Published on October 1, 2010 by John
The Muskoday First Nation (formerly the John Smith First Nation) is a First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada, composed of Cree and Saulteaux peoples. The First Nation has a registered population of 1552 people as of December 2007, of which approximately 560 members of the First Nation live on-reserve, and approximately 980 live off-reserve. Muskoday’s territory is located in the aspen parkland biome. It is bordered by the rural municipalities of Birch Hills No. 460 and Prince Albert No. 461.
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The First Nation’s land was settled after Chief John Smith of a Cree and Saulteaux band who were originally from the St. Peters Reserve (this was near Selkirk, Manitoba and was dissolved, with the remainder of the band today comprising the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba) settled along the South Saskatchewan River in the 1870s. Chief Smith signed onto Treaty Six at Fort Carlton in 1876 making the settlement legally an Indian reserve.
The reserve and First Nation was initially named after their Chief John Smith, who was a brother of Chief James Smith, the founder of the James Smith First Nation. Also during the late 1800s, James Isbister served for a period as a farm instructor at Muskoday.
During the 1970s, the John Smith First Nation became the Muskoday First Nation. During the same period as the First Nation’s name change, a highway was completed through the reserve that linked the town of Birch Hills with Prince Albert. The Muskoday Bridge was then built over the South Saskatchewan River, which divides the reserve lands roughly in half.
Unlike many other Cree Nations in the area, in the 19th and 20th century the reserve was almost entirely Anglican, with no Roman Catholic influence. Traditional spirituality and practices remained strong, however. Today, the two church congregations serving the Muskoday First Nation are St. James Anglican Church and the Muskoday Baptist Church.
The Muskoday First Nation have an Act Electoral System for determining their elected leaders. The current leadership consists of Chief Austin Bear and five councillors: Eric Bear, Ronald Brass, Eldon Crain, Herman Crain and Ernest Dreaver. Their two-year elected term began on March 22, 2007.
The First Nation is affiliated with the Saskatoon Tribal Council, along with six other First Nations. The Saskatoon Tribal Council was established on February 23, 1982, as an institution to assist the individual and collective governments of the First Nations in the Saskatoon area. In their mission statement, the Saskatoon Tribal Council states that they strive “…to maintain the social, economic and political bases of the First Nations represented herein, including their rights to land, resources, culture, language, self-government and self-determination.” The statement continues with “The Saskatoon Tribal Council is desirous of obtaining and achieving co-operation and understanding between First Nation and non-First Nation citizens within represented First Nation territories and with Canada generally.”
Muskoday First Nation government have several services made available to their peoples. In 1997 the First Nation designed a Land Code to manage its own lands, rather than have them managed by the federal Government of Canada. This lead the way for further developing services available to its people. These services include a housing development affectionately know as “the village” by the community, water plant, community health center, administration building and band hall.
In 2005, the Muskoday First Nation completed the construction of its own Kindergarten to Grade 9 school. Other services include the Muskoday Awasis Daycare/Headstart Center, Muskoday Volunteer Fire Department and the Muskoday Development Corporation.
In addition to these government services, the community houses a gas bar, a convenience store, a post office and a restaurant.
The First Nation has reserved for itself the 9,686.8 hectare (23,936.6 acres) Muskoday First Nation Reserve (formerly the Muskoday 99 Indian Reserve), an Indian Reserve located approximately 19 km southeast of the city of Prince Albert. The community of Muskoday, Saskatchewan, is located on this reserve.
Like many of the First Nations of Canada, Muskoday First Nation are engaged in ongoing discussions, agreements and lobby efforts with the federal Government of Canada; Land ownership and entitlement are at the core in these efforts. At the time of the signing of Treaty 6, the incorrect amount of land was reserved for the Muskoday. This led to Muskoday First Nation to submit a Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) claim. The discrepancy was identified as 6,144 acres (2,486.4 hectare). The TLE claim was approved and on May 23, 2007, Muskoday members voted overwhelmingly to ratify the TLE settlement. The amount of the TLE will be approximately $10,300,000.00, which will be paid to Muskoday over a period of 5 years. To satisfy the conditions of the TLE claim process, Muskoday must purchase at least 6,144 acres (24.86 km2) during that 5 year period.