Saddle Lake Cree Nation

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Saddle Lake Cree Nation
Band No. 462
Land area304.195 km2
Population (2019)[1]
On reserve6691
Off reserve4315
Total population11006
ChiefEric Shirt

Saddle Lake Cree Nation 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).[2] Of these 2,378 were members of the Whitefish Lake First Nation, with 1,778 of those living on-reserve,[3] and remainder are members of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation proper.


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"), representing the Saddle Lake Band of Cree, and Chief Pakân ("Nut"), representing Whitefish Lake Band of Cree together represented the people of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation at the negotiations and signing at 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; Pakan went to Regina with the Métis translator Peter Erasmus in 1884 to discuss the matter with the Indian commissioner.[4]

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"; also known as Thomas Hunter);
  • Seenum's Band, led by Chief Pakân ("Nut", also known as 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.[5]


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, 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 125, containing the community of Saddle Lake, Alberta
  • 4,542.70 hectares (11,225.3 acres) Whitefish Lake 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.[6] 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.


Saddle Lake Cree Nation elect their officials through a Custom Electoral System. Additionally, this Cree Nation maintains two groups of elected officials:

Saddle Lake Cree Nation[edit]

Saddle Lake Cree Nation on the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve have elected Chief Eric Shirt, and Councillors John Large, Eddy Makokis, Leonard Jackson, Glen Jason Whiskeyjack, James Steinhauer, Pamela Quinn, Cherrilene Steinhauer, Darcy McGilvery.

Whitefish Lake First Nation[edit]

Saddle Lake Cree Nation on the White Fish Lake Indian Reserve, governing the Reserve as the Whitefish Lake First Nation, also have elected officials. The Whitefish Lake First Nation have elected Chief Tom Houle, and Councillors Stan Houle, Greg Sparklingeyes, and Kevin Halfe.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "First Nation Detail". Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Government of Canada. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  2. ^ 2008 Official Population List, Alberta Municipal Affairs, Municipal Services Branch
  3. ^ "Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation #128". Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  4. ^ Devine, p. 148
  5. ^ "Amalgamation : Saddle Lake Cree Nation". Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  6. ^ "Treaty Signing : Saddle Lake Cree Nation". Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  7. ^ Raffy Boudjikanian, A Cree doctor's caring approach for transgender patients, CBC News
  8. ^ "Doreen Spence". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  9. ^ "Northern Cree - Ewipihcihk (CR-6508)", Accessed: 08/23/17.
  10. ^ "iyiniw pimâtisiwin kiskeyihtamowin | University nuhelot'įne thaiyots'į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills". Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  11. ^ Lana Gets Her Talk, retrieved 2019-07-19

External links[edit]