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Bed and breakfast serves up a taste of Metis culture

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Laura Stevens, Sage Writer, Duck Lake







Page 12

Jack Pine Stables, located about an hour's drive from Saskatoon, isn't your typical bed and breakfast.

The business, which advertises itself as an Aboriginal bed and breakfast and guest ranch, offers visitors a chance to experience aspects of First Nation and Metis culture, from dining on bannock or pemmican to spending the night in the on-site tipi village.

Vacationers can enjoy 160 acres of hiking trails and horseback riding bordering on the provincially protected Nisbet forest. In the winter, people can try snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. And for those not interested in tipi living, the ranch also offers accommodation in its guest lodge.

Jack Pine Stables was established by husband and wife Lawrence and Darlene Mullis. Since Lawrence's passing last year, Darlene has worked to continue incorporating Metis culture and traditions into the ranch's daily routine.

"I want to keep going as sort of a legacy in his honour," Darlene said. "It feels like he is still here."

Darlene said she and her husband have always had a great appreciation for the Metis culture, not only because her husband was Metis, but because Metis are the kind of people who would do anything for other people.

"We made a lot of friends that are true to the easy-going way of life, like so many people in this area," Darlene said. "My husband was exactly like this too, easy-going. He taught me how to laugh and love people as he did. He really was the kindest man anyone could ever know."

Darlene and Lawrence's entry into the hospitality industry was something that just kind of evolved, Darlene said. The couple would often invite friends over for dinner and to ride the horses. There weren't any accommodations in the area, so it occurred to them that maybe they could fill the void.

"Being here allows us to promote the Metis culture, which is so prevalent here, and it all just seemed to fit together," Darlene said.

About a dozen people volunteer their time on a regular basis to help Darlene run the ranch. Ashley Ostafie, a 15-year-old from Yorkton, has been helping out since she was about nine. She said she enjoys the peaceful and natural atmosphere.

"I absolutely love horses and I just like being here," said Ostafie.

Jack Pine Stables is open year round, but Darlene said the summer is the longest and busiest season, partly because many people chose to stay there while attending the annual Back to Batoche celebrations held each July at the nearby Batoche National Historic Site. Christmas is another busy time, when the ranch plays host to staff functions and family get-togethers.

"The snow on the pine trees is completely breath-taking during the winter, especially if you are on a sleigh ride," she said.

Safety and treating people well are the top priorities at Jack Pine Stables, especially for those who choose to go trail riding. Darlene said she knows the horses very well and knows which horse is best suited for each visitor, whether the person is experienced with horses or has never been on a horse before.

"All rides are guided," she said. "We were horse people first so we know what each horse is like so we can judge which horse best suits each rider. We keep people safe on our horses."

The success Jack Pine Stables has achieved in attracting visitors from near and far has not gone unnoticed. In 2003, the ranch won the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award in recognition of its success in attracting international visitors.

The promotion of Metis culture at the ranch also makes it a popular destination for Metis groups, Darlene said.

"We are so proud to host other Metis groups and organizations.

This year, we had people from the National Metis Council, Metis Nations of Alberta and Metis Nation of Ontario come and visit."

For more information about Jack Pine Stables, log on to www.jackpinestables.com. For reservations call (306) 467-2005.