Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Heritage & History

Wanigash Dokin Hiyubi Zhe - Our History

The Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation is the most north-western representative of the Siouan language family. Historically, the Alexis people have come to be known by a variety of different names. Early records tend to use the term Assiniboine, which derived from the Cree and Ojibway languages and means Stone People or Stone Sioux. The respective English term is Stoney, while many Alexis residents use the term Isga to refer to themselves.

Archaeological findings suggest that Siouan-speaking people might have been in Alberta's foothills before Columbus reached North America. The earliest written historical documents available indicate that Nakota people were well established along the Saskatchewan and Athabasca Rivers during the 1700s. 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 include 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.

According to Alexis' oral history, a long time ago a charismatic Nakota chief from the south-east followed his vision and led his people to the shores of the sacred lake Wakamne (God's Lake - Lac Ste Anne). The lake and the surrounding area is rich in natural resources and it is used to supply Fort Edmonton with fish during the early fur trade. To this day, it remains a spiritual centre during the annual Lake Ste Anne pilgrimage.

In 1877, Chief Alexis (also known as Kees-Kees-Chee-Chi or Nabe Tusahan, meaning "Cut-off hand") 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. This uniqueness continues to be celebrated in the rich oral traditions present in our community.