First Nations Communities in Alberta
Alberta is divided into three Treaty areas, which are further divided into communities, tribal councils and/or independent bands. However, the most commonly used data sources, Health Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs
Canada (INAC) and Statistics Canada, do not all identify the same number of communities in each Treaty area. While Statistics Canada identifies 97 reserves in Alberta, not all of them are populated. INAC recognizes 134 reserves and 44 First Nations, while Health Canada, through First Nations and Inuit Health, delivers programs to yet a different number of communities as some services are offered locally and others are offered through tribal councils and other organizations. For example, some of the health services offered to the embers of the Ermineskin, Louis Bull, Montana, Pigeon Lake and Samson bands are offered locally while others are offered through a centrally-located organization, Maskwacis Health Services. In some cases, the data available for Bigstone are simply identified as such for INAC and Health Canada but the use of census sub-divisions by Statistics Canada provides more compartmentalized data. The communities that make up Stoney Tribal Administration are counted as only one community by INAC and three by Statistics Canada. For the purpose of this document, the working number of communities is defined as 45 and includes:
- **Treaty 6* – located in central Alberta and consists of the following 17 communities: Alexander, Alexis, Beaver Lake, Cold Lake, Enoch, Ermineskin, Frog Lake, Heart Lake, Kehewin, Louis Bull, Montana, O’Chiese, Paul, Pigeon Lake, Samson and Sunchild.
- Treaty 7 – located in southern Alberta and comprises the communities of Big Horn, Blood, Eden Valley, Piikani, Siksika, Stoney and Tsuu T’ina.
- Treaty 8 – located in the northern part of Alberta and includes 21 communities: Athabasca Chipewyan, Atikameg, Beaver, Bigstone, Dene Tha’, Driftpile, Duncan, Fort McKay, Fort McMurray, Horse Lake, Janvier, Kapawe’no, Little Red River, Loon River, Mikisew, Sawridge, Sturgeon Lake, Sucker Creek, Swan River, Tall Cree and Woodland Cree. Two communities are not included on this list: Smith’s Landing, which recently received the status of reserve, and Lubicon which is negotiating recognition as a reserve.
There is great cultural diversity within First Nations communities in Alberta and a broad range of languages spoken. The most common First Nations languages in Alberta are Blackfoot, Cree, Chipewyan, Dene, Sarcee and Stoney (Nakoda Sioux).
INAC’s Indian Registry provides membership information for each band. Figure 1 shows that 39 per cent of the First Nations registered to Alberta bands are registered to bands in Treaty 6, 26 per cent are registered with bands within Treaty 7 and 35 per cent are registered to bands in Treaty 8.
While INAC’s Indian Registry also provides residence data to indicate whether an individual is residing onreserve, on crown land or off-reserve, the information is typically registered at major life events and its accuracy may vary by community.
As of December 31, 2008, the Indian Registry for Alberta indicates that 43 per cent of First Nations living on-reserve are Treaty 6 members, 31 per cent are Treaty 7 members and 26 per cent are Treaty 8 members. In comparing Figure 1 and 2, it appears that while the number of individuals registered to Treaty 8 bands is significantly higher than for Treaty 7, its on-reserve population is actually lower than that of Treaty 7.
The 2005 Indian Registry indicates a slightly higher proportion of First Nations living on-reserve (65 per cent) as compared to the 2006 Census (59 per cent).
First Nations communities in Alberta vary considerably in size. Table 1 provides population data for each of the First Nations communities in Alberta. The table provides data from INAC’s Indian Registry for the membership of each band including total, on-reserve and crown land residence for the membership. The following should be considered:
- The Indian Registry combines the membership of Saddle Lake and Goodfish Lake (Whitefish Lake 128) as it is recognized as only one nation.
- For most communities, few members reside on crown land, however, it is not the case for a few First Nations communities in Alberta including, Athabasca Chipewyan, Bigstone and Mikisew.
Using INAC’s Indian Registry, Figure 3 shows that the majority of First Nations who live on-reserve in Alberta live in larger communities. In fact, 67 per cent live in the eleven on-reserve communities with a population over 1,500 and 83 per cent live in on-reserve communities with a population over 1,000. This high proportion of First Nations living in larger on-reserve communities in Alberta is atypical as
many other provinces have a very different population distribution. For example, while a similar number of First Nations individuals live in both British Columbia and Alberta, there are five times more First Nations communities in British Columbia (198) than in Alberta (44).
|Communities||INAC Total Population||INAC On-Reserve Population||INAC Crown Land Population|
|Saddle Lake & Goodfish Lake||8918||5919||12|
|Whitefish Lake (IR 128)||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Big Horn (Wesley)||1478||1340||5|
|Eden Valley (Bearspaw)||1630||1514||0|
|Little Red River||4328||3431||403|
View table details »
Source: Indian Registry, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2008