Cree Chief Ah-yah-tus-kum-ik-im-am (William Twatt) and four headmen signed Treaty 6 near Fort Carlton on August 23, 1876, and received a reserve at Sturgeon Lake in 1878, about 29 km northwest of Prince Albert. The band was commonly known as the William Twatt Band, but it changed its name in 1963 to the Sturgeon Lake Band, and later to the Sturgeon Lake First Nation. Farming progressed quickly, and by 1955 there were eight tractors, five of which were owned by individual farmers. Cattle were the main industry, but as grain farming expanded the herds decreased in size. In the 1970s, most cultivated land on the reserve was utilized as a band-operated farm; when the band farm was phased out in 1981, land was leased to off-reserve farmers, but this practice was discontinued because of problems in collecting lease payments. During the early reserve period, people supplemented their income by trapping muskrat on the Sturgeon, Shell and Red rivers, cutting cordwood, working in lumber camps, and working as housekeepers in Prince Albert. In 1989 the discovery of kimberlite on the reserve began a hunt for diamonds, as companies staked their claims on land surrounding the reserve. The 2001 settling of a grievance between the band and the federal government concerning a loss of timber revenue that dated back to 1906 has enabled the community to expand its economic opportunities. The community’s infrastructure includes a band office, school, gymnasium, fire hall, band hall, community health clinic, and a healing lodge. Currently 1,578 of the 2,188 band members live on their 9,209.5-ha reserve.

Christian Thompson