The forefathers of Split Lake Cree
were hunters and gatherers who
lived off the rich resources of the
lands and waters. Their way of life
centred around the lakes and rivers
where wildlife and plant resources
could be harvested. Fish were a
particularly important source of
food and were abundant.
The Cree were a water people. Living along the shores of the lakes and rivers, they hunted and fished, and gathered herbs and berries from along the shoreline. The lakes and rivers were the roads by which they travelled. The waters, the shorelines, the shallows, the marshes, the riverbanks and willow thickets supported the fish, plants and animals that fed and sheltered them.
Centuries of occupation and use of the lands and waters enabled the identification and selection of the most useful and fruitful areas for residence and harvesting, in keeping with the rhythms of the seasons. Prior to European contact, Cree people were living in and around Split Lake – which in Cree is called Tataskweyak, meaning ‘the place of tall trees’.
In the 1920's, Split Lake was still
not a permanent settlement for most
First Nation members, many of
whom continued to live in the bush
and return to the community only
during Christian holiday seasons and
the summer. About 100 people lived
year-round at Split Lake.
The period up to 1950 brought many changes for the Split Lake Cree, however, life continued within the known, respected and loved environment of the permanent tribal homeland. The way of life may have been changing, but the underlying Aboriginal values remained.
Our traditional values and customs came under increasing pressure during the 1970s, as the consequences of increased modernization and contact with the outside world were felt. From the Split Lake Cree perspective, hydroelectric development was by far the most profound agent of change, causing both major physical impacts on the lands and waters, as well as the resulting undermining of the essence of Aboriginal practices and customs.
The 1980s were a defining moment for the Split Lake Cree. We as a First Nation showed remarkable resilience and by the mid-1980s there was already practical evidence that this was beginning to change. By the end of the decade, the practical groundwork had been successfully laid, based on the decisions of the people to create a new and different basis for future self-sustenance.
The Split Lake Cree have chosen the path of blending the old and new in order to gain control of their lives and destiny with confidence and determination. The people, faced with new challenges, are continuing, as their forefathers did, to exercise their inherent right to govern themselves, across a wide spectrum of governmental functions.