the northern region, which is dominated by coniferous trees. 

And again, since I wasn’t paying attention in school, and even though I lived six years as an adult in the boreal area, I had to double-check that coniferous trees are the ones that produce pinecones and have leaves that don’t fall off in the winter, so pine trees, fir stress and spruce trees. 

The ecozones

Manitoba is the only Canadian province that has all four of the country’s major boreal ecozones (Saskatchewan has all of them, except the Hudson Plains):

  1. The Boreal Plains is a northern extension of the Great Plains of North America and stretches across the midsections of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Only 20 per cent of this land is used for agriculture. The primary industry in this area is logging, as well as oil and gas. 
  2. The Boreal Shield extends across a broad inverted arch from Northern Saskatchewan to the east of Lake Winnipeg. It is home to beavers, moose, wolves, black bears and Woodland Caribou, a species at risk. It also provides critical habitat for migratory ducks and geese. 
  3. Hudson Plains: Churchill in northern Manitoba represents the approximate western edge of the Hudson Plains, where polar bears can be found. Each fall, their dens stretch across the top of Manitoba’s boreal forest for about 150 kilometres. This area has short, mild summers and long winters. The growing season in this area is only 110 days. The Hudson Plain is flat and made up of wetlands.
  4. Taiga Shield: This is the northern edge of the boreal coniferous forest. It’s a narrow strip of northern Saskatchewan and northwestern Manitoba. The land has depressions carved by retreating glaciers filled with water creating lakes, ponds and wetlands.

The boreal zone in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is home to an extensive array of insects, birds, and mushrooms.

The Exceptional Value of Intact Forest Ecosystems, a report published in 2018, highlighted how intact forests like those in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are essential to biodiversity, carbon sequestration and storage, water provision, indigenous culture and the maintenance of human health in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The forestry industry in Saskatchewan

  • Forestry is the largest industry in Saskatchewan’s north.
  • It provides 8,000 jobs.
  • The provincial government says clearcutting is the most sustainable harvest method because it emulates what happens during forest fires. There is disagreement on this, however. 

About three million hockey rinks of trees lost

  • Over the past 15 years, forestry companies have harvested about 16,000 hectares of Saskatchewan forest each year,
  • According to Global Forest Watch, Saskatchewan had about 25 million hectares of trees in 2010. 
  • Last year, Saskatchewan lost 469,000 hectares (or about three million hockey rinks) of its trees from forest fires and human activities.
  • Over the last 20 years, northern Saskatchewan lost 6.2 million hectares of tree cover, according to Global Forest Watch.

Backyard woes

Over the years, the forestry industry in Saskatchewan has had conflicts with residents because people don’t like logging near where they live in places like La Ronge and Big River. Not only because they are worried about the impact on the environment, but they also enjoy the forests around their communities and nearby clearcutting changes the natural scenery they love.

Meanwhile, Manitoba

Minegoziibe Anishinabe First Nation, which is also commonly referred to as the Pine Creek First Nation, and Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation are taking Manitoba and the logging company Louisiana Pacific-Canada Ltd. to court because they say they haven’t been consulted about forest management in west-central Manitoba.

But there are some places where the industry isn’t at odds with the local community. This summer, Norway House Cree Nation signed a memorandum of agreement to collaborate on several forestry development initiatives.

Under this agreement, Norway House Cree Nation will be working with the government to:

  • Create a community-run, multi-year tree plant program that will train and employ youth and community members;
  • conduct a multiphase traditional land-use study, led by the community, which prioritizes the interests of Norway House Cree Nation;
  • provide a community allocation of timber for use in Norway House Cree Nation’s sawmills for the purpose of building about 500 homes in the community;
  • return up to 45 per cent of revenues collected from timber dues returned to rights holders.

Last year, the Manitoba government allocated $200,000 to improve the viability of Manitoba’s forest sector by encouraging enhanced Indigenous participation in the forest economy.

Until next time…

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

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