English River First Nation’s head office is located at Patuanak, Saskatchewan and contains seven different reserves registered under English River Band. There is La Plonge, Wapachewunak, Île-à-la-Crosse, Elak Base, Knee Lake, Dipper Rapids, Cree Lake and Primeau Lake. English River First Nation is one of nine First Nations associated within the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC).
English River emerged from the signing of Treaty 10 in 1906. The name originates from the English River where the Poplar House People inhabited the area for periods during the year. Years ago, the reserve was known as Grassy Narrows Reserve. Most families, which now reside at Patuanak, had traditionally lived down river at Primeau Lake, Knee Lake and Cree Lake or Dipper Lake.
The chief at the time of signing was Chief William Apesis. Patuanak is a Dene speaking community with an average of 1,000 people, with over 600 living on reserve. The village is situated near the Churchill River, which allows for fishing, hunting and gathering.
There are no paved roads in Patuanak, and only one gravel road leading out of Patuanak towards their reserve La Plonge and the town of Beauval. The other way of travel is by boat. An individual can cross the lake to Île-à-la-Crosse and in the winter, the route is taken by snowmobile.
Education has always been a big part of English River with the children going to Residential Schools in Île-à-la-Crosse and Beauval. The elementary school was first built in 1971, and by 1995 the First Nation had erected a modern structure for the children’s benefit. High School students continued travelling to Meadow Lake, La Ronge and Beauval for secondary schooling, until the high school was completed in 2000.
The Roman Catholic Church has been a prominent part of the community. Father Louis Moraud, in 1916, became the resident priest of Patuanak. He served the English River area until his death in 1965. There is a one day pilgrimage to the Grotto near the church, which has faithful followers from English River.
Today, English River thrives with many of the people owning their own businesses from daycare and cafes to outfitters and rental stores. Many are employed at the local Northern store, through the Band Office, at the Clinic and Aboriginal Headstart Program, and at the Gas Bar. English River also owns Tron Power, an company located in Saskatoon, which empoys Aboriginal people for contracts near the mines.
Patuanak itself, as a reserve and town, is a prospering place. It lies beside the Churchill River, which never freezes over, and is surrounded by lush vegetation. The Band Office itself is a popular place, with Elders stopping by to voice their concerns with the Chief and the Councilors and youth coming by with smaller children to see relatives for a quick visit.