The occupancy of the Denesuline in Northern Saskatchewan can be traced through archaeological evidence to approximately eight to twelve thousand years ago. The Chipewyan were the most easterly group of Dene people. There were two main groups. The Caribou – Eater Chipewyan who lived in the southern part of the Northwest Territories and in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The second group were the Lake Head Chipewyan who lived in the north Athabasca. The ancestors of the people who live in Black Lake and Fond du Lac today were Caribou – Eater Chipewyan.
The life of the early Chipewyan people was centered around a continual search for food to maintain their health and prosperity, particularly through the cold northern winters. The early Denesuline people lived a nomadic lifestyle following the migration of caribou herds. In small family groups scattered a short distance from each other, people hunted caribou on the open barren grounds during the summer. Then as the caribou moved into the forest for the winter, people followed. Next to caribou, moose and fish were also important sources of protein. The early Chipewyan also hunted bears, and used snares or bow and arrows to catch smaller animals such as beavers, rabbits, squirrels, and birds. The last major food source for the people were berries. Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and black berries are abundant in late summer and fall.
In these times, there were no leaders, only elders that people would take orders from. People could go wherever they wanted and hunt whenever they wanted.
The Indian Agent used to come from Chipewyan to Fond du Lac to pay the treaty money. The people would leave their dogs and sleds in Stony Rapids and then travel to Fond du Lac by canoe to get their treaty money. On Treaty Day, people were given a box of shells and threads for ladies to make fishing nets. At the time, a box of shells cost three dollars and mink fur sold for between five and six dollars. After Treaty Day people would go back up North right away or sometimes leave in early August.
In 1948, Father Porte came from France to Fond du Lac. In February 1952, Bishop Trocetties and Father C. Gamache met the people at Stony Lake to talk about moving to Black Lake. The people felt that Stony Rapids was not a good place to live because the land along the river was too narrow and there was a lot of muskeg. Black Lake seemed to be a much better place for fishing and was closer to northern caribou hunting grounds. The people agreed that moving to Black Lake would mean a better future for them. They came to an agreement with the Priest and initiated the move to Black Lake.
After Black Lake was settled, people started moving there from other places. The Sayazies and Sandypoints came from Fond du Lac, Patuanak and Lac Brochet, and the Robillard’s and Toutsaint’s came from Fond du Lac and Bigeye’s from Lac Brochet to live in Black Lake.
The following community timeline includes dates and information sourced from the Bullée Community Development Plan (2010) and information received in surveys, feedback and discussions with community members.
Treaty 8 was signed by Stony Rapids Indian Band (now Black Lake Denesuline Nation).
Father Porte arrived in Fond du Lac.
Louis Chicken was elected as Chief.
Nisto Mine opened and employed community members (closed in 1958).
Nisto Mine company built a road between Stony Rapids and Black Lake.
First new vehicle on wheels was brought to the community.
The school and Hudson Bay Company store was built in Stony Rapids.
The community of Black Lake was settled and a small warehouse and church were built.
R.C. headquarters were built in Stony Rapids. A road was constructed between Black Lake Mission Site and Stony Rapids.
A small public school was built in Black Lake.
Ten houses made from long-sand wood were constructed close to the lake in Black Lake. Hudson Bay store opened in Black Lake.
Old school at Stony Rapids was closed and moved to Black Lake.
New Church was built (burned down in 1967 then rebuilt in 1968).
Public housing projects started in Black Lake.