Johnny Bob Smallboy | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Johnny Bob Smallboy

Johnny Bob Smallboy (also Robert), or Apitchitchiw, community leader (b on Peigan Reserve, SW of Ft Macleod, Alta 7 Nov 1898, d at Smallboy Camp near Nordegg, Alta, 8 July 1984).

Chief Smallboy focused national attention on urban and reserve Indigenous problems when he "returned to the land" with followers from troubled Indigenous settlements. Born of a traditional Cree family who were among the last to settle on their allotted reserve at Hobbema in central Alberta, Smallboy became a hunter, trapper, farmer, and eventually chief of the Ermineskin Band from 1959 to 1969. In 1968, to escape deteriorating social and political conditions on the reserve, he moved to a bush camp on the Kootenay Plains, accompanied by some 125 people. Despite factional splits, the return of many residents to Hobbema, and the group's failure to obtain permanent land tenure, Smallboy Camp persisted into the 1980s as a working community used as a retreat by Plains and Woodlands Indigenous peoples from western Canada and the US.