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Hobbema (1891–2013)
Unincorporated community/Hamlet
Area surrounding Maskwacis
Maskwacis is located in Alberta
Location in Alberta
Coordinates: 52°49.6′N 113°27.1′W / 52.8267°N 113.4517°W / 52.8267; -113.4517Coordinates: 52°49.6′N 113°27.1′W / 52.8267°N 113.4517°W / 52.8267; -113.4517
ReservesSamson 137
Ermineskin 138
Municipal districtPonoka County
Name changeJanuary 1, 2014[2]
 • Five reserves[3]
 • Designated place[4]
Time zoneUTC−7 (MST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−6 (MDT)
Postal code
T0C 1N0
Hobbema's Alberta Grain Co. grain elevator, now located at the Alberta Central Railway Museum

Maskwacis /ˈmʌskwəs/, renamed in 2014 from Hobbema /hˈbmə/, is an unincorporated community in central Alberta, Canada at intersection of Highway 2A and Highway 611, approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) south of the City of Edmonton. The community consists of two Cree First Nations communities – one on the Ermineskin 138 reserve to the north and the other on the Samson 137 reserve to the south. It also consists of an adjacent hamlet within Ponoka County.[5] The community also serves three more nearby First Nations reserves including Samson 137A to the south, Louis Bull 138B to the northwest, and Montana 139 to the south.

The area was originally known as Maskwacis, and Father Constantine Scollen always referred to it as "Bear Hills" when he attempted to re-establish a Catholic mission there, in late 1884 and 1885, around the time that he and Chief Bobtail succeeded in persuading the young men not to join the North-West Rebellion. The first railway station was named Hobbema after the Dutch painter Meindert Hobbema during the construction of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway in 1891. As a result, all of Hobbema's neighbouring communities came to bear names of First Nations origin (Ponoka ("elk"), Menaik ("spruce"), Wetaskiwin ("hills where peace was made")), with the exception of Hobbema itself.[6] The community, including the hamlet portion within Ponoka County, was renamed Maskwacis (meaning "bear hills" in Cree) on January 1, 2014.[2][7]

The community has an employment centre, health board and college.[8]


Reserves and communities around Maskwacis

The community straddles the boundaries between the Ermineskin 138 reserve, the Samson 137 reserve and Ponoka County. The northern portion of the community is located within Ermineskin 138 on the west side of Highway 2A. The southern portion of the community is located within Samson 137 on the east side of Highway 2A and north side of Highway 611. The remaining portion of the community is located within Ponoka County on the west side of Highway 2A across from the Samson 137 portion of the community and south of the Ermineskin 138 portion of the community.

The Ermineskin 138 portion of the community is located within Census Division No. 11, while the Samson 137 and Ponoka County portions are located within Census Division No. 8.

Maskwacis serves five reserves of four Cree First Nation band governments, which are collectively known as the "four nations" and are each party to Treaty Six. The four nations include the Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull First Nation, and the Montana First Nation.[9]


As a designated place in the 2016 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Maskwacis (Hobbema) recorded a population of 60 living in 21 of its 22 total private dwellings, an increase from its 2011 population of 0. With a land area of 0.27 km2 (0.10 sq mi), it had a population density of 226.2/km2 in 2016.[4]

Despite the designated place portion of Maskwacis having a population of 61 people living in 17 total dwellings in the 2006 Census,[10] Statistics Canada reported the designated place had no population and no dwellings in the 2011 Census.[11] The designated place has a land area of 0.23 km2 (0.089 sq mi).[11]

The total population among the five reserves in the 2016 census was 7,663.

Name Population
Per cent
Ermineskin 138 2,457 1,874 31.1% 452 523 104.46 23.5
Louis Bull 138B 1,177 1,309 -10.1% 226 276 31.55 37.3
Montana 139 630 653 -3.5% 137 143 28.10 22.4
Samson 137 3,373 3,746 -10.0% 785 878 128.14 26.3
Samson 137A 26 38 -31.6% 6 6 1.34 19.4
Total reserves 7,663 7,620 0.6% 1,606 1,826 293.59 26.1/km2


The community has attracted national media attention in Canada for its problems with crime and gangs. In an attempt to cut down on crime, the Hobbema Cadet Corp was established with the goal of keeping children as young as eight years old off the streets.[12][13][14]

The Pê Sâkâstêw Centre, a minimum-security facility based on Aboriginal healing processes, is located in Maskwacis.[15]

Education and culture[edit]

The community is home to Maskwacis Cultural College.

Wetaskiwin Regional Division No. 11 operates public schools serving the area, including Pigeon Lake Regional School.[16]

It was once home to Ermineskin Indian Residential School.

It is home to an annual pow wow.[17]

CHOB-TV is a television station in Maskwacis.

Pioneering, award-winning First Nations hip-hop groups War Party and Team Rezofficial are from Maskwacis.

Award-winning country singer Shane Yellowbird is from Maskwacis.

Briar Stewart made an award-winning documentary, "Journey to Jamaica", about a group of cadets from Maskwacis.

W. P. Kinsella wrote a number of short stories which were set in what was then called Hobbema, including the collections Dance Me Outside, The Fencepost Chronicles, Brother Frank's Gospel Hour, and The Secret of the Northern Lights. The stories "met with controversy from some critics who objected to Kinsella's appropriation of Native voice and what they saw as stereotype-based humour."[18]

Notable people[edit]


The community was formerly the home of the Hobbema Hawks junior "A" hockey team.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maskwacîs", including diacritic, follows standard Plains Cree orthography and is used by various local entities.


  1. ^ "Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission".
  2. ^ a b "County Council Meeting (minutes)" (PDF). Ponoka County. September 3, 2013. p. 2. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Population and Dwelling Count Highlight Tables, 2016 Census: Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and census subdivisions (municipalities), 2016 and 2011 censuses – 100% data". Statistics Canada. August 9, 2019. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and designated places, 2016 and 2011 censuses – 100% data (Alberta)". Statistics Canada. February 8, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  5. ^ "Specialized and Rural Municipalities and Their Communities" (PDF) (PDF). Alberta Municipal Affairs. December 31, 2013. p. 13. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  6. ^ "Official name change to Maskwacis (Bear Hills) in place of "Hobbema"". Samson Cree Nation. October 23, 2013.
  7. ^ "Samson Cree First Nation plans for name change". CTV News. December 26, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  8. ^ Cryderman, Kelly (December 27, 2013). "Hobbema to mark community's name change with New Year's Eve festivities". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and designated places, 2006 and 2001 censuses - 100% data (Alberta)". Statistics Canada. January 6, 2010. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, and designated places, 2011 and 2006 censuses (Alberta)". Statistics Canada. January 30, 2013. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  12. ^ "Hobbema, Alberta: A town in a 'state of crisis'", National Post, 5 April 2008
  13. ^ "Former Hobbema gang member hopes to make difference". CBC News. May 15, 2008.
  14. ^ "Gunfire rings through Hobbema", Edmonton Journal, 17 April 2008 Archived 6 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Pê Sâkâstêw Centre". Correctional Service Canada. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  16. ^ "Pigeon Lake Regional School." Wetaskiwin Regional Division No. 11. Retrieved on September 13, 2018. "Most of the school's students are drawn from a vast attendance area that includes [...] the Hobbema reservation."
  17. ^ McDonald, Barry (July 12, 2012). "Pow Wow in Hobbema". Pipestone Flyer. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
  18. ^ Besner, Neil. "William Patrick Kinsella". Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 3, 2014.