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Cold Lake First Nations

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Title: Cold Lake First Nations  
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Subject: List of Indian reserves in Alberta, Jimmy Herman, Cold Lake 149, Bell of Frog Lake, Driftpile First Nation
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Cold Lake First Nations

The Cold Lake First Nations is a First Nations government. This band is the governing body for people descended from several different historic groups, hence the plural, nations, used in the band's name. In May 2008, there were 2,342 members of this band, of which 1,189 lived within five Indian reserves, about 220 square kilometres (85 sq mi) large within the province of Alberta.


Early history

Oral traditions of the Cold Lake First Nations reach back in time and in traditions similar to those we can expect at the end of the last ice-age .[1]

Fur trade

In 1716, the peoples in the Cold Lake area were supposedly attacked for the first time by fur trading Cree, who had become owners of firearms by trading with Europeans. Not before 1800 the groups around Cold Lake started to trade with Europeans on their own, but then they traveled to the trading posts on the Hudson Bay and even to Hochelaga on the Saint Lawrence River.

Treaty No. 6 of the Numbered Treaties

In 1876 the Dominion of Canada negotiated with Woodland and Plains Cree, and some Nakota as well as with the Dene Sų́łiné peoples around Cold Lake. A Cree decided to go to a piece of land at Willow Point, a territory reaching about 20 miles (32 km) south and westwards. It included the Cold Lake, which the Dene Sų́łiné called Luwe Chok Tuwe or Łue Chok Tué and where they spent the summers, while the winters were spent on Primrose Lake (called in Dene Sų́łiné Xah Tué).

Northwest Rebellion

After the Frog Lake massacre of May 1885, the band's main group fled to the Cold Lake in fear of revenge. Despite moderation of a priest, the militia disarmed the tribe. Women and children were sent to a camp on Reiter Creek, while the men stayed in the army's camp. When the band returned to the Cold Lake, they met another armed unit there. The oral tradition tells about a mass execution, which was averted in a last-minute decision.

In 1890 many Dene families went from Heart Lake, Saskatchewan to Primrose Lake, as they were used to do traditionally, but this time they stayed there permanently.

When land surveys started in 1902 the Indians of Cold Lake were still suspected to have participated in the Metis Rebellion, so that they lost their treaty rights. In addition, the responsible Indian agent believed that their territory was much too large for only 330 members of the tribe. Their territory was reduced to 73 square miles (190 km2). Consequently they could no more live by fishing, hunting and trapping. In exchange for not losing their fishing rights, they swapped their 16 square miles (41 km2) of land in the south of the Beaver River with a piece of land on the Cold Lake, to be more precise the English Bay. At the same time French settlers came to the French Bay.

Forced Assimilation

The Canadian residential school system, introduced everywhere in Canada, was also introduced for the Cold Lake First Nations. The children hat to attend schools like Onion Lake or Blue Quills Residential School. They were "successive" in so far as they destroyed the local languages and culture.

When chief Uldahi died in June 1882, he had no successor. Consequently the group dwelling at Heart Lake elected its own chiefs and headmen. They also tried to get a reserve of their own. On a hill above Reiter Creek they gathered in the summer of 1913 and elected Alexi Janvier (Nanuchele) as their chief. At the end of World War I people coming back from Europe's battlefields brought with them the Spanish flu. Nearly half of the population died.

The Cold Lake Nations had been forced to give up their nomadic lifestyle. At the beginning they were quite successful farmers but meanwhile a large part of the land is leased to white farmers with more money.

Cold War and Cold Lake Air Weapons Range

In 1930 the Alberta and Saskatchewan Acts were proclaimed, allowing for the confiscation of any militarily important area. During the Cold War the airforce was looking for a test area and found it around Primrose Lake. The people living there were offered a small amount of compensation for twenty years.

While the most modern techniques were introduced on the Air Base, the first power line was not installed before 1964. The residential schools were not closed before 1971, a system for which Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008.


The largest reserve today is Cold Lake 149 in the east of Bonnyville (145.281 km²). There are other reserves, like the one of 4134 ha on the Beaver Creek (149B), 96.2 ha of the territory of the Blue Quills First Nation, 71.6 ha on the southern shore of Cold Lake (149A) and 149C, and the land meant as a kind of compensation for the Air Base, which consists of 2023.5 ha.


  1. ^ Cp. (PDF, 88 kB): N. A. Janvier: The Dene of Cold Lake, o. J.

External links

  • Website of the Cold Lake First Nations
  • traditional territory
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