Northern Saskatchewan

Unauthorized Lumber Harvesting on Little Red River Reserve (Lac La Ronge and Montreal Lake Bands)


An excerpt from Merle Massie’s, Forest Prairie Edge, which explains in great detail the effects of logging North of Prince Albert and unauthorized harvesting committed by logging companies on the Little Red River Reserve, between 1904-1910. A Specific Claims Commission case between LLRIB and Montreal Lake v. The Crown is ongoing for the Crown's failure to uphold it's fiduciary obligation. The court found a failure to uphold fiduciary obligation and compensation settlements are underway:

Impact of Logging Industry on Local First Nations

“Both Sturgeon Lake Reserve (known at the time as William Twatt’s band) and Little Red River Reserve (sometimes referred to as New Reserve or Billy Bear’s Reserve) were embedded in the major wood “basket” of the north Prince Albert region and straddled both the Sturgeon River and the Little Red River systems.[50] Extensive commercial lumbering in the region led to both opportunity and loss. First Nations men worked in the lumber camps, freighted supplies, cut and traded hay and oats, provided fresh meat, and worked on the river drives in spring.[51] Women found a ready market for moccasins and mittens, jackets and belts. Members living on these two reserves derived considerable income from the lumber camps, either through direct wage labour or in a supply capacity. Little Red River members in particular were closely tied to the lumber camps. The Indian Department noted in 1901 that residents of Little Red “derive their income from grain, potatoes, the sales of lumber, hay, freighting, and day labour (lumbering).”[52] Reports from the Indian Department until the end of the First World War reiterated these occupations, along with continued fishing and hunting.

The extensive lumber industry, however, had a negative ripple effect in the region. Trapping and fishing activities along the rivers were severely disrupted by the large log drives. Hundreds of men, strange sounds, and extensive environmental disturbance virtually eliminated local hunting opportunities, and hunters were forced to go farther and farther away from the reserves to find meat. Finally, the two reserves contained excellent saw timber. In particular, the Sturgeon Lake Lumber Company and the Prince Albert Lumber Company desired those trees, and documents show that both companies culled valuable timber from Sturgeon Lake Reserve land without compensation or authority. In 2001, the Sturgeon Lake band succeeded in settling a major claim with the federal government for the loss of this wood revenue.

The Little Red River band (as of 2013) is in the process of prosecuting a similar claim, but the economic and environmental impacts of lumbering on their reserve were more complicated. It was set aside as a farming reserve for the Montreal Lake and Lac La Ronge bands by 1897, but permanent farming was slow to take hold. In 1903, A.J. Bell, manager of the nearby Sturgeon Lake Lumber Company, requested disposal of the standing and fallen timber on the reserve.[54] The Indian agent went to Montreal Lake to consult with the chief and council there and came away with a signed deed of surrender, which initiated a series of problems. The Montreal Lake band expressed uncertainty over whether or not they should sell the timber and left it up to the Indian agent to make the final decision on their behalf. In effect, the band signed a carte blanche: ‘We have decided to leave the question of the sale of the standing and fallen timber in [the agent’s] hands, if after he goes through the timber, he considers it best to leave it at present, we agree to that; if on the other hand he thinks it should be sold then we agree to that.’[55]

The agent decided that the timber should be sold for several reasons: it was at its maturity and thus at its economic height for merchantable timber; nearby timber limits were currently being logged, particularly the Shannon and Sanderson timber berths; the slash from those nearby limits heightened the fire potential of the area, and if a forest fire swept through before the timber could be logged it would be virtually worthless; the merchantable timber within the reserve was estimated at most to be 2.5 to 3 million board feet, considered a small cut. It would be better, the agent thought, to sell the timber when loggers were nearby and it was practical to cut it. A second surrender, this time from members of the band living on the reserve, was also taken.[56]

The fact that Little Red River Reserve was so far away from its two parent re-serves created an administrative dilemma. It was difficult to decide whom to ask for a surrender, who had authority, and who had the right to make decisions. The timber was advertised and sold by tender in the summer of 1904 to I.G. Turpiff of Canada Territories Corporation Limited.[57] Almost immediately, a letter arrived from Reverend James Hines of Prince Albert at the Indian Commissioner’s Office in Winnipeg. The letter indicated that the men living on the reserve in question, the New Reserve, “strongly object to all their timber being sold from them.”    Those who signed the timber surrender, the letter noted, “are living 60 miles north and have plenty of timber there.” Those on the reserve did not object to selling some of the timber for cash, recognizing its proximity to the timber limits being worked all around the reserve, but they wanted to make sure that some of the bluffs were kept for their own use.[58]

The letter from Reverend Hines indicated the difficulty under which all parties were operating. By this point, there were two surrenders taken for this wood, one from Montreal Lake and one from men located on the New Reserve. Clearly, though, there were divisions within the New Reserve as well as between the two northern settlements and the one southern settlement. The Indian Department, however, was operating on the legal strength of the two surrenders, and the timber was sold. The sale led to the second major problem: the New Reserve was co-owned by both the Montreal Lake and the Lac La Ronge bands. In January 1905, a letter arrived from the Lac La Ronge band expressing their concern over how the wood surrender had been handled, since they were also owners of the New Reserve.[59] Although the response was that, indeed, the Lac La Ronge band was entirely correct in this assertion, ‘it was not deemed necessary to confer with them on the question of surrender of timber as they reside at a great distance from the Reserve…, although they are entitled to their equitable share of the proceeds of the timber and will receive it at the proper time.’[60]

The proceeds of the down payment on the timber berth were split between the two bands. The company that won the contract, however, was slow to hand over the capital. When it finally did, the sum was placed in trust solely for use of the Montreal Lake band. The trust amounted to over $5,000, and the interest was expended in purchasing supplies for the Montreal Lake band beyond those agreed to by treaty.[61] It was only in 1910, after a lengthy investigation into the surrender and sale of the timber and the disposal of funds, that the trust was redistributed to the credit of the Lac La Ronge band.[62]

The timber on Little Red River Reserve, because of its proximity to transportation, mills, and a market, was correspondingly much more valuable than any similar stands of timber found on the Montreal Lake home reserve or at La Ronge. Correspondence indicated, however, that only a portion of Little Red contained merchantable white spruce saw timber. The rest of the reserve, chosen for its agricultural capability, had open hay lands and stands of brush and aspen—it had been logged, in fact, long before it became a reserve.[63] The controversial timber limit on the New Reserve was neither large nor lucrative, at least according to official documents. The original bidder neglected to pay the rest of the tender price and never logged the timber. The Sturgeon Lake Lumber Company took over the contract. It tried unsuccessfully to renegotiate the original tender, arguing that it was unfair to pay ground rent on the whole reserve—56.8 square miles—when there was merchantable timber on only a small portion of that area, about three square miles. The company by this time was under considerable scrutiny from the Indian Department regarding its logging on Sturgeon Lake Reserve No. 101, for which it had not paid its dues or cut payments. The Indian Department was reluctant to renew the timber berth contract for Little Red when the company was obviously tardy in paying dues, rent, ground fees, and payment on the cut from Sturgeon Lake. The company protested, saying that it still had about a million board feet of timber to log out at Little Red. The company paid the remaining dues but only after many threatening letters from the Forestry Department. It soon rescinded the logging request. By 1909, the Sturgeon Lake Lumber Company had logged only a portion of the available timber. Of the original estimated 2.5 million board feet, it cut 1.5 million. Its timber licence was not renewed.”[i]

Differing accounts from the members of Little Red River IR and the Department of Indian Affairs suggest that unauthorized harvesting continued even after permits were not renewed. The Indian Agent, Silas Milligan, on Little Red River IR claimed that no unauthorized harvesting commenced in correspondence with the Forestry Department.[ii]  The opinion of DIA, “contradicts the oral memory of Little Red residents, who record extensive non–First Nations timber cutting that was never paid.”[iii]

“The timber dispute, and the subsequent fight over the trust funds, set the stage for division. Little Red River Reserve was informally split. The Lac La Ronge band was accorded a much larger share of the reserve since they had not yet chosen all their treaty land entitlement in and around La Ronge; moreover, at the time of the treaty in 1889, they were a much larger band and had a larger treaty land entitlement. The Montreal Lake band was accorded nine out of the roughly fifty-six square miles, the Lac La Ronge band the remaining forty-seven.[67] Confusion over who owned what proportion of the timber (until the land was informally split), investigation of how much timber was actually logged and paid for when and by whom, and the debate over which band (Montreal Lake or Lac La Ronge) owned which parts of the reserve will complicate the current court case…Landscape and tree cover, regional logging prior to creating the reserve, ownership, payment, and actual logging are subject to conflicting interpretations.”[iv]

In the case of Lac La Ronge Band and Montreal Lake Cree Nation v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, the Hon. W.L. Whalen ruled that the Crown had breached its fiduciary obligation to the LLRIB and Montreal Lake Bands, citing numerous failures to prevent unauthorized harvesting.[v] In finding that the Crown had breached its fiduciary obligation to the LLRIB and Montreal Lake Band, hearings to determine compensation are still ongoing almost 8 years later.

“There was an almost wanton disregard for the environmental impacts of the logging industry. Cutting trees and bringing them to market abused and reshaped the entire north Prince Albert landscape. The Spruce/Little Red River was small and could not reliably handle log volumes. To compensate, the Prince Albert Lumber Company cut all the trees along the riverbank and built a series of dams to control water flow. This intervention culminated in damming Beartrap Lake (now in Prince Albert National Park) and building a canal southward to move its water into the Spruce/Little Red River system to flow south to the mills at Prince Albert—an environmental intervention with major implications for the local landscape [flooding]…

White spruce is an old-growth tree that requires specific conditions to flourish. Unless a large area of fully mature white spruce was left unlogged, to offer a seed source for new growth, the species could not regenerate efficiently. The debris left from extensive logging, combined with the flammable nature of forest litter in aspen stands, led to forest fires within the area. Homesteaders placed increased pressure on the landscape. Escaped fires from brush clearing on the homesteads raged through the region. The combination of logging, agricultural settlement, and fire was nearly catastrophic: white spruce was virtually eliminated from the forest canopy.[72] Although the boreal forest is a fire-dependent regime and fire is a necessary part of the forest regeneration cycle, extensive forestry intensified the effects of fires. Logging virtually eliminated mature white spruce capable of producing cones, and the extensive tree litter prohibited cone regeneration. The impacts of fierce ground and canopy fires resulted in a local transition from primarily mixed-wood forest to a canopy dominated by aspen, burnt brush, and open meadows.”[vi]

The effects of deforestation were readily apparent by 1919 and years following, when forest fires swept through Northern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Bishop J.A. Newnham of Prince Albert wrote to the Daily Herald:

“‘On the way up the whole country seemed to have been burned over by the recent fires, and only blackened tree trunks, which had fallen or will fall within a year or so, remain in the once well-timbered area. The soil also has been deeply burned and even the muskeg had been on fire. The game suffered heavily, young birds and eggs being destroyed.’ The roads suffered as well, he added. ‘In general all bridges over the Little Red and Sturgeon rivers have been burned and a number of the Prince Albert Lumber Company’s dams. The forest rangers are now [making] temporary repairs to the bridges and clearing the trails of fallen trees.’[85][vii]

The devastation seemed complete. Scientists and historians have pinned these fires to increasing agricultural expansion into the forest edge, where homesteaders and settlers, eager to clear land for farming, employed extensive brush burning.”[viii]

Deforestation, in particular clear-cutting, has since increased over the last century; under the current Provincial Government (2022), plans to continue aggressive clear-cutting are being pushed as “environmentally friendly.”[ix] This incites great concern amongst First Nations and Métis residents in the North, as clear-cutting has expanded into remote regions beyond the Prairie Forest edge (Little Red River, Nisbet Forest), into areas like La Ronge, Montreal Lake, Meadow Lake, and even further.[x] Residents have witnessed dramatic changes to the wildlife and ecology of their homelands over the last 60 years, and comment on the alarming impacts to their traditional lifeways, economies, and food resources, as well as environmental destruction.[xi] The threats which clear-cutting poses had, and continues to have, damaging long-term socioeconomic impacts to Indigenous residents whose lands, and the protection of those lands, are innately connected to their lifeways.[xii]  




  1. [i] Massie, Merle. Forest Prairie Edge. 81-84.
  2. [ii] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 84.
  3. [iii] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 84.
  4. [iv] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 84.
  5. [v] Lac La Ronge Band and Montreal Lake Cree Nation v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2014 SCTC 8, [2014], 5002 SCT 11, at paras. 184-195.
  6. [vi] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 85,86.
  7. [vii] Prince Albert Daily Herald, 12 June 1919.
  8. [viii] Massie, Forest Prairie Edge, 90.
  9. [ix] Dayal, Pratyush. “Stumped.” CBC News Features. July 10, 2022.
  10. [x] Dayal, “Stumped,” 2022.
  11. [xi] Dayal, “Stumped,” 2022.
  12. [xii] Dayal, “Stumped,” 2022.





Racism in Health Care Services in La Ronge


The following is a selection from an article CBC Saskatchewan published in March 2022 on racism in healthcare, and contextualizes some of the current healthcare challenges Northern Communities are facing:  

Racism within the health-care system has prevented First Nations people from seeking and receiving proper care, according to Dr. Veronica McKinney, director of northern medical services at the University of Saskatchewan college of medicine.

‘We know there's huge disparities between the health care of Indigenous peoples and the general population of Saskatchewan,’ McKinney said. McKinney said the province lacks data on how widespread issues of racism are. She said there are many reasons why First Nations people haven't filed formal complaints when encountering racism in the system. People don't know who to contact or their complaints can get bounced around between sectors, often creating more harm or shame, she said. 

‘[People are] asked to repeat their stories over and over and over again. When you think about it for these things to happen it's usually at the most vulnerable times of their lives — and it's usually something that's traumatizing for them,’ she said.

‘It's a very sort of disconnected system that really doesn't allow that patient's voice to be heard in a way that I think it should.’

She said First Nations people living in remote communities or ‘on the rez’ won't complain because they fear it will lead to repercussions for a family member who works at facility or will need to seek care themselves. She said people are afraid of driving away providers because recruitment to remote areas is difficult.  This leads people who have been harmed to stay silent. McKinney said this means little change within the system and a lot of distrust among First Nations people.

‘When they do require health care, they're only going up at the last minute when it's often a very desperate situation. Maybe there's a misdiagnosis of cancer and it's too late to really treat.’

Nothing is more alienating for patients who are vulnerable and needing care than experiencing discrimination, said Caroline Tait, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan who works with the Indigenous Peoples' Health Research Centre. For years she's conducted community-based research with First Nations and Métis communities. 

‘Feeling that people don't want you there, they don't like you.… There's lots of emotional, psychological fallout from that for people," Tait said. "They will avoid seeking treatments that they need.’

She said patients with chronic conditions have recurring treatments that they can't avoid, so they often won't report mistreatment because they fear punishment for being a ‘difficult patient’[…]

"It's very easy for people's experiences and their negative experiences with the health-care system to be dismissed."[i]

Historical Context

In an interview with Verna Richards via the Gabriel Dumont Institute, a La Ronge resident in the 1950s and 1960s, she communicated that the provided Indian Health Service doctor was both racist and conducted medical procedures without the use of contemporary medicine at the time, such as anesthetic.[ii] This abysmal care alienated the First Nations and Métis residents of La Ronge from their only community doctor, effectively removing access to healthcare.  

Mary-Ellen Kelm’s work details the policies, lack of ethics, and zero accountability structures inherent to the Indian Health Service. An insufficient policy and accountability structure in the Indian Health Service were two of the major issues causing service failures that affected Indigenous communities. The Department of Indian Affairs did not engage in an effort to recruit any Indian Health Service doctors in Northern Saskatchewan, opting to accept any doctor who applied. Kelm writes:

"In 1902, [the DIA] implemented a system of salaries that was intended to reduce medical costs. Doctors received the same payment whether they visited reserves once a year or as often as was necessary. If they rendered more services than could be paid for by their salaries, then they could submit accounts for further reimbursement. Extra remuneration, however, was seldom granted."[iii]

Doctors who served in the Indian Health Service were not supervised nor expected to report procedures to ensure the provision of ethical, appropriate care. An issue arose where doctors neglected their Indigenous patients in favour of white patients, who paid directly out of pocket. The financial incentive to visit the reserve as little as possible to maximize personal profit jeopardized health in Indigenous communities. Indian Health Services was used as a means of legitimizing colonial relations and paternalism within Canada:

"…aid given across cultures, where one society is seen as bearing knowledge vital to the ignorant other, buttresses notions of racial superiority and furthers the sense that relationships of dependency are natural and requisite. In this way, provision of medical services and the discourses surrounding it have aided in ideological formulations that are needed for the continuation of internal colonialism in this country. Non-Native medicine, then, also functioned as a legitimizer of colonial relations."[iv]

Indigenous peoples have and continue to practice their own medicines; Western medicine did not replace Indigenous medicines and ways of knowing. Arguably, there has been a great deal of damage caused by the imposition of Western medicine on Indigenous peoples. The disruption and demonization of Indigenous medicines, replaced with Western approaches contributes to health disparities and other systemic factors (cultural loss, dislocation, poverty etc.). Not only are the treatments not necessarily culturally relevant, but western practitioner’s biases towards Indigenous patients evidently create disparities in care.     

La Ronge resident Verna Richards (interviewed by Murray Dobbin, c. 1976) remembers that the resident doctor was outspokenly racist. Richards described that he would handle Indigenous residents in an unnecessarily rough manner. The maltreatment by the resident doctor alienated First Nations residents in La Ronge from health services, as he was the only Indian Health Doctor available in the region.

Verna: “...the doctor, the Indian health doctor that used to come up, he was such a racist pig, at that time. Well, the people called him the butcher, because he used to come up and pull teeth and that too, and he wouldn't even freeze your mouth - he'd just yank them out. There was one fellow that worked in the fish plant steady. He was quite, you know, sort of religious, and so he never drank. And he had cut himself with a knife at the fish plant when he was working and they flew him down to P.A. and he went to this doctor. And he sewed it up without freezing it and all the time he's getting after this guy. He says, "Yeah, you were probably out fighting and drunk. That's why you got cut." And he was very hurt when he came back that anyone would accuse him of being drunk and fighting because, you know, no way he would do that, because he was quite religious. And different things like this, this doctor used to do. So they would have to be half dead before they would go the doctor, because this was the only doctor that they had to go to.”

Murray: “So they knew what kind of treatment they would get?”

Verna: “And they knew. The girls, I used to get after them about, you know, looking after their teeth. And they said no way. In fact one girl, she had a cavity, she used to put Ambroid [a type of adhesive glue – one of the first synthetic cements] in the cavity and it used to burn the root, rather than go to the doctor and have it pulled it. She used to have toothache, and that is what she said she used to do. And I said, ‘My God, doesn't that hurt?’ ‘Well, just for a minute,’ she said. ‘But,’ she said, ‘I'm not going to that butcher.’”[v] 

Verna also recalled that after the implementation of Medicare, community members continued being referred only to Doctor Green (the Indian Health Service Doctor).[vi]

Verna: “… after I moved to P.A. You see, the native people still thought, after this was disbanded, that they still had to go to this doctor. And they didn't, they could go to any doctor they wanted to.”

Murray: “With Medicare?”

Verna: “Yeah [….] But still a lot of them used to come. And also he figured he could still get all the natives...”

Murray: “As patients?”

Verna: “As patients. And at one time he refused to go and see a baby that Berry [Richards] had brought down from the north, until Berry threatened him. And then finally he went to see the baby. You know, things like that. And in fact some of the native people now had a note, Dr. Jurdus had given this native person a note when he went to the hospital, and that was thrown in the garbage and Green was called.”

Murray: “Really?”

Verna: “Well, even the hospital staff was still referring all natives to this one doctor.”

Murray: “So Jurdus would give them a note saying that this person is suppose to see me, and they would just throw it in the garbage?”

 Verna: “Yeah, and then it would just go in the garbage and they'd call Green.”

Murray: “Did he treat white people that way, too?”

Verna: “No. Just native people. I guess he was just a racist.”[vii]

This section demonstrates the challenges that La Ronge and its associated LLRIB communities have experienced in acquiring healthcare which is fair, free of discrimination, culturally relevant, and kind. It demonstrates a century of negative experiences with healthcare, and how these systemic problems (underfunding, informal policies, disregard for patients and a lack of accountability, etc.) influence systemic factors for First Nations and Métis people.


[i] Latimer, Kendall. “Office for First Nations health complaints key to bettering Sask. system: researchers.” CBC News. March 7, 2022. 

[ii] Richards, Verna. Interviewed by Murray Dobbin, “Verna Richards interview on First Nations and Métis experiences of life in La Ronge, including the impacts of tourism and sexual assault.” Transcript. Gabriel Dumont Institute, Visual Museum Oral Histories Archive. July 12, 1977. Pg 23. http://www.Mé

[iii] Kelm, Mary-Ellen. Colonizing Bodies: Aboriginal Health and Healing in British Columbia 1900-50. Vancouver: UBC  Press, 1998. 111.

[iv] Kelm, Colonizing Bodies, 127.

[v] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 23.

[vi] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 24.

[vii] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 23-24.




Living Conditions on La Ronge Reserve - 1950s-70s


In the interview included, participant Liora Salter reports that she observed that the living and social conditions on the reserve in centre of the La Ronge townsite were extremely deteriorated. Ms. Salter describes the lack of infrastructure on the reserve for basic utilities including sewer, electricity and water provisions. She notes that the houses on-reserve were "the oldest generation of Indian Affairs houses" with one room and newspaper serving as wallpaper. Incidentally, Ms. Salter references Metis activist and La Ronge resident Jim Brady's suspicions that the Department of Indian Affairs officials in La Ronge was deeply corrupt, and incapable of enacting the type of change that was needed.

Ms. Salter also references Mr. Brady's concerns that Indigenous girls, as young as thirteen, were being forced into sex trafficking. The interview with La Ronge resident Verna Richards provides first-hand testimony of the occurrence of sex trafficking. While Ms. Richards believes that she observed this as an isolated incident, the reporting of Mr. Brady indicated otherwise - and it is possible that sex trafficking occurred in locales other than Ms. Richard's restaurant. Mr. Brady stated that this was a result of the tourism industry in La Ronge.

Ms. Richards also testifies as to the prevalence of sexual assault of Indigenous girls and women by American tourists who visited the community of La Ronge. She reports that there were a number of pregnancies that resulted from these assaults. She reports that this was met with little response from both the non-Indigenous community and the parents of the girls who were assaulted and/or became pregnant. She does not mention anything about post-assault psychological support/trauma services or other mental health services in the community. Nor does she mention any of the American tourists providing child support.

There may be many factors contributing to the disparities in living conditions in La Ronge in the time frames referenced in these interviews. The isolation of Northern Saskatchewan results in its invisibility to voters in larger city centres, such as Saskatoon and Regina. As well, the majority of the province is non-Indigenous, and historically, racism has affected the visibility of and concern for Indigenous issues within Saskatchewan. That is, racist colonial attitudes depict Indigenous peoples as resistant to acquiring 'improved' material conditions. Indigenous people who choose to live in remote areas such as Northern Saskatchewan are constructed under this colonial narrative as resistant to processes of integration/assimilation and modernity. Mr. Brady also referenced the presence of corruption within the representation of the Department of Indian Affairs in La Ronge, prohibiting the improvement of living conditions. Insufficient housing and a lack of access to infrastructure services such as electricity, sewer and water (all of which are considered standard services for residents of Canada) can effect psychological and physical well-being, over time the effects of substandard housing and healthcare can negatively impact a person's well-being in all areas of their life.

The lack of response amongst non-Indigenous residents of La Ronge demonstrates the normalization of sexual violence inflicted upon Indigenous women, stemming from stereotypical patriarchal colonial narratives which construct Indigenous women as being highly sexual and thus always sexually available to the colonist. As well, it is possible that the economic stimulus provided by the presence of American tourists was perceived as more valuable than preserving and protecting the well-being of Indigenous women and girl as community members. The profound sense of violation and trauma that result from assault and rape can severely impact one's ability to function, particularly if mental health supports or social/community supports are unavailable. For example, long-term impacts can include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, difficulty relating to others, low self-esteem, alcohol/drug misuse, etc. (please see the entry by the Native Women's Association of Canada below in attached resources titled "Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls: Literature Review and Key Informant Interviews: Final Report"). In areas where mental health services are non-existence or rare, other coping mechanisms that pose a danger to health may be utilized.

For further information on the impact of colonialism as it relates to construction of gendered stereotypes of Indigenous women and girls and how this contributes to sexualization and exploitation, please see the entry on sexualization of Indigenous girls in foster care. Please also see the general entry titled "Sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women and girls" for further information for a more detailed discussion on the impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Please also see the general entry titled "Sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women and girls" for further information for a more detailed discussion on the impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking.  

Sub Event
Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Indigenous Girls in La Ronge following the introduction of American Tourism

Discrimination Against Metis Women in Northern Saskatchewan


Metis women from La Ronge and area in Northern Saskatchewan were respondents interviewed by Doris and Irene Poelzer for their study on Metis women's experiences in their home-communities. Numerous respondents reported discrepancies in the types of work available for men and women. They also reported discrepancies in the wages of men and women, with men being paid more for the same work. For example, these respondents stated that the types of jobs available for women were those that restricted them to traditionally feminized work, such as caregiving/nurturing, feeding, serving or providing instruction. That is, although job opportunities are scarce in the northern part of the province, those that were available for women were typically concession work, cleaning, health-related, teaching and clerical. These women believed that they had the same intellectual capacities as men, and that they should not be restricted (Poelzer 1985, 21-22).

One stated, “Women need training for jobs...I don’t want women to have the kind of life I had before” (Poelzer 1985, 23).

There was also a need expressed for support from one’s community and romantic partner. For example, women who ran for public office positions such as the school board believed that they were discriminated against because of their gender, and thus received few votes. In another example, women found that men refused to take instruction from them because of their gender. Overall, some respondents felt that men ignored, underestimate or exploited their Metis female co-workers (Poelzer 1985, 24-26).-

Metis women in Poelzer’s study also spoke extensively on the impact of religion in their life and the community. This impact was construed as both positive and negative. One respondent noted, “The church has been so much a part of exploitation”, as it provided a variety of services including education, health, employment and welfare. However, this also provided church officials with a great degree of control over the community, in which they took advantage of their privileged position by humiliating some individuals and also keeping community members dependent and indebted to their services. For example, individuals in the community must be church members in order to access services (Poelzer 1985, 27-36).

As well, women as a demographic are more likely to live in poverty and are often perceived to be primarily responsible for child-rearing. The financial burden resulting from poverty and raising children often results in a greater degree of reliance on these services. Metis women in the communities surveyed noted that church control was exerted by shaming women who practiced family planning or separated from a violent spouse. They also noted that they would be shamed for living common-law, even though some women declared that cohabitation gave them a greater degree of control, equality and autonomy than marriage.

One woman described the social pressure (resulting from the internalization of Christian moral norms) this way:

“You don’t feel right when you stay with the man without marrying him. It is just that when you go to some places, somebody asks if he is your husband, and you have to lie most of the time. You say ‘yes’ and you are lying. So it hurts you that way...And when you get kids, somebody is going to tell (them) that ‘he is not your dad. That is not your mother’s husband.’ It is not very nice very much” (Poelzer 1985, 49).

Another woman reported a more direct form of religious pressure: “...The church feels that if you are living common-law, you are not following the religion...marriage is quite a big thing” (Poelzer 1985, 49).

In contrast, Metis women respondents reported that common-law arrangements allowed for an easier separation if men were discovered to be immature or abusive. They also reported that such an arrangement prevented male romantic partners from perceiving his wife as property, that is, of possessing rights of ownership over her body or labour. An arrangement of cohabitation, therefore, was perceived to prevent domestic violence as well as prevent men from becoming jealous or of forgetting their household responsibilities.

Overall, women who received social services through the church were made to feel obligated to meet the expectations of religious officials by adhering to their moral and purity ideals (Poelzer 1985, 31-49). 



Prior to provincial government intervention and rapid economic shifts in Northern Saskatchewan, women relied on traditional means of survival, and their livelihoods were not threatened.  It should also be noted that the high rate of susceptibility of Indigenous women to physical and sexual violence did not exist prior to colonization.  Rather, its dramatic increase since the establishment of the settler state is indicative of implementation of systems of male dominance, inherent in western philosophy, politics and social organization, as well as in Christian institutions.  As it relates to the experiences of Metis women in Northern Saskatchewan, the majority of respondents referred to the power and influence of the Catholic church in their Metis communities as problematic. 

Poelzer observed that internalized attitudes of male dominance and women’s submission to male leadership permeated the areas in which she conducted her research (1985, 58-59).  This researcher surmises that such widespread acceptance of these attitudes may be related to the influence of religious institutions in these areas.  In terms of the implications of these social problems, physical injuries inflicted by domestic violence can make it difficult and even impossible for women to search for work, complete work-related duties or attend their jobs, while also impacting their wellbeing greatly.  Psychological distress caused by domestic violence such as trauma, depression or anxiety can also severely impair an individual’s ability to function on a day-to-day level. Transportation to leave such situations may, and it very often, inaccessible to women - especially in rural or isolated communities in the North where bus services were and remain few and far between.  

In addition, women who leave environments of domestic violence may find themselves and/or their children houseless of facing housing insecurity. The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan notes that women living in Northern Saskatchewan face extreme housing shortages.  The Metis women surveyed in Poelzer’s study confirmed this - they stated that the lack of availability of homes, in addition to the unacceptable quality of government-constructed residences have an effect on family living in terms of the moods, attitudes and relationships of individuals, and these dynamics compound the pre-existing stress arising from housing difficulties (Poelzer 1985, 74-81).  

This association also notes that women living on-reserve experience heightened isolation from domestic and sexualized violence crisis services.  Individuals who cannot access support services may resort to substance abuse in order to manage symptoms of psychological distress.  Moreover, women are prevented from advocating for improvement of these issues because of attitudes of male dominance in community development and public office.  Women can't advocate for change if they are not at the decision-making table - and those in power (men) rarely see these issues as important enough to warrant change.

As one Metis woman stated, "if a woman attends a community meeting, men say, ‘What is she doing here?’ or ‘This is for guys only’” (Poelzer 1985, 111).




Prospecting School in Northern Saskatchewan and Prospectors' Assistance Plan


A prospecting school was created in Northern Saskatchewan communities including La Ronge, Beauval, Creighton, Stanley Mission, Cumberland House and Uranium City to provide increased (though not ideal) job opportunity and stability for participants, who later had a greater likelihood of working in the prospecting industry, such as for a mining company. Prospecting classes were also held in Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Yorkton. Prior to the implementation of the school, the government had not been providing assistance to the community beyond distributing supplies such as canoes and prospecting equipment. Malcolm Norris was the driving force behind these prospecting classes and intended to provide a means for Metis and Indigenous peoples to obtain a livelihood. He saw it as a natural fit because Indigenous people had a tendency to be highly familiar with the territory. The Prospector's Assistance Plan, mentioned by Sheridan was introduced by the provincial government to accelerate natural resource/mining development in Saskatchewan. Although Sheridan indicates the Prospectors' Assistance Plan as beginning in 1949, the program was first introduced in the 1947-1948 fiscal year. It was not until 1949, however, that the program saw the first two pairs of Aboriginal people enter the prospecting field. Sheridan states that the Assistance Plan was an offshoot of the prospecting school. As such, this extension of programming which derived from the prospecting school can be taken as an indicator that the work of the prospecting school was considered desirable, valuable and successful. 



Interviewee Tony Wood (see attached PDF) notes that the school improved job opportunities and the potential for good wages, although available prospecting jobs were seasonal, not permanent.  As well, in "CCF Colonialism", Quiring notes that racist attitudes held by politicians, bureaucrats and mining companies prevented Metis and First Nations from entering mining positions, restricting them to seasonal prospecting jobs.  More specifically, individuals in power believed that the "pre-industrial" cultures of Indigenous peoples hindered their preparedness, skills and ability to engage in the requirements of mining work.  In his interview with Murray Dobbin, Sheridan notes that even the field of prospecting, prior to the creation of this school, was dominated by non-Indigenous people. Quiring states that by 1949, the Prospectors' Assistance Plan sent two pairs of Aboriginal people into the field of prospecting who were paid $100 per month and given supplies.  However, the livelihoods of Indigenous people suffered when Indian Affairs withdrew funding of the program in response to Norris' criticisms of the department's educational policies.  According to Quiring, the program was eventually transferred out of the Department of Natural Resources (Indian Affairs was under the jurisdiction of this department) and into Mineral Resources - allowing funding to be restored.  





Manipulation of Provincial Elections in Northern Saskatchewan


The event concerns the first provincial elections that First Nations people could vote in, beginning in 1960. The interviews obtained focus on Northern Saskatchewan.

As per Gwen Beck:

“And there was a lot of, there was always quite a bit of liquor in those days, you know, involved in it.” To which the interviewer, Murray Dobbin asks the question “: So people would try and get votes by buying drinks?”

Gwen responds by saying that many people who went to the polls were intoxicated, but does not outright say that the parties in the election had bought votes with alcohol. She also explains that there were rumours of cash being exchanged for votes, but that this could not be proven.

Another source corroborates this event by saying that: “And there was no doubt about it that there was an awful lot of liquor that seemed to appear from nowhere just the night before. And the same thing in the other communities, that cases of doughnuts would go into communities and cases of doughnuts have never gone in before nor since. And voting would turn around as to what you'd expect.”

These words come from an interview with Glen Lindgren. The testimonial regarding doughnuts, can be seen as a form of bribery. This indicates a disparity between Northern and Southern Saskatchewan relating to economic development, food insecurity and access to goods. This disparity has been created by colonial practices, and in this context, was used to manipulate the democratic process.

La Ronge resident Verna Richards corroborates stories of political corruption in Northern Saskatchewan, specifically La Ronge. She reports that the Liberal party tried to gain votes through deception. After this became less effective, the Liberal party escalated to obtaining votes through coercion by threatening loss of jobs and plying residents with alcohol. The Liberal party also distributed wildly inaccurate rumours about the consequences of voting for the NDP, stating that the NDP would apprehend the children of residents and, being associated with socialism and therefore with atheistic communism, would burn down churches and even homes that contained religious iconography or paraphernalia. It should be noted that Indigenous people were in a position of vulnerability as they had only recently been given voting rights by the Canadian state - this resulted from a lack of information provided by Elections Canada or any other governing body relating to the employment of a private ballot within Canada's democratic system. Ms. Richards also notes characteristics of racism and sexism within political parties in the area, including both the Liberals and the CCF, describing the exclusion of one Indigenous woman who had engaged in extensive campaigning for the CCF. The exclusion of Indigenous women from politics results in the exclusion of their voices at the political table, as well as issues that affect women, such as domestic violence and sexual assault. She reports these events as happening around 1967.



The implications provides commentary on the integrity of the democratic process. That is, the democratic process was corrupted by party officials who engaged in bribery, deception and coercion.  Political parties (particularly the provincial Liberal party) took advantage of the North's isolation from many goods and services, and their unfamiliarity with the concept of privacy of the ballot to their advantage.  It is also highly likely that the political messaging related to the NDP/CCF regarding the propensity of the party to destroy churches and homes was particularly damaging given the lack of housing/poor housing conditions on La Ronge reserve.  There may also have been a fear regarding the disappearance of social/community supports due to colonialism's propensity to cause community fragmentation - causing the loss of a community centre, such as a church, could feel particularly threatening.  It should also be noted that the imposition of colonial policy in Northern Saskatchewan also disadvantaged communities through regulation of hunting, fishing and trapping, resulting in severe disruptions to Indigenous lifeways and economies.  This could have made the promise of provisioned goods, should the party be elected, quite enticing due to the disadvantaged socioeconomic conditions members of Northern communities faced.  





CCF Social Programming and Erosion of Traditional Lifeways in Northern Saskatchewan


The establishment of a government presence in Northern Saskatchewan instigated an immense cultural shift, one that was initiated by the CCF who sought to expand operations beyond Prince Albert. The intention of the CCF was to create a ‘cultural majority’ in Saskatchewan, attempted through assimilation policies which undermined Indigenous lifeways and cultures in the North.

“The CCF took steps to see that the entire province would share northern resource revenue, yet, contradictorily, it refused to equally share provincial wealth with northerners. This occurred for several reasons. The CCF strongly feared that northern Aboriginals would take advantage of generous social programs and become lazy; in a sense then, the CCF limited benefits to northerners for their own good. Secondly, the CCF simply ignored northern needs, knowingly permitting the continuance of third world-like conditions in the northern half of the province. The CCF consequently applied a weaker non-economic socialism in the North than in the South, which received many more benefits from social and health programs.”[1]

The CCF government had no Northern representatives in caucus to advise on policy implementation; Joseph Lee Phelps, a farmer from Southern Saskatchewan, was tasked with designing ‘social’ programming in Northern Saskatchewan as the Minister of Natural Resources and Industrial Development.[2] Phelps had no lived experience or familiarity with Northern lifeways, and whose strong political convictions informed his trajectory in policy and practice.

“Phelps and his cohorts hastily developed new policies and a structure largely separate from that in the South to introduce the CCF's plans for northerners. Douglas and cabinet generally supported Phelps' fur, fish, timber, and other northern initiatives. They also gave him a lot of free rein. Several reasons explain Phelps' unusual freedom to act in the North. Possibly most importantly, the CCF accepted the view that the northern society was not worth preserving. Wiping it out would leave a clean slate on which to build a better society. Additionally, many southern politicians knew or cared little about the North and let Phelps do as he pleased there as long as his actions did not create problems for them.”[3]

Social programming happened in two distinct streams, first was through the implementation of the Family Allowance. Gwen Beck, a long-time resident of La Ronge and interviewed by Murray Dobbin in 1976, had this to say:

Murray: “What kind of an effect did that have on the sort of nomadic lifestyle of native people? Did that contribute to changing that, where they'd take their whole families onto the trapline and then come back again?”

Gwen: “Well, that... I don't know whether it was right or it was wrong. You see when I was on the School Board I felt that education was very, very important and to meet the children. So I couldn't tell you whether it was correct or not, but Family Allowance came into being somewhere about then and, you know, they were supposed to educate the children.”

Murray: “That was the condition of the Family Allowance?”

Gwen: So this was the condition that I stipulated, that I felt. That anyone that took the family away [to the trapline] and did not educate them, they were not entitled to the Family Allowance. Now probably... now I'm not proud of that stand that I took -- I don't know whether I was right or wrong, but I was very strong on it when I was young.… I don't know exactly whether it was correct or not, but gradually the Family Allowance was the biggest drawing card for keeping families in [communities with a school]. But it did split up... the women had to stay behind or they had to find homes. We talked about building a hostel - which we never ever got to - to take the children so the children could stay. We went through all these phases but, you know, I think it finally ended up that more people stayed home and sent their children in school…Money-wise, money again was a big thing, the Family Allowance meant quite a lot to get, and most of them had good-sized families, you see. So it meant they stayed, and trapping became less and less, really. Even today they cannot support themselves by trapping, no matter how good a trapper they are, so you understand.”[4]

The Family Allowance alluded to was dependent upon children entering the school system. Long-time La Ronge resident, Robert Dalby, confirmed this:

Murray: Would you say that the disruption of the traditional way of life started in the early fifties?

Robert: Yeah, it started manifesting itself at that time and several reasons. It wasn't just economics. It was the growing population for one thing. It was beginning to grow because of health services and things. And I remember very distinctly the old business even with the treaty Indians, the treaty agent would threaten to cut off family allowance if the kids didn't go to school. So parents were compelled to stay in the settlements. At least the mother was compelled to stay in the settlement so that the kids went to school. And I know of several families, people I've known for twenty-five, twenty-eight years, who faced this situation. They could no longer go out to the trapline as a family group. The kids had to stay in school and these people around here, these bush people around here, have always respected the law. They haven't liked it necessarily, but they've respected it. And so if someone threatened to cut off the family allowance and threatened them with dire punishment, most of them went along with it and believed it, you know.”[5]

The second stream was the creation of Fur and Fish Marketing Services, as explained by Dalby:

Robert: “[T]he CCF pulled some awful boners as far as the north was concerned, you know [....] From lack of knowledge. One of the serious ones was the fur marketing service. And done with the best of intentions but when I arrived here, I had been with the game branch of Manitoba for a couple of years. I knew the situation there with registered traplines and so on. And it worked fairly well at that time there. And here I found that the trappers had to sell the beaver and muskrats (which is the principal crop) to the Fur Marketing Service in Regina. And they all resented it, without fail, you know, even though perhaps they got a better price. And I think the intent was to give them a better price but for some reason it just didn't work properly. There wasn't any education done certainly.”[6]

This is corroborated by Albert Broome, a former manager at numerous Government Trading stores in the North (La Ronge and Pinehouse, A.K.A. Snake Lake) who administered part of the Fur Marketing Service credit system:

Albert: “The credit trading policy is a dangerous one and we were always enforcing our collections at every stage of the game. There was very little welfare at the time. So you couldn’t rely on welfare. You had to judge each individual trapper by his merits. His fishing ability and his trapping ability.”

Murray: “How did you judge when a person’s credit would be cut off?”

Albert: “Well, in some cases you had to use your own judgement with the store operation. In some cases you would get direction from head office when your accounts receivable were getting out of order. At the same time you were judging the trapper by his ability to produce and in some cases they would have some tough luck and accounts would soar a little. Or bad price structure. In some cases you are playing with the market in fish and fur and it reverts back to the economy of the particular settlement.” [7]

Pierre Carriere, a long-time resident of Cumberland House, stated that the Fish Marketing service:

 Pierre: "... was a compulsory program first. But that's where it hurts the government. See, they didn't have no transportation services. They didn't have proper management services. The fishermen were the ones to lose money. Not the government."[8]

Murray: “And the government started the program to help fishermen right?”

Pierre: "Yeah, supposed to help fishermen but they didn't have no management and they didn't have no transportation service and everything was against them and therefore, the poor fishermen was the one that was losing his shirt. So it was really, politically unrest then.[9]

He states that after the implementation of the fish and fur marketing programs, people lost faith in the provincial government.

"You can't trust people. Once you are losing your shirt, you can't trust the government. Doesn't matter what kind of government you have."[10]


  1. [1] Quiring, David. “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks: CCF Colonialism in Northern Saskatchewan." PhD Diss. University of Saskatchewan, 2002. 20.
  2. [2] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 25.
  3. [3] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 26.
  4. [4] Beck, Gwen. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. July 20, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 12.
  5. [5] Dalby, Robert. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. June 18, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 2.
  6. [6] Dalby, “Interview with Robert Dalby,” 5.
  7. [7] Broome, Albert. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. September 4, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 5.
  8. [8] Carriere, Pierre. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. August 18, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and  Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 4.
  9. [9] Carriere, “Interview with Pierre Carriere,” 6. 
  10. [10] Carriere, “Interview with Pierre Carriere,” 7. 



Government imposed economic sanctions had serious implications. First, the creation of the Fish and Fur Marketing Service brought the livelihoods of First Nations and Métis trappers and fishermen under the direct control of the provincial government. Whether this program was established with good intentions, the result was resentment amongst Northern residents who viewed CCF meddling asserting monopolistic control over their livelihoods and economies.

Dolores Poelzer found in her work with Métis women from La Ronge (1986) that provincial regulation became a barrier to hunting and trapping, which had the effect of increasing reliance on Church administered social welfare programs.[1] The Church required that women and their families maintain church membership to receive education, health, employment, and welfare services. They were also expected to meet the moral expectations of church leadership and were shamed for common-law relationships, even in cases of domestic violence and abuse.[2] Previously, women reported they enjoyed the freedom of common-law relationships because it allowed for personal independence and were able to leave abusive partnerships more easily.

“You don’t feel right when you stay with the man without marrying him. It is just that when you go to some places, somebody asks if he is your husband, and you have to lie most of the time. You say ‘yes’ and you are lying. So it hurts you that way...And when you get kids, somebody is going to tell [them] that ‘he is not your dad. That is not your mother’s husband.’ It is not very nice very much.”[3]

Following the 1960s, construction of hydroelectric dams and clear-cutting for various deforestation projects further eroded Northern environments, effected animal migrations, and at times changed floodways. Terry Newell a current resident of Whiteswan Lakes comments that “Clear-cutting close to the lakes causes eroding banks containing mercury in the soil to end up in the lake,” which can cause mercury poisoning in humans, and species who rely on lake habitats.[4]  Residential and Day Schools continued their operations during this period, in some cases for another 40 years.

During the 1950s-1960s, the CCF developed several industries supported by government infrastructure through the DNR.

“DNR [Department of Natural Resources] officers, nurses, teachers, and other CCF employees formed a separate class within the small, primarily Aboriginal villages. Civil servants also became part of the white upper class in the larger communities. White government workers frequently considered themselves superior by virtue of their race. The mandate given them by the CCF to bring forced change to northern Aboriginals gave them additional prestige and authority.

Some Aboriginals established special relationships with DNR officers similar to the earlier ‘Patron-Client relationship’ with the HBC, and officials had a special clientele who supported their programs, as part of a system of reciprocal obligations. Yet many northerners felt ‘contempt and hostility’ to the CCF and its employees, largely because of conservation policies." Administrators also often did not relate well to Aboriginals, since they did not know the Aboriginal languages or grasp local ways.”[5]

There remained a scarcity of work opportunities in the North because employers were particularly hostile towards First Nations and Métis applicants and employees.[6] A continuous barrier was that DNR and local administration were reluctant or refused to train or hire First Nations and Métis residents, choosing instead to relocate civil servants from the South.[7] Positions that were available were frequently underpaid in comparison to civil servants. The wealth and employment disparity which developed during this period had lasting implications. Resources directed towards Northern education and infrastructure were not intended to service Indigenous community members, especially remote communities (like Grandmother’s Bay, Stanley Mission, Sucker River, and many others), demonstrating early service barriers and an unequitable dispersion of funds. This pattern of chronic underfunding has continued and contributes to the unique and systemic background factors which contribute to an over-representation in the justice system.

In Poelzer’s interviews with Métis women in La Ronge, one participant commented on the challenges that she and her community faced following the implementation of regulations:

“For instance, there are so many regulations changing about fishermen and their nets. One year, they buy one size of mesh for their fish nets; and then maybe a year or two after that the regulations change to a certain other size, such that they have to throw the first net away because it is not the right size anymore. There are all kinds of pressures...housing...parents might have problems with the kids at school...The pressure all stem from the society, from the rapid growth. Then drinking starts.”[8] 


  1. [1] Poelzer, Dolores T. and Irene A. Poelzer. In Our Own Words: Northern Saskatchewan Métis Women Speak Out. Saskatoon, SK: Lindenblatt & Hamonie, 1986. 27-36.
  2. [2] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,” 48-49.
  3. [3] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,” 49.
  4. [4] Dayal, Pratyush. “Stumped.” CBC News Features. July 10, 2022.
  5. [5] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 41.
  6. [6] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 40.
  7. [7] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 40.
  8. [8] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,84-86.