History of the Lac Seul Communities
Land wise, Lac Seul (Obishikokaang) is one of the largest Indian Reserves in the Treaty #3 region in northwestern Ontario. The general membership consists of about 2,700 people, two thirds of which live off reserve.
In the 1930’s, hydro development at Ear Falls resulted in massive flooding of the traditional territory of the people. This forced many families to relocate to higher ground. Families like the Ocheewasawan, Quedent, Keesic, Angeconeb, Southwind, Ashin and now their descendants continue to live in the surrounding area of Red Lake, Trout Lake and Ear Falls.
Historically it appears that the main community of the reserve was Keesic Bay. It was close to the Hudson’s Bay post which was situated on the north shore of Lac Seul itself. Adjacent to the Hudson’s Bay post were both the old Roman Catholic Mission and St. Mary’s Anglican Church. This is in and around the current site of the Buchanan ferry landing.
There were many fishing camps and trap lines located throughout. For fishing camps were located from Bear Narrows to Root River on the northeast side of Lac Seul. As well, there were many fish camps and trap lines at the west end of lake including Manitoba Point all the way to Ear Falls.
The Keesic Bay island, which was once part of the main land, had smaller communities or family groupings that lived there. For example, right across the lake from the Hudson’s Bay post, lived the Ross family. This point of land is now called Ross’ Point. Just a few steps to the east of Ross’ Point, is what is referred to as Treaty Point. On the opposite side of Ross’ Point toward the northwest tip of Keesic Bay island, was the site of the old Nursing Station. Near the old nursing station, one would find the Bearman, Keesic, Quedent, Pemmican, and Wesley families.
Keesic Bay consisted of the Keesic, Ashin, Southwind, Littledeer, Lac Seul, Kenny, Cromarty, Thomas, families.
Just north of Keesic Bay, in the next bay, there is Ningewance Bay. This small community consisted mostly of the Ningewance and Angeconeb families. Across the little bay lived the Quoquat and Bull families. Later, in the 1960’s and 1970’s the Quezence, Kenny, Southwind and Brisket families lived in Ningewance Bay.
In the early 1970’s, there was a movement to relocate families from the surrounding communities of Canoe River and Whitefish Bay to Keesic Bay. This was because a school was built in Keesic Bay. Meanwhile many students from Frenchman’s Head continued to live at the Pelican Indian Residential School while attending public schools in Hudson and Sioux Lookout. In 1977/78, when a year round access road was constructed from Hudson to present day Frenchman’s Head, the Pelican Indian Residential School was closed down for good.
Historically, the Chisel, Gray and Hill families lived on Pelican Lake, near and around the Indian Residential School site, a site which was not on the reserve.
Toward the south side of the reserve, there was the old original community of Frenchman’s Head. The newer Frenchman’s Head is now located directly across the lake from the hamlet of Hudson. The old Frenchman’s Head community (around various locations) consisted of the Chisel, Hill, Ackewance, Binguis, Ignace, Morison, Copenace, Ogemah, Gray, Bunting, Lac Seul, Petawaway and Littledeer families. Today there are many family groupings that live in Frenchman’s Head. They have come from the other communities including off reserve.
The relocation of families from Canoe River to Keesic Bay basically ended this community. Some families relocated to Hudson and the newer community of Frenchman’s Head. Today only one family remains in Canoe River. Canoe River was once a thriving community with families on both sides of the river. These were the Trout, Carpenter, Bottle, Brisket, and Wesley families.
Closer to Keesic Bay is the present day community of Whitefish Bay nestled along both sides of a river’s mouth – sakeeng. On the north village of Whitefish Bay, near the traditional ceremonial grounds live the Bull, Thomas, Capay, and Angeconeb families. On the south side of Whitefish Bay live mostly the Angeconeb families.