Sagkeeng: A look into a First Nations community

Our writer Tim Johnson heads to Manitoba to explore Sagkeeng and shares the stories of nine community members. 

By Tim Johnson

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Welcome to Sagkeeng


Canada's First Nations face huge challenges. The statistics are staggering: 50 percent of children live in poverty, 70 percent of teens living on reserves drop out of high school. Also, First Nations people have double Canada's suicide rate and 10 times the incidence of tuberculosis. Overcoming these issues can seem an almost insurmountable task. Gaining a better understanding of something this big often requires going small – looking past the numbers and into the faces of real people on their home turf. That's why I went to Sagkeeng.

The second-largest reserve in Manitoba and the biggest Ojibwe community in Western Canada, Sagkeeng is sometimes known as Fort Alexander. Lining a 
12-kilometre stretch of the wide Winnipeg River – right where it spills into Lake Winnipeg – Sagkeeng is home to more than 5,500 residents. It is a place with a checkered history and a very long memory, where indigenous peoples have lived for thousands of years. (Ancient pipes and arrowheads still emerge from the riverbank.) Explorers and merchants for both the North West and Hudson's Bay companies built forts and trading posts here, and a notorious residential school confined and often tormented a generation of children. Here are some of the people of Sagkeeng, and here are their stories.

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