1821 DrawingDrawing of Norway House by Peter Rindesbacher, 1821.
1874Representatives, led by Chief David Rundle, wrote the federal government requesting support to move to their southernmost hunting region around Grassy Narrows and the present day Icelandic River.
Treaty #5A request was also made to the federal government for a Treaty to be made to secure their lands, resources, and way of life. In the fall of 1875, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris concluded Treaty Number Five with the Norway House peoples, and gave Davis Rundle’s people the present reserve at Fisher River.
Move to Fisher RiverHowever, there was a delay in the move due to an outbreak of small pox in the Icelandic colony just south of the proposed reserve site. So, in the summer of 1877, when the quarantine was lifted, 200 people (43 families) made the 200 mile journey south to the present day Fisher River Reserve. Upon arrival, the people built homes and divided up the land to be used for farming.
Map of Fisher River, 1878Fisher River plan showing the river lot system, natural vegetation and landscape, 1878.
Treaty Annuity Payout, 1878Page 1 from the Treaty Annuity Paylist for the first payout in 1878.
Map of 1900'sThis map shows which communities were actively engaged in commercial fishing around 1900. Fishing continues to be a major income source for Fisher River families whose members are from a long generational line of fishermen.
Chief John Cochrane, 1907Chief John Cochrane in Brandon, C. 1907. John Cochrane replaced life long Chief David Rundle in 1905. He remained chief of Fisher River until 1917.
Adhesions to Treaty #5In 1908, the band signed the adhesions to Treaty Number Five which brought more people into the band.
Community GardenIn the early years, the people planted a community garden of potatoes that everyone helped to care for, and at harvest time they would receive a share of the produce for their hard work. The community potato garden produced 500 bushels on 1.5 acres, 1909.
Hennery in 1911Hennery at Fisher River, 1911.
Ice Breakup at Springtime“Ice breakup at springtime,” 1940’s. People collected ice to keep in the ice boxes or their root cellars over the summer. In the background is Stattin’s General Store which remained in operation for almost 50 years. In front is Janet Sinclair (nee Crate).
Kinawa, 1940Gertrude Crate at a fishing camp near Kinawa Bay in the early 1940’s. Nets can bee seen hanging in the back.
Pentacostal Church 1940sPentacostal Church followers, c. 1940s. A new Pentacostal chapel was built in 1961 on same site as the old log church which was close to the river.
David Crate becomes CouncillorDavid Crate was first elected to council in 1985.
David Crate becomes ChiefDavid Crate first became Chief.
2001 ElectionElection Results Chief Sam Murdock Councillor Keith Sinclair? Councillor Barry Wilson? Councillor John McKay? Councillor Carl Cochrane
2003 ElectionElection Results Chief David Crate Councillor John McKay Councillor ?Carl Cochrane? Councillor Vince Crate? Councillor Barry Wilson
2005 ElectionElection Results Chief David Crate Councillor Vince Crate? Councillor Keith Sinclair? Councillor John McKay? Councillor Keith Murdock
2007 ElectionElection Results Chief David Crate Councillor Vince Crate? Councillor Carl Cochrane? Councillor Keith Sinclair? Councillor Conrad Garson
2009 ElectionElection Results Chief David Crate Councillor Vince Crate? Councillor Carl Cochrane? Councillor Dion McKay? Councillor Darrell Thaddeus
SACRED PIPE CEREMONYChief David Crate joined Elder Dr. Tobasonakwut Kinew and Dr. Phil Fontaine in honouring UWinnipeg’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy – Waapshki Pinaysee Inini White Thunderbird Man, at a sacred Pipe Ceremony. Axworthy was recognized for his commitment to creating an...
Bill C-45Bill C-45 is a 400 page omnibus piece of legislation that will change existing laws and regulations with major impact to First Nations including:changes to certain sections of the Indian Act...
Bill C-3Bill C-3 Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act,was passed December 15,2012 and provides a new entitlement to Indian registration in response to the decision McIvor v. Canada.
Chiefs Sign AgreementChief David Crate, Fisher River Cree Nation, Chief Ron Evans, Norway House Cree Nation and Chief Donavan Fontaine, Sagkeeng First Nation, signed a Political Protocol and a Limited Partnership Agreement establishing a formal political and economic...
Geothermal PartnershipInnovation, Energy and Mines Minister Dave Chomiak, minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, and Manitoba Hydro president Scott Thomson announced today that residents of the Peguis and Fisher River First Nations...
Chief Appointed to NAEDBChief Crate Appointed to National Aboriginal Economic Development Board Chief Crate was appointed to the National Aboriginal Economic Development board, an advisory body that provides policy and program advice to the government of Canada on Aboriginal economic development, for a three year term.
AcclamationChief Crate Reelected by Acclamation Chief David Crate will continue as chief of Fisher River for another two years, after winning by a vote of acclamation.
2013 ElectionElection Results Chief David Crate Councillor Darrell Thaddeus Councillor Dion McKay Councillor Carl Cochrane Councillor Barry Wilson
Right to PlayFisher River Cree Nation has entered into an agreement with Right to Play to support the Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY) program in the community of Fisher River.
FRCN Signs Historical Consultation ProtocolAboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson and Fisher River Cree Nation Chief David Crate signed an historic agreement between the Manitoba government and the Fisher River Cree Nation...
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee MedalFRCN chief, David Crate was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in the merit category of Public Service.
FRCN Signs First Nations Land Management RegimeBy signing the Framework Agreement, Fisher River Cree Nation can now begin the process of opting out of 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and assume greater control over their reserve land and resources.
Fisher River Cree Nation’s history can be traced back to the 1840’s when Norway House became the hub of Hudson Bay Company’s fur-trade and supply lines, and an administration centre for Rupert’s Land. Norway House was the location where furs from as far away as Great Slave Lake were traded for trade goods from England. The employment that was created drew hundreds of Cree people from the Hayes and Nelson River systems. However, in the 1870’s, the local environment had been nearly trapped-out and the Hudson Bay Company started to wind-down its operations. At the same time, the Hudson Bay Company introduced steamboat transportation on Lake Winnipeg which replaced its need for York Boats and the people who operated them.
This combination caused at least 200 Cree people to be put out of work. So, on the advice of local missionaries, a segment of the Norway House Cree who called themselves the “ChristianIndians of Rossville”1, decided to locate further inland on lands more favourable for agriculture and other traditional activities. In 1874, representatives of this group, led by Chief David Rundle, wrote the federal government requesting support to move to their southernmost hunting region around Grassy Narrows and the present day Icelandic River.
A request was also made to the federal government for a Treaty to be made to secure their lands, resources, and way of life. In the fall of 1875, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris concluded Treaty Number Five with the Norway House peoples, and gave Davis Rundle’s people the present reserve at Fisher River.
However, there was a delay in the move due to an outbreak of small pox in the Icelandic colony just south of the proposed reserve site. So, in the summer of 1877, when the quarantine was lifted, 200 people (43 families) made the 200 mile journey south to the present day Fisher River Reserve. Upon arrival, the people built homes and divided up the land to be used for farming.
In addition to farming, the people took part in the seasonal labour provided by the fishing and lumber industries.2 Throughout the 1880’s many more families from northern Manitoba joined the original settlers.3 In 1908, the band signed the adhesions to Treaty Number Five which brought more people into the band.
How we came to be here at OCHEKIWI SIPI
In 1874, Chief David Rundle and a group of Rossville maskekomowak wrote to Lieutenant-Governor Alexander Morris stating their intention to and requesting assistance to relocate further south to Grassy Narrows/White Mud River region on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg. They had family there already, and the land and fisheries were good. In the summer of 1875 they were denied because the land was being reserved for an Icelandic settlement. The government instead offered them land at the mouth of the Fisher River. Unlike other Treaty No.5 Band who received 160 acres per family, Fisher River only received 100 acres per family.
Our ancestors were signatories of Treaty No.5 (1875) and Treaty No.5 Adhesion (1908). Treaty No.5 was negotiated at Norway House on September 24, 1875 by Chief David Rundle and Councillors James Cochrane, Harry Constatag (Koostatak) and Charles Pisequinip on behalf of the Norway House Band. Charles Pisequinip remained in Norway House when the rest relocated to Fisher River. In 1908 the Treaty Adhesion Commission travelled throughout present-day Manitoba to sign up families and communities missed in 1875 and 1876. A number of Treaty Adhesion families joined Fisher River.
In 1877, Duncan Sinclair, Dominion Lands Surveyor, surveyed the Fisher River reserve. Based on the treaty formula, the original reserve included 9000 acres for 90 families. On March 2, 1878, Duncan Sinclair submitted his survey report to the Surveyor General along with his plan of Fisher River. Since then there have been a number of additions to the original reserve.
How We Made Our Living
The fisher River community had a diverse economy. In the early years everyone farmed but the land and annual flooding of the river did not support full time agriculture. Raising livestock, hunting, trapping and gardening continued until recent times but with no full time work available at home, many had to leave the community to take on seasonal labour jobs with local farmers, at the lumber camps and in the fishing industry. Fishing has always been an integral part of Fisher River life.
Photo: This map shows which communities were actively engaged in commercial fishing around 1900. Fishing continues to be a major income source for Fisher River families whose members are from a long generational line of fishermen.
There were many fishing camps along Lake Winnipeg including Matheson Island and Snake Island. During fishing season, entire families moved to the camps to lend a hand. Parents believed children benefitted from living on the lake and helping out. Families remained at the camps until fishing season was over but would make the trip home to Fisher River for Treaty.
Lumber Mills and Camps
Around 1882-83, the men began working in local lumber mills around Birch Point, Lake St.George and Kinonjeoshtegon (Jackhead). The mills employed community men for many years. In the summer they worked in sawmills and in the winter they worked in lumber camps for minimal wages. Elders can remember cutting wood for twelve and a half cents an hour.
A Hard Life, A Good Life
Elders share many stories about how life used to be. While we all celebrate our growth, developments and successes, Elders also long for a return to the time when a sense of community was strong. It was not easy. They had to work hard, they recall, but for them it was a better way of life because everyone worked together. The people knew what needed to be done and they all pitched in, even kids. Wood was chopped for old people; everyone helped build houses, churches and schools; hunters and fishermen shared their meat; women made quilts; and people helped each other raise their children. They even celebrated Christmas together at the church hall under a huge Christmas tree filled with presents. They did their best to ensure that no one went without and they built the community together.
People had to be self-sufficient. The store was a luxury not a necessity. They picked berries for jams, tended small gardens for vegetables and raised livestock. Food was preserved and stored in the cellar. Many families used herbs and plants to cure ailments such as weecase for colds sore throats.
For the elders, “Pashtamowin” is an important concept that is vital to a community’s well being and should be a guiding principle in everyday life. Treat everyone with respect, kindness and consideration. If you don’t then it may come back to you or your family. Do not pass judgement because you do not know the people you meet.
When our Elders were young, recreation activities were family oriented. Elders recall that some of their favorite pastimes were dancing, square dances, jigging and fiddling. Dances were held in someone’s home or at the old church hall. Children played outside while their parents danced inside. Other significant community events included field days, movie nights, sports competitions and church outings. Feasts were held at special times like weddings, Christmas and New Years Day. Everyone contributed to these celebrations. Treaty days were the most anticipated recreational event of the year. When families came together to share and celebrate it created a strong community atmosphere.
Treaty Days are usually a week long. In the old days people camped in large canvas trappers’tents along the river and enjoyed competitive sports activities like races and football games with neighboring communities. Dances lasted all day and into the night. Elders recall a man walking around the community and shouting for people to come and get their treaty money. Each person received $5.00 and families received rations such as flour, sugar and tea. Merchants set up booths where people bought clothes, supplies and treats.
Treaty Annuity Paylists
In 1878, Fisher River received their first Treaty Annuity Payments as a new Band. According to the Annual Treaty Paylist, There were 43 families living in Fisher River with a total number of 186 people. Everyone received $5.00 each, the Chief received $25.00 and the Councillors received $15.00 each.
Economic and Community Development
Today, the Ochekisiw Sipi Cree Nation has a number of projects and economic ventures in various stages of development to create long term economic sustainability and instill community pride. In times of success we need to thank our ancestors for their ability to see beyond the immediate. They left Norway House in search of a better future for their families. They encountered many hardships as they made a living including severe winters, droughts, insect invasions and epidemics. In spite of all the barriers the people persevered and left us a proud legacy.
In 2009 an agreement was signed between the Province of Manitoba and Fisher River Cree Nation to develop a new 88-lot cottage subdivision on land along Lake Winnipeg. The proposed Bay River Subdivision situated along the shores of Lake Winnipeg north of Fisher River. Fisher River will benefit with ongoing jobs from future services for the subdivision.
The centre is a beautiful log structure built as part of a training project. In 2005, the centre was named to honour Andrea Leigh Cochrane, a valued employee of the Ochekisiw Sipi Economic Development Corporation. The boardwalk along the river takes you to a tipi shaped outdoor stage.
Ada Wilson “Grey Cloud Woman” Memorial Pow Wow
For three days in August, Fisher River holds its annual competition Pow Wow and hosts dancers from across North America in a large arbour beautifully constructed from logs. The pow wow was renamed in 2006 to honour Ada Wilson, a well respected community member. Each year the pow wow is organized by a dedicated volunteer committee.
Ochiwasahow Park Reserve
North of Fisher River, on the southwest basin of Lake Winnipeg, is Fisher Bay (Ochiwasahow) which has been a seasonal home to Fisher River people for generations. Fisher River Council has a vision of conserving the area for traditional activities and developing its eco- and cultural tourism potential. They are working to secure the area through Manitoba protected areas legislation and protect the community’s inherent and Treaty Rights against industrial developments that endanger the environment.
Photo: Aerial view of Ochiwasahow Provincial Park located at Fisher Bay. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and Wilderness Committee have joined Fisher River on their quest to establish permanent protection for this beautiful Boreal forest area with its inhabitants of wildlife and birds.