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The History Of Crooked Lake Agency Singer

Erroll Kinistino

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      POWWOW ISSUE 1999      v29 n02 p20  
The main reason Crooked Lake Agency drum group receives so many invitations to host powwows, grand openings, and international events, is not because of their high pitched, high-powered voices, or fancy, faddish word songs. It is because of their good old-style sound, and steady beat!

Back Row L - R: Terry Bob, Albert Isaac Jr. Bob Natewa, Calvin Isaac Sr.,
Bernard Bob, Trevor Ewack, Charles Buffalocalf Jr., Percy Isaac, Rook Sparvier
Front Row L - R: Eric Redwood, J.R. McArthur, Jason Sparvier, Shaun Buffalocalf

Crooked Lake Agency drum group

Crooked Lake Agency is carrying on a style learned from their predecessors amongst the reserves that made up the agency during the early 1900's. The reserves are situated near Broadview in southeast Saskatchewan - Sakimay, Cowessess (Quewezance), Kahkewistahaw and Ochapowace (Kakisheway, Chacachas).

It is from the Agency period that the group takes its name. Although each reserve was autonomous, they were united into one agency.

Shortly after the agency was formed, the, "Indian Agents", tried to stop the Indians traveling from one traditional ceremonial ground to another. They developed a pass system, to stop Indian people from attending annual events on each other's reserve.

In about 1910, famed artist, Edward Morris, got special permission allowing the four bands to have a powwow. He was the youngest son of the Honourable Alexander Morris, chief commissioner for the negotiation of the treaties.

During this special powwow, a pole and cloth were raised for each of the four bands. This is probably the first documented Crooked Lake Agency powwow.

Edmund Morris sketched and photographed some of his famous collection during this gathering, including Man Standing Above Ground - Acoose (Sakimay), Nepahpenais - Nightbird (Cowessess), Walter Ochapowace (Ochapowace).

After this project was complete, the agents once again enforced the Indian Act. The Act outlawed attendance at powwows, or other ceremonies. Anyone caught, could be imprisoned and fined.

Residential schools at Marieval and Round Lake, were constructed to educate Indian students in the dominant white society's values. Quite often, this meant students were turned away from their Cree, Saulteaux language and values.

Traditional elders and spiritual leaders endeavored to keep some of the ceremonies and language intact during this period, by being very private about their events. By the late 1960's, with no more oppressive pass system to stop travel, the Crooked Lake agency bands began traveling to cultural events across the valley again. Starblanket, Peepeekisis, Standing Buffalo, Sioux Valley, Whitebear, and as far away as Crow Agency, Bismarck, Rocky Boy, or Poplar, Montana.

Cowessess also revived and hosted the Crooked Lake Agency powwow during the 1960's, until about 1971.

Little Edward Lerat says he and his sons, Alex, Dennis, Fenton, and Carlos, had a group that became known as the "Broadview Singers".

Lerat says when they would practice some evenings, they would attract one of their neighbors from across the road. Lionel Sparvier was probably a young teenager then. He learnt to sing

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The History Of Crooked Lake Agency Singer

Erroll Kinistino

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      POWWOW ISSUE 1999      v29 n02 p25  
and drum with them. Lerat says he was lucky enough to learn from his uncles, Emmanuel and Alphonse Lerat. He was about eight years old when he heard his uncles' song on a drum make from horsehide.

When the powwow ended at Cowessess, Lerat says some of his sons joined up with the Kahkewistahaw drummers, whose members included Bernard Bob, Clifford Taypotat, (Indian), Isidore Smoke, and Donald Assiniboine.

Today this group has become known as the Crooked Lake Agency Singers. The group consists of Lionel Sparvier, Bernard Bob Albert Isaac Jr., Percy Isaac, Calvin Isaac, Terry Bob, Charlie Buffalocalf, Shawn Buffalocalf, Jason Sparvier, Trevor Ewock, and Junior McCarther. Crooked Lake's Drum Keepers, Charlie Buffalocalf and Bernard Bob, both live on Kahkewistahaw.

The group spokesman, Lionel Sparvier, says the drum has led them to many places, like Estonia, Russia, Northern United States, Arizona, New Mexico, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.

Sparvier says they've recorded two albums. The first one entitled, "Old Style", is on the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre label. The second one, "Good Old Days", is on the Sweetgrass Records label. He says they will be recording their third album at Whitebear powwow, July 10 - 12, 1999, with Turtle Island Music.

You can hear the Crooked Lake Agency Singers live this summer, on the powwow trail, at their powwow to be held on Kahkewistahaw First Nation, August 20 - 22, 1999.

For further information about the drum group, or the powwow, contact Lionel Sparvier at the Yorkton Tribal Council (306) 786-7888