HATCHET LAKE DENESULINE FIRST NATION
Bartholomew J. Tsannie
Wollaston Lake, Sask.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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