Known as the “Spanish Flu” or “La Grippe,” it was a global disaster, named after the country where it was first detected and struck with devastating speed. Victims often died within 24 hours. This devastating pandemic affected every inhabited region in the World. With no vaccine or effective treatment, it came in multiple waves. The first wave took place in the spring of 1918, then in the fall of 1918, a mutation of the influenza virus produced an extremely infectious, virulent, and deadly form of the disease. This second wave caused 90% of the deaths that occurred and subsequent waves took place in the spring of 1919 and the spring of 1920. “The Great Sickness,” the greatest number of deaths from the epidemic occurred in young adults between the ages of 20 and 40. Because Influenza was more likely to kill parents than children, there was a sharp rise in the number of orphans in the province.
The virus ripped through Stanley Mission in early 1920, soon after everyone for a considerable distance around had assembled at the request of the Rev. Mr. Fraser who was holding service in the church. Thirty-two recorded victims died of influenza or the lingering effects of pneumonia. All were buried in March of 1920 on the small island adjacent to the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. Local men and women were assisted with the burial by Lamson and Hubbard manager George Moberly and Provincial Police Constable G. D. Maxwell. Oral history says when the RCMP arrived they were told to burn the bodies, but they refused. Instead, the bodies were placed in a sunken shaft on the island, dug years earlier by a miner in search of rare metals. Elders forbade anyone from going to that island after that, in fear of the sickness coming back.
A local woman prophet [otiyinesew iskwêw] foretold a vision she saw of Cree syllabics in the sky from one of the four directions, saying many of them had been summoned by our Creator.
Names of victims as recorded in the Burial Registrar at Stanley Mission: March 1920. Cause of Death: Influenza.
- Annabella McKenzie 70 years old
- Lazarus Ballendine 70 years old
- Moses Roberts 35 years old
- Daniel Charles 35 years old
- Christain Charles & Baby
- James McKenzie 35 years old
- Mary Jane McKenzie 34 years old
- Patrick Rat 45 years old
- Elizabeth Rat & Baby 40 years old
- Lizzie Hardlot 32 years old
- Caroline Charles 88 years old
- Jane Rat 70 years old
- Betsy McKenzie 70 years old
- Solomon McKenzie 18 years old
- John Cook 60 years old
- Daniel McKenzie 21 years old
- Angelique McKenzie 21 years old
- Bella McKenzie 24 years old
- Obadiah McLeod 9 years old
- Pierre Roberts 9 years old
- John Roberts 2 years old
- Eliza Charles 35 years old
- Isaac Charles 9 years old
- Moses Ross 2 years old
- James Mckenzie 2 years old
- Amos Charles
- Lizzie Bear 2 years old
- Isiah Cook Baby
- Unnamed Bear 6 months
- Archie Rat 2 years old
- Mathilda Rose Rat 4 years old.
The text of the cast bronze memorial plaque reads as follows (audio of the Cree provided by Solomon Ratt):
In memory to our relatives we lost in the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1920. The pandemic took between 25 and 50 million lives worldwide. The influenza did not reach our area until 1919. Some relatives we lost are buried either on their lands, in the church graveyard, and on the island across from the church in a mass grave in March 1920. We remember our relatives, and we honour them with this memorial.
Here are the names of those who are buried on the island, and in the graveyard, taken from the burial registry of the church:
î-kiskisitotawâyahkwâw ôta kiwâhkômâkanipaninawak kâ-kî-wanihâyahkwâw ispî kâ-kî-misi-âhkosinâniwik kayâs 1918-1920 askîwina kâ-kî-akihtihki. iyako mis-âhkosiwin kî-mîscihîhîw 25 isko 50 mâwaci-kihci-mitâtahtomitanaw athisitiniwa misiwîskamik. pâtimâ 1919 askîwin kâ-kî-akihtîk ôta kâ-kî-takopathik iyako misi-âhkosiwin. âtiht kiwâhkômâkaninawak kâ-kî-wanihâyahkwâw kî-nahâhthâwak otaskîwâhk ohpimî ôta ohci, ayamihâwikamik-thikwahaskânihk ikwa âtiht kî-mâmawi-nahâhthâwak miniscikosihk akâmihk ôta ohci ayamihâwikamikohk mikisiwipîsim kâ-kî-akimiht, 1920 askîwin kâ-kî-akihtîk. kikiskisitotawânawak ikwa kikistîthihtawânawak ôma ohci kiskisitotawini-asiniy. iyakonik ôko kâ-kî-mâmawi-nahâthihcik akâmihk miniscikosihk:
ᐄ ᑭᐢᑭᓯᑐᑕᐚᔭᐦᒁᐤ ᐆᑕ ᑭᐚᐦᑰᒫᑲᓂᐸᓂᓇᐘᐠ ᑳ ᑮ ᐘᓂᐦᐋᔭᐦᒁᐤ ᐃᐢᐲ ᑳ ᑮ ᒥᓯ ᐋᐦᑯᓯᓈᓂᐏᐠ ᑲᔮᐢ 1918-1920 ᐊᐢᑮᐏᓇ ᑳ ᑮ ᐊᑭᐦᑎᐦᑭ᙮ ᐃᔭᑯ ᒥᓵᐦᑯᓯᐏᐣ ᑮ ᒦᐢᒋᐦᐄᐦᐄᐤ 25 ᐃᐢᑯ 50 ᒫᐘᒋ ᑭᐦᒋ ᒥᑖᑕᐦᑐᒥᑕᓇᐤ ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐘ ᒥᓯᐑᐢᑲᒥᐠ᙮ ᐹᑎᒫ 1919 ᐊᐢᑮᐏᐣ ᑳ ᑮ ᐊᑭᐦᑏᐠ ᐆᑕ ᑳ ᑮ ᑕᑯᐸᖨᐠ ᐃᔭᑯ ᒥᓯ ᐋᐦᑯᓯᐏᐣ᙮ ᐋᑎᐦᐟ ᑭᐚᐦᑰᒫᑲᓂᓇᐘᐠ ᑳ ᑮ ᐘᓂᐦᐋᔭᐦᒁᐤ ᑮ ᓇᐦᐋᐦᖭᐘᐠ ᐅᑕᐢᑮᐚᕽ ᐅᐦᐱᒦ ᐆᑕ ᐅᐦᒋ, ᐊᔭᒥᐦᐋᐏᑲᒥᐠ ᖨᑿᐦᐊᐢᑳᓂᕽ ᐃᑿ ᐋᑎᐦᐟ ᑮ ᒫᒪᐏ ᓇᐦᐋᐦᖭᐘᐠ ᒥᓂᐢᒋᑯᓯᕽ ᐊᑳᒥᕽ ᐆᑕ ᐅᐦᒋ ᐊᔭᒥᐦᐋᐏᑲᒥᑯᕽ ᒥᑭᓯᐏᐲᓯᒼ ᑳ ᑮ ᐊᑭᒥᐦᐟ, 1920 ᐊᐢᑮᐏᐣ ᑳ ᑮ ᐊᑭᐦᑏᐠ᙮ ᑭᑭᐢᑭᓯᑐᑕᐚᓇᐘᐠ ᐃᑿ ᑭᑭᐢᑏᖨᐦᑕᐚᓇᐘᐠ ᐆᒪ ᐅᐦᒋ ᑭᐢᑭᓯᑐᑕᐏᓂ ᐊᓯᓂᐩ᙮
ᐃᔭᑯᓂᐠ ᐆᑯ ᑳ ᑮ ᒫᒪᐏ ᓇᐦᐋᖨᐦᒋᐠ ᐊᑳᒥᕽ ᒥᓂᐢᒋᑯᓯᕽ:
We honour you.