Table UAP-1. Highest level of education attained, Indigenous population aged 25 years and over Canadian Plains Research Center
  Saskatoon Regina Saskatchewan
Population 8,590 6,665 54,695
Less than high school graduation 32.8% 35.1% 44.9%
High school graduation 8.3% 8.3% 7.2%
Some post-secondary 17.2% 20.1% 13.9%
University/Trade/College certificate 29.5% 27.5% 27.8%
University degree 12.2% 9.0% 6.1%
Of 130,190 Saskatchewan residents self-identifying, in whole or part, as Indigenous in the 2001 Census, a third—43,695 (33.6%)—were First Nations population on reserve, another 22,275 (17.1%) rural Indigenous population off reserve, and almost half—60,840 (46.7%)—were Indigenous people in urban areas, including 34,935 in the two Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) of Saskatoon and Regina and another 25,905 in other urban centres. In Saskatoon, 20,275 Indigenous people were counted (9.1% of the total city population), of which 11,290 were First Nations (including 11,025 Registered Indians), 8,305 Métis, and 680 mixed Indigenous or other Indigenous identifications. Regina had an Indigenous-identity population of 15,685 (8.3% of the total city population), of which 9,200 were First Nations, 5,990 Métis, and 495 other Indigenous. Prince Albert had an Indigenous-identity population numbering 11,640 (29.1% of the total city population), including 5,375 First Nations, 5,950 Métis, and 315 other Indigenous. In North Battleford, residents identifying as Indigenous numbered 3,180 (18.5% of the city population), of whom 1,875 were First Nations, 1,285 Métis, and 25 other. Other significant urban Indigenous concentrations were in Lloydminster (2,000), Yorkton (1,825) and Moose Jaw (1,405). In absolute numbers, Saskatoon and Regina rank respectively fifth and seventh among CMAs by size of Indigenous-identity population, yet have among the highest proportionate number of Indigenous residents; while among smaller cities Prince Albert stands out as having a relatively high Indigenous population, now approaching a third of the city’s total population.
Table UAP-2. Selected Employment data, Indigenous-identity population, 2001 Canadian Plains Research Center
  Saskatoon Regina Saskatchewan
Average income $20,267 $20,469 $18,693
Average income if full-time for one year $30,949 $32,661 $30,140
Participation rate in labour force 58.4% 58.4% 54.5%
population in experienced labour force 6,655 5,055 39,100
Employment rate 45.4% 46.3% 42.0%
Unemployment rate 22.3% 20.7% 23.0%
Government transfer payments as % of income 24.4% 25.2% 27.7%

A rapid urbanization of the “Native Indian” population in Saskatchewan occurred during the 1960s. The urban proportion within this population increased from just 5.5% in 1961 to 21.7% in 1971. Much of this change was in the two largest cities. In Regina the “Native Indian” population increased from 539 to 2,860, and in Saskatoon from 207 to 1,070. Since 1971 the urban Indigenous population has continued to increase, although at a slower rate each decade. By 1991, in both Regina and Saskatoon, 5.7% of the total city population identified as Indigenous. However, a greater number of residents claimed some Indigenous ancestry than identified as Indigenous (entirely or partially): in Regina, respectively 12,765 compared to 11,020, and in Saskatoon 14,225 compared to 11,920. This discrepancy remained in 2001: in Regina 17,575 claimed to be solely or partially of “North American Indian” or Métis ethnic origin (11,950 Indian, 5,625 Métis), compared to 15,685 identifying as Indigenous; and in Saskatoon 22,850 claimed to be of “North American Indian” (14,970) or Métis (7,880) ethnic origin compared to 20,275 identifying as Indigenous. Using the identity rather than ethnic origin data, one may note that the Indigenous-identity population has increased in absolute numbers and proportionately during the past decade: for example, in Saskatoon from 11,920 (5.7% of the city population) in 1991 to 15,550 (7.5%) in 1996 and 20,275 (9.1%) in 2001; today, approximately one in every ten residents is Indigenous. The Indigenous populations of Saskatoon and Regina have gradually become more dispersed throughout these cities, while still remaining largely concentrated in poorer neighbourhoods. Today in Saskatoon, for example, out of sixty neighbourhoods only two still lack any Indigenous residents. In two inner-city neighbourhoods, which are the poorest in the city, close to half the population is now Indigenous; in another two neighbourhoods (also poor), over a third of the residents are Indigenous; in another four, 20–29%; in eleven 10–19%; and the remaining thirty-eight neighbourhoods contain less than 10% Indigenous residents—many as few as 1–3%.

Table UAP-3. Housing conditions, Indigenous-identity population in Saskatoon and Regina, 2001 Canadian Plains Research Center
  Saskatoon Regina Saskatchewan
Number of dwellings 8,105 6,425 43,650
Ownership 2,730 (33.7%) 2,055 (32.0%) 15,300 (35.1%)
Minor repairs needed 2,830 (34.9%) 2,020 (31.4%) 15,050 (34.5%)
Major repairs needed 965 (11.9%) 1,040 (16.2%) 9,780 (22.4%)
More than one person per room 3.8% 3.0% 8.7%
Median household income $26,700 $26,531 $27,166

Examination of recent five-year gross migration rates of Indigenous population in Saskatoon and Regina reveals that in-migration into these cities has usually been matched, more or less, by out-migration; yet this may now be changing in favour of in-migration. Recent research reveals that an increasing proportion of urban Indigenous population consists of long-term or “permanent” residents. In Saskatoon, the 2001 Census revealed that for the urban Indigenous-identity population aged 1 year and over (19,690), 61.1% had lived in the same residence last year, 27.6% in the same city but at a different address, 8.8% in Saskatchewan but had changed residence, and 2.5% outside the province. Whereas for the Indigenous-identity population aged 5 years and over (17,560), 26.3% lived at the same city address five years ago, 46.3% had changed address within the city, 20.1% outside the city but within the province, and 7.3% outside the province. In Regina, for the Indigenous-identity population aged 1 year and over (15,265), 63.9% had not moved in the past year, 26.9% had moved within the city, 6.3% outside the city but within the province, and 2.9% outside the province. And for the Regina Indigenous-identity population aged 5 years and over (13,360), 32.1% had not moved during the past five years, 49.2% had moved within the city, 13.2% within the province but outside the city, and 6.1% beyond the province. Thus these findings seem to be quite comparable for both Saskatoon and Regina, revealing a very substantial pattern of mobility within the city every few years, yet less movement between urban and rural (e.g., reserve) areas. The urban Indigenous population is young: in both Regina and Saskatoon half of the Indigenous identity population is under 20 years of age (in Regina, respectively 50.4% and 48.7% in 1996 and 2001; in Saskatoon 49.8% and 47.9%). This means that an increasing number of young Indigenous people are born and raised in the city, with little or no familiarity with reserve or rural life.

The cities provide more opportunities for education, and urban Indigenous youth are becoming better educated. Several thousand Indigenous students are enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan, First Nations University of Canada, and Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies in Saskatoon; and at the University of Regina, First Nations University of Canada, and Gabriel Dumont Institute in Regina. While the increasing urban Indigenous presence is felt at virtually every level of education, it is especially dominant at the elementary level. In fact, several inner-city schools in Saskatoon and Regina now have a majority of pupils who are Indigenous. There are also high schools pursuing an Indigenous curriculum, such as Joe Duquette School in Saskatoon. (See Table UAP-1.)

Clearly, with urbanization Indigenous people have been diversifying within the labour force and earning higher incomes. Now almost one-third of urban Indigenous people within the experienced labour force are in sales and service occupations; they are becoming relatively prominent in trades, business and finance, and education occupations; but fewer (although increasing numbers) are found in management, health, and science occupations. The unemployment rate, as well as dependence upon government transfer payments, while slightly better for urban Indigenous people, is still excessive compared to the provincial rates for non-Indigenous population (4.8% unemployment). (See Table UAP-2.)

There is wide variation in average family income in neighbourhoods having the largest Indigenous concentrations. In 1996 in Saskatoon, for example, average income for Indigenous families ($20,800 rounded) was less than half that of Saskatoon families in general ($48,900), and ranged from a low of approximately $7,000 in one neighbourhood to a high of $39,900 in another. In the neighbourhood having the highest Indigenous proportion, average family income was $13,500.

Saskatoon and Regina currently have the highest proportion of Indigenous population living below the statistical poverty line (the Low Income Cut-off or LICO) of any CMA in Canada—almost two-thirds of the Indigenous population in each of these cities: in 1996 in Saskatoon 64% of the Indigenous population was below the LICO, compared to only 18% of the non-Indigenous population; in Regina 63% of Indigenous people were below the LICO, compared to 14% of non-Indigenous poeple. Indigenous unemployment rates and the LICO rate in all census tracts having the highest Indigenous concentrations far exceeded non-Indigenous rates. Moreover, average income for Indigenous-identity population lagged far behind the non-Indigenous populations in Saskatoon and Regina (by approximately $9,000 and $12,000 respectively). One the whole, then, despite indications of increasing occupational diversity among urban Indigenous population in Saskatchewan, this population remains disproportionately poor. There is contemporary concern among urban Indigenous residents over increasing crime rates in poorer inner-city neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods, which have the highest Indigenous concentrations, have the greatest prevalence of Indigenous youth gangs, as well as of violent sexual assaults, armed robbery, both residential and business break and entry, vehicle theft, petty theft, and prostitution.

Housing conditions for urban Indigenous population are improving. Much research and many policy recommendations have been reflected in increasing collaboration between Indigenous organizations such as the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) and Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. (CUMFI) and universities, civic government (particularly City Planning), housing consortia, and community organizations—all recently linked in the comprehensive Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Indigenous Housing in Saskatoon. Among the urban Indigenous population home ownership is increasing and overcrowding lessening; however, many families are still struggling with relatively limited incomes and poor housing conditions, and demand for affordable housing far exceeds availability. (See Table UAP-3.)

In Saskatoon, in all neighbourhoods where Indigenous residents form significant proportions (over 10%), the proportion of Indigenous families headed by lone parents far exceeds the proportion in non-Indigenous families: for example, in the city as a whole in 1996, 11% of Indigenous families were headed by single parents, compared to 4% of non-Indigenous families; the proportion in Indigenous families ranged from a minimum of 23.8% to a maximum of 68.8% for particular neighbourhoods. The rate of lone-parent families as well as common-law relationships among Indigenous people continues to be relatively higher than among non-Indigenous people: in Saskatoon in 2001, among 20,220 Indigenous census families, 12.3% were headed by lone parents and 8.9% were common-law relationships; in Regina, of 15,650 families, 10% were lone parent and 12.6% common law; and in Saskatchewan, of 130,020 Indigenous families, 9.9% were headed by lone parents and 10% were common law.

Indigenous businesses and institutions (such as the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Saskatoon Tribal Council, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, Métis Nation–Saskatchewan administrative offices, First Nations Bank of Canada, White Buffalo Youth Lodge, Career Village in Saskatoon, and institutions of higher education in Regina and Saskatoon) are becoming a common part of the urban scene, some located on Urban Reserves. These not only meet the needs of the urban Indigenous population, they also serve to reinforce First Nations and Métis identities within an urban context. For example, attrition of Indigenous language use has tended to be most pronounced in urban areas: of 20,275 Saskatoon residents who identified themselves as Indigenous in 2001, 11.8% recognized an Indigenous language that they first learned and still understood, compared to only 4.4% of the 15,685 Indigenous residents in Regina and 25.5% of the 130,190 Indigenous people in Saskatchewan; 8.2% in Saskatoon still spoke that language at home, compared to only 2.0% in Regina and 22.4% in the province; and 15.5% in Saskatoon claimed at least some knowledge of an Indigenous language, compared to 7.2% in Regina and 29.4% in Saskatchewan.

Alan Anderson