Creation of Nekaneet Reserve


Chief Foremost Man and the Nakaneet First Nation (Cree) signed Treaty 4 on September 15, 1874. However, the band refused to leave the Cypress Hills area with others who were forcibly removed in 1883, and remained in the area living without a reserve and the benefits of annuities and other Treaty rights. Foremost Man was not averse to living on a reserve; but if the government insisted that he settle on a reserve he wanted it to be in the Cypress Hills area.----------------------- However, the government did not want Indian reserves south of the Canadian Pacific Railway because it was worried about cross-border conflicts between different bands. Other policies which limited movement of Indigenous people as it relates to Canada-America border crossings suggests Canadian officials feared conflict and collusion with American Indians. A more recent interpretation suggests that Canadian authorities were concerned about the potential danger of a concentration of Cree on adjacent reserves in the Cypress Hills, as this would create an Indian territory in which the residents would be difficult to control. ------------------------ After Foremost Man's death in 1897, the band, now led by Chief Crooked Legs, pursued Foremost Man's dream of a reserve in the Hills, eventually hiring a lawyer to promote their cause. The Government conceded in 1913, granting a small reserve at Maple Creek. Still, it was not until 1975 that the Government agreed to pay them their treaty benefits.

Bands that were unwilling to conform to the Canadian government's Sheer Compulsion policy (see related entry) of the nineteenth century were not granted reserve lands as a result. In this case, the people of the Nekaneet band were told they could not settle on a reserve in the Cypress Hills. Edgar Dewdney, Commissioner of Indian Affairs at the time, violated oral promises he had made in 1880 and 1881 to allow the Cree and Assiniboine reserves in the Cypress Hills. The Nekaneet band is one example of bands who were required to wait decades before being granted a reserve on their chosen territory, even though treaty agreements stipulated that bands were able to choose their own reserve lands. Once established on reserve land in 1913, very little was done to help this community engage in economic development in transitioning to a Western capitalist economy and commoditized labor. It was not until 1955 that the band's children were permitted to attend day schools. To this day, the band faces serious economic problems, with many members having to engage in off-reserve economic activities.