Fisher River Cree Nation
Fisher River (Ochekwi-Sipi) is a Cree First Nations reserve located approximately 193 km north of Manitoba's capital city, Winnipeg. The Fisher River Cree Nation is composed of two reserves; Fisher River 44 and Fisher River 44A. The reserve population is 1709, the off reserve population is 1389 for a total of 3098 band members. Fisher River is 15,614 acres (6,319 hectares).
Fisher River is named after the fisher, a North American mammal which belongs to the same family as weasels and skunks.
The Chief of Fisher River is David Crate.
Fisher River Cree Nation’s history can be traced back to the 1840’s when Norway House became the hub of Hudson Bay Company’s fur-trade and supply lines, and an administration centre for Rupert’s Land. Norway House was the location where furs from as far away as Great Slave Lake were traded for trade goods from England. The employment that was created drew hundreds of Cree people from the Hayes and Nelson River systems. However, in the 1870’s, the local environment had been nearly trapped-out and the Hudson Bay Company started to wind-down its operations. At the same time, the Hudson Bay Company introduced steamboat transportation on Lake Winnipeg which replaced its need for York Boats and the people who operated them.
This combination caused at least 200 Cree people to be put out of work. So, on the advice of local missionaries, a segment of the Norway House Cree who called themselves the “Christian Indians of Rossville”1, decided to locate further inland on lands more favourable for agriculture and other traditional activities. In 1874, representatives of this group, led by Chief David Rundle, wrote the federal government requesting support to move to their southernmost hunting region around Grassy Narrows and the present day Icelandic River.
A request was also made to the federal government for a Treaty to be made to secure their lands, resources, and way of life. In the fall of 1875, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris concluded Treaty Number Five with the Norway House peoples, and gave Davis Rundle’s people the present reserve at Fisher River.
However, there was a delay in the move due to an outbreak of small pox in the Icelandic colony just south of the proposed reserve site. So, in the summer of 1877, when the quarantine was lifted, 200 people (43 families) made the 200 mile journey south to the present day Fisher River Reserve. Upon arrival, the people built homes and divided up the land to be used for farming.
In addition to farming, the people took part in the seasonal labour provided by the fishing and lumber industries.2 Throughout the 1880’s many more families from northern Manitoba joined the original settlers.3 In 1908, the band signed the adhesions to Treaty Number Five which brought more people into the band.4
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