The Cree and the Sioux Nations
SION, November 2, 2006:  The community of Sion has a fabulous history.  To begin with, the Catholic Church named it more than a hundred years ago, which gives it a history that pre-dates the history of the province.
And in the sense that the founder of the Catholic Church (Jesus) named this place two thousand years ago, that gives us an even more colorful history.  But that's not all.  The aboriginal (First Nations) history of this place is mind-boggling.  
I was doing some landscaping with a shovel and a wheelbarrow on my little hobby farm six miles northeast of Sion a few years ago when I experienced the pleasure of unearthing a beautiful hand-crafted Indian arrowhead.  I have carefully preserved it.  This prehistoric artifact could date back ten thousand years.  It could even date back twice that much.
Anthropologists tell us it was 20,000 or more years ago when some stone-age Asiatics crossed what were then the frozen-over Bering Straits between what is today Siberia and Alaska.  They were the people of the deer.  They followed the deer across the straits, and down into what was for them the new world.  They eventually populated all of North and South America.
In the Sion area the aboriginal nation is mostly Cree, but just south of Sion, on the shore of Lac St. Anne, we have also the Nakota Nation, which is a branch of the South Dakota Sioux.  It must have been hundreds of years ago when they came up from the Sioux areas of the United States and settled in Alberta.  They are what we know as the Stoney Indians.  In our area there are two of these Bands, one at Lac Ste. Anne (the Alexis Band, where Cameron Alexis is Chief) and one at Wabamun Lake, known as the Paul Band, with Daniel Paul as Chief.  
"We have a training centre and school concentrating on our history," Alexis office receptionist Vanessa tells us.  The Band even has a site on the Internet, which you can Google as alexisnakotasioux.
The Stoneys have four more Bands in southern Alberta, on the Morley Reserve west of Calgary.  
The Cree Band closest to Sion is on the Alexander Reserve, east of the Alexis, in Sturgeon County near Sandy Lake.  The Chief of this Band is Raymond Arcand.
Joe Dion tells us our First Nations in Central Alberta were officially recognized by the British Crown at the signing of Treaty Six, which took place in 1876 at Fort Pitt.  
The Alexander Reserve in Sturgeon County and the Alexis Reserve in Lac St. Anne County, the two Bands closest to Sion, were two of the reserves that were officially formed as a result of the signing of Treaty Six.
The Catholic Church didn't invent God.  God was here for twenty thousand years, which takes us back to prehistoric times long before the time of Jesus Christ, when the people of the deer came to know Him as the Great Spirit who blessed and guided them into the new world.  
The Nakota First Nation named Lac Ste. Anne Wakamne, meaning "God's Lake," and the Cree Nation named it Manito Sahkahigan, or "Spirit Lake."
The Catholic Church's Rev. Jean-Baptiste Thibault, the first Christian priest to establish a mission in this part of what is today Alberta, re-named the lake as Lac Ste. Anne, in honor of an early Roman Catholic saint.
The Lac St. Anne Mission has become internationally famous for its pilgrimage grounds, which have been sacred for many generations as a place of healing by the Great Spirit.  Aboriginal peoples camped on the site each summer long before the First Nations had any contact with European fur traders and settlers.
Oblate missionaries arrived in 1855 and have been serving the area ever since.  The annual pilgrimage as we know it today was established in July 1889, and every year since then many thousands of pilgrims have made the annual trek to the sacred shores of Lac Ste. Anne to receive God's blessing and experience Mother Nature's healing power.
The grounds were declared a National Site by the Government of Canada two years ago (2004)
Our thanks to the Lac St. Anne Pilgrimage Company for this historic photo of the pilgrimage site taken many years ago, in the early 1900s.  The photo is taken from the company's Alberta Centennial brochure titled "Sacred Ground, Healing Waters."