The Ermineskin Cree Nation
History & Culture
Member of the Four Nations of Maskwacis, Alberta
The Ermineskin Cree Nation (Reserve #138) is one member of the Four Nations of Maskwacis, Alberta - located in Central Alberta about fifty miles south of Edmonton on Highway 2A, halfway between the towns of Ponoka and Wetaskiwin. The Ermineskin Cree Nations land base is approximately 25'000 acres. This area is traditionally known as the Bear Hills or Maskwacheesihk. The Cree people of the Ermineskin Cree Nation have a historical relationship that extends over centuries to the area of land that now comprises the Ermineskin Reserve. The Ermineskin Reserve was established in 1885. The Ermineskin Cree Nation belongs to the Treaty Six Group of Indian Tribes in Western Canada.
As with other First Nation communities in Canada the Ermineskin Cree Nation continues to maintain its close community identity through preservation of their long and proud history.
Although the communities of Maskwacis have benefited from a large oil and gas deposit on their lands, they also enjoy large tracts of prime agricultural land and property on one of Alberta's more popular lakes (Pigeon Lake). Among the many services offered in the Maskwacis area include; the Maskwacis Health Authority, Maskwacis Police Service, ambulance and fire departments, a number of community recreation centers, as well as a Canadian Pacific rail line that runs through the reserve. Finally there are currently a number of small businesses that operate in the town site of Maskwacis.
To help teach and encourage native traditions and the Cree language, the Ermineskin Cree Nation hosts a number of schools including; Ermineskin Kindergarten, Ermineskin Primary, Ermineskin Elementary Junior Senior High, and also supports the Maskwachees Cultural College. The Ermineskin Schools are among the most technologically advanced schools in Canada, having iMAC computers in every classroom, of which all are Internet ready. Along with the school system native traditions are also maintained through a number of celebrations that occur throughout the year.
As the Ermineskin community moves into diversifying its economy away from the oil and gas revenues it must do so with strategies that allow the community to maintain its cultural identity. Working closely with the other regional First Nations and non-indigenous communities, Ermineskin can offer a number of resources and other advantages that will be key in attracting outside investment.
The total land base of the Maskwacis 4 Nations is 291 sq. Km of which 108.62 sq. Km is owned and operated by the almost 3000 members of the Ermineskin Cree Nation. The Reserve is located in close proximity of Alberta's two main cities of Edmonton and Calgary. Some of the more important advantages include:
1. Strategically Located
The Ermineskin Cree Nation is located in the Maskwacis area, which is about 70km south of Edmonton along Highway 2A and at Junction 611 and is only a short distance from Highway 2, which links Edmonton and Calgary. This location allows for easy access to a number of facilities in both centers as well as other cities such as Wetaskiwin, Leduc, and Red Deer. The Edmonton International Airport, which is a mere 30-minute drive and the Calgary International Airport, allows access to virtually any of the world markets.
Access to a number of other amenities including educational facilities such as the University of Alberta, University of Calgary,Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Red Deer College and Olds Agricultural College are all within a two hour drive from the Reserve. The close proximity of these institutions has produced a number of highly educated Ermineskin members. These same institutions can also play an important role in facilitating research for any initiative that may be started with the Ermineskin Community and they can also be used to help in training Ermineskin Members in specific areas that new ventures might offer.
Other research facilities that can also be utilized in many potential business ventures include the Leduc Agricultural Research Complex, which is only 15 minutes away and can offer state of the art processing equipment.
The current Ermineskin community has about 1300 semi skilled and skilled labor force as well as access to a much larger work force in the three other First Nations tribes that reside in the Maskwacis area. Should any further expertise be needed, a further source can be drawn from other First Nation communities.
3. Financially Stable
With access to a large supply of oil and gas revenues the Ermineskin Cree Nation is considered to be one of the more economically stable First Nation communities in Canada. Revenues generated have in the past, been used to support community business, purchase outside expertise and to further develop the Tribes infrastructure. These same revenues can also be used to help support future development projects.
4. Natural Resources
Along with oil and gas resources, Ermineskin also has over 10,000 hectares of high quality agricultural land capable of producing annual crops. Land along Pigeon Lake, one of Alberta's most popular lakes, is currently being used for camping.
5. Recognized Arts and Crafts Industry
Ermineskin currently has a number of small home-based arts and crafts businesses and there are a number of artists whose works are well known both inside and outside the First Nation communities.
6. Access to other indigenous communities throughout Canada
As a First Nations community Ermineskin has good relations with other First Nations within the Maskwacis regions as well as throughout Canada. These relationships can be used as potential markets for products and as potential joint venture partners.
7. Access to a number of Government and Non-government assistance
There is a large base of Government and native programs that provide financial and most other types of assistance to Indigenous based businesses that can be utilized to assist in establishing a marketing program for the Ermineskin Cree Nation.
8. Education and Maskwachees Cultural College
The location of Ermineskin allows its members easy access to the many secondary education institutions located in Edmonton and Calgary. Whether it is technical, business or academic training, all are available. In the Maskwacis area itself, the Maskwachees Cultural College has operated for over 20 years and can be used for both research and training purposes.