Nowhere to Run

By John PeeAce and George Peequaquat

Pass #190 Duck Lake Agency: request to go to Eagle Hills (near North Battleford)
to go hunting and fishing April 22, 1897: Saskatchewan Archives Board

In the 1940’s, rations on the Nut Lake Reserve were very limited. We could not travel off the reserve without a pass, so we depended on the farm instructor to supply any needs that we couldn’t meet from the land of wildlife on our reserve. We got a slab of bacon once a month if we did manual labour for the farm instructor. All in the meat and supplies were kept by the farm instructor. We could see them in the storage room whenever we went to this office bu could not have any unless we worked for him. This was completely different than what we had always been used to. We were more accustomed to sharing whatever we had. Most of the people tried to get enough food, berries, wild meat, and fish on the reserve to survive.

Sometimes they would collect and sell Seneca root, they could get a permit to sell it. We couldn’t leave the reserve without a pass, we were prisoners and we could barely survive. There were gates on the fence around the reserve. We had to beg and barter with the neighboring off-reserve farmers, but before we could do even that we needed a pass to get there. Occasionally we could get permits to cut wood to sell to the CNR, but we only got a partial payment – 25 cents per load, the rest went to the farm instructor. Sometimes perople would cut firewood and take it to the nearest off-reserve community stores to trade for rations.

In the winter when the food was scarce, they would often go straight across the lake to Nora, the nearest small town. Often they went without a pass or permit. There were many times when the farm instructor refused to grant them passes and permits. If they were caught selling or trading without a permit they were thrown into jail until the farm instructor came to bail them out, usually the next morning. And they were just trying to trade for food. (As told to Gordon Lobe)