Cumberland House First Nation
Where rivers converge, two paddlers round Pine Island preparing for canoe races working their way up stream, turn and catch their breath going downstream, their shirts drenched in sweat, they reverse and go upstream again. A traditional meeting place for centuries, the paddling tradition continues – as the sign proclaims, Cumberland House is the home of the great paddler Solomon Carriere.
Cumberland House First Nation is some seven hours drive northeast of Saskatoon, in the massive delta of the Saskatchewan River, the rainforest growth on their small island includes enormous beds of ferns. Sun streams through tall trees highlighting the lush growth. Pine, willow, white birch, blue berries and fiddlehead ferns and wild rice thrive here.
But picturesque isn't everything, flooding and evacuation have occurred often here. It's been 15 years since a steel bridge replaced the annual wait for ice-bridges each winter. A road went in at the same time, an improvement but recently a visiting MLA whose vehicle rolled on the gravel road is expected to press for a higher priority on the needed upgrading.
Seasons pass and snow falls, anticipation of holidays, celebrations and presents builds. One gift is already known, it's the same for every child under 18 and every Elder, and given out at the annual Christmas party. With an on-reserve population of 683, the Cumberland House First Nation decided all the children would receive $100 each from the Funds distributed by the First Nations Trust. This year was no exception. It is just one of the many self-determining choices made by the Cumberland House First Nation about their use of the gaming profits distributed by the First Nations Trust. In addition, funds are used to assist with funeral costs, visits to hospitalized family, Elders needs, working mothers and occasional extreme emergency situations.