Northern village, population 1,137, located in NW Saskatchewan between the communities of Ile-à-la-Crosse and La Loche on Hwy 155. Buffalo Narrows is situated on the channel or “narrows” between Peter Pond and Churchill Lakes. Prior to the establishment of a permanent settlement, the area was an ancient hunting site that provided a bottleneck into which Indigenous hunters could drive wood bison, or “buffalo.” Indigenous people had also long come to the narrows to catch and dry fish during the summer months, and in the 1790s the first fur trading posts were established in the area. While the first people to settle permanently at Buffalo Narrows arrived in 1895, the settlement developed very slowly. After World War I, and through the 1930s, there was an influx of people—many Norwegian, German, and Scottish—who came to work in commercial fishing operations and to trap. People also relocated to the district from the communities of Ile-à-la-Crosse and La Loche. A school was established in 1934, and a post office in 1936. An economy based on resources—fishing, trapping, some logging operations, and mink ranching—peaked from the 1950s to the 1970s. From the 1940s until 1965, the Department of Natural Resources had administered the community; but then local government was established, and through the 1970s community infrastructure was greatly improved: better homes were built, long-distance telephone service was introduced, a new airport capable of handling small jets was opened, and in 1980 a bridge across the narrows was opened, finally linking the community to the provincial highway system. Although by this time, trapping, commercial fishing, and mink ranching were in serious decline, the infrastructure that had been put into place meant that the community was positioned to be a significant regional centre providing government and commercial services to the northwest of the province. Buffalo Narrows was incorporated as a northern village in 1983. Today, the population is largely comprised of people of Cree, Dene, and European origins; the community’s Métis population is estimated at between 80 and 90%. The median age is just over 25, while the average age in Saskatchewan is close to 37. Government offices and services are significant employers, as are businesses in the areas of tourism, mining, forestry, construction, fishing, and wild rice harvesting. While the economy is diverse, unemployment remains high: 19.8%, compared to 6.3% for the province. Economic development is high on the community’s agenda. Buffalo Narrows has a pre-school and a daycare centre. The K–12 school has 322 students, and Northlands College offers programs and services for adult learners. Buffalo Narrows also has its own radio station, an RCMP detachment, and a community health centre.

David McLennan