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A Profile Of The Wood Mountain Reserve

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1976      v06 n11 p15  
The Wood Mountain Indian Reserve is located some 20 miles north of the American border in south-central Saskatchewan. To reach the Reserve from Regina, Saskatchewan, it is necessary to proceed 40 miles west to Moose Jaw, a further 60 miles south to Assiniboia, another 13 miles west to Limerick and another 33 miles south to the Village of Wood Mountain. As you enter the Village of Wood Mountain, proceeding from an easterly direction, accurate directions to the Reserve can be obtained from the staff at a grocery store located immediately to your right on the west side of the main street of Wood Mountain. From that store it is necessary to proceed back on to the road you entered Wood Mountain on, a road which proceeds west and turns south skirting the southwest edge of the village. In proceeding south towards the American border, you will pass a turn-off to Fir Mountain and at the next gravel road you turn right proceeding two miles west at which point you will notice a fence on either side of the road indicating the eastern edge of the Wood Mountain Indian Reserve. The Reserve itself covers nine and one-quarter sections of land in a bloc three miles wide by three miles long in Township 4, Range 4, west of the third meridian. The Section numbers are 22 to 27 inclusive and 34 to 36 inclusive.

For the most part the surface of the land is hilly, the majority being either farmland or grassland with a scattering of bushes in some locations. The soil varies in richness with some of the low lying land being Zone 1 soil, good for growing crops and a lot of the land on the hills ranging from Zone 2 and Zone 3 land. The land which is unbroken to this point in time is mainly Zone 3 land.


Historical documents indicate that the earliest of information regarding the Sioux Indians being in the Wood Mountain area was dated 1881. At this time when Sitting Bull finally left Canada, several hundred of his followers stayed in the Moose Jaw area where they worked in town in the winter, and hunted at Wood Mountain in the summer. For years the Canadian Government tried to get these people to return to the, United States, however, the Sioux refused and requested a reserve in the Moose Jaw area. The Canadian Government, through a farmer and unofficial Indian agent named Aspdin, continued to try and force the Sioux to return to the United States. In 1897 the Commissioner rejected the use of force and recommended the Sioux be given a reserve, however, the Minister refused to grant the request. After 1900, much unoccupied Crown land was bought including that on which the Sioux had camped and used as a cemetery. In 1907 the Sioux camped on the south half of Section 1, Township 16,

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A Profile Of The Wood Mountain Reserve

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1976      v06 n11 p16  
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Range 27, west of the second meridian at a time when they were suffering from small pox. Various land transactions concerning this half-section fell through. Part of the band moved to Willow Bunch. In 1909 the Sioux moved to the Wood Mountain area. Pringle, a missionary there, felt the Government should treat the Sioux better by reserving Township 4, Range 4, west of the third meridian for them to homestead on. The law forbade Indians to homestead. Commissioner Laird, felt the land was too close to the U.S. border and one township would be too much land for 70 people. At this time there were 37 Sioux families in the area. Ottawa felt the site was all right, but that the Sioux should be given only one-quarter section of land for every five people, which would have resulted in them receiving four and one-half sections of land. Pringle was told the Indians couldn't homestead unless they were enfranchised. It was impossible to enfranchise the Sioux because they had to have a reserve by a complicated Government formula. Pringle finally recommended the band get a school and farm instructor along, with a reserve. Inspector Graham of the R.C.M.P. was to choose a site for the reserve. He recommended a section for every five people because land in Township 4, Range 4, was not good farmland. Using this formula it appears that 14 sections of land were needed, however, later information and decisions would indicate that in reality 18 sections were required. Graham was given the power to decide and decided that 150 acres would be set aside for each person. This meant that 18 sections or one-half of Township 4, Range 4; would become a reserve. The Department of Indian Affairs agreed, however, the Department of Interior refused to make a permanent reserve as the land fell under, the jurisdiction of that department. No Indian agent was appointed, however the R.C.M.P. were assigned to look after the band.

The Band, after living there for a year, during which time more settlement occurred, asked for a full township knowing their future depended on agriculture. Graham recommended against this. They were told to raise cattle and refused permission to have a day school. The Sioux were regarded as self-reliant and got enough agricultural equipment to start them in farming. In 1913 the Government, failed to get permanent status for the Reserve and the 18 sections were set aside as a temporary reserve. However, Graham, in 1919, decided that part of the Reserve would be used for soldier settlement and five and three-quarter sections of the Reserve would be turned over to the soldier settlement board. This did occur and indeed when the Reserve finally achieved permanent status as an Indian Reserve in 1930 its size had been reduced to nine and one-quarter sections which were transferred to the soldier settlement board, through surrender, were surrendered at a price of six dollars per acre.

This reserve is ranch land and farming - very hilly.
This reserve is ranch land and farming - very hilly.


Since land was first set aside in 1910 as a temporary reserve for, the Sioux Indians living in the Wood Mountain area, the Government by the band on the Wood Mountain Reserve appears to have been a relatively stable one.

The Government of the Wood Mountain Reserve consists of a chief and two, councillors elected by band custom. However, since 1910 the reserve has had only two chiefs; the present chief, Bill Goodtrack, has been in office for eight years, the original chief of the Wood Mountain band served for a period of 40 years. During the intervening eight years, from 1950 to 1968, Government on the Reserve was handled mainly by those individuals who were respected by the majority of band members as the leaders within the Reserve community. It appears that some people presently living on the Wood Mountain Reserve feel a certain amount of isolation in relation to any political ties that they might have with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians and the Department of Indian Affairs. It is believed that during the history of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, only one executive director from that organization has ever been seen at the Wood Mountain Indian Reserve.

The isolation which the Reserve feels in its relationships with the parent political organization and the responsible Department of the Federal Government seems also to carry

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A Profile Of The Wood Mountain Reserve

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1976      v06 n11 p17  
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over to its relationships with the policing agency, namely the R.C.M.P., and possible with the court of judiciary that circulates through that particular area of the province. The R.C.M.P. are not seen as being very accessible to the band either in time of serious need for policing services or on an ongoing 3 day to day basis in enhancing relationships between the police and the Reserve Community.


Stability seems to be a central characteristic of family life for those families who continue to reside on the Wood Mountain Indian Reserve. However, over the years since approximately 37 families lived on the Wood Mountain Indian Reserve this number has been reduced to a present low of five families. It appears that a major reason for this has been that over the years of pattern of marrying out the Reserve community has been established.

Most of the marrying out has been a pattern of intermarriage with people from the white community. It is further estimated that although the present population on the Reserve is approximately 40 people there are approximately 70 people on the present band list, an additional 70 people living away from the Reserve who would qualify for band membership. One major problem cited was that of the difficulty for people off the Reserve to establish their claim to band membership and it was suggested by a resident of the Reserve that, perhaps, the parent political organization should provide some type of co-ordinating service to bands and band members who are having such difficulties. This service might fall under the umbrella of the Treaty Rights and Research Program and might only require the minimal number of staff as resource people to assist Indian people in establishing their claims to status.

The former N.W.M.P. trail
The former N.W.M.P. trail passes through the reserve to Fort Welch.
The only church on Wood Mountain Reserve
The only church on Wood Mountain Reserve, which is an R.C. Church.


The major economic base for the Reserve continues to be agriculture although at one time Reserve residents could support themselves through such economic ventures as year round hunting of antelope and mule deer and one resident found support through the mining of lignite coal, such coal still being located on certain areas of the Reserve. Presently two Reserve residents are engaged in farming full time, each farming approximately 500 acres of Reserve land. An additional 800 acres of Reserve land is leased to individual farmers from the neighbouring areas off the Reserve, and three sections of the Reserve are set aside as a community pasture on which the two individuals from the Reserve have approximately 200 head of Hereford, Charlais and Shorthand Beef cattle. Efforts are continuing to bring the remaining two sections of Reserve land or parts of them into productivity though breaking and eventually cropping them. However, before it might be utilized for growing grain for sale. Social assistance payments continue to provide the economic support for three of the five families living on the Wood Mountain Reserve.


A small Roman Catholic Church is located centrally on the Wood Mountain Reserve. However, its use in the past two years has been limited to special religious activities such as weddings, funerals and services at Easter and Christmas. In spite of a minimal amount of direct activity related to the church on the Reserve in recent years, it still maintains considerably importance as evidenced by the fact that Reserve residents, through the aid of a L.I.P. grant, during the past two years have completely restored the church after it had been vandalized quite severely approximately two years ago.

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A Profile Of The Wood Mountain Reserve

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1976      v06 n11 p18  
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The Wood Mountain Indian Reserve has never had a school located on it. As a result school aged children from the Reserve have either attended elementary and high school in the nearby village of Wood Mountain or to some extent at the Lebret Indian Student Residence. During recent years two of the women from the Reserve have been asked to, and have had, continuing involvement in representing the interests of the students from the Reserve at school board meetings for the Wood Mountain schools. This acceptance of Reserve residents into the mainstream of the village community in Wood Mountain seems to extend to other activities that go on in that community, especially leisure time and recreation activities. The Chief of the Wood Mountain Reserve is presently secretary for the curling club, in the Village of Wood Mountain. Reserve residents also regularly take part in social activities in neighbouring communitIes such as dances, and other recreational activities, mainly high school sports, curling and community hockey. Despite the small number of people living on the Wood Mountain Indian Reserve there are indications, that over indulgence in the use of liquor does pose a problem for some Reserve residents. However, it is felt that opportunities are available in neighbouring communities for them to seek help for such problems as the problem with alcohol or the related problems of unemployment and the need for financial support through social assistance which is also a concern as it is felt by some Reserve residents that employment is readily available for all employable people although a lot of the available employment is outside the Reserve boundaries.


The Wood Mountain Indian Reserve is able to have good communication contact beyond its boundaries. They are readily able to receive the coverage from two television channels, those in Moose Jaw and Regina, and telephone service is available to some Reserve residents. Proximity to the American border does result in a certain amount of travelling of Reserve residents between the Wood Mountain Reserve and the communities of Poplar and Billings, Montana. There seemed also to be a general feeling that communication with the Department of Indian Affairs in Fort Qu'Appelle was relatively good, although at times the feeling of isolation did creep in with regard to certain problems the administration on the Reserve might have at a particular point in time.