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Sask. Metis Society Dominate New Council

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      OCTOBER 1973      v03 n09 p08  
La Ronge - Four out of five positions on Saskatchewan's first Northern Municipal Council election, held October 5, 1973, were filled by Metis Society of Saskatchewan members.

Elected to the new council are George Mercredi, Stony Rapids; Lawrence Yew, Jans Bay; Nap Sanderson, Pinehouse, Lionel Deschambeault, Cumberland House, and Fred Thompson, Buffalo Narrows. Mr. Thompson, the only member not associated with the Metis Society, is the only one who contested for a position from the previously appointed Advisory Council, disbanded this spring by the Provincial government. Thirty-one northerners ran for positions, including a number of Treaty Indians.

According to Joan Halcro, Special Assistant to the Minister of Department of Northern Saskatchewan, T.R. Bowerman, two other northern residents will be appointed to the council with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians and the Metis Society submitting names of recommended appointees.

Kathy Merasty, F.S.I. Executive member for the North, says however: "We are not going to appoint or recommend anyone to this new elected council. We know the Department of Northern Saskatchewan is going to be setting up local municipal governments, and the explicit direction we have received from the Chiefs and Councils in Saskatchewan regarding D.N.S. Is that they do their thing on their own place and not on reserves. We have had our own form of reserve government before anyone ever dreamt of a municipal government".

The Metis Society of Saskatchewan has not as yet said anything but according to Miss Halcro, "I am sure they will make their appointments within the next two weeks." The Northern Municipal Council is a new body created by an Act of the Saskatchewan Legislature. The Council will have powers and responsibilities similar to a Rural Municipality. It will determine public works projects and pass bylaws affecting most communities on the top half of the province.

The election results appear to have been affected by a directive sent to all northern Indian Chiefs on the morning of the elections by the Executive of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians. The directive advised Chiefs and their band members against voting in the D.N.S. elections for the following reasons:

  1. A vote for municipal government under D.N.S. will mean an end of the authority of the Chief and Band Council.
  2. A vote for municipal government under D.N.S. will mean that in the future, all monies coming from Indian Affairs for your people will go to the Province and will be used by D.N.S. for all people in the north not just Treaty Indians. The money must be made to come to the Bands and Treaty Indians from Indian Affairs only.
  3. A vote for municipal government under D.N.S. will mean the end of the Treaties and the Indian Act. Local band government is now protected in the Treaties and the Indian Act, but would not be protected under municipal government. Municipal government for Treaty. Indians would mean there is no longer a need for Treaties and the Indian Act.
  4. Treaty Indians would have to go through their municipal government for help. This means going through the province. The province might then talk to Indian Affairs for monies on behalf of Treaty Indians. The province will come between Treaty Indians and the Indian Affairs Department.

Earlier, the Department of Northern Saskatchewan had stated that the Northern Municipal Council would have no jurisdiction on Indian Reserves and would not interfere with either band councils or treaty rights.

Election results, with no Treaty Indians being elected to the new council, indicate that many Treaty Indians stayed away from the polls. Most voters were Melts residents.

Miss Halcro said that the council is expected to hold its first meeting sometime in November and will probably establish offices in La Ronge.