Chief Beardy’s Willow Plains Cree hunted and trapped throughout the Duck Lake area prior to signing Treaty 6 on August 28, 1876, at Fort Carlton. Beardy (Kahmeeyistoowaysit) was so named because of his beard, an unusual feature for Indigenous men during that period. He chose land for both himself and Chief Okemasis (Sayswaypus) west of Duck Lake, and began building small log houses and cultivating gardens. After Beardy died in 1889, his reserve was without a chief until 1936. On June 21, 1953, a monument was built on the outskirts of Beardy’s Reserve acknowledging the lives lost in the 1885 Resistance. In 1991, Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation and Saskatchewan Provincial Parks entered into a joint agreement creating the Tipi Encampment at Fort Carlton, a Hudson’s Bay Company post, 30 km west of the reserve. More recently, the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation developed a justice program that provides alternative measures in community-based justice, organizing sentencing and healing circles as well as supervising offenders, in which Elders play a major role. The Willow Cree Healing Lodge, opened in 2003 as an important step toward rehabilitation, is the second healing lodge in the province. Currently there are 2,738 registered band members, 1,073 of whom live on reserve. Their 18,368.5-hectare land base is located approximately 58 km southwest of Prince Albert.

Christian Thompson