1891 - The Survey of the Reserve

*(Photo) View from Mission House - Duffield




Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research (T.A.R.R.)

of the Indian Association of Alberta

Donna Gordon

TARR/IAA (Ottawa) May 1981

Anthropologists believe that the Stoney Indians of the Alexis and Paul Bands in Alberta are descendants of the Assiniboine's in their “... most northwesterly penetration into the foothills of the Canadian Rockies ...”, Probably sometime in the early or mid 1700s. Lacking the quality and quantity of horses necessary to compete with the “Plains” tribes in the great buffalo hunts, these “Woods” Stoney's banded together in small groups to make their living by hunting, fishing and trapping in the forests of what is now west central Alberta.

For hundreds of years the Indians shared their forests and plains with only a few missionaries and fur traders. In 1870, however the government of the new Dominion of Canada acquired the territory - “Rupert's Land” - from the Hudson's Bay company, and quickly set about negotiating peace treaties with the native inhabitants of this vast area so that surveyors, railroad companies and, most importantly, settlers would be able to enter undisturbed. In these treaties the Indians agreed to '... cede, release, surrender and yield up ... all their rights, titles and privileges, whatsoever, to the lands ...” in exchange for annual per capita payments of money, reserve land and various promises of schools, medicines, agricultural implements and supplies, etc. By the summer of 1876, the government’s Commissioners were meeting with Indians at Fort Carleton and Fort Pitt to finalize Treaty No. 6, covering the vast area of plains and woodlands which is central Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Not all of the Indians living within the limits of Treaty 6 were represented at the 1876 negotiations. One of the groups who’s absence was noted consisted of an estimated 20 tents of “Assiniboine or Stoney Indians” under “Bearshead or Paul [as] Chief”* and plans were made for Commissioners to meet with these people at Lac Ste. Anne. on 1 July 1877 to secure their adhesion to the treaty. In fact it was Chief Alexis (Kees kee chee chi) and his Headman,        Oo-muo-in-ah-soo-waw-sinee (Spotted Stone) who met with the government representatives in Edmonton on 21 August 1877 to sign an adhesion to the treaty on behalf of the Stoney Indians living around Lac Ste. Anne.


*Bearshead is Mustoos-tik-kwan, a headman in Alexis band and Paul may or may not be the same “Paul” who later becomes Chief of Paul’s Band (there are 2 different men paid as “Paul” on the Alexis Paysheets in 1878).


Included with the 172 Indians paid with Alexis in 1877 was a group of people who at the time (or shortly thereafter) were in fact members of a separate band under Peter Ironhead, residing some 16 miles south of Lac Ste. Anne at White Whale (or Wabamun) Lake. Even though Department of Indian Affairs officials continued to list both groups on a single “Alexis Band” paysheet until 1886, it is obvious that Ironhead and his followers had travelled and lived apart from Alexis and his band for a number of years previous to that.

Due to the lack of correspondence relating to this early period we can only speculate as to when the two groups actually split. There is some evidence to suggest that the Ironhead Band may have been living at White Whale Lake “since a time prior to the making of treaty”, or they may have moved there sometime after the adhesion - perhaps as late as 1879, when Ironhead first appears on the paysheets as a Headman. Certainly in 1880 when a reserve was surveyed for Alexis at Lac Ste. Anne, the Ironhead Band had already established themselves at White Whale Lake, for the surveyor noted that


About 1/2 of this band [Alexis, under

Ironhead are living at White Whale Lake

and they refuse to join Alexis at Lac Ste.

Anne- as they say the land is better

where they are and the fish crop more certain

DIA persisted in the idea that Ironhead and his followers were merely a breakaway segment of the Alexis Band, and for the next four years both government officials and the local missionaries tried to persuade Ironhead to move to Lac Ste. Anne. One must wonder at the quality of the persuasion, however, for it would seem that while “urging” Ironhead to relocate, DIA was also helping his band to develop the White Whale Lake site:

The old question of the reserve location

being changed came up, but I find the

following of Alexis is far greater than that

of his dissidents. H.M. Ironhead desires to

get it changed to the vicinity of White

Lake, as each is receiving assistance to

work upon his respective place and as

their improvements are rapidly increasing.

The difficulty of settling the question

is becoming greater or rather a question

is being raised, as recognition of right

is being given equally to work upon

the chosen places.

Indeed, despite the fact that they were considered to be primarily fishers and hunters, by 1884 Ironhead’s followers had 12 acres of land at White Whale Lake broken and under cultivation and had built four houses and a stable. (The following year it was reported that they also had 2 work oxen, but there is no indication as to when they received these animals).

Ironhead continued to refuse to relocate, not only because of the improvements he and his band had made, but also because the fishing at Lac Ste. Anne was becoming increasingly less dependable. Finally, in 1884, DIA agreed to have a reserve surveyed on the northwest side of White Whale Lake for Ironhead’s “band ... of 13 families or 60 persons”. The department of the interior confirmed that there were no claims to the land and no other objections to an Indian reserve survey at that point, provided that it was made to conform to township section lines. Unfortunately, before a surveyor could be sent to lay out the reserve, the Department’s attention was diverted by the outbreak of the rebellion in the Northwest Territories, and the White Whale Lake survey proposal was apparently shelved and forgotten.

There is some mention in the correspondence during the 1885 uprising that the Stoney’s were causing trouble, or were about to join with Big Bear, but there does not seem to be any proof of this. After the rebellion, farming agent W.J. O’Donnell reported on Ironhead’s band’s conduct (separately from Alexis Band, it should be noted):

Ironhead and his band were most loyal

and deserving of a reward from the

government for their loyalty and hard

work the time of the excitement this spring.

One of the “rewards” for their loyalty may have been the belated recognition by DIA of their status as a band separate from Alexis. At the next treaty annuity payments (October 1886) the names of the White Whale Lake Indians were finally removed from the Alexis lists and, for the first time, were listed on their own paysheet under Peter Ironhead.

1891: The Survey of the Reserve

Paul (#2), described in one of the reports as “industrious, sober and moral” assumed leadership of the White Whale Lake Indians after Ironhead died in 1897. Although the band still made their living predominately by fishing and hunting, they did continue to make improvements to their land. By the end of the decade they were reported to have a total of 18 head of cattle (7 under DIA control and 11 privately owned) which the Agent described as being “in first rate order and well attended to”, 20 horses, 10 houses “including two new ones”, and they had some 29 acres cleared and seeded. All of this work had been done despite the fact that a reserve had still not been laid out for them.

The reserve survey which had been proposed for White Whale Lake in 1884 was apparently forgotten by DIA after conditions returned to normal following the rebellion, but the people living there had not forgotten. In the spring of 1890, Indian Agent Charles DeCazes reported that Paul’s Band was “anxious to have their reserve surveyed, as they said [had] been promised by the Honourable Mr. Dewdney, then Indian Commissioner, when he visited them”. By this time Dewdney (now Superintendent General of Indian Affairs) could not recall the promise - or even the visit - but it did not matter, as the Department had no objections to establishing a reserve at White Whale Lake. They had long ago stopped trying to unite the two groups on the Alexis reserve, probably in large part because the White Whale Lake fishery seemed to consistently out-produce the fishery at Lac Ste. Anne. Both of these bands still lived primarily by hunting and fishing, and it was obvious that the Lac Ste. Anne fishery already overtaxed, could not support Paul’s people as well as Alexis’. The survey at White Whale Lake would be done, DIA promised, as soon as a surveyor was available. As it turned out, Paul’s Band had to wait until the end of the 1891 survey season before the reserve to which they were entitled under the treaty was finally measured and staked out on the ground.

The survey might have been done sooner, except that DIA decided that Alexis would have to surrender some of its reserve land before Paul’s could receive their allotment. Writing to DSGIA Vankoughnet late in 1890, Indian Commissioner Hayter Reed asked whether

when such a reserve is surveyed, in view of

the fact that their [Paul’s] number was taken

into account when computing the land set apart

for Alexis’ Band, an area, equal to that of

the new Reserve, should be cut off the Reserve

of Alexis’ Band.

Actually, Paul’s (Ironhead’s) people were probably not taken into account in the calculations for the Alexis Band entitlement, but Vankoughnet, assuming Reed to be correct, approved his suggestion and sent him authorization to proceed with the taking of a surrender from the Alexis Band. It was, however, Indian Agent DeCazes who was given the responsibility of carrying through with these plans. Although there does not seem to be any record of the discussions, it is obvious that Alexis did not respond positively to the proposal: as surveyor Nelson reported after meeting with DeCazes in Edmonton, it was “utterly impossible to carry out to the letter instructions sent to the Indian Agent here”.

Alexis Band, in the end, did not have to surrender any of their land, perhaps because they were able to convince DIA that Paul’s people had not received any land at Lac Ste. Anne. (We can only speculate that this is the reason that the Department backed off from the surrender proposal since no correspondence from the surveyor, Indian Agent or Commissioner Reed relating to this has been located). On 20 November 1891 - only 8 days after he had telegraphed Ottawa regarding the impossibility of obtaining a surrender from Alexis as his initial instructions had indicated - Surveyor Nelson received new instructions regarding the surveys to be conducted in the Edmonton area*. On 26 November he proceeded to White Whale Lake “to make a survey of the reserve and fishing station for the members of Chief Alexis’ band, to whom a reserve had not yet been allotted”.


*Nelson makes reference to these instructions in his report, but the actual instructions do not appear on any file located to date.


Nelson did a preliminary survey of the lake shore while he waited for Agent DeCazes and Inspector McGibbon to come and hold the meeting with Paul’s Band to discuss the proposed reserve. For this meeting the surveyor had prepared a plan of the eastern shore, and as he later reported,

this, with information I had gathered from an

examination of the country for some miles

around, together with the knowledge of the

locality possessed by the Indian Agent,

enabled us, after ascertaining the views of the

Indians, to show them precisely on the plan,

which they said they perfectly understood,

the land that would be a fairly good reserve

and fishing ground. Panl [Sic] and the

others present at the conference expressed

themselves well-pleased with the reserve to be

set aside for them.

The survey party, accompanied by two Indians so that the band would know the limits of the reserve, spent the next couple of weeks measuring and staking out the reserve boundaries. When the work was completed on the 16th of December, an area of some 32.75 square miles, or 20,960 acres, (including the fishing station) had been set aside for Paul’s Band. Nelson’s plans and field notes of the reserve survey were submitted and approved by the Surveyor General by the end of May 1892, and the Order in Council (P.C. 1633) officially setting apart the land as an Indian reserve was passed on 16 June 1892.


Reserve size, according to the terms of Treaty 6, was to be determined according to a formula of “one square mile for each family of five ... or in that proportion for larger and smaller families ...” (in other words, each band member was entitled to 128 acres [640 acres divided by 5] ). In 1891 Paul’s Band had a total membership of 69 people, entitling the band to a reserve of 8,832 acres (69 x 128 acres). Of course it quite often happened that a surveyor would allow some additional land to compensate for any less than desirable areas which he could not avoid including in the reserve area, but this can hardly explain the 12,128 acre (20,960 acres minus 8,832 acres) surplus Nelson surveyed at White Whale Lake. Nelson’s notes do not tell how he determined the area for Paul’s Reserve - in fact they almost seem designed to confuse and mislead. Only part of the necessary data is reported, and that part which is set down is unnecessarily complicated. He says:

It may be well to observe that in 1880,

Mr. George Simpson, D.L.S., surveyed a

reserve at Lake Ste. Anne for Alexis and

ninety-one souls. Mr. Simpson reported that

the other members of the band, who were then

absent, had elected to take their portion of

the reserve at White Whale Lake, where they

have always hunted and fished. The yearly

average number of Indians in Alexis’ band,

including Paul and his followers, for the last

ten years, I find by the paylists to be 208,

last year the number was 219 and upon

this basis the allotment of land [for

Paul’s] has been made.

It is not surprising to find Alexis population figures being considered here. From everything Nelson had been told he had concluded that he was not surveying a reserve for Paul’s Band”, but rather “... for the members of Chief Alexis’ band, to whom a reserve had not been allotted”. What is illogical is his concern with the ten-year average populations of the two bands and his mention of the previous year’s totals. Nelson must have had access to the most recent paylists (October, 1891) and could quickly have determined the current combined Alexis’/Paul’s population - 209 people.

Neither did it make sense for him to refer to the population figure which Surveyor Simpson was reported to have used in the determination of the size of the Alexis reserve. That reserve measured 23 square miles in area, which was sufficient land for 115 people (23 x 5) - regardless of how many people Simpson said were in the band.

Had Nelson used all of these “logical” figures, he would have calculated a reserve area as follows:

Combined Alexis/Paul populations in 1891: 209

Number receiving land in 1880 at Lac Ste. Anne: 115

Number still entitled to land: 94 (209 -115)

White Whale Lake Reserve size: - 12,032 acres (94 x 128 acres)

Of course this calculation is still nowhere near the 20,960 acres actually surveyed, but, as was mentioned above, Nelson failed to report all of the data relevant to his determination of reserve size at White Whale Lake. He neglected to mention the small matter of the 70 Sharphead people for whom land was also included in Paul’s Reserve.


*Actually the size of the Alexis reserve was probably calculated using population figures based on the number of Alexis members actually present at the time of the survey, plus an estimate of the number in a reported 15 families who were away hunting at the time. The Ironhead (Paul’s) people were not taken into consideration. See Bill Russell. “Alexis Band Entitlement” (TARR/IAA, September 1979)


Sharphead’s Band had had a reserve surveyed for them at Wolf Creek in the Peace Hills Agency in 1881; but by the end of that decade, disease and famine had reduced the band to less than half its original size, making it almost impossible for the Department to justify the expense of maintaining an agency farm and instructor for the dwindling group at Wolf Creek. In 1890 it was decided to close the farm and the surviving band members, unable to continue on their own, were compelled to re-locate. They were

promised land in the proposed White Whale Lake Reserve if they joined their fellow Stonies at that place, and at the October 1891 annuity payments 19 Sharphead survivors who drew their treaty money at Peace Hills were expected to soon join the others at White Whale Lake.

Nelson does not mention that land was included in the White Whale Lake Reserve for this Sharphead “remnant”, nor, it seems, does anyone else connected with the survey. This silence may have been politically motivated - Indian land was a very sensitive issue around Edmonton at that time, and DIA may have considered it wise to leave unpublicized the fact that the Wolf Creek Indians were receiving more land at White Whale Lake. In fact it is not until 1897 that we find a positive statement regarding the role of the Sharphead numbers in determining the size of Paul’s reserve. In that year, Indian Commissioner Forget reported that the Sharphead people “... had another reserve given them at White Whale Lake in lieu of the one abandoned at Wolf Creek”. Forget estimated that about half of the Wabamun Reserve was intended for the Sharphead people. If we add the 8,960 acres (70 x 128 acres) which would have been calculated for the Sharphead remnant (the 19 people paid with Paul in 1891 plus the 51 others the Department expected to join them) to the 12,032 acres we have already calculated for the “members of Chief Alexis’ Band to whom a reserve has not been allotted”, we come remarkably close to the area actually surveyed by Nelson at White Whale Lake in 1891.


based on Alexis/Paul population: 12,032 acres

based on Sharphead population: 8,960 acres

Total: 20, 992 acres

Area Surveyed: 20, 960 acres

Although it is interesting to try to reconstruct the surveyor’s method of calculating the size of reserve allotment, it is not really necessary in a discussion about whether a band had its treaty land entitlement fulfilled with the survey. That is to say, it is not important how the surveyor arrived at the reserve area, as long as the land set aside for the band was at least large enough to provide each family of five with one square mile of land (or, in other words, 128 acres for each member of the band) according to the terms of the treaty. In the case of Paul’s Band, the 20,960 acres of land which Nelson surveyed in 1891 was more than sufficient to fulfill the land entitlement conditions of Treaty 6. Only 69 people were paid as Paul Band Members in 1891. Entitling them to a reserve of only 8,832 acres; adding the 70 Sharphead people for whom some of the White Whale Lake Reserve was set aside only brings the entitlement area up to 17,792 acres (69 + 70 =139; 139 x 128 acres = 17,792 acres). Therefore, by the strictest interpretation of the criteria established by the IAA for calculating entitlement claims, Paul’s band received a surplus of 12,128 acres (20,960 - 8,832) of reserve land;* with the Sharphead and Paul populations combined the reserve at White Whale Lake still provided an extra 3,168 acres (20,960 - 17,792) over and above the area to which the group was entitled under the treaty.

The White Whale Lake (or Wabamun) Reserve, however, is not the only reserve land which would be considered as entitlement land for the Paul’s Band. The Buck Lake Reserve, measuring 2,560 acres, was set aside as a reserve for Paul’s by Order in Council in 1963 so that the total reserve land received by Paul’s is 23,520 acres (20,960 + 2,560) - more than enough to fulfill the land entitlement provisions of Treaty 6. (it should be noted that, since the survey of the Wabamun Reserves, the membership of Paul’s Band has not been increased by the addition of any new adherents to treaty for whom no land had been surveyed elsewhere. The amount of surplus land which Paul’s Band received at the time of survey and with the addition of the Buck Lake [reserve] remains the same.


*It should be noted that DIAND would not consider the Sharphead people in a determination of Paul’s entitlement since Sharphead had already had a reserve surveyed for them - a reserve which they subsequently surrendered and from which they received the proceeds from the sale of the land.



Paul First Nation History


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