Bartholomew J. Tsannie
Wollaston Lake, Sask.
Ph: 633 2003
The communities of Wollaston Lake and Hatchet Lake Indian Reserve are situated on the southeastern shore of Wollaston Lake, known in Dene as “Axe” Lake. Our community is known as “The Post” to outlying dwellers of the lake. The population of Hatchet Lake is 1313.
The Hatchet Lake Band are part of a large diverse Aboriginal group. We refer to ourselves as the Denesuline, “The People”. We belong to the Athapaskan linguistic group. Traditionally, our people lived as a huntinggathering society as recent as the early 1940´s. Being primarily hunters of Caribou, we still follow the seasonal Caribou hunting patterns.
Wollaston settlement came as a result of commercial fishing and trapping mainly by immigrants from Brochet. It was a trading post for many years. The Roman Catholic Church has greatly influenced our community by building a church and settling at Usam Island near the Cochrane River and providing spiritual guidance for many years. Traditional way of life was maintained by families choosing various parts of the lake to live in clan systems specifically by surnames.
The Hatchet Lake has committed itself to the advancement and development of its membership through education. Education is an essential tool for personal and professional development of our membership and will assist in the advancement of our community as a growing and viable Nation.
Father Megret Elementary and High School have a combined population of approximately 540 students. We have a professional staff of 34, as well as support staff to meet the needs of our students.
We honour our children through our commitment to ensuring that all students in our care are provided with an opportunity to reach their fullest academic potential as contributing citizens of our community. Teachers and staff receive additional instruction and training in areas such as ESL and cross-cultural training, to assist them as the learn to address the unique issues faced when teaching in an isolated Dene community.
Most students come in to the school speaking their first language of Dene; therefore, we have a very strong language and culture program. The students are given instruction in the Dene language, both written and oral weekly. They also participate in cultural activities throughout the year based on the traditional seasonal activities. Each year the teacher and Elder in the program have students pick berries, dry fish, snare rabbits, cut up and prepare caribou meat, watch and help Elders prepare hides, listen to Elders stories, learn traditional games and many more activities. Each year we spend 2 weeks out at Moose Island with Elders and community members. Here, the students enjoy snowshoeing, cooking, beading, survival skills, fishing with nets and just playing outside.
The after-school programs provide students with a chance to show their strength and abilities in areas that are not academically based. Through our academic and extra curricular programs we are hoping to teach each child to take responsibility and ownership of their learning, and to become productive members of our community now and in the future.
The Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation Economic Development Corporation plays a major role in our community development. Our responsibility is to plan, manage and maintain a healthy economic position, both in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Total Staff including seasonal workers is 164.
Team members are involved and/or form part of: the Emergency Response Team, Work Safe Operations practice, Planning Committee, Training Council and OH&S Committee.We manage: the Saskatchewan Highways & Transportation Contract, Freight Trucking Company, First Nation Forest Fire Suppression Program, land fill maintenance, Canada Post Outlet, Retail Store, along with other Local projects.
Arena Committee Report
We opened our new indoor arena for the first time in December, 2003. The day included a grand opening, naming of the arena and a hockey game. The name chosen for the arena is “The Adam Joseyounen Memorial Youth Centre”. This name was chosen in memory of a great hockey player. He was on his way to playing in the N.H.L. until a fishing accident on the lake took his life and his brothers life at the age of 15. His former coach still refers to him as the greatest hockey player he has ever coached in the past 30 years.
The arena provides entertainment for many throughout the winter months. A schedule was set up to accommodate everyone in the community from minor hockey, to public skating to recreation hockey. It has added an extra incentive for youth to live a healthy lifestyle and an added incentive to stay in school. Everyone is required to follow rules of conduct and procedures in order to be able to use the facility ice on a regular basis. We have students returning to school this year in order to be able to use the arena to play hockey. The addition of this facility to our community has definitely provided a positive change for our community.
We were awarded our first three-year contract for airport operations, road maintenance, barge operation and ice road construction. We have successfully renewed this contact every 3 years.
The Airport operates and performs maintenance according to Transport Canada standards.
The Barge service is provided daily, seven days per week, depending on the weather conditions. It operates between June through October. We attended the Provincial Ferry conference in Saskatoon to update all ferry operators on current government regulations and procedures.
The construction of an Winter Road across Wollaston Lake from barge landing to Wollaston Lake is a distance of 45 kms. The construction and maintenance is undertaken as outlined in the contract and specifications carried out on safety guidelines for the construction and maintenance of winter roads manual.
Fishermen´s Helper Program
A Fishermen’s Helper program is in place for the young people – especially students – to learn how to commercial fish. We hire 26 students between the ages of 14 and 17. Students must return to school in the fall, have safety gear and follow guidelines set out by the program.
First Nation Fire Suppression Service Program
A Letter of Understanding was signed in June, 2000 with SERM and PAGC. SERM funds this project with flow-through Funds administered by PAGC. This initiative employs six certified fire suppression staff in the area.
Each year PAGC forestry and HLDFN cost share to set up basic fire fighting training. Last year we provided crew boss training. Eight candidates participated with 5 successfully passing the course.
Caribou Hunt (Special Project)
We started the caribou hunt project in 1996 to provide caribou meat to the Elders within the community. Every March we hire up to ten local hunters to hunt and distribute caribou meat to the Elders.
Freighting – Truck Company
After analyzing the freight costs involved in transporting goods into the community we decided to set up our own freight company. Establishment of this company has allowed us to keep the funds locally and reduce costs associated with transporting produce, dry goods, hardware and other merchandise from the south.
- Develop and present a Medical Emergency response course for barge operators.
- Provide additional training for our clerical staff.
- Develop a Heavy Duty Mechanic Training Course.
- Develop information sessions for Board Members and Councillors.
- Expand our band store with the possibility of building a new store.
- Develop a proposal to build a new heavy equipment maintenance shop.
- Create an OH&S Officer position.
In May of 2003 we secured a contract with Canada Post for a postal outlet services. The store employs thirteen community members. We are currently in the planning stages of either renovating, expanding or building a new building. There is now a Dene Enterprise Interac machine available.
During the past year the Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation community has experienced positive growth and we are actively seeking new opportunities and ideas to enhance the quality of life for our people. Following is a brief overview of some of the successful initiatives and events which occurred over the past year.
December of 2003 was highlighted by a Christmas festival. Our community was encouraged to participate and celebrate safely as they took part in the events. In the new year a Men’s & Women’s Wellness Conference was offered to our members. February played host to AA workshops, a hockey school, homecare conference and valentines day activities.
A youth conference took place in April. Community members also were involved in a Spiritual Walk-a-Thon and the Burbot Fish Derby.
As a community, we have placed a high priority on nurturing a healthy and vibrant community. In May of 2004, thirty-one members from our community participated and successfully completed the Suicide Intervention Workshop.
Hatchet Lake is very fortunate to have First Responders Group, Debriefing Team and a very active planning committee that meet on a monthly basis in the best interests and wellness for our community members.