MASKWACIS, Alta. - The federal government is spending $2.9 million on a program to help prevent gang violence on reserves that make up the central Alberta community formerly known as Hobbema.

The project is called the Maskwacis Youth Initiative after the new name for the area, which includes the Samson, Ermineskin, Montana and Louis Bull Cree Nations.

Officials say the money will be used to work with 600 aboriginal youth between the ages of 14 and 25 who are either involved with gangs or at risk of gang involvement and violent behaviour.

The program will include promoting education, job skills and counselling.

The community has been plagued with drug and gang-related violence, including the 2011 shooting by youth gang members that killed a five-year-old boy asleep in his bed.

More than half of the 14,000 people who live on the four reserves are under 18 years of age.