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Cut Knife

Town, pop 556, located 50 km W of the Battlefords on Hwy 40. The Little Pine, Poundmaker, and Sweet Grass First Nations are situated north and east of the community. The name Cut Knife was derived from Cut Knife Hill (now Chief Poundmaker Hill) on the Poundmaker reserve. The hill was named for a Sarcee chief, whose name was roughly translated to “Cut Knife” and who was slain near the location during a skirmish with the Cree in the 1840s. Cut Knife Hill was also the location of Colonel Otter’s encounter with, and retreat from, Chief Poundmaker’s forces during the North-West Resistance. When settlers of European origin arrived in the district in the early 1900s, they adopted the name for their community. In 1952, Governor General Vincent Massey unveiled a cairn erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which memorializes the heroism on both sides of the 1885 conflict and pays tribute to Chief Poundmaker for restraining his men from slaughtering Otter’s troops during their retreat. Homesteaders began arriving in 1903–04, and the community came to be comprised of British, Italian, Ukrainian, and Scandinavian people, as well as members of the Aboriginal population. Cut Knife was incorporated as a village on May 17, 1912, and, other than a slight decline in its population during the 1930s, the community grew steadily. In 1981, it reached a peak population of 624. Today, the community serves a trading area of approximately 4,000 people, and grain farming and cattle Ranching largely form the basis of the regional economy. The oil and gas industry, however, is becoming increasingly significant. Cut Knife is the site of a tourist attraction described as “the world’s largest tomahawk”: perched upon a 9-metre-high tepee, the tomahawk sculpture was erected in 1971 as a part of Saskatchewan’s Homecoming celebrations, and was built to symbolize unity and friendship between the area’s populations.

David McLennan

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