History

Wabasca was the final scheduled stop for the Treaty and Scrip Commissions in 1899, with Treaty Commissioner J.H. Ross meeting the assembled population there on August 14, 1899. After a brief discussion, an adhesion to Treaty 8 was executed by Chief Joseph Bigstone (Kapusekonew) and Headmen Joseph and Michel Auger (written Ansey in the treaty document), Wapoose, and Louison (Louisa in the treaty document) Beaver.

Bigstone elders were able to provide few details of the signing of the adhesion, although Alphonse Auger did indicate that the opportunity to gain permanent “ownership” of a reserve was the factor which led his grandfather Martin Beaver to enter treaty.  In the late 1960s, Martin Beaver himself was interviewed regarding his recollection of the meeting with Commissioner Ross. According to Martin, who was a young adult in 1899,

he [the treaty Indian] could hunt whenever he wanted, there were no limitations in that sense, he was pretty well free to do what he needed to do to survive ... And eventually he would get houses

the people that chose to become Treaty were given $10.00 initially and $5.00 for the handshake to seal the deal. Every year for as long as the sun shines and the river flows this is going to happen – every person would receive $5.00.

With specific reference to the promise of reserve land, Martin Beaver remembered the Treaty Commissioner as indicating “there were reserve boundaries that would be developed in the future.” Current and past elders also related stories regarding the choice to enter treaty or accept scrip in 1899. Most suggest that the effect of the decision between scrip and treaty was explained to, and understood by, those who were present in 1899. The late Catherine Auger, who received scrip at Wabasca in 1899 with her first husband, remembered almost 70 years later that she and the other scrip recipients “were told that the land you were given, you could sell, but you wouldn’t have any rights.” According to the late Martin Beaver, the Treaty Commissioner required those who wished to apply for scrip to listen to the Commissioner’s presentation in favour of entering treaty, so that, once the choice was made, “you cannot blame anybody else but yourself.”

Elder Alphonse Auger advised the Commission that one of those who chose scrip over treaty was Julien Beaver (identified by Alphonse as Joseph Beaver), the brother of Martin. According to Alphonse, a reserve was an unwelcome prospect to his great-uncle, since the latter didn’t “want anybody to own him or he doesn’t want to own the land.” The choice between treaty and scrip could be made freely by all who were at least 20 years of age, irrespective of the election made by other members of the same family, and in 1968 the late Noel Boskoyous, himself a scrip recipient, recalled being allowed to make his choice at 18 because he had no living parents.

However, there is evidence that, in some cases, the choice between treaty and scrip was not entirely free. Elder Louise Auger told the Commission of one woman who was denied the right to enter treaty because she “was a very fair lady, just like a white person.” As a result, both she and her husband were compelled to apply for scrip, even though they were Indians from Trout Lake.

In 1899, 196 persons were paid gratuity and annuity as members of the Bigstone Band, while 106 others received scrip at Wabasca and two other nearby locations.61 The next year, 39 additional persons joined the Bigstone Band, while 25 more were taken into treaty in 1901, most of them after making unsuccessful scrip applications. There is no doubt that the population which had entered treaty by 1901 was considerably smaller than that of the Bigstone communities. Elders advised the Commission that some of those who spent part of the year at Wabasca were absent hunting when Commissioner Ross visited, since they “had to go out in the bush to make their living to survive.” An even more significant cause for the less-than-comprehensive attendance at Wabasca in 1899 was the diffusion of the Bigstone population over a vast area of northern Alberta. According to elders, there was a certain randomness to attendance at the meeting with the Treaty Commissioner at Wabasca in 1899, since those in attendance were those who were there for some other purpose, such as trading furs. Alphonse Auger told the Commission that only two of his paternal grandfather’s four brothers entered treaty in 1899, the other two being at Trout Lake or Loon Lake.

Historians of the “isolated communities” north of Wabasca have concluded that few residents of these communities entered Treaty 8 in its early years, a conclusion borne out by the evidence of elders and other documentary sources. No Trout Lake residents entered treaty when the adhesion was signed at Wabasca in 1899 (although the man who the elders indicate was compelled to apply for scrip when his wife was denied the right to enter treaty was the grandson of Alexis Auger, who ran the HBC outpost at Trout Lake). Two descendants of Alexis Auger entered treaty in 1900, one son becoming Number 62 of the Bigstone Band  and one grandson becoming the first (and only) member of the “Trout Lake Band,” which disappeared the next year. Another grandson of Alexis Auger was taken into treaty in 1901 after his application for scrip was refused. Elders interviewed at Chipewyan Lake in 1980 remembered that only two families from their community entered treaty in the early years of the 20th century, although a study carried out in the 1970s indicated that five of the families who were taken into treaty in 1901 after their scrip applications were refused were from Chipewyan Lake.

The limited impact of the work of the Treaty and Scrip Commissions on the population of the “isolated communities” was not unknown to the Commissioners themselves. In 1900, J.A. Macrae was appointed sole Commissioner to complete the work begun in 1899, and when he made his report, he noted:

There yet remains a number of persons leading an Indian life in the country north of Lesser Slave Lake, who have not accepted treaty as Indians, or scrip as halfbreeds, but this is not so much through indisposition to do so as because they live at points distant from those visited, and are not pressed by want. The Indians of all parts of the territory who have not yet been paid annuity probably number about 500 exclusive of those in the extreme northwestern portion, but as most, if not all, of this number belong to bands that have already joined in the treaty, the Indian title to the tract it covers may be fairly regarded as being extinguished.

Over the decade following Commissioner Macrae’s report, few people from the “isolated communities” entered treaty with the Bigstone Band. The only adhesion from these communities took place in 1905, when four families from Chipewyan Lake numbering 15 people adhered to treaty.

Past Chiefs


Joseph Bigstone Maxime Beauregard Tommy Auger Samson Beaver
Aug. 14, 1899 -
Nov. 11, 1946
May 26, 1947 -
Jan.31, 1962
Appointed for 6 months in 1962 First elected Chief
Sept. 1, 1964 -
Sept. 1964
Sammy Young Alphonse Auger Leonard Young William Beaver
Sept. 1, 1964 -
Sept. 1976
Sept. 17, 1976 -
Sept. 1978
Sept. 17, 1978 -
Sept. 1980
Sept. 17, 1980 -
Sept. 1984
Mike Beaver Charles G. Beaver Eric G. Alook Gordon T. Auger
Sept. 17, 1984_
Sept. 1988
Sept. 17, 1988 -
Sept. 1990
Sept. 19, 1990 -
Aug. 1992
Sept. 1, 1992 -
Aug. 1996
Melvin Beaver Gordon T. Auger Francis Gladue Gordon T. Auger
Aug. 1996 -
Aug. 2000
Aug. 2000 -
Aug. 2004
Aug. 2004-
Aug. 2008
Aug. 2008 -
Sept. 2012

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