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Saddle Lake Cree Nation
Band No. 462
ᐅᓂᐦᒋᑭᐢᑿᐱᐏᓂᕽ
onihcikiskwapiwinihk
Land
Reserve(s)
  • Saddle Lake 125
  • Whitefish Lake 128
  • Blue Quills (shared)
Land area 304.195 km2
Population (2019)
On reserve 6691
Off reserve 4315
Total population 11006
Government
Chief Eric Shirt
Website
saddlelakecreenation.ca

Saddle Lake Cree Nation (Cree: ᐅᓂᐦᒋᑭᐢᑿᐱᐏᓂᕽ, onihcikiskwapiwinihk) is a Plains Cree, First Nations community, located in the Amiskwacīwiyiniwak ("Beaver Hills") region of central Alberta, Canada. The Nation is a signatory to Treaty 6, and their traditional language is Plains Cree.

Saddle Lake's governing structure is unusual in that it has two separate councils and chiefs governing their two reserves - Saddle Lake Cree Nation (proper) and the Whitefish Lake First Nation (often called "Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation" to distinguish it from a similarly named group in Manitoba). For the purposes of the Indian Act however, Saddle Lake and Whitefish have one, shared, band government and the two reserves are considered to be one Nation.

In June 2013, the Nation reported a population of 9,934 people, of which 6,148 people lived on their own Reserve. Their reported population size makes Saddle Lake the second most populous First Nation in Alberta (after the Kainai Nation also known as the Blood people). Of these 2,378 were members of the Whitefish Lake First Nation, with 1,778 of those living on-reserve, and remainder are members of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation proper.

History

In 1876, the Amiskwacīwiyiniwak, who were a loose confederation of Cree and Assiniboine band societies (part of the wider Iron Confederation), entered into a treaty relationship with Canada through Treaty 6. Chief Onchaminahos ("Little Hunter") for the Saddle Lake Band of Cree, and Chief Pakân ("Nut") for Whitefish Lake Band of Cree represented the ancestors of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation at negotiations and signing Fort Pitt (now in Saskatchewan). Chief Pakan, along with Big Bear argued for one large reserve of 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) for all the Plains and Woods Cree in the West, so they could hunt and farm together. When the government did not agree to this, Pakan's and Big Bear's bands refused to settle on reserves until better term were offered, and Pakan when to Regina with the Métis translator Peter Erasmus in 1884 to discuss the matter with the Indian commissioner.

In 1902, four historical Cree bands were amalgamated as the Saddle Lake Cree Nation. The four Cree Bands were:

  • Onchaminahos' Band, led by Chief Onchaminahos ("Little Hunter"; a.k.a. Thomas Hunter);
  • Seenum's Band, led by Chief Pakân ("Nut", a.k.a. James Seenum);
  • Blue Quill's Band, led by Chief Blue Quill; and
  • Wasatnow's Band, led by Chief Muskegwatic ("Bear Ears").

However, the amalgamation process wasn't fully completed until 1953 when the treaty pay lists of the Little Hunter's, James Seenum's and Blue Quill's Bands were merged.

Reserves

There are three reserves under the governance of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, one of which is shared with five other bands:

  • 96.20 hectares (237.7 acres) Blue Quills First Nation Indian Reserve, formerly known as the "Blue Quill Indian Reserve 127", shared with five other bands (see article)
  • 25,780.60 hectares (63,705.2 acres) Saddle Lake Indian Reserve 125, containing the community of Saddle Lake, Alberta
  • 4,542.70 hectares (11,225.3 acres) White Fish Lake Indian Reserve 128; the reserve is also known as "Whitefish Lake Indian Reserve 128" or as "Goodfish Lake Indian Reserve 128", and occasionally as "Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake Indian Reserve 128"

Originally, Chief Muskegwatic had also reserved Washatanow (or Hollow Hill Creek) Indian Reserve 126 along the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River. However, this Reserve was surrendered in 1896 in exchange for an equal area of land adjoining Saddle Lake Indian Reserve 125, known today as the "Cache Lake Addition" of the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve 125. Blue Quill Indian Reserve 127 was originally reserved for the use by the Blue Quill's Band, but in 1896, a boarding school (Sacred Heart Indian Residential School, commonly called the "Saddle Lake Boarding School") was relocated from Lac la Biche, Alberta, to the Blue Quill Indian Reserve, and the Band relocated to the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve. In 1931, Blue Quill Indian Reserve 127 became a shared Reserve when the boarding school relocated to St. Paul, Alberta.

Saddle Lake Indian Reserve 125 is bordered by Smoky Lake County, the County of St. Paul No. 19, and County of Two Hills No. 21.

Notable people

  • James Makokis, doctor, specialist in traditional medicine, transgender and Indigenous healthcare.
  • Doreen Spence, nurse, human rights activist.
  • Northern Cree, powwow and round dance drum group.
  • Lana Whiskeyjack, ipkDoc, professor, women and gender activist, and artist.
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