Swan River First Nation

Swan River First Nation is a Woodland Cree community located on the south central shore of Lesser Slave Lake.

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Swan River First Nation is a Cree community located on the south central shore of Lesser Slave Lake.
Swan River is one of the original signatories to Treaty No. 8 signed by Kinosayo in 1899. The band has one elected chief and three councilors and currently has over 300 members living on reserve. They strive to balance economic development with environmental protection.

Swan River First Nation is a Woodland Cree community. According to anthropologists, the smallest unit of Woodland Cree social organization was the nuclear family that stayed together during fall, winter, and spring. The next largest group was the local band made up of several related families totaling 10-30 people. The regional band was composed of several local bands. Membership was flexible and size of groups was variable. They practiced a bilateral kinship system and cross cousin marriage was preferred (Smith 1981: 260).

In the summer the regional band congregated on a lakeshore. This was time for socializing, reinforcing family ties, alignment of families, and planning for winter dispersal. In the fall people departed for their winter hunting grounds. They hunted moose and elk in September to October as well as woodland caribou on their migration route. Trapping occurred from November to December and limited activities, including storytelling, happened during January and February. In the spring, woodland caribou were again hunted on their migration route and once open water returned people traveled to the pre-arranged summer local

The start of the fur trade in the Lesser Slave Lake area was marked by the construction of a NorthWest (NW) Company post at the mouth of the Slave (Indian) River in 1799. This post was followed in 1802 with another NW Company post at Grouard and yet another built on the shore of Lesser Slave Lake south of Dog Island.

By the 1880s the federal government had started to encourage white settlement of the last ‘frontier’ of Canada’s fertile farmlands (TARR 1978:7-8). This and the famine of 1887- 1888 prompted Aboriginal leaders in the area to consider taking Treaty.

By 1899 settlements at Lesser Slave Lake were along the south shore of the lake and along an old trail from Athabasca Landing via Sawridge to Peace River Crossing. Before the establishment of permanent farming communities, these settlements were used by most families as summer residences, while their trapping and hunting camps were located inland, south of the lake.