Saddle Lake Cree Nation

Saddle Lake Cree Nation

TREATY No. 6  – 1876 SIGNING:

The group of Indian communities now known as the Saddle Lake (amalgamated)

Bands entered into formal relations with the Canadian government by their

assent to Treaty Six at Fort Pitt (Saskatchewan) on September 9, 1876.  The

bands’ leaders and spokesmen at the treaty negotiations were James Seenum (also

known as Pakan) and Little Hunter (Oonah-tah-mee-na-hoos, or Little Chief).

The people represented at the treaty negotiations by Seenum and Little Hunter

were members of a loosely-connected group of native communities (Cree, Métis,

and a few Stoney) which had grown up in the 19th Century along the north side

of the North Saskatchewan River, stretching from Lac Ste. Anne (on the West)

and to Fort Pitt (on the East).

In 1871, the first of eleven treaties was signed between the Indians and the

Crown, intended by the government to open the way for federal access to and

control of western lands and resources. As the Cree understood it, however, the

treaty would ensure peace and would help them cope with the threats to their

hunting, trapping, and trading way of life which they saw would soon overtake


The treaty was signed on September 9, 1876.

Department of Indian Affairs surveyor J.C Nelson arrived in Alberta in June of

1886 to lay out lands for the Saddle Lake area bands. He then began the survey

of Whitefish Lake I.R No. 128, completing it on July 18, 1886. Nelson then

moved to Waskatenaw and surveyed an entirely separate reserve (Whasatnow I.R

126) for Muskegwatic or Bear’s Ears’ Band. He then returned to Saddle Lake to

discuss the choice of land for Little Hunter, Blue Quill, and James Seenum.

It was partly decided at this meeting, that these reserves would be laid out in

one block, under Pakan, unless Blue Quill held out against it. Blue Quill was

not present, but soon after the meeting he came in from his band’s settlement

at Egg (Whitford) Lake (near what is now Andrew). He confirmed that hey agreed

to abandon their houses and gardens there and to move to Saddle Lake by 1887,

where they would take reserve land.

Final maps of the reserves were completed in 1887, and on May 17, 1889. Order

in Council P.C 1151 confirmed Whitefish Lake I.R 128 for “part of Pakan’s

Band”; Saddle Lake I.R 125 for the bands of Chiefs Little Hunter, James Seenum

and Blue Quill; and Wahsatenow I.R 126 for the band of Chief Bear’s Ears.

(see maps 1a,1b)

The 1886 survey was calculated as follows:

BandNumber of People

James Seenum’s Band (@ 1879)486 people

James Seenum’s Band (transferred from Little  Hunter’s Band 1879 – 1886)

42 people

Little Hunter’s band (at 1886)81 people

Blue Quill’s Band (at 1886)40 people

Persons absent from reserve12 people

NELSON’S TOTAL:661 people

This figure was then used to calculate the bands’ treaty land entitlement, as


Total population for all three bands:661 people

Entitlement per person: 1 square mile

per family of 5 or 128 acres

Total land entitlement of the three bands at 1886:661 x  128

acres (132.2 square miles)

Total acreage of reserves surveyed in 1886: (see map 1-a)

Saddle Lake I.R 125:73, 600 acres or 115.0

square miles

Whitefish Lake I.R 128:11, 200 acres or 17.5

square miles

Total:84, 800 acres, or 132.5

square miles

Beginning even before the surveys, the Department put pressure on them to move

to Saddle Lake, arguing that they would be better off where good farmland was

available and under the Agency’s close supervision. The survivors of the band,

however, refused to leave their camps and gardens at Waskatenau until 1896. The

members of Wasatnow band were all places on Little Hunter’s pay list in 1896.

They purportedly gave surrender, dated September 26, 1896, exchanging

Wahsatenow I.R for an equal area of land adjoining Saddle Lake I.R. The

addition was chosen at Cache Lake on the North West side of Saddle Lake I.R,

and was surveyed in 1897-1898, and was confirmed by Order in Council in 1889.

In 1900 and 1902, two formal agreements supposedly completed the legal

amalgamation of the Wahsatnow band with the other Saddle Lake Bands.

It is reasonably certain that there is now legally one band – the “Saddle Lake

Band” with equal interests in the lands and resources of I.R 125 (including the

Cache Lake addition) and I.R 128. The groups and residents at the two separate

reserves do, however, have a partly divided band council system as well as a

strong belief in their separate identities.

For reasons of economy, efficiency and convenience, DIA throughout the 1880’s

made persistent and strong efforts to influence all the bands of the area to

settle together in locations close to the Agency and within reach of the

government farm instructor’s establishment.

Pakan’s name alone is affixed to Whitefish Lake I.R 125 was set aside “for the

bands of Chief’s Pakan, Little Hunter, & Blue Quill; I.R 128 for “part

of ‘Pakan’s Band’” and I.R 126 for Bear’s Ear’s Band.

In 1899, when the Cache Lake addition to I.R 125 was finally confirmed, it was

discovered that the amalgamation papers had never been signed.

The Indian Commissioner therefore suggested that either the holdings of each

band be divided up once and for all, or else that a new agreement be made “to

fully amalgamate the bands” owning reserves 125,126,127 and 128.

New documents were prepared but did not reach the agency until late in 1901. In

March of 1902, at a band council meeting, Agent Mann at last discussed the

proposition “carefully” with them. After settling in t the condition that no

Roman Catholic school or mission from Blue Quill’s part of the reserve would be

moved to any other sector of I.R 125, they signed the agreement.

Even if the amalgamation agreements were in fact fully understood and accepted

in 1902, the bands did not find them suitable for very long. Dissatisfaction

with the results of the mergers broke out only a few years after signing.

The final step to date in the formal amalgamation of the two bands was taken in

1953, when the treaty pay lists of the Little Hunter (Saddle Lake), James

Seenum and Blue Quill Bands were merged, as should have been done in 1902. The

two larger bands, however, retained the separate chiefs and council

representation which they had since the re-establishment of the Little Hunter

band Chiefship in 1913.