Previous Article Next Article FNPI Search Home Previous Year Next Year Year List

Community Profile: Montreal Lake Over 100 Years Old

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1975      v05 n07 p10  
The main townsite of the Montreal Lake Reserve is located on the south-western end of Montreal Lake. It is easily accessible by an all-weather gravel road, 56 miles north of Prince Albert. The settlement lies entirely within a forest of mixed coniferous and decidious trees. The ground cover is heavy throughout the entire area particularly around the townsite where most of the trees have been almost cleared. Here and there are patches of forest that act as windbreakers during the cruel winter months.

The climiate of the area is characterized by the seasonal extremes that are typical of the north country, however generally speaking, they are less harsh than at many points in the southern prairie. There is snow on the ground from October until April and the lake usually freezes in early November and does not clear of ice until early June.

It is not unusual to see people using their canoes or outboard motor boats on the lake when they are still having to walk through over two feet of snow on land.

The summer months become dry with warm weather, making it ideal for camping, swimming and fishing.

The community, as typical of the north, is dominated by a number of buildings that are the centre of the community functions. A fenced-in area encloses the school yard with its football field, monkey bars and may-pole. The school also serves as the community hall where weekly bingos are held with a cash jackpot of up to $500.00 and occassionally a dance may be held.

Until recently, there were only four classrooms in the reserve school and only the local children could attend. The other children, who were located too far from the main townsite, were sent to the Monteal Lake Children's Home in Timber Bay to attend the joint school. In the spring of 1974, the Council decided that the federal school on the reserve should be expanded to accommodate all the reserve children. As a result, an additional four classrooms were built to offer classes from nursery school to Grade nine.

In addition, two buses were bought and two bus drivers now bring all the Band children to the school daily. The school at present has eight full-time teachers, three teacher-aides and accommodates 225 students. In November of 1974, an Adult Education Program was also begun with instructors being supplied by the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College in Saskatoon. Cree, among many other classes, is also taught as a subject to the students. The schools Student Body elects its own Band Council to negotiate their requirements with teachers.

The church, day-care centre and the teacher's residences are located next to the school-yard. Within a stone's throw from there is the Band Office, where all the major concerns of the reserve people are dealt with. From here, Chief Gilbert Bird and his elected councillors make sure the community functions are carried out.

A short distance down the road is the band-owned and operated Ne-He-Thow Store. Until two years ago, the store was run by the Hudson Bay Company. The lease expired and the Band then took over its complete operation. The store provides employment for a few Band members as well as being the post office for the reserve. The employees duties include stocking the shelves with food and dry goods, cashier, janitorial duties and gas station attendant.

The school bell rings, calling the students back into class
Phys. Ed. game
The Phys. Ed. team practises a game of volleyball while under the careful eye of their coach and teacher
Grade 3 class
Mrs. Roselin Johnson finishing the afternoon lesson with her Grade three class
Homes on the reserve
Some of the many homes on the reserve
Ne-He-Thow store
The Ne-He-Thow Store, owned and operated by the Band
Store clerk
The store clerk busily attending to his customers

Chief Gilbert Bird
Chief Gilbert Bird pauses to display his good
humour during a meeting

Community Profile: Montreal Lake Over 100 Years Old

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1975      v05 n07 p11  
Currently, the Band members are concerned with the development of a tourist resort around the south eastern end of the lake. At present, the Band members have succeeded in building a few cabins, a cook-shack and an ice-house. It has also purchased a dozen boats and five motors for rentals.

The residents of Montreal Lake in 1974 boost a population of 1,100. In spite of their growing numbers, the residents remain dependent upon traditional pursuits as a means of subsistence.

Fishing is an important source of income for the family or just a diet supplement, especially when a family tires of eating store-bought groceries. When not on the lake, some people can be observed cleaning and scaling fish. Fishing in the winter involves a laborious task and if a resident is fortunate to catch a few Jacks, they are often quite proud.

In the early fall, a few Band members retreat to their traplines as a means of income. At the end of the season, the successful trapper hopes to bring in enough furs to pay his bills, re-establish his credit at the store and provide his family with the needed food and clothing to last them through the winter. Dog teams have become too expensive and few trappers bother to own a team.

The homes on the reserve depends upon the need of the residents. This spring, the community has developed a housing project to accommodate the increasing population. Most of the homes are new with commercially made shelves and cupboards as well as tables and chairs. Wall decorations consist of a few pictures of relatives, friends, relgious pictures and crucifixes. However, these vary to the individual's choice. Household luxuries include radios and record players.

Most of the homes have electric power, however a few houses have no electricity and have to resort to wood or gasoline heat, pressure and coal-oil lamps or candle power.

The community wells provide a good supply of drinking water however few homes have running water and the residents have had to employ a water carrier to supply water to most of the community. Children and elders can be seen daily carrying water in galvanized pails from the wells. Water is kept in the homes in open containers and there is usually a dipper hanging near the pail which everyone uses to dip a drink.

Almost all the preparation of meat and skins is the work of women, though men sometimes take part in these activities as well. Several of the older women sew beaded moccasins, and other leather handicraft. In general, the women spend most of their time at home and tend to restrict their role largely to activities connected with the home. The men who revert to traditional pursuits devote their time to care for and repair their equipment and their homes. The older boys haul water, chop wood and perform minor chores as well as contribute to the subsistence of the family.

In sports, the community recently built a new ice rink and the Montreal Lake Bantams brough home the bronze medal in fastball and both the silver and bronze medals in boxing from the 1974 Cote Summer Games in Badgerville.

The Monteal Lake community has survived for over 100 years in much the same lifestyle as their forefathers and have increased their numbers tenfold in the last century. The community's future is still largely dependent upon traditional pursuits as a means of subsistence.

Calvin Bird
Little Calvin Bird deep in concentration
Marlene Bird
Marlene Bird, steno and typist busy at the Band Office
Children playing
Spring has sprung and the children are all out to play
New and Old
On the right stands the old church which now act as a storehouse. On the left is the new church center for the women's auxiliary and the weekly services
Unloading cement
Unloading the first load of cement needed for the new housing project of 1975
Hockey rink
Montreal Lake's new hockey rink, built in the fall of 1974

Reserve daycare
The school yard fence and the neighbour to the
reserve's daycare center at the right