“As long as the sun shines, the grass flows and the rivers flow” (jamessmithcreenation, n.d.). With over two hundred thousand members living in Canada, the Cree are one of the largest groups of First Nations in Canada and in North America. The James Smith Cree Nation is a diversion of the Cree Nation; a Cree First Nation band government.
The Cree Nation is commonly divided based on dialect and region. Moreover, James Smith Cree Nation is a smaller group (one of eight) to a big Cree First Nation community. James Smith in which the First Nation received its name and who was the original chief, signed the Treaty No. 6 in 1876 (jamessmithcreenation, n.d.).
An agreement between band governments of First Nations at Fort Carlton over owned territory; current provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta (Postl et al. 2010). At the time of the treaty, the population of the James Smith Cree Nation was at about 134 members and had grown to a population of roughly 3,400 members with an estimated 1,900 members on the reserve (jamessmithcreenation, n.d.). The original language spoken is Cree; however, they have their dialect, which is East Cree. The James Smith Cree Nation, located about 58 kilometers east of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and is approximately 150 square kilometers (jamessmithcreenation, n.d.
). Accordingly, the reserve is shared among two other First Nations; Peter Chapman First Nation and Chakastaypasin First Nation. Their traditional land, located on the north and south of the Saskatchewan River, which is historically known as Fort-a-la-Corne (jamessmithcreenation, n.d.). In addition, Fort-a-la-Corne was perceived as a place where various First Nations gathered and soon became the gateway to the western regions of Canada. As they were located in the area of a neutral trading ground, they had an often occurrence with Europeans.
Both French and English traders were involved and competed for the financial benefits of the fur trade. As a result, the Europeans began to showcase their dominance by founding their farms, building infrastructure such as schools, churches, and supply centers by trading with the First Nation people nearby (jamessmithcreenation, n.d.). With the European settlers’ arrival, the colonization of the lands resulted in altered governance structures, including legislation and policies, that had a profound impact on the existing community structures and continues to have implications today (Anderson et al. 2006; Moffatt and Cook 2005; Mowbray 2007; Reading et al.
2007). The Europeans pushed away the First Nations, not allowing them to have a say in the way the land would be governed. Therefore, the superiority of the Europeans continues to be exemplified today as First Nations are seen as inferior and are minorities. The Husky Energy oil spill that occurred in the Saskatchewan River during the summer of 2016, was a devastating disaster for the people living on the James Smith Cree Nation reserve (Heroux, 2016).
Due to a serious concern over the safety of the water in the river. The current chief of the reserve, Wally Burns stated that the “oil has flowed into the Saskatchewan River to the shores of his community” (Heroux, 2016). This was a crisis that the community of the James Smith Cree Nation had to endure, as the river was a means of vital resources. Notably, this angered the members on the reserve as it took a while for the oil company to take responsibility for the spill.
Tentatively, the problem began to be resolved as cleanup procedure took place, and the reserve welcomed different corporations to help with the cleanup (Heroux, 2016). Although recently, it has been made known by that the current chief Wally Burns, who has been enraged by the lack of responsibility by the Husky Energy oil company, as they failed to complete their payments to the members of the community that helped assist with the cleanup of the river (Heroux, 2016). This issue is part of a bigger problem as employment rates among members of the James Smith Cree Nation is extremely low. According to a census conducted by stats Canada in 2016, the unemployment rate of the population of the James Smith Cree Nation is 23.3%. This percentage is extremely high in comparison to the current unemployment rate in Canada at about 6.
9%. With an unemployment rate this alarming First Nations are left susceptible to a lot of negative pathways. Generally, First Nations not only feel seclude and alone, but are also victims of different labels and discrimination. Correspondingly, as they have been silenced and left unheard from for a lot of years, they have begun to come together to publicize the issues and problems that their communities face today.
References(n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2018, from http://www.jamessmithcreenation.com/james_smith/index.html (n.
d.). Retrieved January 25, 2018, fromhttp://www12.statcan.gc.
ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/Page.cfm?Lang=E=CSD=4715849=PR=01=Count=Kinistino%20No.%20459=Begins=01=All=true Postl, B., Cook, C., & Moffatt, M.
(2010). Aboriginal Child Health and the Social Determinants: Why Are These Children So Disadvantaged? Healthcare Quarterly, (Sp1).Heroux, Devin. “‘This River Has Taken a Beating’: James Smith Cree Nation Has Serious Concerns after Husky Pipeline Spill.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 31 Aug.