Sagkeeng First Nation

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The Sagkeeng First Nation is an Anishinaabe First Nation that holds territory in the southern part of Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 120 kilometers north of the city of Winnipeg ("Win-nipi" is a Cree word meaning "murky waters"), and on the mainland. The Sagkeeng reserve, once called Fort Alexander, has a total population of 7,637 registered band members, with 4,285 members living off reserve. The name "Sagkeeng" is derived from the Ojibwe language Zaagiing, meaning "at the outlet". The Reserve is located on both North and South shores "at the outlet" or mouth of the Winnipeg River. It is adjacent to the northern border of the Rural Municipality of Alexander, which also borders the Town of Pine Falls.

Sagkeeng’s traditional territory includes land within Treaty #1 and lands north and east of the Winnipeg River. The territory of Sagkeeng originally was to have commenced one mile upstream from the Fort Alexander trading post formerly occupied by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) files indicate the Chief and Council asked for the boundaries to be moved to its present location.


The Sagkeeng Ojibway people are direct descendants of the Anishinaabe tribes that migrated in the 1700s west from a longtime settlement in the present-day Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario area. The fore-fathers of the Sagkeeng were part of the ancient copper culture; copper points and artifacts have been found around the Fort Alexander fishing, hunting, and trading grounds. The copper came from Lake Superior copper mines that are thousands of years old.

According to the current Sagkeeng government, Sagkeeng Anishinaabe have lived " at or near the Fort Alexander Indian Reserve #3 located along the Winnipeg River and Traverse Bay, since time immemorial."[1] This makes Sagkeeng unique among other Anishinaabe communities, whose shared history recalls origins with the Abenaki people. Sagkeeng Anishinaabe do not claim any current or historical connection to the Three Fires Confederacy.

The Anishinaabe peoples began trading with Europeans (first French Immigrants) hundreds of years ago in this area. In 1732 La Vérendrye built a fur trading post, Fort Maurepas, on the north side of the Winnipeg River, north of present-day Selkirk, Manitoba. Later in 1792, the North West Company built a post on the south side of the River closer to Lake Winnipeg; it was sometimes called Fort Bas de la Rivière. In 1807, the Hudson Bay Company built Fort Alexander to further facilitate trade with the natives in the area. The Fort was named after Alexander McKay, a partner in the North West Company, and was built after the North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company merged.

The modern Winnipeg city developed at the site of an ancient Native trading place at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The Native American peoples had met here for millennia, known as "The Forks" in Winnipeg where people still continue to congregate.

Contemporary life[edit]

The nation has a dance group Sagkeeng's Finest, who won the 2012 first and only season of Canada's Got Talent. The group included Vincent O’Laney, 17, and brothers Dallas Courchene, 16, and Brandon Courchene, 18. They won over a total of 244 other acts. The trio started with traditional jigging, a First Nations tradition, then fused more modern dance styles, such as tap dancing, into their act. Because of this new style of dancing, the people of Canada took to their phones and voted "Sagkeeng's Finest" as winners of the $100,000 first prize. They also won a $105,000 Nissan GT-R sports car, an opportunity to perform during City TV's New Year's Eve special, and the possibility of performing at a venue in Las Vegas.

Rogers Media’s Scott Moore said the victory for Sagkeeng’s Finest showed Canadian support for an underdog. “It shows the diversity and the acceptance of Canada,” he insisted.[2][3][4]

Other notable members of Sagkeeng First Nation include artist and curator Jaimie Issac.[5]


Kakakepenaise (Gekeki-Binesi, "Hawk-bird", a.k.a. William Mann I) signed Treaty 1 in 1871 on behalf of the Sagkeeng people.[6] Although Sagkeeng is a Treaty 1 nation, it is a member of the Grand Council of Treaty 3 (GCT3), which means it belongs to three other treaty territories. These encompass a geographical area of 55,000 square miles. The Northern Territory of Turtle Island, the Southern Plains territory, and the Eastern Turtle Island territory treaty boundaries ALL converge at the Sagkeeng Territory.

The (GCT3) is a political organization representing 23 First Nation communities across Treaty 3 areas of northern Ontario and southeastern Manitoba, Canada. Along with the Southern Plains, they represent an additional 5 First Nations in specific regards to their Treaty rights. Sagkeeng holds its annual Treaty Days in the last week of July of every year. The events are open to the public: the 4–5 days of events include a community parade, various children's events, a pow wow, fireworks, and various community events.

The French Obligates of Mary Immaculate Nuns ran the Fort Alexander residential school for Indigenous children. As was the ignorance and cruelty at the time, the teachers practiced cultural Genocide and forced the students to speak English and prohibited them from practicing their own culture in their own land. The immigrant French nuns created a legacy of pain and suffering among the Anishinabe people who continue to heal from this abuse to this day.[7]

In 2005 the Canadian Government formally acknowledged and apologized for the abuses of the residential schools. In 2007 it authorized payment of a $1.9-billion compensation package to surviving children who had been forced to attend the schools.

The Sakgeeng and other Indigenous peoples have criticized the government's Child and Family Services (CFS) for breaking up families, rather than working to hold them together by providing support to parents and children.[citation needed]

Virginia Fontaine Addictions Foundation Scandal[edit]

On October 18, 2000, Canadian Press organization reported that the Director of the Foundation, Perry Fontaine (who was eventually charged with fraud over $5,000 and sentenced to three years in Federal prison) and 74 other foundation staff attended a cruise to the Caribbean that was termed a "Staff Retreat". This treatment center (now called the Sagkeeng Mino Pimatiziwin Family Treatment Center) is located on Sagkeeng First Nation and the "Staff Retreat" required the then Addictions center be closed. The cost of this trip was reported later to be over 135,000 dollars. Health Canada eventually investigated the financial books of the Center and found massive fraud and kickback schemes which was oversaw by former Health Canada assistant deputy minister Paul Cochrane and Patrick Nottingham, the ex-regional director of Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit health programs in Manitoba. Cochrane and Nottingham pleaded guilty in the fall of 2005. Cochrane was formally accused by the RCMP, after more than two years of financial mismanagement at the center was eventually charged with one count of breach of trust and seven counts of fraud against the government. Nottingham, was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day and ordered to pay $1.14 million in restitution. According to the RCMP, Perry Fontaine along with his wife and daughter offered bribes to Mr. Cochrane, who accepted a $50,000 payment on Dec. 11, 1996; four season's tickets for NHL hockey games in Ottawa in 1998, 1999 and 2000; a blue 1997 Jeep Cherokee sport-utility vehicle in April, 1998; a red 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee in July, 1999; a green 2000 Nissan Xterra sport-utility vehicle for his son Lucas Cochrane in May, 2000; free trips for Mr. Cochrane and his family between July, 1999, and October, 2000; and two income tax receipts for fake donations of $5,000 each for the years 1997 and 1998. Mr Cochrane sons were also given cushy, well paying jobs at the center at his insistence. [8][9][10]

Sagkeeng First Nation now hosts a family treatment center, the Sagkeeng Mino Pimatiziwin Family Treatment Center. The program has been successfully running for a few years. They work with entire families to learn how to work through problems and keep families together.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Canada’s Got Talent recap: Sagkeeng’s Finest wins", Toronto Star
  3. ^ "Sagkeeng's Finest get ready for prime time", Winnipeg Free Press
  4. ^ Sagkeeng’s Finest – Pride of Manitoba Archived 2013-01-15 at the Wayback Machine, Manitoba Chiefs
  5. ^ "Winnipeg Art Gallery gets new curator, upcoming exhibit | Metro Winnipeg". Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  6. ^ Sagkeeng History and Timeline[dead link]
  7. ^ "Canada's Forced Schooling of Aboriginal Children Was Cultural Genocide, Report Finds", New York Times, 3 June 2015
  8. ^ "Former director of Manitoba native treatment center jailed". CBC. June 19, 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Civil Servant well travelled". Globe and Mail. December 18, 2000. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Health Canada - Virginia Fontaine Addictions Foundation Funding Report". Health Canada. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2018.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°36′23″N 96°17′38″W / 50.60639°N 96.29389°W / 50.60639; -96.29389