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Liquor On Reserves

Prior to the time of treaty making or drafting of any Indian Act the question of liquor had always been a problem insofar as the white people and the Indians were concerned.

During the negotiations of the treaties in Saskatchewan it was always a matter of discussion between the Indian leaders and the treaty makers. It was a firm position of Indian leaders that the sale of intoxicants, etc. would be prohibited to Indian people.

The reason for this at the time was that traders were coming across from the United States and selling cheap liquor to Indian people and as a result of this many people were killed and Indian people were not getting, in many cases, a fair price for their goods which were taken by the traders. Thus, up until 1951 the Indian Act contained a clause which prevented Indian people from having liquor at any time and at any place.

With the act of 1951 changes were made and they allowed for three stages,

  1. 1. The total prohibition which is found in Sec. 95 of the Indian Act.

  2. That section makes it an offence to have any intoxicants or to make intoxicants or to be intoxicated off an Indian reservation.

  3. 2. Section 95 however can be changed and made no longer effective if the provincial government passes legislation declaring that the section is no longer effective in that province.

  4. This is the situation in Saskatchewan and it is legal for Indian persons to buy and sell liquor off of a reserve and drink liquor off of a reserve providing always that it is not breaking any law of the Province.

  5. 3. Section 97 makes it an offence for a person to have liquor in his possession or to be intoxicated on an Indian reservation. The section is enforced in many parts of Saskatchewan and the reserves where the section is applied are generally called a "dry reserve".

All reserves in the Province are dry unless there has been a vote by the members of the band and a majority of the members decide that they want section 97 to have no effect. The vote is held and the order is passed by the Governor in council indicating that section 97 is to no longer have effect and from that point on it is then legal for a person to have intoxicants or to be intoxicated on an Indian reservation.

However, the possession of intoxicants or being intoxicated on a reserve must be in accordance with Provincial law. When a reserve holds a vote and decides to have liquor on the reserve they must also at the same time decide that they will comply and live in accordance with Provincial law.

The end result is that in all of Saskatchewan Indian people are entitled to drink and have liquor off the reserve the same as white persons providing they do not break the laws of the Province. If the reserves are dry reserves Indian people may have liquor off of the reserve and drink as indicated above however it would be illegal for them to take any liquor on to a dry reserve. If the reserve is wet, it becomes the same as the rest of the Province.

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