James Smith arrived in 1875 from the St. Peter's Reserve in Manitoba and signed Treaty 6 on August 23, 1876. In 1884 a reserve was surveyed for the band 58 km east of Prince Albert. After the 1885 Resistance, the Big Head Band under Chief Saddle Water asked permission to join James Smith, and it was granted. There are currently three specific claims by descended members of the James Smith, Chakastaypasin, and Peter Chapman bands against the federal government. The first claim concerns the surrender of the Chakastaypasin Reserve (IR 98): in 1898, members of the Chakastaypasin Band were added to other bands (including James Smith) when the federal government removed their reserve from reserve status; Chakastaypasin descendants want the re-establishment of their band and reserve, claiming it was never formally surrendered. The second claim concerns the Peter Chapman Band, also known as Cumberland Band (IR 100A), which was amalgamated with the James Smith Cree in 1902: while part of the 100A was surrendered on October 14, part was also used to enlarge the James Smith Reserve. This leads to the third and final claim by the descendants of the original James Smith Band: that they did not receive sufficient acres when their reserve was surveyed in 1884, whereas the government argues that the land added from the 1902 amalgamation of the Peter Chapman Band more than makes up for any discrepancy. In the meantime, the band’s infrastructure includes 15,099.5 ha of land, on which there are a band office, fire hall, teacherages, arena, the Bernard Constant Community School, and the Margaret Turner Health Centre. Economic development has involved land lease revenue, agriculture and ranching, while some of the more recent programs include the James Smith Daycare, Sakwatamo Lodge, and James Smith Health Clinic. There are 2,692 band members, of whom 1,742 live on the reserve.

Christian Thompson