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Up to 1640: 1st wave

Indigenous Peoples


First Nations people lived on the prairie that is now called Saskatchewan for thousands of years before European settlers arrived.

Learn what the word ‘Indigenous’ means.

Hunter Gatherer

Most First Nations groups lived as hunter and gatherer societies and followed migrating animals, like bison, for food. This also meant that some members of the group would be expected to hunt and others would be expected to gather local plants to provide for their community. Bison were very important to First Nations peoples as bison provided food, shelter, clothing and other important tools. In the Parkland region (Northern Saskatchewan) they hunted caribou, moose, and elk.

An illustrated First Nations man is kneeling behind a rock while he watches a group of buffalo nearby.

First Nations people camouflaged themselves to get close enough to the bison to hunt them.

The hunter/gatherer Nations lived in rounds. They had different permanent sites, which they would live in at certain times of the year. Some camps were better for living in during the winter and others were better for hunting during Fall or Summer. Archeologists can tell that for hundreds of years, groups returned to the same place. This means that the First Nations people were not living a nomadic lifestyle.

An illustrated First Nations person sets two poles up that will be pulled by a dog.

Indigenous peoples used dogs to help haul items on their journeys.

First Nations people collected many different plants that they used for food, medicines, ceremonies, and construction material. They collected wild berries and root vegetables wherever they could.

An illustrated wild onion and turnip are next to each other.

Wild onions, wild carrots, and wild turnips were important root vegetables for the First Nations people.

Corn, beans and squash were commonly grown in Eastern Canada but were not as common on the Prairies. The Nakota people living in Southern Saskatchewan grew beans and tobacco.

The earliest European settlers found that the Blackfoot people grew tobacco. Each Spring a tobacco-planting ceremony was conducted and the Blackfoot had over 200 songs related to this ceremony.

Corn, beans, and squash grown together are often called the ‘Three Sisters.’

Way of Life

At first, most of the province was occupied by the Nakota, Dakota, and Blackfoot while northern Saskatchewan belonged to the Dene.

Indigenous people are believed to have come to the Plains approximately 11,000 years ago.

The First Nations people had their own systems for education, justice, trade, and healthcare. First Nation cultures are based on the belief that all plants, animals, people, and objects are connected. The settlers considered objects like water, stones, and land to be ‘inanimate’ (not alive), but the First Nations people believe that all things have a spirit and are part of the ‘Circle of Life’.

A black and white photograph of various Aboriginal artifacts including a bow and quiver with arrows, a flintlock pistol, an axe head, and a pipe.


The First Nations people made many of their own arrows and tools.

The traditions, systems, and cultures of the First Nations were very different from the European practices. When the newcomers arrived they did not understand or respect the First Nations’ ways of life.