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Treaty Rights Research

Walter GordonWALTER GORDON Director

This report covers the Indian Rights and Treaties Research activities from April 11th, 1972, the date of the last Chiefs' Conference to July 31st, 1972, the date of the writing of this report.

Previous reports contained serious concerns surrounding:

From the beginning, this Project was confronted and oppressed with the pressures of grief and worry over finances. It's financing came from the Privy Council and those funds came to the Project so far apart and in so small amounts the Project was forced to go into serious large overdrafts in order to continue the work. Something had to be done about this uncertain and uncomfortable situation of funding.

As a result of negotiations into finances, an agreement was reached, that the Indian Rights and Treaties Research Project would receive funds through the Commissioner of Indian Claims from the Treasury Board this year while better funding facilities are being set up for the coming years it would take to complete the job on Research.

Treaty Rights Research

Research on land surrenders was the first priority set out for both the Archival and Field Researchers. Since most of the land surrenders took place prior to 1920, all material relating to land should be in the Archives since it is Federal Government policy to turn over all records thirty years and over to the Archives.

Our researchers have at their disposal various indexes to the RG 10 Black Series in the Archives which deals with the Administration of Indian Affairs in the Western Provinces. The method of obtaining documentation is one of systematically going through files dealing with Indian Reserves in Saskatchewan on all matters with first consideration being given to land surrender files.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Very often files requested by researchers are listed "missing". Upon inquiring with both the Public Archives and Indian Affairs as to the reason for so many missing files, one invariably gets the impression that the two Departments are blaming each other for the discrepancies. Public Archives maintains that Indian Affairs is either withholding the files or that they have been destroyed. Indian Affairs says that those files were probably lost in the maze of improperly indexed files in the Archives.

Actually it appears that both are at fault although Public Archives Commission is not really involved in this struggle for material except those of thirty years since everything they have is open to the public whether or not it is poorly indexed.

Many times requests have been made for important basic surrender files that definitely were in existence for Reserves such as Chacastapasin, Young Chippewyan, Battleford Area, Long Lake, Carlyle Area, Kamsack and so on, only to find that Indian Affairs could not produce the files.

To compound this problem the researchers were advised that the Federation would be charged for all copies of material leaving Indian Affairs which they promptly did. The Federation as promptly refused to pay on the grounds that this material in fact was going to the Bands and that they were entitled to receive this information free of charge in light of the Trusteeship which under Treaties still exists. Never-the-less the Department was determined and informed the researchers that all copying had to be paid in advance.

With respect to this "charging the Federation business". A meeting was held on June the 20th, 1972, between Chief David Ahenakew, of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, the Director of Indian Rights and Treaties Research and the Minister of Indian Affairs, the Honourable Jean Chretien, and his Assistant, Mr. Russ Moses in the Minister's office in Ottawa where this matter and other business was taken up. It was definitely decided at this meeting that Mr. Russ Moses was to clear the matter up by informing the heads of each Branch that there will be no charge.

To improve access to the tons of files in Indian Affairs not yet in the Public Archives a Pilot Project was devised to get at the records which pertain to Saskatchewan Indians and which if other Associations wish to become involved the Project may he modified to include their specific concerns.

Its function would be to facilitate the transfer of records from the Department of Indian Affairs to the Public Archives, in accordance with Government policy:

The membership of the Committee of this Project are - the Public Archives, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, the Commissioner of Indian Claims, and the Department of Indian Affairs. The Commissioner of Indian Claims chairs the Project.

The administrative arrangements would be carried out by a neutral party. He would be the representative of the Advisory Committee in carrying out its functions, particularly in the coordination of its work. In conjunction with the Archives, he will be particularly concerned with the indexing of records for research. For this purpose he will have at his disposal, a small staff.

Some results of having organized this Committee are: we can now have our researchers copy any amount of material from the Archives. If need be, set up a copying machine there. Work has already started to dig into the files in the Department of Indian Affairs and start them moving into the Archives. As they are breaking down the ages of the files our researchers will have immediate access to this material.

This Committee has already had two meetings with Indian Affairs, not yet assigning a member. On August 28th, 1972, the Committee will have another meeting and it is understood that Indian Affairs have now a person named to be on this Committee.

From April to July, a heavy concentration of effort and activity in research and development was in progress in the Carlyle area involving the White Bear Band Council, the Economic Development Committee headed by Alex Kennedy, and research being done by Indian Rights and Treaties Research, with regard to the Lees Ranch, which is situated in the area of surrendered lands taken from Striped Blanket and Pheasant Rump in 1901.

Economic Development under Alex Kennedy and the Band Council have much more to do to carry out the proposals of the White Bear Council. It is expected that the work being done there will carry through as the Council expects it to with the support of Alex Kennedy's Economic Development Committee.

Liaison by research's field staff is being carried on and it will be further intensified when an appointment is made for a Coordinator who will coordinate the work between the field staff, Band Councils and the Committee they set up and keep the people, working in the Archives, informed of the needs of those on the Reserves. End of August will see Coordinator on staff.

Again I must say, that the work has been very slow, very disheartening at times, because of under-staffing due to lack of necessary funds. However, now that things have brightened up a bit, work will go on with more acceleration.

Very frequently I have met individual Indians to discuss with them, Hunting, Fishing, Education, Land and other Treaty Rights in the course of these off-the-cuff discussions with individuals it has been intimated by them that the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, in going into the development of Human Resources, Community, Education, research and other programs they are accepting the New Indian Policy of 1969 and following after the pattern of the termination program in the United States.

This kind of thing is damn utter nonsense, the only thing it proves is that when anyone says such a thing at this time, that person is not informed, that person does not want to be informed.

The Federation through its Executive Council has stood very firm in defending the Medicine Chest clause in our Treaties. As a result of their firm resolution to fight for Treaty Rights the Provincial regulations on Medicare and Hospitalization will change not to effect Treaty Rights.

In the Treaties the highest respect is to be accorded the Chief and his Council. This respect to be accorded a Band Council is another of their firm resolutions to be established and not let it he diminished again.

They are firm in their stand that Education must he adhered to under the terms of the Treaties. They have proved this by the very nature of the Band Council now being in control of that situation.

The Executive's firm stand against the 1969 New Indian Policy wherein it stated that the Treaties would be done away with and the Reserves would disintegrate through letters of patent to individuals.

There is much more of the work of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians that may be cited in its favour in defending the Treaties which we do not want to lose. It should matter to all the Indians in Saskatchewan that the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians is seeing to it that in the process of the development of Treaty Indians there is no rights being lost.

There is enough evidence in the material gathered so far to lodge certain categories of claims in the Kamsack area in spite of having very little access to records.

Guidelines to a claim is being brought before the Cote Band Council at this time, and it is anticipated that Council will be evaluating the evidence to the claim outlined with the support of the resources they wish to have in assisting them with the claim.

In summary, this report is up to date as of April 11th, 1972 to July 31st, 1972, on what has been happening with regard to financing: business and research in Ottawa: formation of a committee to deal with the large volume of records in Indian Affairs and how it will function: developments on the former Lees ranch in the old Striped Blanket Reserve surrendered in 1901: liaison work and acceleration of the project: the negative sense of some people: and the hard work the Executive Council of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians is doing in defense of Treaties.

A summary report will be given at the Annual Conference of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians to bring this report up to date.

Mr. Walter Gordon
Director of Indian Rights and Treaties Research,
of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians.

*Where all think alike no one thinks very much*