Zane Buchanan is your typical run-of-the-mill Saskatchewanian. He was born in White City, just outside of Regina, and attended Greenall High School in Balgonie. He graduated in 2010.
After graduation he moved to Victoria, then Toronto, then Vancouver and then Toronto again. He took theatre and then shifted over to journalism. He started as a arts and cinema critc and then moved over into being a copywriter. Like anybody in their 20s, he was trying to find his place in the world.
Although he left Saskatchewan for schooling, Saskatchewan never left him. It didn't matter if he was in Vancouver or Toronto, he was always "the Prairie kid" or "that guy from Saskatchewan".
He had just settled in Toronto for the second time when he got the call to be the Saskatchewanderer. He had two weeks to pack his bags and fly across the country to start his new life. From there, "It's [been] a constant hamster wheel."
But Buchanan wasn't welcomed as easily as previous wanderers. Many voiced their concerns online about why Tourism Saskatchewan would choose somebody who wasn't "from Saskatchewan" to represent the province. This surprised Buchanan. In Toronto he was an outsider, and in Saskatchewan he had become an outsider too. But he knew Tourism Saskatchewan picked him for a reason, and he took this as an opportunity to prove himself.
Five months later, Buchanan has brought out a new side of what it means to explore Saskatchewan. Although past wanderers had explored the province previously, Buchanan hadn't – and neither has his interprovincial audience from Vancouver and Toronto. Many were intrigued by the program. What makes Saskatchewan so special? Why was there somebody specifically hired to explore the province? This interprovincial curiosity is something no previous wanderer had.
Since starting as the Saskatchewanderer, Buchanan has had his fair share of challenges, with the biggest is somewhat surprising.
"There is so much driving," he laughed during the interview.
In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, personal vehicles are a dying breed. Public transportation, railways and subways can get you wherever you need. But in Saskatchewan, the only way around is by your own vehicle. It's taken Buchanan a few months to get used to all the driving, but he's finally getting his "sea-legs".
Another challenge Buchanan has had to face was an abnormally cold winter. After missing the "joys" of Saskatchewan winter for the past eight years, Buchanan assumed he had just gotten soft from all the winters in Toronto and Vancouver. At the start of his term, he would purposely go outside in -45 weather just to climatize himself. This lasted about a month until somebody informed him it wasn't just him; it was actually freakishly cold outside.
When asked what one of the biggest surprises was after becoming a celebrity, Buchanan said it was all the attention he has been getting. When he was in Toronto and Vancouver, he was a face in a sea of people. But in Saskatchewan people stop him on the street to take pictures and they honk at him on the highway.
"You can't train for this," he told me, and as somebody who has experienced similar things on my travels, I totally understand.
But Buchanan loves it, and he loves discovering the province with both his provincial and interprovincial audiences. Unlike past wanderers that have been overly active on social media, Buchanan focuses primarily on writing pieces on The Saskatchewanderer blog – a medium that other wanderers haven't used as much. For those who don't follow the blog, it may seem like Buchanan has been quiet lately, but that can't be further from the truth.
And it isn't going to change anytime soon.
From May to September, Buchanan's schedule is packed. It's a lot of "glamour and hard work" he told me, and he can't wait to do it. Few people understand just how demanding the Saskatchewanderer position is. The position does the work of an entire media team, from content creation, social media promotion, video production, interviewing, lecturing, driving and, of course, taking the time to actually experience the places he's visiting. But now that Buchanan has gotten the first few months out of the way, he's ready to take on summer.
Buchanan's favourite adventure so far was dog sledding in Prince Albert National Park. A lover of dogs and the outdoors, Buchanan took part in The Canadian Challenge, which is a 600km round trip dog sled trip from Prince Albert to La Ronge. This
challenge follows the original path of the trappers, North West Mounted Police, and First Nations people.
While in the north he also spent time at various Cree camps, learning about Indigenous culture and traditions. Buchanan has a unique approach to this, as he has Metis heritage, and hopes to highlight a part of Saskatchewan that has been hidden for far too long.
He has a lot of plans for this year, from kayaking and drag racing, to enjoying Cypress Hills and the Ness Creek Music Festival. He can't wait for the second half of his year, and neither can we.
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.
When it comes to Saskatchewan, your next adventure can be around any corner. As you venture off the main highways, signage is scarce and directions such as "if you've passed the gate with the buffalo skulls, you've gone too far" are all too common. Communities grow smaller, people grow warmer and the list of things on your Saskatchewan Bucket List seems to only get longer.
My adventure to Leader started a few months ago when Christine over at Cruisin' Christine shared a list of Leader bus tours on Facebook. Some of the tours were in June, but one was in September. The September tour caught my eye because it was a two-day tour and I had to ask myself what we would do for two days in Leader. Leader has a three digit population, so I was perplexed on what the tour would comprise.
I was so perplexed that I decided contacted Leader Tourism and booked the tour to find out.
I've wanted to visit the Battlefords in Saskatchewan for a few years now. As somebody who loves history, just to visit a city that once housed the capital of the North-West Territories is reason enough. I'm sure I've passed through the city when I was younger, but I've never had the chance to explore it as an adult.
My interest in both cities grew when I was doing research for my 2017 article, "6 Saskatchewan Cemeteries to Visit This October". One individual I interviewed for the article was Don Light of the North-West Historical Society. Light was tasked with the sensitive job of moving about eighty graves within The Battleford Cemetery. Relocating graves is always the last option when it comes to a cemetery, but in this case, they had no choice. The Battleford Cemetery sits on the edge the North Saskatchewan River, and the banks of the cemetery were slowly eroding. Had the graves been left undisturbed, headstones, monuments and caskets would start falling into the roaring river below.
Light and I had an excellent chat that day and he told me many fascinating stories about what they found when they were moving the graves. Some of the graves he had to move were Metis graves, all while under the supervision of police and Indigenous professionals. Many of these caskets had rotted and were open, and they found a plethora of Roman Catholic crosses and First Nation beadwork, a sign of traditional Metis culture.