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Okanese Reserve

Chief Okanis (Okanese) signed an adhesion to Treaty 4 on September 9, 1875, and settled in the File Hills, 16 km northeast of Fort Qu’Appelle. Okanese was chief at the onset of the 1885 Rebellion, but not wishing to get involved he returned to the United States, where he died. His brother-in-law, Moostooacoop, became headman and remained so until his death in 1895. Following treaty, the band lived much as they had always done; but as resources became more scarce, families began growing crops, tending gardens, and raising cattle. The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1904 and of the Canadian Northern Railway in 1908 in Balcarres provided ready markets for whatever surplus band members could sell, as well as an opportunity to work as carpenters, blacksmiths, and mechanics. In 1879 a residential school was built on the reserve by the Presbyterian Church (File Hills Residential School); it closed in 1950, and a day school (File Hills Day School) was built under the auspices of the United Church. Of the 552 band members, 250 live on reserve. A Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement was reached in December 1999, enabling Okanese to increase its land base to 9,389.9 ha and to obtain funds to further their economic development. Two recent accomplishments are the Swan Plain Lodge and the band-operated community radio station (the first in the province).

Christian Thompson

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