The Doukhobor Dugout House National Historic Site of Canada, near Blaine Lake off of Highway 12, was unable to open last year due to the COVID pandemic. Typically, each year, this site opens to the public and group tours are done of the area where those attending learn more about the Doukhobor people that lived there over 100 years ago. This season, although things will be slightly different, the area will once again be open to the public.
This year, those visiting the site will do a self-guided tour. There will also be an outdoor patio overlooking the river valley added into the mix. The patio will be named after Peter Verigin, a Doukhobor leader that was mysteriously killed in 1924 by a bomb explosion while traveling on a train. The death of Verigin remains a mystery to this day. “We are working with the Government on bringing the information about Peter’s death to visitors when they come there. It is going to be like they are taking a step back in time,” founder Brenda Cheveldayoff explained.
Despite not being open last year there were still several Doukhobor bread sales held, with proceeds from the sales going towards the construction of a roof on a Prayer Home on site that was dreamed of by Donna Choppe, a Doukhobor Dugout House volunteer and Director for 17 years, who sadly passed away in 2020. Last year, approximately $7600 was raised for this project through bread sales.
“The first bread sale we held, people couldn’t even get out of their cars due to the restrictions, then by the second and third times, they were able to get out of their cars and take a picture, and for the last one, they were able to walk around and look at things. That was the extent of our season last year, so this year, some major changes were made so we could operate and we are really excited to be back,” Cheveldayoff said.
Instead of scheduled group tours, people are invited to come at any time between 10am and 5pm. There will be a map provided to you and ten significant spots in the yard that Doukhobor people utilized. There is also a museum available, food options such as Doukhobor bread grilled cheese sandwiches with dill pickle pasta salad and cookies, seasonal beverages and refreshments, a gift shop with locally made products, Doukhobor memorabilia and more.
The Doukhobor Dugout Site will be opening on July 3; however, there will be a Doukhobor bread sale taking place on June 5th, with the proceeds from the sale going towards a new coat of paint for Donna’s Prayer Home.
Cheveldayoff, who is a descendant, has been operating this site for the past 18 years. “This was where the Doukhobors lived – 300 of them, in the ground and it is the only one in Canada that is still standing and is both provincially and nationally designated,” Cheveldayoff stated.
Other changes will include a newly updated website, which is being funding through Tourism Saskatchewan that will launch this May. Although outdated, for more information and history about the Doukhobors of Saskatchewan, visit http://www.doukhobordugouthouse.com/.