Background on Sharphead Band
1884-1889 Reserve Period
In 1884, the Sharphead Band moved from Pigeon Lake to their selected reserve near the Battle River (Wolf Creek). The reserve was officially surveyed for the Sharphead Band in 1885 (known as Sharphead I.R. 141 Wolf Creek).
In 1886, a measles epidemic hit the Peace Hills agency, killing at least four individuals from the Sharphead Band. The band lost many more people to subsequent colds and other illnesses over the next several years, including 72 deaths in 1887 alone. Treaty annuity paylists and other archival documents indicate that between 1886 and 1890, over 100 individuals from the Sharphead Band died. Many of these deaths occurred on the reserve.
By 1891, the majority of Sharphead Band members left the reserve at Wolf Creek, many members going north to reside at White Whale Lake, eventually amalgamating with Ironhead’s Band to become the White Whale Lake Band (now Paul First Nation).
... By 1895, only three women resided on the reserve and after the death of one of them in 1896, the reserve was “abandoned”. The Sharphead reserve at Wolf Creek was surrendered in 1897 and opened for settlement in 1899.
INDIAN AFFAIRS ANNUAL REPORTS
PEACE HILLS AGENCY - JULY 27, 1887
The Superintendent General of Indian Affairs,
Sir - I have the honour to submit the following report on Indian Affairs for this agency for the
year ended 30th June, 1887.
I regret that the condition and progress of the Indians in this agency during the past year is not
so satisfactory as I could wish, or had reason to expect in the beginning of the year.
This condition of affairs is due wholly, or in a great measure, to circumstances over which we
had no control.
During July and the first part of August, or until the issue of half-breed scrip in Edmonton had
ceased, the indians in this agency were greatly disturbed by the rumours circulated by parties
who were interested in having scrip issued and were annoyed by the taunts of those of the
different bands in this vicinity who had been discharged from treaty and received scrip.
Twice the Bear Hill indians left their reserves to escape these annoyances.
In August the measles made its appearance amongst the Bear Hill Indians, and until the end of
September they were hindered by sickness from doing their work.
In the latter part of October the measles attacked the Stony Indians at Wolf Creek, just as they
were about to leave for their hunting grounds. They remained on the reserve until the end of
November, when they left, greatly against my wishes and advice, as they had not fully
recovered from their sickness.
The evil results of this course were soon manifested, as they sickened and died all through the
winter and spring, some of them died before they had gone ten miles, from the reserve, but
that did not deter the others from going on.
On the first of January, Chief Sharphead sent me word from his camp at Gull Lake, that he had
lost several of his band, and that many others were sick and dying.
Provisions were sent to them at once and as soon as possible a doctor went to their camp and
prescribed for them, but as he informed me that he could not do anything for them in their
camp, I induced them to come back to the reserve and live in their houses, where they
received all the attention and assistance that could be given them by their instructor, Mr.
Robertson, but although all was done for them that could be done, they continued to sicken
and die, until over fifty of the band perished.
In May contrary to my expectations, this band put in a small crop. I did not expect that they
would do any work. About the end of May they all left the reserve, hoping, they said, to benefit
by the change.
At the Bear Hills but two deaths occurred from the measles, as the weather was warm while
These bands, although hindered and discouraged by sickness and by the loss of a large
quantity of hay through unseasonable and very heavy rains in August, succeeded in securing
hay to feed their large stock, and harvested their crops without injury or loss.
The grain crops were good, the potato crop very good, turnips and garden produce not so
good as usual.
The threshing was done with comparative ease and expedition by the threshing machine
supplied to this agency; the Indians were greatly pleased with its working.
The absence of Chief Sampson while on his visit to the east with the Rev. John McDougall was
greatly felt; but he has evidently gained considerable knowledge from his visit and intends to
profit by it.
The winter was long and unusually severe, the severe weather and deep snow prevented the
Indians from hunting or working as they usually do, considerable fur was taken early in the
winter, principally Lynx; towards spring the Lynx disappeared.
The fishery at Pigeon Lake supported quite a number of Indians until March, when the fishing
failed; rations were issued to the destitute.
The spring opened late and the weather continued cold and dry until June, when warm and
wet weather set in; the effect on our very backward crops was soon seen; at present the
prospects for a fair crop are good.
Very little breaking was done this spring, owing to the vaccination being most successful;
through June the Indians were sick and disabled from its effects.
All the cattle belonging to the bands in this agency are in a good condition, and rapidly
increasing in numbers.
The Bears Hill Bands are now well supplied with cattle, implements and everything necessary
to enable them to help themselves.
Should the Stonies when they fully recover from their affliction, show a desire to settle and go
to work, they will require more cattle; they are well supplied with implements, and at present
have sufficient cattle.
New buildings have been erected for the agency at Battle River; this will enable me to devote
more time to the Indians, as I am in the midst of my work.
A dwelling-house for the Instructor, and a storehouse have been built on Farm No. 18 at the
Bear Hills; the walls of a stable have also been erected there.
At Wolf Creek the walls of the Instructors dwelling-house, storehouse and stables are built.
All these unfinished buildings will be completed as soon as lumber can be procured.
A school was opened by the Methodist Mission, on Louis Bull's reserve, last November. This
school owing to the exertions of the teacher, Mr. Somerset, is well attended.
On Ermineskin's reserve a school has just been opened by the Roman Catholic Mission. It was
much needed, and will, I hope, prove a success.
I have the honour to be, Sir
Your obedient servant
SAMUEL B. LUCAS,
THE SHAPHEAD BAND:
A HISTORY OF ITS LAND
A historical report of the Sharphead Band, by Bill Russell, on behalf of Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research (T.A.R.R) and the Indian Association of Alberta (I.A.A). This report contains information about the Reserve Survey, the Breakup of the Sharphead Band, The Transfer of Band Members to White Whale Lake, and The Sale of the Wolf Creek Reserve.
Final Report of the Repatriation and Reburial of the Sharphead Remains
12 June 2014
This final report summarizes the activities, discussions, and recommendations stemming from the meetings as they pertain to the new cemetery site and the reburial of the Sharphead remains.
Since 2007 Alberta Culture has worked towards the repatriation and reburial of the Sharphead remains exhumed in the 1960s from the original cemetery on the former Sharphead reserve. In 1965 and 1966 a total of 25 individuals were exhumed due to impact from the construction of a transmission line and in 2007 three additional individuals were exhumed due to maintenance of the same transmission line.
... In 2012, the GoA purchased lands within the boundaries of the former Sharphead reserve upon recommendations from First Nation representatives. These lands are located near the present day Town of Ponoka.
In 1965, Calgary Power (later known as TransAlta) uncovered human remains in a farmer’s field while installing a power line. These remains were part of the Sharphead reserve cemetery which had been used from 1884 to 1896. At the time, there were no laws protecting historical cemeteries and the Universities Act allowed the University [of Alberta] to excavate and collect historical human remains. The Department of Anthropology at the University excavated 24 Sharphead graves over the summers of 1965 and 1966. These 24 graves contained the remains of 25 individuals as one grave was a double burial. The human remains excavated from the Sharphead graves were taken to the University where they were studied until the 1970s. The remains were then put into storage until they could be repatriated to the First Nations descendants.
1974-75 and 1994-97 Attempts to Repatriate Remains by the University of Alberta
In 1974, the University came across archival documentation showing that some members of the original Sharphead Band were formally transferred to the Treaty annuity paylists of White Whale Lake Band, now Paul First Nation. As such, efforts were made by the University in 1975 to repatriate and rebury the Sharphead remains with the assistance of Paul First Nation. These efforts were unsuccessful, largely because a request was made to ascertain whether all of the remains of those unearthed belonged to members of the Sharphead Band and this assurance could not be provided by the University.
In 1994, representatives from Paul First Nation contacted the University regarding the repatriation and reburial of the Sharphead remains. In 1996, the University tried to arrange for a ceremony and reburial of the Sharphead remains in an existing cemetery at the Rundle Mission site on Pigeon Lake. The reburial proposal did not proceed at that time as a result of technical issues related to permit applications and the process lapsed.
As both of the previous attempts to repatriate and rebury the Sharphead remains were not successful, the remains have been stored at the University since the original excavations in the 1960s.
2007 to 2014 Government of Alberta Involvement
In 2007, AltaLink (who took over the power line from TransAlta) was replacing power poles in the farmer’s field where the Sharphead graves had originally been excavated. During the removal of a power pole from the ground, additional human remains were uncovered. All work on the power pole replacement was stopped immediately and no further disturbance has occurred at that site. The remains uncovered in 2007 were of one full individual and partial remains from two other individuals. These remains were originally taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office but are now located at the University and kept with the other Sharphead remains. In total, the remains for 28 individuals were excavated ...
The GoA became involved in 2007 as historic burials are protected by the Historical Resources Act. Research was conducted in order to determine which First Nations had descendants from the former Sharphead Band so consultations could occur regarding how to repatriate and rebury the Sharphead remains.
Since 2007 the GoA has contacted and met with Elders and delegates from the respective 15 First Nations that have descendants from the former Sharphead Band. The removal of their ancestors’ remains from their original resting place has been a source of concern to a number of Alberta’s First Nations’ communities for a long time. Over the years, the consultation process occurred with each First Nation putting forward Elders to represent their interests at group Elders Committee meetings whereby issues regarding the repatriation and reburial process were discussed.
... After much discussion and consultation with the Elders from the respective First Nations, the GoA was asked to purchase a piece of land for a new reburial location. A formal request to do so was also provided by the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations through Resolution
#004/16.09.2011 [Appendix C]. In meetings held during the spring of 2012 the Elders provided specific attributes to consider while the GoA pursued available lands to purchase. These attributes were for the land to be within the boundaries of the original Sharphead Reserve, to be near the Battle River, to be as close to the original cemetery site as possible and to be as clean as possible. Lands were selected west of the Town of Ponoka that fit these characteristics. Site visits to the lands with Elders from the respective First Nations occurred in September and October of 2012. Following these site visits a meeting was held in October of 2012 whereby a recommendation was given by the Elders to proceed with the purchase of these lands. In March of 2013, Alberta Culture sent a letter to the respective First Nations confirming the final purchase and that the GoA now holds title to these lands. The respective land for the new cemetery site is located at Plan 1121763 Block 2 Lots 4, 5 and 6 in Ponoka County [Appendices D and E].
In the summer and fall of 2013 representatives from GoA and the University attended several meetings and feasts with Elders and delegates from the respective 15 First Nations. During this time, the GoA became aware that further discussions with the respective First Nations were needed on how to best proceed with the reburial process. The topics for discussion between the GoA, the University and the First Nations were: protocols and ceremony for the reburial; the cemetery design and layout; and burial specifics such as casket design. Alberta Culture contacted the respective First Nations in January 2014 in order to organise meetings to discuss these specific items prior to the reburial.
Consistently, throughout these community meetings, the Elders and descendants who met with the GoA and the University shared an overarching sentiment that this entire repatriation and reburial process has taken far too long and the remains should be reburied this year. No one desires to see this process carry on for another year, and all want it to come to a close with a final reburial in late summer/early fall 2014. They believe these people, who were exhumed from their resting place, are waiting to go home and all parties involved need to ensure it happens. Overall, the main feeling shared by the communities is to respect and honour these people and to find the best means of bringing them home for reburial.
Now that formal consultations with the respective First Nations has concluded, the next step is for Service Alberta is to seek application to Cabinet for an Order-in-Council to place the lands at Plan 1121763 Block 2 Lots 4, 5 and 6 in Ponoka County onto the Cemeteries Act Exemption Regulation. As the cemetery will be a closed cemetery and will only be used for the historic Sharphead remains, it needs to be exempted from specific provisions of the Cemeteries Act. Once placed on the Exemption Regulation the land will automatically be designated as a cemetery, thereby permitting the final reburial of the Sharphead remains. A formal Record of Consultation of GoA involvement in the repatriation and reburial process since 2007 will be finalised in June 2014.