The majestic Churchill River, the Highway of Life for the First Nations people who have always lived along this ruggedly beautiful waterway; runs through the top half of the Province of Saskatchewan, from Alberta through to Manitoba, eventually spilling into the Hudsons Bay between Eskimo Point and Fort Churchill.
The Churchill River, or as the Woodland Cree know it, Missinipi meaning big water, is described as a series of lakes joined by rapids. If you have had the good fortune of encountering the Missinipi, you would quickly acknowledge this as true.
Although the people of the Missinipi have always used the river as a travel route and for sustenance by fishing, hunting, and gathering along the rivers and creeks that flow into it. It was the voyageurs and the Hudsons Bay and Northwest Companies that opened it up as a route for the fur trade. There are many historic sites that mark this era such as Frog Portage at Trade Lake. Frog Portage is a crossroads for boat travel that can take you upriver to Stanley Mission and Ile a la Crosse or downriver to Sandy Bay. You can also get to Southend Reindeer Lake via the Reindeer River or east to Pelican Narrows, Flin Flon or to another major route of the Saskatchewan River. These routes are still used frequently by the people; however canoeists from all over the world from such countries as Australia, Germany, and the United States have chartered these courses over the years. It is always good to see the glint in their eyes and to hear the excitement in their voices as they recall the ruggedly beautiful scenery of the Precambrian Shield, or the thrill of running a set of rapids. There is nothing like watching a beautiful sunset at Keg Lake on a warm sunny evening.
Missinipi is a very important part of the lives of the people who live along the river. Although there have been attempts to put the Churchill River under the Canadian Heritage System, the people have strongly opposed this process as they were not involved in its planning.
The initiative was brought forward to the Provincial Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Canada by a group calling themselves, Friends of the Churchill. What they failed to realize was that the Children of the Missinipi had to be involved from the beginning, as they need to have some say in their traditional territory as they are not seasonal users of the river; they live there year round and any development, regardless of how good the intention, affects their lives.
The Treaty First Nations that live in the Grandmothers Bay area and Stanley Mission area of the River would like to see strong protective measures in their homeland so as to preserve the Missinipi for future generations but they want it under their plan working in conjunction with the other levels of government.
Philip John Charles at Stanley Mission on August 27th, 1977 Churchill River inquiry. Aski Puko "as far as I heard, it was only land-land alone- that was the treaty. It didn&##39;t include the trees, nor the lakes. Thats the truth", and "The promises were not kept, they were broken, where did it spring from Ottawa or Regina, that is not clear". Further, " The way I understand Aski Puko means land only".
This excerpt is quoted from an elder of Stanley Mission who was at the signing of the treaty at Molanosa Saskatchewan. The elder is now deceased but his words echo in the hearts of the people of the Missinipi.