Rocky Boy Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana
The Key First Nation
When Treaty 4 was signed between the Saulteaux Ojibwa's and Canada, in 1874, ogima Ow-tah-pee-ka-kaw (his name means key) agreed to the treaty by signing an adhesion to Treaty 4 on September 24, 1875. In history, the Saulteaux Ojibwa's of The Key, originally came from the Shoal River and Lake Winnipegosis region in Manitoba, to live at The Key First Nation in Saskatchewan. Their original territory included land around the northern shores of Lake Winnipegosis, down to Swan River Valley into Saskatchewan, where the Keeseekoose Ojibwa's live, and as far west as where the Yellow Quill Ojibwa's live. Their territory was 150 miles in width and about 110 miles in length. It may have covered between 15,000 to 20,000 sq. mi. Chief Keeseekoose may have been the Gitchi Ogima of the Saulteaux Ojibwa's of this region between the Yellow Quill Ojibwa's and Lake Winnipegosis.
Historians claim a relocation happened in 1882, or about 8 years after the treaty was originally signed. Their Reserve now, is located in southeastern Saskatchewan, just south of Norquay. Originally, a Reserve was set aside for the Ojibwa's who lived between Dawson Bay and Swan River Valley, Manitoba. Historically, it was known as the Swan River Reserve. Today, the Swan River Reserve or Reserves, are yet at the same location in Manitoba but are now known as the Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk Cree. In other words, the Saulteaux Ojibwa's were forced to lose their nationality. That possibly led to the Saulteaux Ojibwa's from the region between Dawson Bay and Swan River Valley, to relocate to the southwest, to where the Cote, Keeseekoose and The Key Reserves are located in Saskatchewan. Though Canada appointed four leaders to lead these Ojibwa People, chief Ow-tah-pee-ka-kaw and chief Keeseekoose (his name means Little Sky) were the real leaders. That enraged them and also contributed to the Ojibwa's relocating to Saskatchewan.
The Original Swan River Reserve (aka The Key Reserve)
As mentioned, a Reserve was set aside in the domain of these Saulteaux Ojibwa's led by chief Keeseekoose and chief Owtapikaagaa. Of course, their domain was located where the Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk Reserves are now. However, the Saulteaux Ojibwa's of Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk, have lost their nationality. In 1877, David Laird asked the chiefs where they wanted their Reserve. They requested that land be set aside adjacent to Swan Lake. Land from the mouth of Woody River to the west of the same waterway, and land from the mouth of Swan River to the west, was actually set aside for the Saulteaux Ojibwa's known as The Key including the Cote and Keeseekoose. Today, the Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk Reserves are located there. The original Swan River Reserve supposedly covered an area of 31,300 acres. They estimated that 37 families colonized the Reserve. Their population in the late 1870s was near 200. It didn't take long for Ojibwa leaders to learn they had been lied to and that the four appointed leaders were being bought by Canada to rule for life. The original Swan River Reserve contained good farmland. That was the main reason for the relocation.
For the Saulteaux living further north where Dawson Bay is, they were fortunate. Their land was not suited for farming. Chief Keeseekoose probably knew early on that the whites would break treaty. He was set aside 286 sq. mi. in Saskatchewan. Chief Cote was set aside 56.5 sq. mi. in Saskatchewan. Chief The Key was set aside around 47 sq. mi. at several locations in Manitoba including Dawson Bay, Steep Rock Point, Swan Lake, Woody River and Birch River. Today, the villages of Pelican Rapids and Shoal River are located there. They have lost their Ojibwa Nationality. They'll (the Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk) will tell you they are Cree yet we know from history, they are Ojibwa. So the Keeseekoose and Cote Reserve originally covered 342.5 sq. mi. They were robbed. Their Reserve now covers much less land. Chief The Key agreed to relocate to the Keeseekoose Reserve.
Their land is today primarily agriculture land. Parts of Cote extend into the Boreal Forest to the east. We must remember that the Cote-Keeseekoose Reserve covered 342.5 sq. mi. or over 200,000 acres. Their Reserve should extend as far east as the Manitoba border. In fact, they may have been forced to leave the Boreal Forest to relocate to their current location. Their communities include Badgerville and Springside in Saskatchewan and Pelican Rapids and Shoal River in Manitoba. At the Pelican Rapids and Shoal River region, the land is covered by a forest and has many lakes.
It is one of three Saulteaux communities located just a few miles west of the Manitoba border. Ogima Yellow Quill possibly played a role in having this community established. Originally, The Key was connected to the Keeseekoose and Cote Saulteaux Ojibwa Reserves but the whites would not follow treaty agreements. Below is a map of the The Key Reserve which is not far from the Cote-Keeseekoose Reserve. The population of The Key is 284 according to the 2011 census. The size of the Key District which includes Cote, Keeseekoose, and The Key is 24,421 hectares or 52,932 acres. On Reserve population for all three is 1,836. The population of the Sapotaweyak or Shoal River 65A Saulteaux Ojibwa's is 802 according to the 2011 census. According to a 2016 estimate their population on Reserve is 920. They have villages at Pelican Rapids and Shoal River. The Shoal River 65B Saulteaux have a small village at Steep Rock Point. They also have another tiny village at Overflowing River which is located along the northern shores of Lake Winnipegosis. To the south, the Wuskwi Sipihk live where the Swan River Reserve was located. According to a 2016 population estimate, the population of the Wuskwi Sipihk on Reserve, is 183. They have a village about 3 miles south of Novra. It's known as Wuskwi Sipihk 2 which is their largest village. At Wuskwi Sipihk 5, there may be a few families living there. They also have another tiny village at Indian Birch or Swan Lake 65C. Woody River is located there. These Saulteaux Ojibwa's from Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk, have forgotten their history. The total on Reserve population of these Ojibwa's who originally lived between the northern shores of Lake Winnipegosis and Swan River Valley, and who have communities at Cote, Keeseekoose, The Key, Sapotaweyak and Wuskwi Sipihk, is 2,939.