The Saulteaux or Plains Ojibway (Nahkawininiwak in their language) speak a language belonging to the Algonquian language family; Algonquian people can be found from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains, and from Hudson Bay to the southeastern United States. Algonquian languages comprise Algonkin, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Delaware, Menominee, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Sauk/Fox, and Nahkawiwin (Saulteaux). The name Saulteaux is said to come from the French word saulteurs, meaning People of the Rapids; this name refers to the location around the St. Mary’s River (Sault Ste. Marie), where French fur traders and the Ojibwa met to trade in the late 17th century. Amongst some storytellers there is a migration story that predates contact with the people of France and England. It relates the movement of the people to the west, where they began to settle and set up with their neighbours, the Lakota and Dakota, alliances which allowed for peaceful coexistence. It was during the fur-trade rivalry between the French and English that these alliances were broken.

With the fur trade in decline, the disappearance of the bison, and the increase of settlers of European origin, the Nahkawininiwak, along with other plains First Nations, began the treaty-making process with the newly developed Government of Canada. Nahkawininiwak leaders signed, on behalf of their various bands, Treaties 1 and 2. Later, in 1874 and 1876, Nahkawininiwak were signatories to Treaties 4 and 6. These four treaties ceded to the Government of Canada, much of the land of southern Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan, as well as portions of Alberta. In return, the First Nations were promised annuities ($3-$5/person/year), reserves, education, as well as hunting, fishing and trapping rights.

In Saskatchewan, the following First Nations communities have Nahkawininiwak speakers: Cote, Cowessess, Fishing Lake, Gordons, Keeseekoose, Key, Muskowpetung, Nut Lake, Pasqua, Poorman, Sakimay, Saulteaux, and Yellowquill. In addition, the following communities have a mixture of Nahkawininiwak, Nēhiyawēwin and other languages: Cowessess, Gordons, White Bear, and Keeseekoose. There is some movement to adopt the original name of Anishinabe, which is the name that the Ojibway people used in earlier times to identify themselves. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of the ceremonies and traditional beliefs of the Nahkawininiwak were banned by law. In the 21st century, some of these ceremonies are being revived. Belief systems, such as the Midewiwiwin, are being reintroduced. Some Nahkawininiwak have adopted Plains ceremonies such as the Sun Dance.

Source: William Asikinack, The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

Points of Interest


Birds of Prey Program

Annually, the Birds of Prey Program allows for the distribution of feathers and other items from birds of prey such as Eagles and Hawks....

SICC Elders Council

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Convention Act Section 29 provides for the establishment of an Elders Council. This Council...

SICC Board of Governors

Uphold, advocate and assert the First Nations Inherent and Treaty Rights to language, culture, traditional arts and history...

INdigenous languages & cultures program

The Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre (SICC) is now accepting applications for the 2020-21 program year!

The Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre exists to protect, preserve and promote the languages and cultures of the eight language groups of what is now known as Saskatchewan: Plains Cree, Swampy Cree, Woodland Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, Dakota, Nakoda and Lakota.


Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre
305 - 2555 Grasswood Road East
Saskatoon SK S7T 0K1

Phone: 306-244-1146
Fax: 306-665-6520