The Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation are the most northwestern speakers of the Sioux language family. They are a Nakoda First Nation which has reserves near Edmonton, Hinton, and Whitecourt, in the Canadian province of Alberta, headquarted about 85 kilometres (53 mi) west of Edmonton.
Tribal Name: Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation
Address: Box 7 Glenevis, Alberta T0E 0X0
Band No. 437
Traditional Name: Isga
Alternate Names: Stoney, also known as part of the Assiniboine. Both of the terms “Stoney” and “Assiniboine” stem from outsider’s descriptions of how those peoples cooked by using heated stones. Assiniboine is from the Ojibwe language: asinii meaning “stoney” and bwaan meaning “cooker.”
The Mekesu are identified as a band of the Assiniboine and represent one of the earliest, recognized, distinct groupings of the Assiniboine. The Mekesue or Eagle Eyed Indians were also known as Migichihilinious, and appear as a distinct trading entity at York Factory since 1755. They derived their name from the abundance of eagles in the area which they resided.
Osinipoilles is another spelling of Assiniboines. The Osiniopoilles are the Issati described by older travellers, and have sometimes been called the Weepers.
Official Website: www.alexisnakotasioux.com
Geographic Region: Plains
Reserve No. Name: Alexis Indian Reserve 133
Location: 70 km NW of Edmonton
Size: 6175.2 Hectares
Reserve No. Name: Alexis Cardinal River Indian Reserve 234
Location: 73 km NE of Hinton
Size: 4,661 Hectares
Reserve No. Name: Alexis Elk River Indian Reserve 233
Location: 87 km SE of Hinton
Size: 98 Hectares
Reserve No. Name: Alexis Whitecourt Indian Reserve 232
Location: 13 km NW of Whitecourt
Size: 3544.9 Hectares
Treaties: In 1877, Chief Arannazhi (Chief Alexis) signed the adhesion to Treaty Six on behalf of the Stoneys of the Pembina and Athabasca River region.
Population: As of March, 2012, the total registered population of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation was 1779 persons.
Clans / Moieties:
Cultural Division: Sioux
Famous Contemporary People:
Famous Historical Leaders:
Chief Arannazhi (later known as Chief Alexis),also known as Kees-Kees-Chee-Chi or Nabe Tusahan, meaning “Cut-off hand.”
Language: Their traditional language is Nakoda/Stoney, or Isga Iʼabi. Stoney—also called Nakota, Nakoda, Isga, and formerly Alberta Assiniboine—is a member of the Dakota subgroup of the Mississippi Valley grouping of the Siouan languages.
The Dakotan languages comprise a dialect continuum consisting of Santee-Sisseton (Dakota), Yankton-Yanktonai (Dakota), Teton (Lakota), Assiniboine, and Stoney.
Stoney is the most linguistically divergent of the Dakotan dialects and has been described as “on the verge of becoming a separate language.”
The Stoneys are the only Siouan people that live entirely in Canada, and the Stoney language is spoken on five reserves in Alberta. No official language survey has been undertaken for every reserve where Stoney is spoken, but the language may be spoken by as many as a few thousand people, primarily at the Morley Reserve.
Stoney’s closest linguistic relative is Assiniboine. The two have often been confused with each other because of their close historical and linguistic relationship, but they are not mutually intelligible. Stoney either developed from Assiniboine, or both Stoney and Assiniboine developed from a common ancestor language.
Each Stoney community includes a number of different Stoney dialects which are generally distinguished by family clans.
The Alexis Annual Pow-wow Celebrations and Fastpitch Tournament is held on the Alexis reserve each summer in July. The Fastpitch tournament draws prizes of about $14,000 depending on the number of teams entered. The Pow-wow is generally divided into various categories, such as a drum contest and dance contests based on ages and/or styles. Competitors from many different First Nations participate.
The main townsite is located on the shores of Lac Ste. Anne, which the Nakota Sioux call Wakâmne, or God’s lake. Every summer there is a Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage to the lake which is attended by up to 40,000 over four days, most of First Nations and Métis descent.
Religion / Spirituality:
Archaeological evidence suggests that Siouan-speaking people might have been in Alberta’s foothills before Columbus reached North America. The earliest written historical documents indicate that Nakota people were well established along the Saskatchewan and Athabasca Rivers during the 1700s.
According to oral history, centuries ago a Stoney Chief led his people to the shores of Wakamne (God’s Lake – Lac Ste Anne) as a result of a vision.
Over centuries, the sacred lake (known as Manito Sakahikan in Cree – Spirit Lake) was a gathering place for different First Nations.
Enroute from Edmonton to the Rocky Mountains, a trading post with a large Métis community developed on its southern shores during the fur trade. This post was also regularly visited by Stoney hunters and trappers.
In 1843, a catholic mission was established at the traditional gathering place, and missionary Father Thibault renamed Wakamne Lac Ste. Anne (Simon 1995). In the years to follow, most of the Alexis residents converted to Catholicism.
Despite having taken reserves, Alexis’ families maintained their strong ties to their hunting territories by spending the trapping season on the land.
Alexis’ traditional hunting territory reaches from the Drayton Valley area in the south along the foothills and Rocky Mountains towards Whitecourt and the Swan Hills in the north, and reaches east as far as Barrhead.
In historical documents (e.g., Alexander Henry the Younger’s 1811 account in Coues 1897) this area between the Athabasca, Pembina, and North Saskatchewan Rivers has been described as the hunting territory of the Swamp Ground Stoney.
Early explorers observed that unlike their close relatives, the Strong Woods Stoney (the Bears paw and Chinked bands of Morley and the ill-fated Sharp head Band), the Swampy Ground Stoney did not readily adopt the horse and buffalo culture of the plains but remained in the lake abundant forests to fish and to hunt moose, elk and beaver (Andersen 1968, Dempsey 1997).
Many of their children, however, were sent to residential schools. Today, Alexis’ children remain on reserve for their education.
Many families still practice traditional activities such as berry picking in fall campouts.
Several fur trading posts were explicitly opened along the Saskatchewan and Athabasca Rivers to attract the trade of the “Swampy Ground Stone People”, who are the ancestors of today’s Alexis residents.
These trading posts included Boggy Hall and Pembina House near Lodgepole, Muskeg Fort near Drayton Valley, Upper Terre Blanche and Nelson House near the mouth of Wabamun Creek and Fort Assiniboine on the Athabasca River.
In 1877, Chief Alexis signed the adhesion to Treaty Six on behalf of the Nakota of the North Saskatchewan, Pembina and Athabasca River region.
When the Alexis Reserve (No. 133) was surveyed in 1880, taking reserve at the shore of the sacred lake Wakamne was a logical choice for the Band.
Despite having taken reserve, Alexis’ families maintained their strong ties to their hunting territories in Whitecourt, Cynthia and along the Foothills by spending the trapping season on the land and working in logging camps until the 1950’s and 60’s.
In 1995, Alexis, Treaty Land Entitlement led to the establishment of Alexis’ Whitecourt (No. 232), Elk River (No. 233) and Cardinal River (No. 234) reserves. While many families still practice traditional activities such as berry picking, gathering of herbs, hunting, tanning and preparation of dry meat, Alexis’ residents have also adapted to a contemporary lifestyle on the reserve.
Although closely related to their Cree neighbors through intermarriage and centuries of neighborly interaction, Alexis maintained a cultural uniqueness as a Nakota Nation.
It is estimated that the Stoney language will become a Ceremonial Language within 20 years and will be extinct in less than 50 years without a revitalization project.
The young people at Alexis school have been learning to read and write in Stoney, however, not all students living in Alexis attend Alexis School and not enough people are using the writing system within the community.
The Stoney language is now a required course for grades 1-9 and an accredited course for high school.
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