Lazarus Roan, a Native elder of the Ermineskin band at Hobbema, Alberta, had a vision in 1968 that foretold of catastrophe for Native people unless they followed their spiritual beliefs and the old way of life. Johnny Bob Smallboy, a hereditary chief of the band, shared Roan's worries for the future of his people. He was especially concerned about the overcrowded conditions on the reserve and the loss of traditional values he witnessed among the young people of the band. Smallboy chose to leave the reserve and set up an encampment with 143 band members in an isolated section of the province northwest of Nordegg at Lake Muskiki. Sustained by oil revenues paid to members of the Hobbema bands, the group built a small community that lived more closely with nature and maintained spiritual and cultural traditions such as the Sun Dance. Eventually, the community began accepting young people for a rehabilitation program designed to emphasize their Native roots. In 1979, Smallboy was awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of his services to his people.

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