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My Community

Waterhen Lake Reserve (Saskatchewan)

Tansi! I live on the Waterhen Lake Reserve located in northwestern Saskatchewan, 40 km north of the town of Meadow Lake. Saskatchewan may be a prairie province, yet where I live is definitely not flat but surrounded by woodland mostly poplar, spruce and pine. My reserve is set on a lake. A river runs into it. Both are called Waterhen. Our band name and that of the lake originates from the thousands of waterhens that once resided here. We have cold, long winters, mild springs and hot summers.

I am of the Woodland Cree, rather than the Swampy or Prairie Cree. My people speak the "Y" dialect among the five existing dialects in the Cree language. Approximately 30% of my reserve speak Cree fluently, most being the adults and our elders. Among the younger generations, the Cree language is known in part or not at all. English is the first language, but even now among and with our elders Cree is spoken almost all the time.

The population of Waterhen is totally Cree, except for the teachers and other employees enlisted by the Band.

Our reserve has a store, an arena, a water treatment facility, a school, a clinic, and Band and postal offices. A doctor visits the clinic weekly on Tuesdays. There are transportation services for medical visits to the nearest town or city when needed.

Our school goes from nursery to grade twelve. I would say we have exceptional teachers, many who are Native people. Some have come back to the reserve to teach their own people. We are encouraged to attend university or other post-secondary programs as soon as we graduate. The encouragement for our further education is supported by the entire community. A guidance counselor helps us with any problems we may have and a post-secondary counselor is in place for questions or information on topics about post-secondary programs, classes, funding, etc. There is a lack of Indigenous people in math and science professions, and they seem to direct us along these lines.

Our sports program is quite good and available for those students that are interested. Our gym is open constantly for recreational use and the arena is currently under repairs.

A daycare center has recently been built near the school and is preparing to open. The Pathfinder Program, one of the few in the province, educates students through the computers, self-teaching in a pace suited to the student. The educational use of computers for the Internet and various programs is available to all students.

We also have a pow wow and drama group, conferences and meetings students can go to, as well as various other opportunities set out by our guidance counselor and teachers.

The Cree people were a nomadic hunting and gathering society, separated in bands of people that moved all over the territory. My people were among the last in the province to sign Treaty Six in 1921, and settle on the reserve we now call Waterhen. Our chief then was called Roundsky. Our form of government does not differ very much from back then. We still have a chief, presently Richard Fiddler, who works hand in hand with six councilors to oversee the different aspects of the band.

Our community members hold a variety of jobs, although the majority work in forestry, as we are situated where wood is an abundant resource. Hunting, fishing and trapping are still traditional pastimes. These are not done out of necessity, but rather because of a preference for a diet of wild meat and of course, that it is tradition. In the past, there has been a program where the older teach the younger any and every traditional skill, from scraping skins to ways to cut and smoke meat. My people are determined to see that our old ways should not pass away.

This article was written by Roberta Fiddler a Grade 12 student from Waterhen Lake Reserve.

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