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Melvin Isnana

Standing Buffalo First Nation - Band Profile

Reprinted with permission from
The Indigenous Times - July Edition 1998 - pg.4-5

Melvin IsnanaFort Qu'Appelle, SK - On June 11, 1998, Chief Melvin Isnana of the Standing Buffalo First Nation was interviewed for the band profile in the July 1998 edition of The Indigenous Times.

The Standing Buffalo First Nation is situated six (6) miles West of Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan. The band is affiliated with the Touchwood Filehills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council and Treaty Four (4) area. The band is one of the four First Nations of Dakota/Sioux descent.

Mel Isnana has been the bands' chief since 1979 (16 yrs), prior to this post Chief Isnana was in council for two, four-year terms. Chief Isnana was also in the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) executive position in 1981-85.

Chief Isnana and wife (Stella) have five (5) children. Stella has also been in council for 14 years and she understands the pressures of being a leader for First Nations.

The band consists of 430 on reserve members, while 511 members are off reserve. Due to the fact that many First Nations live off the reserve is related to the shortage of housing and rising rate of unemployment.

In the 5,580 acres of land, approximately one hundred and fifty (150) houses are located on reserve. All houses have running water, sewer and natural gas service. According to Chief Isnana, each household also have telephones.

Melvin IsnanaMost importantly, in the 1800's Chief Standing Buffalo refused to sign treaty with the federal government. Standing Buffalo First Nation and along with Woodmountain First Nation were not signatories to Treaty 4 and are protected under the Indian Act. The two bands are presently in the process of developing a plan with FSIN and the Office of The Treaty Commissioner (OTC) that will include them as Treaty Indians. Chief Isnana mentioned, "we received all services and programs, like everyone else." The Standing Buffalo First Nation is also under band custom and are in the process of establishing a band constitution.

The band consists of one chief and six council members. Chief Mel Isnana, Council Stella Isnana, Velma Goodfeather, Virgil Bear, Alvin Yuzicappi, Wayne Goodwill and one vacant position. The bands elected terms are every three (3) years, the next election will be held November 1998. According to councillor Stella Isnana, "we have a team approach, everyone is comfortable with every decision." The Director of Operations is Betty Goodfeather.

The band is serviced under the Financial Transfer Agreement (FTA), in which the band administers $17.3 million budget for five (5) years. According to the FTA plan, an organization cannot surpass the established budget or it will have to face the consequences without federal resources. The band's FTA plan went into effect November 17, 1997.

The band also administers its own Health program, with the Health Transfer Agreement (HTA) was in effect since February 1, 1991. Similar to the FTA, the band manages all capital related to the health program. In reference to health, the band opened a new health station in May of this year.

The $500,000 project was completed May 1, 1998. The facility will employ ten people.

The band is also in the process of building a special care home for the elderly and handicapped people of Standing Buffalo and surrounding community. "Since the whole project is financed through the band, we are treating it as a business venture", said Chief Isnana. The facility will hold 40 bed units and is scheduled to open soon. "The care home will provide training and jobs for twenty-five (25) people of Standing Buffalo and the band will benefit through spin-offs, but the main purpose is to establish a care home for the unfortunate," mentioned Isnana.

According to statistics, many Standing Buffalo First Nation elderly and handicapped people are residents of care homes across Canada. The people of Standing Buffalo would like to see them back home, so they can receive the special treatment they deserve.

The band has a 3,600 square foot administration building in which fifty-one band employees work. The band also has a facility that was extended to school more than 130 students. The addition includes a gymnasium, four new classrooms and a home economics room. The school is home to the kindergarten to grade 9 students.

Standing Buffalo High school students attend the Fort Qu'Appelle High School. In the 1997-98 season, five high school students have graduated from the Standing Buffalo First Nation and there are approximately 35 post-secondary students presently enrolled in post-secondary institutions in Canada.

The Chief and council office established an Elders committee to advise the people on social issues or for spiritual guidance and advice. The committee was established recently and consists of twenty Elders.

The band also promotes sports, culture and recreation. The band provides funding for an annual powwow and often encourages the youth to get involved in sports such as hockey, baseball and soccer.

In regards to economic development, the band has been active in the field. The Standing Buffalo First Nation if 50% owner of the Fort Qu'Appelle Motor Products, along with Brent Vollman, a well known gentlemen in First Nation society. The joint venture was established October 1997, and so far the company has generated a fair amount of resources into the business.

Other joint ventures include, IMI Brokerage and Filehills telecommunications. The band also owns a 47 passenger greyhound tour bus. The band usually contracts the tour bus all year round for educational, sports, vacations and group purposes. The band is also in the midst of establishing a pharmaceutical product company. The new business will employ over 20 people and generate a lot of revenue throughout Canada.

Chief Mel Isnana's main political concerns are the Child Tax Benefit issue. "We should have established roundtable discussions regarding this very important issue long ago," said Isnana.

"I strongly believe we should mandate the tribal councils to monitor the resources of the Child Family Services and provide flow through programs with all regions."

"I sense danger, we have to be very careful, we are dealing with Revenue Canada, and this could lead to paying taxes."

"Many families will face problems pertaining to the Child Tax Benefit issue. We need to look at a solution, such as money management."

"As First Nations, we do not have the ability to manage or budget our resources. We need some sort of guidance so our children don't go hungry," said Chief Isnana.

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