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Ahtahkakoop: The Epic Account of a Plains Cree Head Chief, His People, and Their Struggle for Survival 1816-1896

by Deanna Christensen

Ahtahkakoop is an ambitious book that presents, in minute detail, the life story of Cree chief Ahtahkakoop and, by extension, the culture and history of his people and their relocation to a reserve at Sandy Lake, Saskatchewan, after the signing of Treaty 6 in 1876.

Deanna Christensen, a former reporter for the Moose Jaw Times Herald, has conducted an impressive amount of research. The book, which took 14 years to complete, starts with the Cree creation story and ends shortly after the treaty was signed. The author combines oral history, written history, and archival research to detail everything from the community’s role in the early fur trade and the war parties and horse raids of Ahtahkakoop’s boyhood to surrounding issues in the Saskatchewan River country, such as the Métis uprising. These and other details are woven into the book’s central concern: for 500 of the total 800-plus pages, the treaty process and the settlement at Sandy Lake takes centre stage.

Ahtahkakoop contains enough bells and whistles to please any historian or teacher: over 100 pages of notes, a guide to Cree pronunciation, and the complete text of Treaty 6. There are also texts of speeches, maps, archival photos, and original art including the pencil drawings of gifted artist Ed Peekeekoot of the Ahtahkakoop First Nation. Although suitable for the general reader, Ahtahkakoop’s detail will prove a useful resource for schools, teachers, researchers, and students of Canadian and aboriginal history. Well written and researched, this is history that never bores.