Poplar River First Nation

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Aerial view of Poplar River First Nation looking southwest.
Neginnan Harbour Authority

Poplar River First Nation (or Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabe in the Anishinaabe language) is an Ojibwa First Nation in Manitoba, Canada. Often simply referred to as Poplar River, its landbase is the Poplar River 16 First Nation Reserve, located approximately on the east side of Lake Winnipeg at the mouth of the Poplar River. Geographically, it is located at latitude 52°59′46″ north and longitude 97°16′59″ west. The largest city nearest this community is Winnipeg located approximately 400 kilometres (250 mi) to the south.

The current chief of Poplar River is Clifford Bruce. The Tribal Council affiliated with this First Nation is Southeast Resource Development Council. Poplar River is part of Treaty 5 Adhesion, signed on September 20, 1875.


Poplar River is 3,800 acres (1,500 ha). As of 2006, the total population of registered Indians was 1,363 (50.55% female/49.45% male) with 1093 on reserve (80.2%), and 270 off reserve (19.8%). The primary language spoken is Ojibwe, with some blending of the Cree dialect also known as Ojicree. The majority of surnames are Bruce, Franklin, and Berens.

There is an additional population consisting of Métis and non-status First Nations residing within Poplar River. The exact numbers have not been recorded.

Poplar River previously had a Métis settlement, but it was abandoned. There is no longer any official Métis settlement.

Poplar River has no municipality, district or any other town associated or connected with it.


The town itself is embedded along the main Poplar River with the primary township located on an atoll of land between Poplar River and Franklin River. The majority of the population resides along these two rivers, including three habitable islands located within the main Poplar River. Gravel highways exists throughout all of the community and bridges cross both rivers to connect all areas of the community. There are no paved concrete or asphalt roads or sidewalks.

Even though most people today use automobiles and walking power to travel the gravel paved roads, the use of watercraft and winter snowmobiles still remains.

Called "Asatiwisipe Aki" by the First Nation, their traditional land has been designated as a protected area with the support of the Manitoba government. It is one of the last remaining pristine river areas in the world, particularly in southern Canada. The river is very clean, with little or no man-made pollutants in the watershed. The Poplar River area may soon be designated as a section of a United Nations Heritage Site.

Environmental profile[edit]

Spring thaw of Poplar River looking west

The water, land, forest and beaches continue to remain free of pollution and industrial activity. There are vistas that have only the sounds of the wind, water and nature to break the silence.

The land is not fit for farming, so therefore self-sufficiency based on agriculture is not an option. Due to its geographic location during the Pleistocene period, or last ice age, this land was located under a large glacier that ploughed away the topsoils that are necessary for agriculture. Perhaps only 10 centimetres or more of cultivatable soil has accumulated over the past 10,000 years, but what remains underneath is fine clay particulates. This is evident during the warmer summer months when clay mud is prominent throughout most of the foot-travelled areas of the community.

Aurora Borealis can be seen regularly across the night skies.

The people[edit]

A community member rides a skidoo on the frozen Poplar River

The people of Poplar River are viewed as a "proud" people and take a great sense of pride in their community and their accomplishments. The people are very open-minded towards those of different backgrounds.

Younger people will often affectionately refer to Poplar River as "Poplar River #16" or simply "#16" due to the treaty adhesion number. This has been the case for many decades.

Others will sometimes jokingly and even mistakenly refer to Poplar River as "Popular River". It is expressed as an affectionate play on words. This too has been the case for many decades.

Alcoholism and Drug Addiction[edit]

Poplar River is a "dry" reserve, but prohibition laws are only enforced when citizens are acting irresponsibly or are a threat to others. Alcoholism occurs more prominently in certain families. There are no official studies to track alcoholism and its effects on the people.

Although alcohol can be obtained, the purchasing of alcohol from bootleggers has become far too expensive for most people, and the ease of drug trafficking and its lower costs have caused a dramatic increase in drug abuse.


The general overall state of health for the community is lower than the national average. Due to genetic predispositions that are known to influence the metabolism of aboriginals, the lack of education regarding proper nutrition and the importance of exercise, obesity and diabetes and all related illnesses are still a health threat to a portion of the population.

Heart attacks are appearing to be more and more common-place for adults at the age of 50 years.

The extremely high rate of unemployment has continued to be an issue of concern for the community. This is due to the lack of businesses or new enterprises that would normally provide employment for citizens. A large portion of the population collects social assistance in order to survive, and this has been an unavoidable fact of life for many generations of families.

Serious criminal activity is nearly non-existent, but acts of violence and spousal abuse are common-place.

Post-European Contact[edit]

Historically, cross-cultural influence by early European settlers and their governments are believed to have been the source of many problems for aboriginal peoples. The attempted assimilation of aboriginals is a well-known failure, and the loss of the traditional culture and religious beliefs has created a strong sense of hostility, loss and hopelessness within many aboriginal communities.

More importantly, in more recent decades the sudden change to mainstream diet could also have negative side-effects, not just with members of this community, but for all First Nation people; on or off reserve. The introduction of additives to foods such as hormones, antibiotics, tranquilizers, excessively high sugar, salt, and other additives, and even caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, could cause chemical changes in the bodies of First Nation people interfering with mental wellness. None of these substances except nicotine existed in their lives for thousands of years. Studies have shown that chemical imbalances could lead to irrational thoughts and behaviours triggering lengthy episodes of depression, anxiety, hostility and dependence on alcohol or mood-altering prescription medication or illegal drugs. This would explain the high incidents of alcoholism, higher than average rates of suicide, as well as other social ills. A sedentary lifestyle devoid of physical exercise is also known to trigger lengthy negative emotional events. There have been no in-depth scientific studies or analysis into this particular area specifically targeted at the First Nation peoples.

It has been recently discovered that the return to traditional spiritual, cultural, familial and dietary lifestyles could provide a more healthy way of life for aboriginal communities. While fishing and hunting has been practised by the elders, this knowledge is being taught and passed on to future generations. The preservation of the Ojibwa dialect is also paramount, and the return to traditional spiritual healing ceremonies and medicines may also remedy the mental, physical and emotional ills that are of great concern to the community. These teachings are ongoing.

The people in this community still persevere to overcome adversity today.


  • Northern - General Merchandise Store
    Northern, or The North West Company, is the largest business selling general merchandise ranging from household goods, food, petroleum products, electronics, clothing and more. Its predecessor was Hudson's Bay Company. The costs of goods in this community are higher than the Canadian average due to having to ship products via airplane, barge (during the summer months) or truck (during the winter months) from the main distribution outlets in Selkirk or Winnipeg, which are hundreds of kilometres south.
  • Mitasosipe Trading Post is the second largest store selling general merchandise.
  • Negginan Harbour Authority Inc. is the main small craft docking station which is officially governed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
  • Poplar River Elder's Lodge is a care facility for Poplar River's elderly population.
  • During the winter months, Poplar River is accessible via Winter Road. It is accessible year round via airplane, and via barge or water vessels during the summer months.
  • The majority of residents have modern conveniences of running water, plumbing and trash removal.
  • Children attend Poplar River Elementary School from grade 1 to 9. This school features a modern gymnasium, library and standard education programs. Members who pursue education beyond grade 9 must attend high schools, universities or colleges off reserve.
  • Most members of this community are still highly fluent in their first tongue, Ojibwe language.
  • Persons of non-First Nation descent, or members of other First Nations who have decided to make Poplar River their home adapt very well, and members are quick to welcome and embrace newcomers.
  • Most members of this community have broadband internet access. In addition, many households own satellite receivers for their television entertainment needs.
  • Youth of this community are influenced by national and international pop culture including music, movies and fashion trends from around the world thanks to satellite television and the internet.
  • the two main religions practiced in Poplar River are Roman Catholic and Pentecostal

History of Chiefs and Councillors[edit]

  • November 3, 2006 - Chief Russell Lambert. Councillors Clifford Bruce, James Mitchell, Guy Douglas, Emile Mason, Leonard Budd and Fred Mitchell.
  • November 3, 2004 - Chief Russell Lambert. Councillors Eddie Hudson, Clifford Bruce, Emile Mason, Guy Douglas, Sophia Rabliauskas and Darrell Bruce.
  • November 3, 2002 - Chief Russell Lambert. Councillors Clifford Bruce, Emile Mason, James Mitchell, Leonard Budd, Edwin Mitchell and Eddie Hudson.
  • November 3, 2000 - Chief Vera Mitchell. Councillors James Mitchell, Fred Mitchell, Guy Douglas, Emile Mason, Edwin Mitchell and Clifford Bruce.
  • November 3, 1998 - Chief Vera Mitchell. Councillors James Mitchell, Eddie Hudson, Guy Douglas, Fred Mitchell, Norman Bittern and Melvin Berens.
  • November 3, 1996 - Chief Russell Lambert. Councillors Norman Bittern, Eddie Hudson, Irvine Franklin, James Mitchell, Emile Mason and Guy Douglas.
  • November 3, 1994 - Chief Russell Lambert. Councillors Irvine Franklin, George Franklin, Albert Bittern, James Mitchell, Guy Douglas and Melvin Berens.
  • November 3, 1992 - Chief Alex Hudson Sr. Councillors Viola Bittern, Leonard Budd, Guy Douglas, Alex Timothy Hudson, Mary Eleanor Lambert and Emile Mason.
  • November 3, 1990 - Chief Vera Mitchell. Councillors Melvin Berens, Guy Douglas, Ernest C. Bruce, Leonard Mitchell, Eleanor Lambert and Alex Timothy Hudson.
  • November 3, 1988 - Chief Vera Mitchell. Councillors Leonard Mitchell, Norway Bittern, Guy Douglas, Albert Bittern, Melvin Bittern and Eddie Hudson.
  • November 3, 1986 - Chief Alex Hudson. Councillors Eddie Hudson, Marc Hudson, Gordon Bittern Sr., Fred Mitchell, Peter Bittern and Albert Bittern.
  • November 3, 1984 - Chief Alex Hudson. Councillors Fred Mitchell, Gordon Bittern Sr., Marc Hudson and Leonard Budd.
  • November 3, 1982 - Chief Alex Hudson. Councillors Leonard Budd, Gordon Bittern, Mark Hudson and Freddie Mitchell.
  • November 3, 1980 - Chief Albert Bittern. Councillors Phillip Bruce, William Fontaine, Margaret Hudson and Irvine Franklin.
  • November 3, 1978 - Chief Albert Bittern. Councillors Peter Bittern, Jimmy Bruce, Phillip Bruce and Leonard Budd.
  • November 3, 1976 - Chief Norman Walter Bruce. Councillors Albert Bittern, Solomon Bruce, Franklin Mitchell and William Paul. Note: Norman W. Bruce resigned 1/6/77.
  • November 3, 1974 - Chief George Boyd. Councillors Albert Bittern, Leonard Budd, Austin Franklin and Vernon George Franklin. Note: George Boyd resigned 3/3/75; Jacob Green appt Chief 1/4/75 Leonard Budd resigned 3/7/75. Austin Franklin resigned 31/7/75. Lillian Bittern and Norman W. Bruce elected 28/8/75. Jacob Green resigned 16/3/76 & Norman W. Bruce appt 31/3/76.
  • November 3, 1974 - Chief George Boyd. Councillors Leonard Budd, Albert Bittern, Austin Franklin and Walter Nanowin.
  • November 3, 1972 - Chief Gordon Bittern. Councillors Valerie Boyd, Bert Bruce, Lawrence Bruce and Colin Bruce. Note: Valerie Boyd resigned 19/11/73. Gordon Bittern, Bert Bruce, Colin Bruce and Lawrence Bruce resigned 11/4/74.
  • October 21, 1970 - Chief Alex Hudson. Councillors Lillian Bittern, Philip Bruce and Victor Bruce. Note: Alex Hudson resigned 13/9/71 and Philip Bruce appt. as Chief.
  • October 22, 1966 - Chief Gordon Bittern. Councillors Bert Bruce, Norman Bruce and Philip Bruce. Note: Norman Bruce resigned 16/10/67 Vernon Franklin replaced him. Alex Hudson Chief 7/10/68. Vernon Franklin and Victor Bruce resigned 8/2/70. William Fontaine and William Bruce replaced councillor 27/2/70.
  • October 21, 1964 - Chief Gordon Bittern. Councillors Victor Bruce, Jacob Green and Fred Lambert.
  • October 20, 1962 - Chief Gordon Bittern. Councillors William Bruce and Fred Lambert.
  • October 20, 1960 - Chief Alex Hudson. Councillors William Bruce and Leonard Mitchell.
  • October 27, 1958 - Chief Jacob Bruce. Councillors William Bruce and Alex Mitchell.
  • October 18, 1956 - Chief Gordon Bittern. Councillors Roderick Douglas and Charles Franklin.
  • November 23, 1953 - Chief Alex Hudson. Councillors Fred Lambert and William Bruce.
  • June 12, 1950 - No Chief on record. Councillors Jacob Bruce and Thomas Douglas.
  • June 17, 1933 - Chief Cuthbert Nanowin. Councillors Jacob Bruce and James Bruce.
  • August 12, 1926 - Chief Miles Michel. Councillors Sandy Bruce and Cuthbert Nanowin.
  • August 19, 1924 - No Chief on record. Councillors Miles Michel and Cuthbert Nanowin.
  • 1914 - No Chief on record. Councillors Jacob Nanowin and Miles Michel.
  • 1913 - No Chief on record. Councillor Jacob Nanowin.
  • July 11, 1912 - No Chief on record. Councillors Jacob Nanowin and Henry Bittern.
  • July 25, 1885 to August 24, 1923 - No Chief on record. Councillor Jacob Nanowin. Note: Death of Jacob Nanowin was shown on paylist 24/8/23.

Official address[edit]

Poplar River First Nation
P.O. Negginan
Poplar River, Manitoba R0B 0Z0
Phone: 204-244-2267
Fax: 204-244-2690
official web site featuring facts, images, maps and more.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°59′46″N 97°16′59″W / 52.99611°N 97.28306°W / 52.99611; -97.28306