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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Bands and communities

Who May One Marry

Family Definition

Customs of courtship

Residence

Rules of Separation

Sexual and gender relations

Marriage Patterns

Women's roles and rights

Bands and
communities

Visual representation of nature's laws


With the coming of whites and the tendency to change residency in order to get jobs, the stability of the matrimonial environment could change. For example, in materials drawn from Swan River, Sawridge, and Driftpile in north Central Alberta, from among the primary group, the post-Treaty Cree, we find statements indicating flux. Both interviews were in Cree and translated by Rose Saddleback The following indicates some of the various approaches to this situation as recalled by these elders.

Rose: Apparently, a long time ago, people of this district firmly believed that this land was one single band. The bands such as Sawridge, Swan River, Driftpile, Sucker Creek, Grouard was supposedly one whole reserve – not separate and distinct.
Frank: As far as I recall, they were always separate from each other – and not one whole tract. But we did only have the one chief for the total area. Apparently this was the set-up originally. A person from Driftpile, for instance, can’t transfer membership unless we consent to it. That also applies to us. We could go to another reserve temporarily. If this reserve was a whole tract of land under one authoritative figure I think we would be obliged to move about freely to another neighboring land.

Rose: Did you parents ever reveal any stories related to this subject – i.e. moving around to neighboring bands?
Frank: No. The Bands are all separate, each retaining their same members. For instance, Swan River, Driftpile
Rose: Do you recall the agreement made about the transfer of memberships from Sawridge (Slave Lake) to Swan River. There were a few people that came into this band.

Frank: There were many outside members. Years ago, we did not follow any regulations as long as a person was a treaty Indian. The Twinn family were originally from there and came into our band. This is what they used to say.
Frank: (Well, there was) Dohane, a nick-name. I don’t know his real name. Another one was Egbert. He took land here and made a few improvements but he eventually left the site. All of them left. There were other ‘Wards' living in the vicinity. Isabella Twinn lived with one of them by the name of Sam. Sam deceased not too long ago. All of the family are almost gone now. I didn’t see them except the boys. They died during the flu epidemic.
Rose: So, the family came to live at Swan River and were taken into the band?
Frank: I don’t know if they were legally transferred or just resided here. I think they just lived here.
Rose: Those non-Indian people migrating to the north known as homesteaders, what are the arrangements?
Frank: As far as I can recollect the homesteaders had already farmed even though it was not a great amount of land covered. All over the valley and towards the lake – we have private owners between the reserve lands here. For every section of land or a reserve status, a quarter of it is occupied by a private owner. This is quite common.

Frank: Ups-chi-nese. Felix Giroux. The land was surveyed for him. He always had a little store and a stopping place. The animals were fed at the stopping place. He was given a piece of land.

Rose:  Did he make a formal request?
Frank: Yes, he was given a quarter section of land. 160 acres. It’s located (next) to the lake.
Rose: Is it considered part of the reserve?
Frank: Yeah, it’s part of the Swan River.
Rose: What are the Cree names for the following places?
Frank: Kissapikkamak, that means end of the shore or shoreage. I think the correct pronunciation should have been shoreage and not Sawridge. No one knows how the place derived its name. A man informed journalists of this name recently and it was written down. He writes stories regularly in the papers and he’s supposed to be the oldest man in Slave Lake.
Rose: Exactly where does he live?
Frank: Right in town. He has a house in town. He’s over 80 years old now. When he wrote this version of the name Sawridge, he claimed that a man by the name of Thomson always sawed wood in that vicinity and hence the place, Sawridge, derived its name. That is incorrect as far as I’m concerned. When the Cree name of the place is correctly translated it would mean a ‘shore’ or ‘shoreage’.
Rose: Why is it called that?
Frank: Originally, according to old stories, this territory was strictly inhabited by the Slave Indians until the Cree pushed them northward to where they now reside. I guess they had inter-tribal fights, i.e. between the Cree and the Slaves.
Rose: I wonder what arrangements were made at the time when the land had a reserve status?
Frank: This person went there directly just because he’s a returned soldier.
Interviewee: Frank Sound
Interviewer: Rose Saddleback
Date: July 13, 1977
Location: Swan River Band – Kinuso

Marriage was not the only way that post-treaty movement took place. Some family members moved onto treaty land if there was land available, and then they would eventually be granted reserve status.

Rose S: When the people of Treaty 8 were initially confined to their reserves or bands, what kind of an arrangement was made for them? What was the deal? What was arranged within the bands?
St. Germaine: Each band retained its own distinct and separate reserves. Take, for instance, our reserve here. It is different from the other reserve. Our reserve is similar to a county. All the land is split into townships (quarter sections).

(Translator's Note: He is implying that the reserve is scattered. It is not the whole as other reserves.)

All the other reserves are whole, like Driftpile, Sucker Creek, etc. Apparently, our elders of long ago who took reserves wanted this reserve to be set up in this manner. They had figured out that it was more appropriate to scatter and take sections here and there. There are white people who own their portions of land between the reserve here.

Our elders who took the treaty wanted it that way. They took patches of land at various locations within this vicinity. We have some land at Assineau. I am not sure how much land we have at that location. I estimate we have over 1 section of land. It extends very close to Canyon Creek.

Rose S: In 1912 roughly, I guess the Swan River Band held a meeting and agreed to take in five families from over there? Do you recall any of those names?

(Note:I made this old man puzzled as I didn’t make myself clear as to the location of this place. Someone else said "Slave Lake"?)

St. Germaine: I think they’re probably the Twinn family. They are the ones.

St. Germaine: Yeah, I know that. That was another person – Francis was his name but he lived at Sawridge. He was in the Council. I think those were the only two who came to Swan River.

You said they were five families, just Edward and kids and wife.

Rose S: What were the children’s names?
St. Germaine: One was Louie, the eldest and another was Frank known by all of us as Frankie.
Rose S: I guess after McLean completed the survey for the Swan River Band, the white people settled on the land that was set aside for the Indians. Do you recall any of the white people’s names?
St. Germaine: One of them was Coal.
Rose S: There are a few bands at the surrounding area. We are not familiar with the local names for the bands here so if you know the Cree names for the following places, please tell us:

Take for example: What is the Cree word for Swan River:

St. Germaine: Wap so seepee
Rose S: And Sawridge?
St. Germaine: Kis si puk ka mak.
Rose S: Driftpile?
St. Germaine: Nim taw tak kow Seepee.
Rose S: Sucker Creek?
St. Germaine: Na nay pey oo Seepeesis.
Rose S: Did you believe that they were a single band? (and not separated)?
St. Germaine: It was their decision to have all bands separated and have their own reserve allotments.
Rose S: I wonder when the people were prevented from entering other reserves, i.e. going to live freely at other reserves to which they don’t belong.

Let us take for instance, if you wanted to move to Sawridge (even though you are a member from here) you were able to make the move without any restrictions attached. Who abolished this practice?

St. Germaine: No one is actually responsible for it. On the other hand, the Chief must have stopped it to a degree.
Name: Dexerman Courtoreille
           (St. Germaine)
Interviewer: Rose Saddleback
Location: Kinuso – Swan River Band
Date: August 2, 1977
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